A Child of the Century, by Ben Hecht
“I am a rascal,” says your true rascal grinning, and thereby robs you of the privilege of calling him one.
Ben Hecht, whose heroes are mainly rascals, does not belong in the merry and daring company he cherishes. He brags of a somewhat picaresque past—circus tumbler, Chicago newspaper reporter, promoter of dubious enterprises and get-rich-quick schemes before he became novelist, playwright, and Hollywood scriptwriter—but he lacks the devil-may-care candor that makes so many rascals ingratiating, at least in literature. His 654-page autobiography—posterity will trim his copy—reveals him as a cautious man and a somber one; burdened less with conscience, to be sure, than by the need to justify himself at every turn. A Child of the Century is a jumbled book, a re-hash of everything Hecht ever wrote—A Jew in Love, Erik Dorn, 1001 Afternoons in Chicago, Count Bruga, The Front Page. It will do no good to his reputation. He comes out indeed rather shabbily—as word-slinger rather than stylist, master of invective rather than wit, poetaster rather than poet, crackpot philosopher and calculating crackpot, romantic cynic and cruel sentimentalist, third-rate Mencken and fifth-rate Rochefoucauld.
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