A Long Day's Dying, by Frederick Buechner; The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles; and The Cannibal, by John Hawkes
Here are three first novels by young writers; the youngest, as the book-jacket proudly states, is twenty-three. These are not the customary immature products to be jabbed with rusty critical knives. They show strict control, with none of those qualities of youthful ebullience and sentimentality which so often pervade the work of first novelists. Yet the admirable restraint, the scrupulous attention to craftsmanship in Frederick Buechner and Paul Bowles seem only to disguise a basic lack of creative energy, especially when juxtaposed against an imagination as rich and overpowering as that of John Hawkes. Both their novels have the same basic theme—the anguish of the modern intellectual, who, unable to communicate his need for love, is condemned to isolation in a world which he can only analyze and endure. But the tragic significance of this theme is never captured, for the human beings who move through these novels are merely the shadowy backdrop against which the real hero, entitled perhaps “The Modem Dilemma,” is illuminated.
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