Thomas Tryon Tryon, Thomas (Vol. 3) - Essay

Tryon, Thomas (Vol. 3)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Tryon, Thomas 1926–

Tryon is an American actor and novelist whose first novel, The Other, earned him immediate popularity. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32.)

Here [in The Other] two familiar areas in American fiction—the Eastern Seaboard mysticism of Poe and Henry James and the turbulent high summers of pre-adolescence, so well depicted by the Southern writers, are welded together to produce a narrative of consistent yet increasingly strident power. As an exercise in Gothic suspense, it is never less than competent, but while the interesting theme of psychic transference is incorporated in the foundation of the book, the structure itself depends heavily on that old standby—young minds possessed. The pity is, there are hints of something more fine-grained at work. The observation of hawk-eyed yet cloudy-minded pre-adolescence is rendered with that sureness of touch one associates with Carson McCullers. But this delicacy of characterization and evocation, and the potentially diverting ESP component, are subsumed by the broader, cruder outlines of grand guignol. It is easy to see why the book has been so successful in America, while at the same time one reserves the accolades for an ESP novel which maintains a more scrupulous balance between dictates of plot and the demands of what is, possibly, an important new area of examination for today's novelists.

"Vacant Possession" in The Times Literary Supplement (reproduced by permission), October 29, 1971, p. 1355.

Reviewing "Harvest Home" is essentially an exercise in futility: people are going to buy it by the truckload, and presumably read it, no matter what is said about it….

It may have best seller written all over it, but it is nonetheless tedious, pretentious and mannered—"Son of 'The Other,'" indeed.

One suspects that Tryon got the inspiration for "Harvest Home" after inspecting "Safe Places," that book of a while back that purported to located our few remaining islands of tranquility….

Ghastly and gruesome things happen, and it is all about as terrifying as "The Brady Bunch." For one thing, Tryon is forever telegraphing his punches: "And though I did not realize it then, it was not the last time the Widow Fortune was to rescue Kate, to rescue Beth, and to alter all our lives." For another, Constantine is an unengaging, uninteresting narrator and the village characters are mere caricatures. For yet another, the symbolism is clumsily obvious; among other things, there is an abundance of corn cobs. For the clincher, the folksy village dialogue would make any self-respecting New Englander gag on his boiled dinner, and the descriptive passages are loaded with irrelevant detail.

About all that can be said on behalf of "Harvest Home" is that it will put a hefty chunk of cash in the publisher's account, and perhaps as a result enable that ordinarily estimable firm to subsidize publication of some better book. Possibly it will help discourage city people from buying country property, which would be a boon for the environment. And it beats Sominex.

Jonathan Yardley, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1973 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 1, 1973, pp. 22-3.