Gilbert Rogin Eve Auchincloss - Essay

Eve Auchincloss

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The fine ear, the elaborate—and rather unenlightening—simile, the self indulgence, both verbal and moral, are all characteristic [of The Fencing Master]. What the story has to say about the cost of involvement is plain, but [Rogin] goes to excessive trouble to find radical images to represent his meaning. The feverish overtones of Conrad and Golding seem to be there only to make an arbitrary and wholly "literary" ambiguity seem to have a point. But that it does have seems doubtful.

Rogin has read his Bellow too. When he writes in that master's manner (as in "Chico King Popular Singer") the edge gets harder, there is manic comedy and even some tenderness which is neither mocked nor overamplified. [For] Rogin, unlike Bellow, the whole absurd and awful business of living a life reduced to a series of slogans passed back and forth between people ends up more pathetic than savage.

Three stories in the collection, in which Rogin's sorry young man is named Howard Lesser, have something in addition to the rewards of a fine mimetic ear…. It is no mean accomplishment to describe a good person, and though Lesser often proclaims his father's goodness in extravagant terms, the reality of it comes out with moving simplicity in the old man's conversation and diary…. But the reconciling presence of the father, with his imagined virtues ("Prudence! Justice! Temperance! Fortitude"—Lesser half-ironically sees them as...

(The entire section is 482 words.)