Edmund Wilson and American culture

Louis Menand in The New Yorker:

EdmundwilsonEdmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair, in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic, in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker, beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books, in the nineteen-sixties. Most of his books were put together from pieces that had been written to meet journalistic occasions. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature at Princeton, from which he graduated in 1916, and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in 1972, he was working on Hungarian. He was also an extremely fast and an extremely clear writer, talents that, in the magazine business, are prized above many others, and that would have made up for a number of shortcomings if he had had shortcomings to make up for.

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