Michael Weller Walter Kerr - Essay

Walter Kerr

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In "Moonchildren," a college generation adrift in a void and at a loss for identity devoted all of its crackling verbal powers to erecting far-out and very funny façades in order to conceal an emptiness….

They were performing for others, creating alternate selves that lived only in the group imagination, making the hilarious most of lies that came within inches of persuading the unpersuadable. The device was called a "put-on" by this time, and was far more conscious than it had been….

But [in "Fishing"] the little jokes are littler now, the antic urge to con the world gone flat. Flatness is an unrewarding thing to dramatize … and Mr. Weller has taken refuge in spelling out too plainly the ache that was formerly, gaily, implied. The remnants of that captivating college crew now speak of themselves, baldly, as "a lost generation in search of roles in a century without meaning," announce that "Life is a freak show, right?" (This of course gives the whole show away; we used to deduce such things, beneath the cock-crows, to our delight.) When one of the friends is told he's moody, he snaps "You're not supposed to notice, and if you notice you're not supposed to say anything, and if you say anything it's supposed to be a joke." In "Fishing" they do notice, and they do say, and it's not a joke.

Walter Kerr, "Poor 'Fishing'," in The New York Times, Section II (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 23, 1975, p. 1.