edmund wilson


Apart from his collection of long stories, Memoirs of Hecate County (1946), which was banned for obscenity in the State of New York, Edmund Wilson’s books were never widely read. But for upwards of half a century they had an incalculable impact on readers. Several generations of American intellectuals not only cared what he thought about literature and politics but used his career as a model. They admired his restless curiosity, omnivorous reading, sharp literary judgement, and grasp of culture as a living entity. They envied the unforced clarity of his style. Wilson was hardly more than a decade older than the writers who founded Partisan Review in the mid-1930s, and his deep-dyed American background was different from their immigrant roots, yet, as Lionel Trilling and Alfred Kazin testified, they looked to him as their difficult-to-please mentor. Other sources of inspiration for the Partisan Review circle were distant figures, but Wilson actually married into the family when he took Mary McCarthy, their scarlet princess, as his third wife.

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