The/The Forties/The Fifties Thirties Analysis

Edmund Wilson

Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

These three books consist chiefly of Edmund Wilson’s notes to himself about his life during the decades between 1930 and 1960. Less formal than his critical works or his studies in culture, they are not the day-by-day records of a diary, even though he sometimes recorded specific events: a party, a visit to New York, an argument with one of his wives, the death of a friend.

For the most part, however, Wilson’s journals chronicle the events of a period of time, for example a two-month stay at his house in Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, or a summer spent in the family home he inherited in Talcottville, New York. Extensive entries in The Thirties detail his trips to various economically depressed areas of the United States and reflect his political commitment during that troubled decade; these observations formed the basis for his book The American Jitters: A Year of the Slump (1932; revised in 1958 as The American Earthquake: A Documentary of the Twenties and Thirties). A series of long entries in The Forties provides his impressions of Europe just after World War II, when he was sent abroad by The New Yorker to do a series of articles. These impressions were eventually formalized in his book Europe Without Baedeker: Sketches Among the Ruins of Italy, Greece, and England (1947). These are extended notes for novels which were never written, but also detailed entries in The Thirties about a working-class...

(The entire section is 601 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

American Literature. LV, October, 1983, p. 494.

The Atlantic. CCLI, April, 1983, p. 126.

Book World. XVIII, April 17, 1983, p. 3.

Choice. XXI, October, 1983, p. 284.

Christian Science Monitor. June 24, 1983, p. B6.

Contemporary Review. CCXLIII, October, 1983, p. 218.

Costa, Richard Hauer. “Edmund Wilson: The Forties,” in Modern Fiction Studies. XXI (Winter, 1985), pp. 751-753.

DePietro, Thomas. “Edmund Wilson, American,” in The Sewanee Review. XCIV (Winter, 1986), pp. 160-166.

Epstein, Joseph. Review of The Fifties in The New York Times Book Review. XCI (August 31, 1986), p. 3.

Holloway, John. “Varieties of Dialogue: Wilson, Trilling, Leavis,” in Encounter. LVI (February/March, 1981), pp. 67-77.

Kazin, Alfred. Review of The Forties in The Atlantic Monthly. CCLI (April, 1983), p. 126.

Kirkus Reviews. LI, March 1, 1983, p. 301.

Levin, Harry. Review of The Thirties in Saturday Review. VII (August, 1980), p. 58.

Library Journal. CVIII, April 1, 1983, p. 737.

The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, May 22, 1983, p. 1.

The New Yorker. LIX, May 23, 1983, p. 121.

Pritchett, V.S. Review of The Fifties in The New Yorker. LXII (January 5, 1987), pp. 83-85.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXIII, February 25, 1983, p. 77.

Time. CXXI, May 2, 1983, p. 73.

Vidal, Gore. The Second American Revolution and Other Essays, 1982.