Malcolm Bradbury: The Modern American Novel; Oxford University Press; New York.

Serviceable handbooks to literature are always handy to have around the house or office; those that are pithy rather than prolix are even superior. Malcolm Bradbury, himself no mean novelist, examines, in a mere 186 pages (excluding back-of-the­-book materials), American fiction from the 1890’s on to our day. Works are not only placed in their social context, but also in relation to the other creations produced during their im­mediate time frame. Bradbury’s final sentence is worth quoting in full, for, coming as it does from a British writer, it indicates that a dream of our forefathers, that American literature be respected on the world scene, has been fulfilled: 

If the novel is, at best, a deep apprehension of what it means, in a changing world, to utter ourselves, structure our experience, name our world into being, then over the course of the century the best American fiction has become a literature of pri­mary enquiries into the means of doing exactly that.