Ursula Holden James Brockway - Essay

James Brockway

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Art should disturb, it should elate, excite the participant, affect the outlook of onlookers.

These are the thoughts of Logan, ill-fated character in Ursula Holden's third novel, Turnstiles—not that many of her characters are anything other than ill-fated, for that matter. 'Birth, and tribulation, and death'—with copulation by no means overlooked on the way—could have stood as the epigraph in the latest work of this most extraordinary artist…. It would have been appropriate to all three of her novels so far, and perhaps even more apt for this one than the quotation she has indeed chosen for it from Eliot: 'For us, there is only the trying. / The rest is not our business'. Yet these last words are fitting enough for Ruth Cash, 'a natural slob', who is the central character of Turnstiles and who goes, dolefully, through many symbolic turnstiles during the course of the novel.

Although 'art should disturb' does not imply that all that disturbs is art, there can be no doubt that [all of Ursula Holden's] writing is highly disturbing…. (p. 47)

What is Turnstiles about?… [It is] based on the psychological premise that 'isolation acquired in childhood soon becomes habit'—a thought which passes through Ruth Cash's mind towards the close of the novel, when she is recalling her childhood for her psychiatrist, Dr. Greanbach.

It is a childhood several of Ursula Holden's characters have known: selfish or useless parents, absent parents, parents who meet violent deaths in...

(The entire section is 662 words.)