R. V. Cassill Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Although R. V. Cassill has won high praise for his short stories, he has also written more than twenty novels, the first of which, The Eagle on the Coin, was published in 1950. He has also written nonfiction, including Writing Fiction (1962) and In an Iron Time: Statements and Reiterations, Essays (1969), many articles, and more than one hundred book reviews for periodicals. As editor, he has worked on The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction (1977) and The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction (1988). His most critically recognized novel is Clem Anderson (1961).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

R. V. Cassill has been noted mainly for his short stories, the first of which, “The Conditions of Justice,” won second place in the Atlantic Monthly “Firsts” contest for the short story in 1947. Despite the fact that he has written more than twenty novels, the only one that has received wide critical attention has been Clem Anderson (1961). It could perhaps be argued that the attention his short stories have been given has overshadowed such a collection of novels, but both genres demonstrate Cassill’s diversity, range, and depth. His literary subjects explore the tensions between the individual and society, between the forces of moral conviction and practical expression, between power and sex. Cassill’s own convictions have been expressed in not only his stories but also his career. The protagonist of Cassill’s novel Clem Anderson, which portrays the struggles of an American poet (Clem), in some ways represents Cassill’s own struggle to fit a literary voice of integrity and moral conviction into a world becoming increasingly institutionalized and anonymous. The novel, like the writer, gives the literary world much to savor, much to consider, though critics may disagree on the true value of what Cassill has to offer.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The Antioch Review 30, nos. 3-4 (1970). “Second thoughts” persuaded the editors to mention Cassill’s novel Dr. Cobb’s Game, which they admit they find “outrageous but nonetheless unforgettable.” They conclude: “A repugnant reading experience—so be it. Evil is evil and must be nothing less than frightening.”

Cassill, Kay, Orin E. Cassill, and Kurt Johnson, eds. R. V. Cassill. Chicago, 1981. A collection of articles, reminiscences, commentaries, and analyses of Cassill’s work by friends, admirers, and members of his family.

Grumbach, Doris. “Fine Print: The Goss Women.” The New Republic 170 (June 29, 1974): 33. Grumbach looks at this Cassill novel in the light of feminine sexuality, claiming that Cassill’s female characters are “extrasexual perceptive.” Although she finds the author’s technical skills quite developed, she says the novel ultimately results in “ennui.”

Roberts, David. “The Short Fiction of R. V. Cassill.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, no. 1 (1966): 56-70. Roberts searches out “a continuous vision” in Cassill’s short fiction. He studies Cassill’s short stories, analyzing some of them individually, finds “excellence” in the body of short fiction as a whole, and concludes Cassill is “eminently deserving of further critical attention.”

Yates, Richard. “R. V. Cassill’s Clem Anderson.” Ploughshares 14, nos. 2-3 (1988): 189-196. A critical study of Cassill’s most widely acclaimed novel. Analyzes the main character, Clem, as representative of Cassill’s own struggle as writer and poet to find meaning in the academic world, and links that struggle to the author/narrator’s search for new forms of expression.