Fletcher Knebel Sander Vanocur - Essay

Sander Vanocur

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It would be a mistake to dismiss [Seven Days in May], as some already have, because it reads like a thriller. The authors [Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II] obviously believe that it is not necessary to be dull if a subject is serious. It will be a runaway best-seller because it is well written, because it is virtually impossible to put it down once you have picked it up. The same thing was true of Advise and Consent. The main difference between the two books, apart from the weight, is that the characters in Seven Days in May are plausible. (p. 23)

This is an important book. Somehow in this country, we have not produced any first-rate modern novels about the uses which men make of power. We have had limited exercises in certain localized areas like California in Eugene Burdick's The Ninth Wave and in Louisiana in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. But we have not had, until this book, any serious, or successful, literary effort which explores what men do with the power thrust upon some of them, or seized by others, at the national level. This book is no masterpiece. It will, however, both defy and endure the efforts of those who attempt to dismiss it as superficial. (pp. 24-5)

Sander Vanocur, "Drunks, Babies and the USA," in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1962 The New Republic, Inc.), Vol. 147, No. 14, October 1, 1962, pp. 23-5.