Caroline Gordon Essay - Gordon, Caroline (Vol. 6)

Gordon, Caroline (Vol. 6)

Gordon, Caroline 1895–

Caroline Gordon is a Southern American novelist, short story writer, and literary critic. A Catholic, a conservative, and an Agrarian, she has built most of her excellent fiction around her religious and social values. (See also Contemporary Authors—Permanent Series, Vol. 1.)

Although Caroline Gordon has elected to spend much of her life in the North—she lives in Princeton, New Jersey—she is and always has been indubitably of the South…. [Speaking] very generally, she evaluates her material from the viewpoint of conservative, traditional Agrarianism, which favors a dogmatic Christian faith and a stable, hierarchical society of landowners and workers over a liberal, urban, mechanized society. It is the ante-bellum Agrarian South versus the post-bellum industrial North. Her attitude may be backward looking—or a "sporting gesture" as John Crowe Ransom once called the Agrarian movement in conversation—but it has resulted in some of the most civilized and moving fiction of our time…. Her fiction measures up to old but still viable standards—her characters come to life and the reader cares about what happens to them, particularly her Southern characters who are treated with the compassion and irony of complete understanding. Her dialogue is true to life, the routine detail of everyday living which makes up the bulk of a novel is perceptive and authentic, her plots hold interest, her paragraphs are unified and her sentences coherent, and she has never stooped to crude sensationalism to attract attention. (pp. xv-xvi)

Caroline Gordon's first novel, Penhally (1931), drew immediate and deserved recognition. Ford Madox Ford called it the best novel that modern America has produced. It presented her major subject, the values and vices of antebellum Southern culture, the defeat of the Southern cause in the Civil War, the attempt to carry on the best of antebellum culture after the defeat…. The story, the decline of the house of Penhally and of the Llewellyn family, torn apart by internal quarrels and suffering from defeat in war, is told in a series of episodes, many of them flashbacks which are difficult to keep track of chronologically, and is, I think, weak in structure, and the mythic method (what there is of it) does not pull it together. Nevertheless, this historical tale of heroic endurance arouses our complete sympathy, and most impressive is the quality of the prose—perceptive, poetic, and at the same time realistic…. (pp. xvii-xviii)

Penhally was followed by the two great historical novels (I know Miss Gordon dislikes the term—but that's what they are) of a mature and experienced writer, None Shall Look Back (1937) and Green Centuries (1941)…. Most historical novels are fraudulent. It is extremely difficult, no matter how much research is done, to give a completely authentic picture of the past. The exact ways of thinking, speaking, acting, and feeling of a century or more ago are lost forever and no novelist can reproduce the daily life of the past with the same accuracy that he can reproduce the life of his own time. Nevertheless, the attempt is constantly being made and Caroline Gordon has come as close to complete success as any twentieth-century writer in English. (Her chief rival in the genre of historical fiction is Janet Lewis to whom she pays tribute in her interview in this issue.) (xviii-xix)

Miss Gordon's other novels, The Garden of Adonis (1937), The Women on the Porch (1944), The Strange Children (1951), and The Malefactors (1956), appear to me to be somewhat less impressive than those I have mentioned, but they merit serious and careful reading….

Miss Gordon … has published two volumes of distinguished short stories and she reveals a thorough knowledge of the history and theory of the genre in her House of Fiction (1950), a critical anthology of the short story done in collaboration with Allen Tate. My own favorite among the twenty or so extant stories by her is "The Brilliant Leaves," a brief and beautifully written tale of idyllic young love and sudden death.

A good case can be made for the claim that Caroline Gordon is one of the best half dozen or so writers of fiction in English in our century. (p. xx.)

Donald E. Stanford, "Caroline Gordon: From 'Penhally' to 'A Narrow Heart'," in The Southern Review (copyright 1971, by the Louisiana State University), Vol. VII, No. 2, Spring, 1971, pp. xv-xx.

I see Caroline today, from the vantage point of over two decades' acquaintance which I feel to be friendship, as Ford Madox Ford's white goddess, but considerably humanized, "with a heart in her bosom," and certainly not exercising any power for evil. Nor acting as the writer's despotic muse. Still and all, the white goddess having traffic with the mysteries, creating her own account of the South into whose ways of feeling and talk she was born, transforming the febrile artistic excitement of the twenties here and abroad into sharp perceptive fables—both in print and conversation—of men and women and their to-do with one another; and, gradually, as the years pass, assimilating and transmuting the world of her personal experience into symbolic structures of the journey from innocence to the melancholy of knowing and the comforts of religious commitment, insight, hope. Over all her mythmaking plays a shimmer, a luster of the classical Greek world deep in her consciousness and subtly patterning all her vision. (p. 463)

The look of Southern roadways, forests, streams, dwellings, porches (it is not for nothing, of course, there's a novel entitled The Women on the Porch) is authentic. Everywhere in the stories, too suffused to extricate in easy quotation, we see and feel the dust, soft and fine, the woods of oak, hickory, beech, elm, and pine, sparse in some places, dense in others, the streams running shallow and clear over slabs of limestone, the old houses brick or strong timber, high-ceilinged, with many rooms, and the gray weathered flimsy cottages that sag and settle like the spirits of the poor who inhabit them.

Caroline's observant eye gives us the sentient creatures, large and small, tamed and wild, so vividly that we share with her a tenderness and respect for them. The hounds and the house dogs, the bulls and heifers so sharply differentiated, the possum, rabbit, owl, and songbird, all assume their places in our consciousness….

The keen ear records faithfully the educated Southerner's mulish unconcern with the niceties, substituting his own fine rhetorical patterns. (p. 464)

[The] pastoral metaphors like the fox, Old Red—with whose sporting life and clever escape from pursuers the independent and unconquerable old man identifies in the story of that name—give us the mentality and heartbeat of the region in a symbolic expansiveness; and add, as perhaps only the Irish among contemporary folk do, another—an extra—dimension and texture to the fictional construct. (p. 465)

Her imagination allows us, her readers, in Wallace Stevens' formulation of what that energy does, to live in the world but outside existing conceptions of it. That is, enables us to penetrate the meaning of form and process. Writers such as Faulkner, Porter, Flannery O'Connor, Gordon (and I am in no sense rating them in any order of achievement) use their own mythical system, transforming the inherited material of the culture into a self-made account of reality which resolves into sensuous apprehension all the knowledge we have of a place and time, and of the folly and tragic dignity of human life. Caroline Gordon makes the burden of heightened consciousness worth carrying and "the shock of recognition" a healing experience. (p. 466)

Mary O'Connor, "On Caroline Gordon," in The Southern Review (copyright 1971, by the Louisiana State University), Vol. VII, No. 2, Spring, 1971, pp. 463-66.

Except for Aleck Maury, Sportsman (1934), Miss Gordon's first, rather realistic novels tended to concentrate on "ancestral," regional material, reflecting her interest in the settlers of the western Kentucky-Tennessee area. These novels, Penhally (1931), None Shall Look Back (1937), The Garden of Adonis (1937), pinnacle in a very nearly perfect work, Green Centuries (1941). (p. 467)

[An] assumption of heroism in the past is … an assumption of Miss Gordon's novels. But as others have noted, particularly Frederick P. W. McDowell, Miss Gordon's interest lies in the decrescendos of that earlier heroism. In Green Centuries we are given the origins of the dilemma and agony of such decrescendos. Set in pre-Revolutionary times, the novel tells the story of Rion Outlaw who, having taken part in an anti-British conspiracy, has to flee with his wife and a handful of other conspirators from North Carolina to [a wilderness area]…. Rion's adolescent brother Archy … is captured by Indians. From this point on, Green Centuries develops a contrast between Archy who completely yields himself to the wilderness, becoming in all ways an Indian, and Rion who struggles with the wilderness and sacrifices wife and two children to that struggle. Eventually destroying his brother, he almost loses his own humanity. If at the end of the novel he stands as lofty, sharp, and alone as his constellation, Orion the Hunter, if he seems altogether a "giant," we still observe that his essential being is a limited one. He is capable of heroic deeds because he is not softened or diluted by intellectuality, yet the absence of intellect balks him from seeing himself and others clearly. It keeps him from the support of reasonable religion. It keeps him from truly possessing the land that he has only seized. Now, the pain of such failure arises from our feeling that the American wilderness constituted a second chance at Eden. Time and again in the early novels we are reminded that the soil of Virginia has been depleted, that the buffalo come no more to the Carolinas. But the western wilderness is all fertility. In all the novels after Green Centuries, a second chance has already been thrown away. In all of this we see a dilemma in Miss Gordon's vision, a dilemma between too much intellectuality and too little. (p. 468)

Aleck Maury [in Aleck Maury, Sportsman], who has no intention of saving the world, is very serious about saving himself. He sees a modern tendency toward abstractness, dry intellectuality, as his adversary which he fights with a fierce insistence on tactile knowledge…. We do not see again the likes of this perfectly happy hero in Miss Gordon's fiction. Toward the end of the book, Miss Gordon enters herself and her husband (Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Lewis) in only the flimsiest disguise. What a sad and charming moment of self-depreciation! For the young couple are victims of abstraction. A trifle affected and bohemian, they are corrupted by a renegade intellect trained not upon a world that exists but upon a world that does not (and perhaps ought not to) exist. With such characters, menaced by mind and pride, Caroline Gordon in her mature fiction finally chose to deal. We become almost shockingly aware of that choice in her sixth novel The Women on the Porch (1944). Suddenly her concern shifts from objective realism toward subjective hallucination. The method shifts from linear narration toward orbicular scenes folded within scenes; in fact, one almost feels that scenes rather than characters "develop." (p. 469)

[In] The Women on the Porch …, instead of treating an environment of social slippage and decline, Miss Gordon decided to deal with an environment where the decline has been perfected. That is to say, we have an environment of decadence, just as we have in Tate's and Lowell's poetry [of the same period]. (p. 470)

[In The Women on the Porch] Miss Gordon employs something of a Gothic mode. Ghosts—they are called "presences"—emerge from the psychic pressures of past and present, life and death. The interplay of dusk and light imparts a phosphorescence to much of the action. Yet if the atmosphere is gothic, it is very special gothic, and I can think of only one near parallel in fiction: those strange late novels by Julian Green, also set in the American South and prompted, one supposes, by his return from Europe during the War. It may be, however, that in some ultimate sense, the presences are stronger than the living…. (p. 471)

The Malefactors (1956), though unquestionably a brilliant novel, does not seem to me to succeed. Not because it repeats earlier situations and not because the symbolism is excessive, though both assertions are true. It does not succeed for the reason that it is too logical. It took the only direction which seemed open for her fiction to take: Miss Gordon tried to combine her feeling for the concrete, earthy life with her feeling for the underground stream of salvation. It comes out as a kind of impossible Fundamentalist-Catholicism. What is too logical in art is too impossible. But I hasten to add that I am glad Miss Gordon wrote The Malefactors. It is exactly the kind of work a serious writer often has to create before he can rise above his previous attainment. (p. 478)

Radcliffe Squires, "The Underground Stream: A Note on Caroline Gordon's Fiction," in The Southern Review (copyright 1971, by the Louisiana State University), Vol. VII, No. 2, Spring, 1971, pp. 467-79.

Longer and more ambitious than [Caroline Gordon's] earlier books, [None Shall Look Back and The Garden of Adonis] complement each other in various ways, and in a sense they compose a single design. Both deal with the breakup of a family, and apparently the same family, the Allards, at crucial periods in their history (the Civil War and the Depression of the 1930s). Both, being large in scale, posit the same formal problem: how to unite several levels of action. Miss Gordon's solution for the problem in None Shall Look Back is brilliant; it is an object lesson in the conversion of history into tragic fiction.

None Shall Look Back has for its model nothing less than War and Peace. Considering the scope of her subject, one can hardly call this a long novel—it runs at less than 400 pages—but Miss Gordon has developed it along Tolstoyan lines and with the suggestion of something much larger which it represents. In adapting her practice to the subject of some magnitude, she has used an economy of style in order to build up larger scenes than she tried to manage in her first books, and at times one can hardly believe that None Shall Look Back was written by the same person who wrote Penhally and Aleck Maury, Sportsman. But she is writing a different sort of book now, and perhaps her new austerity is Tolstoyan too. (pp. 480-81)

Miss Gordon, like Tolstoy, has written a novel of war and peace which has seemed to some readers to fall into its component parts. She has, to begin with, taken a Kentucky family, the Allards, with their various connections, through the vicissitudes of the Civil War. Much of the time we see them in their houses, on their lawns, at the dining table, on horseback. Under the impact of the War their fortunes undergo a decline; they are almost ruined; but in the end we know they will somehow survive. All of this would be a considerable subject for a novel, and in fact Miss Gordon writes something like this in Part I of Penhally. But None Shall Look Back is also about the War in its western theater. We follow not only members of the Allard family, but the highest officers of the Confederate and Federal forces as they direct the operations. The War exists as something beyond any individual's comprehension, an action almost beyond control. It is, of course, an enveloping action: everyone's destiny is shaped by it; no one escapes. The problem here is to relate the two levels of action, public and private, in both structure and meaning. (p. 482)

Miss Gordon might have attemped to render the entire action through one or two characters; she does that, on a small scale, in Penhally. But in this case the strain would be too great, the comprehension of any one character too implausible, when such a large subject has to be brought into view. Still, up to a point about midway through the book, the author is remarkably strict about moving her post of observation: aside from a few short chapters …, she confines the point of view largely to three characters. Later she allows it to move to other individuals (nearly all of them members of the Allard family) as the War destroys their social unity and they go their separate ways. (p. 483)

[At] the climax of the novel, the two levels of action, public and private, meet…. This Miss Gordon accomplishes through her adroit shift in the point of view [from that of Rives Allard to Forrest's], the technical feature peculiar to the novel. One thinks of certain moments in classical tragedy where something comparable happens: for instance in the Oresteia when Orestes' fate is taken up by Apollo. But the mechanics and the ethos of classical tragedy are based on premises different from those any modern novelist can assume, and a deus ex machina would be a very improbable business. The effect Miss Gordon gets, however, is tragic, and it has been well prepared for. (p. 493)

Ashley Brown, "'None Shall Look Back': The Novel as History," in The Southern Review (copyright 1971, by the Louisiana State University), Vol. VII, No. 2, Spring, 1971, pp. 480-94.

Although no one has written an exhaustive analysis of Caroline Gordon's Green Centuries, most of its major structural elements have been defined, however sketchily, by a few perceptive critics, among them Frederick P. W. McDowell, Louise Cowan, and Andrew Lytle, all three of whom have touched on the essential meaning of the narrative, which is the proper relationship between man and woman. Others—dazzled, no doubt, by Miss Gordon's brilliant recreation of eighteenth-century frontier life—have tended to confuse enveloping action with action and have understood the novel as no more than fictional commentary on the historical theses of such scholars as Frederick Jackson Turner and Henry Nash Smith.

These confusions are by no means without their critical value, since Miss Gordon uses abundantly the social context of the American frontier to highlight the conflicts within her major characters; but the true action is archetypal rather than historical in its ultimate significance and is best traced in the relationships between the two pairs of lovers, on the one hand Orion Outlaw and Jocasta Dawson, and on the other hand Bear Killer (Archy Outlaw) and the Indian girl Monon. (pp. 495-96)

Miss Gordon … makes use of rituals and ceremonies to define the essential nature of her masculine and feminine characters and to relate these characters to the historical moment in which their drama is presented.

Miss Gordon's concept of ritual as revealed in Green Centuries is one held by all traditional societies, including early tribal cultures, a view which finds expression in Western literature from the works of Homer to modern times. Essentially, ritual has always been a means of definition—one which gives form and larger significance to man's archetypal actions in the ordinary world. As a participant in traditional rites and ceremonies the individual defines himself in relation to the three great realms of order within which he exists: those of nature, the community, and the supernatural.

First, rituals help man to define his place in the natural hierarchy, a place which is somewhat higher than that of an animal and somewhat lower than that of a god…. As more than animal man must somehow behave in contrast to the inferior order of beasts, and as less than God he must acknowledge his fallibility and find some means of channeling and controlling those bestial drives which make up a significant portion of his being. He can do both through the celebration of rituals which superimpose a formal structure on those of his acts which derive from his basic instincts, a ceremonial constraint which is of his own making and hence uniquely human. (pp. 496-97)

Second, rituals usually define the individual's relationship to the community at large, for most are communal celebrations in which each member follows a traditional pattern of behavior that brings his actions into harmony with those of the entire group. In this manner the organic nature of society is dramatized for all to see; and the individual, while recognizing the importance of his own role, at the same time submits to the discipline of the total drama, which exists at once in time present, time past, and time future, since the community itself has a continuous life.

Third, the primary rituals define man's special relationship to the divine order…. The individual who plays a role in these rituals … defines himself as participant in the Divine Drama, which is transcendent and timeless.

In Green Centuries, as in human society at large, the principal rituals are those which surround and contain the survival instinct in its two primary manifestations: the drive for food and the sex urge. The first of these, from earliest times, has been associated with the male, the hunter, and the second with the female, whose traditional role has been that of child bearer and sexual object.

The rituals of the hunt, including those of warfare, provide Miss Gordon with an excellent framework within which to define the essential nature of her primary male characters: Orion Outlaw and his younger brother, Archy, called Bear Killer by the Indians, who capture him and later accept him into their tribe. Both names, then, explicitly designate the brothers as hunters engaged in the archetypal masculine pursuit. "Orion" is perhaps ironic when juxtaposed with "Bear Killer," for, taken from Greek mythology, the former suggests the long history of traditional civilization which lay behind the white man's journey westward, and one would expect Orion Outlaw to be the "civilized" or ritual hunter. Yet, though he goes so far as to name his dog Sirius, he is less the traditionalist and more the pure creature of nature than his brother. For Bear Killer thoroughly assimilates the rich culture of the Indians, which, despite some pressures from without and within, is kept vital and meaningful in the many rites and ceremonies which make up day-to-day tribal life. (pp. 497-98)

As many critics have noted, Miss Gordon is one of the few women who have been able in their fiction to render the male consciousness with absolute fidelity, and no novel better illustrates this point than Green Centuries. The focal characters are Orion and Archy Outlaw, and for this reason the male rituals are more in the thematic forefront than the female ones, which … for the most part surround sexual conduct and dramatize the generative spirit. (p. 504)

In Green Centuries,… Miss Gordon presents two opposing societies: the amorphous, individualistic society of the pioneers, and the formalized, communal society of the Cherokees. In the former, the rituals brought over from Europe are either debased or else completely abandoned in the expanse of the wilderness, the symbol of a terrifying freedom which is finally destructive. Among the Indians, however, ritual still binds the community together and defines the conduct of the tribe in terms of its relationship to the supernatural realm. The contrast between the two cultures is made explicit in a number of analogous actions subtly designed to highlight the masculine and feminine roles in each society and their relationship to each other. (p. 507)

Thomas H. Landess, "The Function of Ritual in Caroline Gordon's 'Green Centuries'," in The Southern Review (copyright 1971, by the Louisiana State University), Vol. VII, No. 2, Spring, 1971, pp. 495-508.

Of one thing I am certain: [Caroline Gordon's The Glory of Hera] is the work of a writer who knows as much about the art of the novel and the practise of prose fiction as anyone living I can bring to mind. And it is a curiously haunting and impressive book as well. (pp. 185-86)

It improves upon a second reading, and on a third, new clarifications appear, new passages to admire. But it is a difficult book to get into, and I find myself asking if a great part of the confusion and complication is not caused by the method, which involves two different tones of narration and a great many different points of view. This method tends to break the movement of the story, preventing a build-up of momentum, as it were, and presenting us with a number of vignettes, chapters which stand out clearly from the larger confusion and which are very fine in themselves. (p. 190)

Janet Lewis, in Sewanee Review (reprinted by permission of the editor; © 1973 by The University of the South), Winter, 1973.

[Caroline Gordon was] somewhat … "Homeric" in her earlier books, but she has gradually become "Dantesque". This is already evident in The Women on the Porch, a transitional book in various respects. Here the author no longer bases her design on a pattern of Southern history, which has been "filled in" by five earlier novels and many of the stories. The underworld to which the Eurydice-heroine, Catherine Chapman, descends is complicated by Dantean overtones, and the voices that emerge from reveries are those of poets: Dante himself, Eliot, Baudelaire, Hart Crane. (The earlier novels and stories, on the other hand, reverberate with echoes of folk-song; many of the characters sing or at least remember snatches of song.) The Malefactors (1956) is altogether Dantesque in method…. That is of course fitting, because Miss Gordon has now made her Christian emphasis clear. (p. 367)

Rereading the early stories, I was struck by their anecdotal character; Caroline Gordon is a good story-teller. One sometimes loses sight of this in discussions of symbol and myth…. It may be that a writer re-creates on a small scale something of the cultural development of the race, and at a late stage the relatively open texture of the tale, with its strong suggestion of the oral, is succeeded by a density of allusion. (pp. 369-70)

Ashley Brown, "Caroline Gordon's Short Fiction," in Sewanee Review (reprinted by permission of the editor; © 1973 by The University of the South), Spring, 1973, pp. 365-70.

The uniqueness of [The Glory of Hera] consists in this: that its author stretches the capacities of the novel so that it can operate authentically in the protean land of ancient Greek myth. It can take on the shapes and assume the colors that make it resemble a luminous mosaic depicting the exploits which were attributed to the god-engendered hero, Heracles. Beginning with Homer's account of the burly bowman, the myth, though revealed piecemeal in many arts, remained the special property of the poets…. The ancients would argue that whatever else might occur, this ineffable stuff could never be captured by a writer of mere prose, by which they would have meant, of course, a chronicler or encyclopedist of some sort. That Caroline Gordon has captured it—indeed she has delivered it quivering and alive from the monstrous darkness of the past—is a triumph for the modern art of prose fiction as well as for the far from modern arts of revivifying immemorial legends. (pp. 523-24)

The Heracles of this novel is no "modernized" mythological figure like the Ulysses of James Joyce; he resembles not in the least the Centaurs, the Lysistratas, the Helens of Troy, of the self-conscious contemporary imagination. To the contrary, in this book, though there is a sense of only a narrow frontier of shimmering space stretching between us and old Olympus, Heracles and the long-striding gods and the toiling human beings seem to have a vitality, along with a special sort of validity, which is persuasive though doubtless somewhat difficult to explain. In the Metamorphoses of Ovid I encounter also a way of writing in which the supernatural seems to be only the most natural aspect of a world which lies just behind us. The Glory of Hera, however, looks a little less opaque than ancient treatments of the fabulous, if on occasion one calls to mind the insights of Carl Jung, for example, or sometimes those of C. Kerényi, or again those of Claude Lévi-Strauss, or finally The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

Caroline Gordon's first novel, Penhally, was a matchless book too …, and whatever the differences in their external appearances, both Penhally and The Glory of Hera are blood relatives in that in the first a mythic consciousness flows beneath the action like a continuous underground stream, while in the latter it thrusts itself forward in a blaze of color. (p. 524)

A chief objective of some novelists I have known, of Caroline Gordon perhaps more than any other, has been to arrange the words on each page of the novel so that the reader sees things in one flash of visibility after another, and at the same time realizes that these visibilities fit into an order, not of nature but of an inventive, imaginative coherence, which I venture to associate with myth-making: rudimentary myth in most cases, perhaps, but in others more or less openly a variant on a haunting ancient tale. Of course, along with visibility, other palpabilities, audibilities, and so on, enter into the fabric of the novel: the familiar name for the method is concreteness of style. It is a concreteness, moreover, which must stand on its own feet, without commentary or editorial assistance on the part of the author. From far behind scenes the author selects and shapes the concreteness required in telling his story by referring them to a level of consciousness that lies far below his impulses to interpose himself and clear up any possible ambiguities. (pp. 526-27)

Caroline Gordon has formed a lifelong habit, so far as I can see, of filtering her strategems as a novelist through a screen of mythology; for this reason she is much more an impressionist as a writer than a realist. This is all to the good; for … fiction which is directly realistic, concrete in the narrow sense of the term, coming forth unfiltered by the author's deeper consciousness, tends almost invariably, in our day, to end in pornography—or in something entirely similar which is just as "immediate" or "relevant" to crude sensual apperceptions. And this, I believe, is true. The opposite is fiction—which is not a substitute for reality, not a chronicle history of events, but an objective art with its own devices and laws. (p. 527)

For forty years, in nine novels and several dozen stories, truth—truth of Miss Gordon's darkish, deeply luminous kind, which often resembles reflections in an ancient bronze mirror—has come seeping up out of the clotted bogs which are scattered across the historical panorama. Even the apparently domestic pieces, like The Women on the Porch and The Strange Children, sound as if they are recollections of a unique decade, albeit a transitory and fairly formless interval in a larger structure of time. On the other hand, the richness of a distinct, fully rounded out past dominates several of the bigger novels: Green Centuries, for instance, and None Shall Look Back. In no other fiction that I can think of is there quite so clear a projection of the living images and voices that belonged to another era, nor so tragic a completeness of the stories being told. Without this sort of projection, and comprehension, The Glory of Hera would be not so much a work of art as a work of dubious pedantry. But with these virtues, it is the novel which I think is the best that has been written in something like the past half-century. (p. 536)

Miss Gordon is a prose stylist of the highest order; for her the language and the form in which the archetypal mythic substance is presented are of greatest importance….

[What] I find wonderful about the anthropology of Lévi-Strauss and the high art of Caroline Gordon's novel-making is the fact that by some shrewd, perhaps oracular, message the same fundamentals of mythology appear explicitly in the one and implicitly in the other. (p. 546)

Howard Baker, "The Stratagems of Caroline Gordon, or, The Art of The Novel and the Novelty of the Myth," in The Southern Review (copyright, 1973, by the Louisiana State University), Vol. IX, No. 3, Summer, 1973, pp. 523-49.