Mark Harris Granville Hicks - Essay

Granville Hicks

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mark Harris is one of the most engaging of the young novelists, a man of incorrigibly high spirits, one who is not merely willing but delighted to entertain his readers. "Wake Up, Stupid" … is the wildest and gayest of his novels, and I hope that many readers will find this out. Some of them, I trust, will also discover that Harris has a large capacity for seriousness.

"Wake Up, Stupid" is a novel that is presented through letters and, occasionally, documents…. The letters are written by or to Lee Youngdahl, a professor of English at a college in San Francisco….

The invention is in part of a rather rough-and-ready sort. Lee Youngdahl being what he is, the epistolary form lends itself to gags and wisecracks, and there is a good deal of what might be called low humor. There is also sharp satire….

The form Harris has chosen does not encourage discipline, and the novel contains a certain amount of extraneous material and has several loose ends. On the other hand, the form permits Harris to make the most of Youngdahl's exuberance, and there are wonderfully comic passages….

The novel is to be welcomed simply as entertainment, but, as I began by saying, Harris is fundamentally a serious writer…. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Harris has a tremendous sense of the possibilities of life—outside himself as well as inside himself. He tells us not merely that we don't have to be conformists but that there is no end to the things we can be and do. The sky is the limit for Lee Youngdahl and for Mark Harris too.

Granville Hicks, "Portrait of a Nonconformist," in Saturday Review (copyright © 1959 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. XLII, No. 29, July 18, 1959, p. 13.