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W M Spackman, Steven Moore

On The Decay Of Criticism: The Complete Essays Of W. M. Spackman

On sale date: December 5, 2017

In this complete collection of his literary criticism, the celebrated critic and novelist argues for artistry over ideology.

Best known for the sleek, sophisticated novels he wrote in the 1970s and ’80s, W. M. Spackman was also a literary critic of formidable power and slashing wit. Gathered here are all the essays and reviews he published, including those that appeared in his 1967 book of essays On the Decay of Humanism. Ranging from ancient Greek and Latin literature to the latest poetry and novels, these brilliant essays argue that a work of literature should be evaluated on its artistry and craftsmanship, not on its content or ideas. Spackman quotes, with approval, Nabokov’s belief that, “Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are a lot of hogwash,” and insists “aesthetic assessments… must come before everything else.” On those grounds, he finds such celebrated masters as Leo Tolstoy and Henry James inferior to lesser-known artists like Henry Green and Ivy Compton-Burnett. His iconoclastic views are supported with close technical analyses, but in a relaxed style that delights as it instructs.

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5.9" × 9.3"