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Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – December 1, 1994
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Top Customer Reviews
There are some things to bear in mind with this work, however. Cowley returned to his past often, and often his return would bring re-evaluation. While there is some evidence of this habit across the various editions of Exile's Return, the trail of revision is more apparent by comparing this work against other retrospectives (Dream of the Golden Mountains, View From 80, etc.).
Another issue with Cowley is that he (as most, especially Modernist, writers) tends to favor his own position. That is, he perhaps exaggerates his own part and importance. This tendency becomes controversial within the context of his chapter on Harry Crosby. While they were clearly acquainted, Caresse Crosby (Harry's wife), among others, thought that Cowley didn't know Harry well enough to write what they considered a spurious account of Crosby's last days.
However, even with these negatives the book is highly recommended. In it, one gets a concise introduction to Modernism, important figures in the expatriate movement and inter-war Paris, and pre-war New York. Further, one receives a context of how these movements and people fit together. Among Cowley's works, this is one of his finest.
This is a book of essays, anecdotes, and observations. They are primarily concerned with the 'Lost Generation' of American writers who spent time in Paris between 1918 and 1930. Donald W. Faulkner provides the Introduction and Cowley, who made some revisions to the 1934 publication in 1951, writes a note on the text.
I imagine that many of the 'senior citizens', such as myself, will have some sense of familiarity with the subject matter. A few may have read the book in the days of their youth. Unless they are experts on the subject they will find Cowley's intimate perspective interesting, and they will enjoy the easy accessible style of the writing.
For younger generations it may not be the best introduction to the period. The names Hart Crane, Harry Crosby, and Edmund Wilson should have some resonance, as well those more familiar ones such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Appendices include A Selective Chronology of Events from 1915 to 1934, and A Tabular History of the Literary Life, 1924-1949.
Many detailed works on the authors and the period have been written since. Cowley's perceptions do not date, as they are more of less contemporary rather than historical. But it must be said that they do not provide a suitably informative introduction for those readers not already familiar with the territory.
This is not an easy read. It is literary criticism but also contains strong elements of aesthetics, philosophy, history, and especially, sociology. So many interweaving threads are hard to follow. The isms involved are complex: Bohemianism, Dadaism, Symbolism, etc. But there are flashes of brilliant writing here.
The author was steeped in literature, up to his neck. He lived it, full-time. He knew the big names on both sides of the Atlantic. This book is very much an inside view of the mostly-American literary scene to 1930.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a good exposition of the exile and return of American writers from Paris to the US during the 20'sPublished 17 months ago by Frederick Mazie
The last word on "the lost generation," not gossipy but insightful. This is the revised version which has the benefit and the fault of hindsight.Published 23 months ago by A. Levine
I love reading about the Lost Generation, but this book went so far beyond the typical romantic account of events and personalities, and really nailed the Zeitgeist of the time and... Read morePublished on January 10, 2014 by RabidReader
I got this book to read for a class in 20th century fiction. The book was actually very interesting in the way the author illustrates the life of the time from the perspective of... Read morePublished on September 26, 2013 by Steve W.
Exile's Return is so insightful (and entertaining) that one needn't even be particularly interested in the American literary scene of the 20s (or the Dadaists, who Cowley hung out... Read morePublished on January 5, 2013 by Harold Lime
Malcolm Cowley was a witness to perhaps the greatest explosion of literary creativity in human history and records his observations here with great precision and wit. Read morePublished on June 16, 2012 by Amazon Customer
What happens after a World War and all the great artistic figures of the 20th Century inhabit one city? Read morePublished on August 10, 2011 by Neil The Unreel