“Ship of Fools” & the Critics
WHATEVER THE problems were that kept Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools* from appearing during the past twenty years, it has been leading a charmed life ever since it was published late last March. In virtually a single voice, a little cracked and breathless with excitement, the reviewers announced that Miss Porter’s long-awaited first novel was a “triumph,” a “masterpiece,” a “work of genius . . . a momentous work of fiction,” “a phenomenal, rich, and delectable book,” a “literary event of the highest magnitude.” Whether it was Mark Schorer in the New York Times Book Review delivering a lecture, both learned and lyrical, on the source, sensibility, and stature of the novel (“Call it . . . the Middlemarch of a later day”), or a daily reviewer for the San Francisco Call Bulletin confessing that “not once [had] he started a review with so much admiration for its author, with such critical impotence”-in the end it came to the same thing.
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