From H. L. Mencken
“Prejudices, Third Series,” Chapter X, The Novel, p 105.
The above author has nothing good to say about feminine novelists with the exception of mentioning Jane Austin and highly recommending Will Cather’s “My Antonia.”
“An unmistakable flavor of effeminacy hangs about the novel. (The novel) in the form we know to-day, arose in Spain toward the end of the sixteenth century, was aimed at the emerging women of Castilian seraglios-who were gradually emancipating themselves. They could now read and write. But to write was regarded as decidedly unladylike.”
‘A single plot served most of these confectioners. Man and maid meet, love, proceed to kiss-but the rest must wait…not until the very last scene for fate and Holy Church license anything more.”
“Women as they have gradually become fully literate have forced their way to the front of the makers of the stuff they feed on, and they show signs of ousting men, soon or late, from the business. They are not really novels but metaphysical sonatas disguised as romances. The novel is concerned solely with human nature as it is practically rendered (in pungent realism).”
“It is my contention that women succeed in the novel…even more strikingly when they throw off the inhibitions that hover hitherto cobwebbed their minds – because they see facts in life more sharply and are less distracted by mooney dreams. They are< I believe, generally happier than men…”
“If I live to the year 1950 I expect to see a novel by a woman that will describe a typical marriage…I venture that novel will demolish superstitions that have prevailed in the Western World since the fall of the Roman Empire.
“It will be harsh, but it will be true and being true, it will be a good novel. There can be no good one that is not true.” Maybe Hemmingway knew Mencken?
Willa Cather’s very distinguished quality in “My Antonia” is a great deal more than simply a good novel. It is a document in the history of American literature. It proves that accurate representation is not inimical to beauty. No romantic novel every written in America, by man or woman, is one-half so beautiful as “My Antonia.”
“The novel of the future will show after a woman has got her man) that a woman begins to live. It will show against a background of actuality, her conduct in the eternal struggle between her aspiration and her destiny. It will be sweet stuff, indeed; and it will come.”
Begging to differ, Leah St. James’ novel “Adrienne’s Ghost” throws away any lingering inhibitions. The love-making scenes promise ‘the happy life after’ that Mencken talks about. Would scenes of setting dinner tables, wiping various noses and bottoms of their off-spring, balancing check books and re-carpeting the house add to the knowledge of human nature? I doubt it. Where’s the conflict?
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Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time.
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