George Garrett Garrett, George (Vol. 11) - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Garrett, George 1929–

Garrett is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, critic, and editor. He is noted for his technical control of many fictional forms and for his masterful storytelling. (See also CLC, Vol. 3, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

Walter Sullivan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

George Garrett is a mature writer—Do, Lord, Remember Me is his third novel, his fifth book of fiction—and the fruits of his long apprenticeship are apparent here. (p. 160)

It may not be possible to end this kind of book in a manner that is thoroughly satisfactory…. [His] conclusion seems a little thin, if only from a technical viewpoint…. [But this is a minor complaint when] balanced against Garrett's overall performance. Telling his story largely from a series of first person points of view, he remains totally in control of his material. He uses flashbacks and passages of psychological probing with effective restraint, and his people are Southern and funny sometimes, but they are never caricatures and they are never lugubrious. And even if the handling of [the death of Smalley, the novel's protagonist,] is not technically perfect, the meaning is clear. Evil is redeemed through dissolution and pain. And it is only redeemed. It is not effaced or even assuaged, this side of Paradise. (p. 161)

Walter Sullivan, in Sewanee Review (reprinted by permission of the editor; © 1964 by The University of the South), Winter, 1964.

F. H. Griffin Taylor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

George Garrett would seem to share with Juvenal an appreciation of the virtues of the backwater, an admiration for simple loyalties, and a propensity for what Winston Churchill called the harsh laugh of the soldier. (p. 308)

Mr. Garrett is a Southerner who, after having lived in other places and countries, has decided to live in the South, and has committed himself to his native region in fact as well as in name…. He does not, as perhaps he should not, attempt to explicate the principles on which he takes his stand, but he is very clear as to what he does not accept…. As a poet Mr. Garrett is committed not to ideas nor abstract concepts, but to a place and its people.

Mr. Garrett has chosen to stand on familiar ground. He is not unconscious of his task to give shape to and if necessary to defend the views of his region as he sees it in the present. Acceptance of the present seems to be central to his position. He does not dwell on the past at all. At the same time he also exemplifies that prise de conscience of men of letters signalized by Baudelaire's proclamation of "ma blessure", since which the locus of the struggle has been at least partly in the artist himself. Thus a recurrent theme in these poems is the need to recognize one's own imperfection, one's own disfigurement…. The poet also accepts the occasional ignominy and the contumely not infrequently the lot of the artist in our time, not infrequently, he suggests, deserved. Yet Mr. Garrett is not cut off from others; he is not lonely nor isolated …, for as a Southerner he is always aware of the society of which he is a part. He perceives the social fabric and his place in it with a sense that never sleeps. (pp. 309-10)

He calls his book For a Bitter Season, and with justice. It is singular for its...

(The entire section is 758 words.)

David R. Slavitt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Death of the Fox is splendid, a magnificent book, and very probably one of the dozen best novels to have been written in my lifetime. Indeed, it is so extraordinary a work that it raises certain questions about the history and the future of the novel itself, about the relation of the novelist to his public, and about the ultimate mysteries of Fame and Fortune which lie not only at the heart of this novel but at the heart of the experience of all of us. (p. 277)

The technical excellence of both [The Finished Man and Which Ones Are The Enemy?], the wit, the appeal were as irrelevant as the eloquent need of some poor sucker who buys his lottery ticket and sits back to wait for the big money. Each of them was a good book in its way. The Finished Man was a more than usually ingratiating first novel about Florida politics and—perhaps—Garrett's father. Which Ones Are The Enemy? was a novel about army life in Trieste—where Garrett served—and was more polished, more authoritative in its tone, surer in its technical aspects, richer…. Really, a damned good book. In each case, however, the bright pebble of experience that Garrett was weaving into his nest of ironies and clarities was important to him; the craft with which he managed the novels was of interest to a few hundred enthusiasts of the novel. (p. 280)

Death of the Fox is a huge book, but its devices are minute and precise…. The fictional constraint is very nearly as oppressive as Ralegh's own, in that the possibilities of action are severely limited. There is thought, of course—recollection, analysis, regret, celebration. But thought is a frustrating business unless there is some medium for its expression, some...

(The entire section is 724 words.)

Bruce B. Solnick

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Death of the Fox] is called "a novel about Ralegh," and though the author's note explicitly states that it is not a biography,… it can and perhaps should be read as a biography written with the literary liberties available to the novelist but not to the formal and traditional biographer.

Garrett, making full use of the freedom available to the novelist—who is not held to the strict limits of accountability of the historian or the biographer—does a fine job of placing Ralegh in the involved intrigue of the Elizabethan world. Though the book is long, the reader's interest is maintained throughout. (p. 36)

Bruce B. Solnick, in Américas (reprinted by permission from Américas, monthly magazine published by the general Secretariat of the Organization of American States in English, Spanish, and Portuguese), January, 1974.