Commentary Magazine


A Neglected Novelist

To the Editor:

I always enjoy Joseph Epstein’s sensitive writings about authors and books, and none more so than his perceptive appreciation of E.B. White [“E.B. White, Dark & Lite,” April]. But I feel obligated to correct one . . . misstatement.

So far as I know, the Pulitzer Prize awarded White for “the body of his work” was not unique, as Mr. Epstein claimed. In 1957, the Pulitzer Prize committee made a similar award to that vastly underrated American author, Kenneth Roberts, for “the historical novels which have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in American history.”

This was no doubt to make amends for 1940, when Roberts’s Oliver Wiswell, which told the story of the American Revolution from the Tory point of view, was denied a Pulitzer. Though the novel was generally regarded as the best of that year, the Pulitzer people decided to give no fiction award at all rather than honor a book so repugnant in its philosophy.

Roberts’s other novels, all set in and around the Revolutionary War, include such prominent titles as Northwest Passage, Arundel, Rabble in Arms, and Lydia Bailey. Perhaps it is time for a reappraisal of his work.

Marion Simon Garmel
Indianapolis, Indiana

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