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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2014

Vincent O'Sullivan: Frank O'Connor, The Lonely Voice

from Reviews

Summary

Of the more than 120 books Mansfield reviewed for the Athenaeum between April 1919 and the end of 1920, there were fewer than a dozen collections of short stories. Most of what Murry chose to assign to her were inferior novels. Occasionally her reviews were too easily dismissive, as with a reprint of George Moore’s Esther Waters, or when she failed to engage with E. M. Forster or Gertrude Stein as seriously as she might have done. Almost always though her writing is alert, focused, stylish, witty, and at times impressively generous. Yet there is little we can take from her Athenaeum columns that tell us much about what she demanded or hoped for in the short story. Only infrequently does a sentence bear on her own writing, or on the form she is famous for, as in her praise for writing that echoes Chekhov’s melding of symbolism and naturalism to intensify our awareness ‘of the rain pattering on the roof all night long, of the languid, feverish wind, of the moonlit orchard and the fi rst snow, passionately realized, not indeed as analogies for a state of mind, but as linking that mind to the larger whole.’1 Or when, writing admiringly of the Belgian Louis Couperus, she draws a distinction between those who merely depict life, and those who ‘by accepting life [. . .] question it profoundly’.