Henry Seidel Canby
[The standards of the Swedish Academy] are high, but evidently they are also flexible; otherwise it would be difficult to account for the recent award [of the Nobel Prize in Literature] … to Pearl Buck. For Mrs. Buck is clearly not the destined subject of a chapter in literary history, and would be the last to say so herself. She has no series of novels to her credit, like Sinclair Lewis, each one fitting into a pattern of achievement which has become a part of durable American literature. She is not the author, like Eugene O'Neill, of works of the imagination which have set up new points of view of universal human nature and new techniques of expression. Indeed it is questionable whether she is preëminently a novelist at all, in spite of the easy flow and readability of all her fiction. Her art of fiction is inferior to that of several other American writers—Miss Cather and Miss Glasgow among them—sometimes markedly inferior.
Where she excels is in biography, and particularly autobiography. But even in this field, which, it must be remembered, depends for its success upon a creative imagination, her two best biographies, "The Exile" and "Fighting Angel," sympathetic and penetrating studies of her remarkable and not always sympathetic parents, would surely never have reached up into the high air where the lightnings of the Nobel Prize strike. As for fiction, let the questioner read her last novel, "This Proud Heart," a biographical—in a symbolic sense, an autobiographical—novel, and decide for...
(The entire section is 628 words.)