Richard Kostelanetz, a young critic who is acutely conscious of both his youth and his critical responsibilities, has edited a volume called Young American Writers…. As some of the young politicians do, he distrusts everyone who is over thirty, and therefore he has included only authors born after 1936. As it happens, several of his best writers were born in 1937, and it must grieve him to feel that within the next twelve months they will be lost to the cause. Indeed. Kostelanetz himself has only three years to go.
Older artists are always conscious of the hungry generations that come along to tread them down, but nowadays they come faster and faster. "American writers born 1937 and after," Kostelanetz says, "comprise the third literary generation of the postwar period." First there were such writers as Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, James Jones, and John Aldridge. The second generation, which was "thoroughly disorganized," included LeRoi Jones, Philip Roth, Susan Sontag, John Updike, John Barth, and others. The third group, to which Kostelanetz devotes this volume, seems to him "a talented generation, more thoroughly educated and culturally sophisticated than earlier chronological sets; and although we are hardly cautious, the mistakes of our elders, particularly their vulgarisms, oppress us." Although he complains that most of the younger writers are neglected, he takes consolation in the fact that "by 1972 one-half of the voting population will be under thirty-two … the future is very much...
(The entire section is 627 words.)