Wright Morris Morris, Wright (Vol. 7)

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Morris, Wright (Vol. 7)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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Morris, Wright 1910–

Morris is acclaimed for the controlled prose of his self-contained novels, especially as he writes of Midwestern America's past and present. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)

Morris published his first novel in 1942, has written fourteen others since, many of them superb, yet he somehow manages to remain perhaps the best-kept literary secret in the land. Morris's unique ability to explore human destiny in a subtle, self-effacing style is as strong as ever in this poignant and amusing little book ["Fire Sermon"]. (p. 120)

Arthur Cooper, in Newsweek (copyright 1971 by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), October 25, 1971.

All of [Morris's] considerable skill and cunning have been compressed in [War Games,] a novella written twenty years ago and never published for reasons as bewildering as they are incomprehensible, for here he has crystallized those facets of his writing that have distinguished his memorable career as a literary artist. His ability to suggest a story immeasurably deeper in significance than the words themselves convey, his facility in projecting a sense of foreboding and angst, his capacity for clothing his deceptively simple tale in prose concealing more than it reveals, all plainly show the hand of an expert craftsman well equipped to dominate his readers much to their esthetic advantage. (p. xcviii)

Virginia Quarterly Review (copyright, 1972, by the Virginia Quarterly Review, The University of Virginia), Vol. 48, No. 3 (Summer, 1972).

Like one of Wright Morris' many extraordinary novels, [About Fiction] is not easy to package for a review. The problem for the reviewer (and reader) lies in the fact that Morris' mind is not inclined toward philosophic or systematic thought. He does not work his way through a topic (or a novel) in a consecutive, linear fashion. His mind tends toward mosaic configurations. He does not provide one with a series of encapsulating statements that deliver the conceptual concerns of his books to us in a few dazzling sentences. His dominant mode of perception (so rare in America) is the ironic imagination: it causes him to discount some part of every statement he makes, to resist final conceptualization of anything, and to vary the words to an old song, to dance around every topic with tears in his mind. He refuses to oversimplify reality.

The book is almost maddeningly accurate in its title. The 19 short sections (they vary from one to 13 pages) are, indeed, all about fiction, both in the sense that fiction is the central concern of the book and Morris' discussions of it move (dance) all about within this "immense subject." A complete descriptive listing of the topics he discusses in some way would run to many pages. He settles none of them; in fact the point seems to be to unsettle (that is, to fictionalize) as many as possible so that the book keeps opening outward upon alternatives and the illusion it creates is of great length. Though the book can easily be read in one day, it really never seems to end.

The same thing is true of many Morris novels, and of his brilliant book on American literature, The Territory Ahead: they end opening up; they come to closure, but the mind can't close them off. Their end-result is not settled being but unsettled becoming. (pp. 26-7)

It's a very pithy book. The mind behind it is so mature, playful and civilized (in the best sense); and the control of the language is so sure and artful that, among other things, it is simply a pleasure to read and think about what Morris has written. He is a living exemplar of the vitality of native American fiction. (p. 28)

William Rueckert, "Vein of Irony," in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1975 by The New Republic, Inc.), April 5, 1975, pp. 26-8.

Wright Morris's "About Fiction" … tackles this moot subject with the pawky, resistant prose of his own fiction…. The opening chapters have, as a whole, the air of a "big subject" essay assigned...

(The entire section is 2,547 words.)