Just before his death, Edward Lewis Wallant wrote, “I suggest that most people are nearsighted, myopic in their inability to perceive the details of human experience.” It was a condition he found perfectly normal; there is simply too much energy used up in everyday life, having families, supporting oneself, and living in a community, for much insight into the lives of fellow human beings, except as they relate to one’s own immediate needs. Yet there are times, Wallant noted, when people experience an unrecognized yearning to “know what lies in the hearts of others.” “It is then,” he wrote, “that we turn to the artist, because only he [sic] can reveal even the little corners of the things beyond bread alone.” It is revealing that Wallant, first trained as a graphic artist, should title the one essay in which he set forth his artistic credo “The Artist’s Eye.” In this essay, Wallant explores the relationship between the observable, everyday world and the interpretation of that world through the writer’s heightened sense of awareness.
In all four of Wallant’s published novels, this theme of heightened perception is central. Theprotagonist, who has become emotionally insulated from life, experiences a reawakening of feelings and rejoins the world around him. This spiritual and emotional rebirth comes as the result of the death of someone who has become close to the protagonist. The impact of this death, which often happens in a...
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