In 1959, Alfred Kazin wrote ‘The Alone Generation,’ an incisive and brilliant essay about the failures of modern literature. The critic who would later describe himself as a ‘cultural conservative’ and, semi-seriously, a ‘literary reactionary’ uttered this cri de coeur:
I am tired of reading for compassion instead of pleasure. In novel after novel, I am presented with people who are so soft, so wheedling, so importunate, that the actions in which they are involved are too indecisive to be interesting or to develop those implications which are the life-blood of narrative. The age of ‘psychological man,’ of the herd of aloners, has finally proved the truth of Tocqueville’s observation that in modern times the average man is absorbed in a very puny object, himself, to the point of satiety.
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