Frank Swinnerton Lola Ridge - Essay

Lola Ridge

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The structure of [Nocturne] is almost classic. The events take place in the course of a single night. And each chapter folds upon the other without visible apertures or creaking joints, so that in retrospect the mind encompasses the whole with a single gesture.

In theme and treatment is seems to usher in a coming democratization of art. Here is no preoccupation with the commonplace from the contemptous elevation of the intellectual aristocrat—Mr. Swinnerton approaches the vulgarest of his creatures with a genial tolerance. At the same time his book emphasizes the revival of that indiscriminate realism already apparent in the work of two very different writers, Wyndham Lewis and James Joyce. But though he etches accessory details with the minuteness of the author of Dubliners, he does not achieve the latter's biting phrases. In the work of Joyce one is always conscious of looking through a piquant and intensely individual personal atmosphere. But in Nocturne, as Mr. Wells says succinctly: "Life is seen as through a crystal lens." And in spite of the warmth and color of the book and the physical glamor of the soft London darkness, the characters challenge one's vision like objects seen in a too strong light. (p. 323)

Lola Ridge, "A Study of the Commonplace," in The New Republic, Vol. XVI, No. 206, October 12, 1918, pp. 320, 323.