William Goldman Essay - Critical Essays

Goldman, William

Goldman, William 1931–

American novelist, author of Boys and Girls Together. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-10.)

My attention was first directed to Goldman when one of my most perceptive students maintained that the novelist's second brief work, Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow, was superior to the then venerated novels of J. D. Salinger as a revelation of the trials of modern young people….

In The Thing of It Is …, Goldman tackles again the matter that has constantly concerned him, the major problems facing young Americans today. This time, however, he dramatizes their inability to cope with sudden success…. Part of the secret of Goldman's success is that, by telling his story against exotic backdrops, he lends a desperate intensity to the personal conflicts between characters who are utterly isolated in alien surroundings. Yet, the very concreteness of the settings keeps the reader reminded that the action is not an intellectual allegory but a portrayal of a situation that might easily develop and explode wherever the jet-set congregates.

The larger part of the success must be attributed, however, to the economy and precision of Goldman's style. Beside him the affectations of acclaimed stylists like Updike appear trivial….

Goldman's novels are particularly timely because they deal with conditions that are specifically characteristic of our affluent time. The depression and World War II caught Americans unprepared. To survive, they were forced to develop psychological expedients for dealing with these catastrophic events. By the time, however, that these expedients have hardened into conventions—as expedients have a way of doing—conditions have changed enough so that people are once again unprepared to deal with their immediate situation.

Warren French, in his Season of Promise: Spring Fiction, 1967 (© 1968 by the Curators of the University of Missouri; reprinted by permission of University of Missouri Press), University of Missouri Press, 1968, pp. 26-32.