Reviews — From the August 2014 issue

The Passenger

Creating the Lost Generation

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Discussed in this essay:

The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley, 1915–1987,

Malcolm Cowley made his name as an ancillary member of the Lost Generation in Montparnasse and Greenwich Village, but for much of a long career — he was actively publishing, in one way or another, from the First World War till the Eighties — he liked to give the impression of being more comfortable tending his garden in Sherman, Connecticut, than in the company of big-city intellectuals. On top of helping shape the story of the interwar avant-garde with his memoirs, starting with Exile’s Return (1934), he functioned as a critic, editor, teacher, minor poet, committee chair, and all-around literary middleman without ceasing to speak of himself as an interloper in “academic or bow-tie” settings. He’s remembered mostly as a rescuer of sinking reputations — his Portable Faulkner (1946) still gets credited with turning the novelist’s fortunes around — and in the postwar years he was inclined to leave the hurtful side of reviewing to younger practitioners. Slow of speech, hard of hearing, and — it was said — given to turning off his hearing aid at the first sign of unpleasantness, he had little trouble projecting an air of being above the fray.

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is a contributing editor of the London Review of Books. His last article for Harper’s Magazine, “A Great Consolation,” appeared in the May 2012 issue.

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