In the Web of Ideas

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

IN THE WEB OF IDEAS is neither a true volume of memoirs nor a cohesive collection of essays. Instead, it is an apparently representative collection of the writings of Charles Scribner, Jr., who, although he is not an original thinker or a great writer, is a good judge of original thought and great writing and a man who has thought at length about important issues. Scribner is a man of another era, a man who was brought up with money and used the opportunities that it afforded him to explore what he likes to call “the life of the mind.”

Those readers who are particularly interested in literary history will be fascinated by the chapter “The Secret of Being Ernest (and the Secret of Keeping Ernest),” which discusses the history of Hemingway’s long and exclusive relationship with Scribners and the author’s own recollections of Hemingway as well as Hemingway’s great editor Maxwell Perkins.

More interesting to this reviewer are the essays contained in the second of the book’s three parts, “Reflections on Reading and Writing,” in which Scribner imparts his thoughts about the English language, the drawbacks of allowing the study of the classics to be left out of basic education, and the difference between simply learning facts from a database and learning facts and ideas that have been transmitted through the medium of great writing. Scribner supports the technological developments that have given the modern publishing industry...

(The entire section is 521 words.)