Edward Hoagland Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Edward Hoagland is known primarily not for his novels but for his essays and travel books. As an essayist and reviewer, he has been published in such periodicals as Harper’s, The Village Voice, Sports Illustrated, Commentary, and The Atlantic Monthly; several anthologies of his essays remain in print. His travelnarratives include Notes from the Century Before: A Journal from British Columbia (1969) and African Calliope: A Journey to the Sudan (1979). During the 1960’s, he also wrote short stories, which appeared in publications such as Esquire, The New Yorker, New American Review, and The Paris Review; three of his short stories have been republished in City Tales (1986). A collection of three of his short stories, The Final Fate of the Alligators: Stories from the City (1992), received favorable reviews. Hoagland also edited the twenty-nine-volume Penguin Nature Library, and he also writes book reviews and nature-based editorials for The New York Times.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

With the publication of his first novel, Cat Man, in 1956, Edward Hoagland received much favorable attention from the critics. The book won for Hoagland a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, and critics saw in him the makings of a first-rate novelist. They particularly praised his ability to capture a milieu—in this case, the seamy world of circus roustabouts, a world he presents with knowledgeable and detailed frankness. His second novel, The Circle Home, confirmed his potential. Once again, he succeeded in vividly re-creating a colorful environment, the sweaty world of a boxing gymnasium. He received several honors during this period as well, including a Longview Foundation Award in 1961, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Traveling Fellowship in 1964, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964.

Hoagland received another Guggenheim in 1975 and was a nominee for the 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award for the travel book African Calliope. In 1971, he received an O. Henry Award and in 1972 a literary citation from the Brandeis University Creative Arts Awards Commission. He received the Harold D. Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1981, and he was elected to membership in the academy in 1982.

With the publication of The Peacock’s Tail in 1965, Hoagland’s fiction career suffered a setback. In both the critics’ and his own opinion, this book was a failure, and Hoagland, whose novels had never won for him a wide audience, turned away from long fiction. For the next twenty years, he worked primarily in nonfiction, producing essays and travel narratives to considerable acclaim. In 1986, he made a triumphal return to the novel. Seven Rivers West was well received, combining as it does Hoagland’s ability to re-create a sense of place—here, the North American wilderness—with his impressive knowledge of the natural world.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ehrlich, Gretel. “An Essayist’s Search for Bedrock.” Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 30, 1995, 3-9. A review of Hoagland’s African Calliope, The Tugman’s Passage, and Red Wolves and Black Bears. Discusses the lasting quality of Hoagland’s personal perspective and style in his essays.

Hall, Donald. “Hoagland Was There.” Review of The Edward Hoagland Reader and African Calliope, by Edward Hoagland. National Review 32 (May 30, 1980): 669-670. Describes African Calliope as a fact-piece like the work of John McPhee. In his style of enthusiasm for daily existence, Hoagland creates exciting experiences of improvisation and speculation.

Hicks, Granville. “The Many Faces of Failure.” Saturday Review 48 (August 14, 1965): 21-22. Discusses Hoagland’s depiction of misfits in his fiction, particularly The Peacock’s Tail.

Johnson, Ronald L. Review of Seven Rivers West, by Edward Hoagland. Western American Literature 22 (November, 1987): 227-228. Contrasts the novel’s lavish description of the Canadian landscape with what the reviewer feels is a less than compelling plot.

Mills, Nicolaus. “A Rural Life Style.” The Yale Review 60 (June, 1971): 609-613. Looks at The Courage of...

(The entire section is 417 words.)