Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 July 2010
Glasgow Evening News, April 22, 1898
Anyone who wants to know what a literary landsman feels like when shipwrecked can get enlightenment from Mr. Stephen Crane's new volume of short tales, “THE OPEN BOAT,” wherein, in the title story, is to be found an account of the author's experiences and sensations while tossed about in a small dinghey after the sinking of the steamer Commodore. This account has a perfectly lightning-like vividness and an intensity of strength that together make the reader feel that he made an invisible fifth in that open boat. All the other stories—or, more accurately, episodes and sketches—have this same glow and this same strength; the complete volume forms a kind of verbal kaleidoscope where a hundred modern scenes—Texan scenes, New York scenes, scenes from the Graeco–Turkish war—glitter forth with startling clearness and incisive force. But the effect at best is tawdry. Mr. Stephen Crane's short stories are after all but journalism apotheosised, glorified newspaper reports. In spite of their wealth of detail, they are thin. In spite of their broad and pitiless humanness they have nothing of true human nature in them, and consequently nothing of permanence. The trail of the special reporter is over them. Yet has Mr. Crane, though he may be ungrammatical on occasion, a wonderful instinct for the right word, and, as fleeting pictures, these tales, like those that have gone before them, will fascinate and thrill.