James Gould Cozzens (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
The complex ironies surrounding the life and literary career of James Gould Cozzens continue long after his death in 1978 as they seem more and more with each passing year to apply to the lives and literary careers of all serious American writers. Cozzens attempted to live a life apart from the doings and undoings of the literary world, an artist’s life, but the popular and critical success of his novel By Love Possessed (1957) plunged him unwillingly into the stew of literary politics and cast a shadow over his literary reputation. He was one of the first victims of the shift in American publishing and critical assessment away from the literary merit of works themselves and toward the transitory values of celebrity. The dark days of Cozzens’ last years become our own when chain bookstore shelves are stuffed with nonfiction nonbooks, romances, and fantasies, when novels have a shelf life of six weeks, and when it has become practically impossible to find the works of serious writers at all. It is, then, somehow appropriate that the year in which this very fine biography was published ended with Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (1983) squatting toadishly at the top of an undistinguished best-seller list.
The story that Matthew Bruccoli tells in this fully researched and clearly written biography is really three stories: one, the relatively uneventful private life of an artist who lived apart, who did not socialize or participate in the...
(The entire section is 2151 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Antioch Review. XLI, Fall, 1983, p. 508.
Commentary. LXXVI, September, 1983, p. 68.
Library Journal. CVIII, May 15, 1983, p. 1003.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 5, 1983, p. 1.
National Review. XXXV, May 27, 1983, p. 632.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, July 5, 1983, p. 4.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIII, April 22, 1983, p. 89.
The Wall Street Journal. June 16, 1983, p. 30.
West Coast Review of Books. IX, July, 1983, p. 31.
(The entire section is 54 words.)