Mary's Reviews > Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s

Exile's Return by Malcolm Cowley
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's review
Sep 12, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: history, celebrators, the-old-but-new-stuff, observors

A celebration of the brilliant people the essayist knew in Greenwich Village and in France during and after the war. It's personal without being too anecdotal and does a good job of showing the appreciation for form during this period, which is still useful for anyone who really cares about what makes for good writing. However, I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the author's virtual indifference to black writers from the same period who were just as talented and productive as their white counterparts. A few are mentioned on a birth list in the appendices, and in one section white authors, decrying their educations and privileged upbringings wish they could return to a more "primitive" life "like the Negro," but, otherwise, black authors are completely disregarded, as are most women, aside from their roles as wives and suicide partners. The author accounts for his disregard of women, but not for that of the Harlem Renaissance figures.

Still, it is, again, a personal story about the people the writer directly knew and loved; it is about their shaping and disintegration, and, once one accepts it for what it is, it is an impressive account.
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