Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Bow to the Ladies


A review of Understanding Mary Lee Settle, by George Garrett, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. 1988, 187 pages.

One useful way to distinguish between types of novelists is to characterize them as either intensive or extensive. An intensive novel, much the more com­mon variety in modern times, deals with a small segment of individual experi­ence and consciousness, wringing from it the maximum psychological mean­ing. Though it may encompass intensive experiences, an extensive novel, more common in earlier times, paints with a broad brush and achieves social and his­torical complexity.

When a writer does both of these things at a high level, and can even com­bine them successfully into a seamless whole, then one begins to think in terms of “great” and “enduring.” This characterization fits Faulkner, Conrad, Hardy, Dostoyevski, and Solzhenitsyn. And, according to the novelist and poet George Garrett, our relatively unknown contemporary American and Southern writer, Mary Lee Settle, will, in the long view, find a place in this company.

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