Thursday, 12 July 2012

Edward Dahlberg: Alms and Brickbats

 Edward Dahlberg although congenitally inclined to the acidulous has nothing but good to say about Ford Madox Ford who unfortunately seems to require rehabilitation after Hemingway's character assassination.  Deny that Ford was a fabulist even a confabulist he cannot, but he commends his other qualities: (from Alms for Oblivion pub.1968)

Ford lied about everything; he said that he never looked up one quotation for his March of  Literature. ......

His kindness was a wind that was always blowing his head about in one direction or another. He simply could not do enough for our talented authors.........

Compare these venal foxes with Ford Madox Ford, who, having empty pockets himself, was a Medici patron of literature. .......

Stieglitz ran open shop at the Place for conversation; fat, gracious Ford was as hospitable as Zeus, and would beg you to come for tea and to bring along some early or late book you had written so he could find out whether you were a quack or not. Whenever I pass the 10 Fifth Avenue brownstone my steps fumble a little and I think of Ford’s eyes, the dove-gray eyes of the Shulamite, as Lawrence described them. They were amorous eyes, soft and almost wet, because they were always feeling something. ......

Concerning Ernest Hemingway he writes:

The worst canker is jealousy. Somebody praised Faulkner to Hemingway who, after reading Faulkner’s novels, said, “I don’t have to worry about Faulkner.”......

Walsh anathematized the venal literati, for money is far more obscene than pornography; though Hemingway’s first short story was printed in This Quarter, Walsh distrusted this vulgar dollar scribbler......

I offer these excerpts from Dahlberg in the interest of an alternative view realising at the same time that he is not a careful reader and therefore not a reliable judge. His remarks on The Great Gatsby are inaccurate and contain a current of bitterness which causes wild swinging at the empty air. Of Tom & Daisy he says:
Seedless grapes, seedless oranges, seedless wedlock all go together

Tom Buchanan breaks his wife’s nose because he is an athlete and has to do something with his body.

Unfortunately he compares Gatzby with:
The amorous novels of Dreiser and Anderson have been replaced by a very tired fiction. 

Can he be setting Dreiser; of whom it was said that he wrote like someone whose native language was other than English, ahead of Fitzgerald? Dahlberg’s prose is a little muscular. He is a stranger to the limpid that glances but must always be stunning us with a manly poleaxe. Still I have always been fond of effects as long as they are not special.



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