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Twentieth-Century Attitudes: Literary Powers in Uncertain Times Paperback – June 22, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Allen has all the academic credentials a literary critic can possess, yet she eschews an excessively text-oriented approach and writes out of passion and with panache (her opening lines are to die for). Although she is keenly conversant in the writings of the seminal twentieth-century figures she profiles, she is more concerned with writers' lives than with close readings of their work, saving her pinpoint analysis for literary biographies. Allen performs this uncommon and invaluable critical feat in her bracing and cobweb-eradicating portraits of Colette, "perhaps the first truly twentieth-century writer," and Virginia Woolf, adamantly dismantling the "cult of St. Virginia." Allen also writes discerningly about the concealed rivalries between detached and cerebral George Bernard Shaw and the highly emotional H. G. Wells, and Edith Wharton and Henry James. She is bitingly hilarious on the subject of Carson McCullers, and revelatory in her unique takes on Sylvia Townsend Warner, James Baldwin, and Grace Paley, creating a forthright and energetic collection of literary essays that will even delight readers who usually avoid them like the plague. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


She fills her writing with intelligence and equanimity, making her boldness seem really not so wild after all, but the logical conclusion of good sense and an orderly mind. (David Skinner The Weekly Standard)

One of the most valuable critics.... Her reviews of novels and novelists are invariably on the mark and written with grace. (William H. Pritchard)

Lucid and incisive, fair-minded and fair-spoken...wonderful.... A lively enemy of pomp and cant, conformity and confusion. (Brad Leithauser)

Allen's byline is a guarantee of crisp, clear common sense.... What a pleasure to read a bookful of her best essays. (Terry Teachout)

One of the country's finest literary essayists―scrupulous, discerning, utterly direct and at the same time always surprising. (Jane Kramer)

Smart, witty, remarkably literate, and a talented cultural historian.... Allen offers us new critical insights. (David Nasaw)

Engrossing...fair-minded essays...nicely edged, combining the right amount of literary criticism with biographical insight and social history.... Unique and enlightening.... Recommended. (Library Journal)

A satisfying collection of essays...memorable...accomplishes what all good criticism should. (New York Sun)

Readers may feel they have not just read about these authors, but met them for the first time in a long, long while. (John Freeman The Wall Street Journal)

A critic in whom sense decidedly predominates.... Filled with the most high-level, erudite gossip imaginable. (Evelyn Toynton The New York Times)

Enlightening, fun, eminently readable, and wonderfully, woefully politically correct. (Meghan Keane National Review)

Allen has taken a novel approach. (John Linsenmeyer Greenwich Times)

An agreeable mix of biographical background and astute literary judgement with a dash of gossip.... Brooke Allen offers wide-ranging, frequently provocative reflections on literature and the art of writing. (Lorna Williams The Washington Times)

[A] delightful series of essays. (James Panero Armavirumque)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (June 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566635977
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566635974
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,452,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Easy Rider VINE VOICE on April 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author writes a profile and a description of the style of different writers of the twentieth century. This book is aimed, I believe, towards the literary, scholarly type of readers, the kind of readers who are very familiar with the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century. In sum, the casual reader may not enjoy this book very much, whereas the "bookworm", the one who likes to read 24/7, will be in heaven reading the profiles of these famous writers.
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