Babette Deutsch Louis Kronenberger - Essay

Louis Kronenberger

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"In Such a Night" is worked out so carefully, so skilfully, that it seems a pity the book should reach no higher level than it does. Here is an inviting theme, a clever method, a firmly-directed prose….

But Miss Deutsch has unfortunately failed to do the two things most important to her story: she hasn't made the housewarming really alive, and she hasn't made it significant…. People live for minutes, the house lives for minutes, then they settle back into an appearance of reality which is a matter of the surface only.

And what significance have these people? They survey one another, they survey themselves, but without freshness, without penetration, without uniqueness; you are willing to admit that what they do is plausible and understandable, but not that it is stimulating to the mind, or responsive to the emotions, or compensating to your sense of humor. If they were pointed out to you, you might recognize them; but you could never recognize them by yourself. They do not hold your interest….

All these criticisms are made with better books in mind, books that count; for in view of its intelligence, its artistic integrity, its frequent skill, Miss Deutsch's novel at least deserves to be judged by high standards. It certainly stands outside the class of popular, meretricious novels whose realism is a foreplanned compromise and whose reach is well within their author's grasp. This book attempts something which the discriminating reader would find worth his attention. It comes close, perhaps, to succeeding, but in the sense of "a little more, and yet what worlds away!" It is the intention which one applauds in Miss Deutsch's book, not the result.

Louis Kronenberger, "People and a House," in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright © 1927 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. 3, No. 49, July 2, 1927, p. 947.

Miss Deutsch has [in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral] collected poems that are "occasional" in the best sense, combining in equal parts observation, insight, and an affectionate tolerance, and her subjects range from artists and men of letters to landscapes and animals in the zoo. She has skillfully varied her form to meet the varied demands of her material. A mature and balanced performance.

"Briefly Noted: 'Animal, Vegetable, Mineral'," in The New Yorker (© 1954 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. XXX, No. 17, June 12, 1954, p. 120.