The Age of Anxiety, by W. H. Auden
As a large and ambitious production by one of the best living poets, The Age of Anxiety is disappointing. The four vaguest characters in modern literature (Quant, a shipping clerk and widower; Malin, a medical intelligence officer in the RCAF; Emble, a young mid-Western naval officer; Rosetta, a department-store buyer) sit around one evening during the recent war, first in a Third Avenue bar, then in Rosetta’s apartment, and mull things over: the modern soul, the seven ages of man’s life, the seven stages of some dream-quest, the possibilities of happiness, the alienations of men, the ennuis of America. They think, then they talk; in the cab they sing a dirge; Emble and Rosetta make vague love, Emble passes out; Quant sings, Malin thinks, on their way home. As in some recent novels but for no reason that appears sufficient, it is All Souls’, and everything goes, all the tangle of current intellectual equipment. The numerous subjects are dim and confused, the styles are nerveless and self-indulgent, anything comes up anywhere and nothing happens to it. The occasional prose seems more thoughtful, really, and more natural than the verse, though the verse is sporadically “brilliant” and there are good lines and passages.
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