Betty Smith James P. Degnan, Jr.

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James P. Degnan, Jr.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The worst thing about Maggie-Now … is not its sentimentality, nor its staleness, nor even Miss Smith's monotonous narrative scheme, which grinds through four generations of tiresome people saying the same things over and over. The worst thing about Maggie-Now is its inexcusable lack of compassion. In dealing with the problems of the human spirit, Betty Smith exhibits very little vision, less sympathy and sensitivity, still less awareness of complexity. Her people are invariably malicious, ignorant, superstitious Liliputians. We can't hate them; we can't love them; we can't even take them seriously. Miss Smith's weakness as a novelist is a weakness that even a mediocre writer can't afford—a lack of reverence before the mystery of human personality. (p. 59)

James P. Degnan, Jr., "Back to Brooklyn," in Commonweal (copyright © 1958 Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), Vol. LXVIII, No. 2, April 11, 1958, pp. 58-9.