A selection of Malcolm Cowley's letters from a masterful new collection.
Recently, there appeared two items concerning H. L. Mencken, and I wish that somebody would explain them. Taken together, they don't make sense. Item I. The Modern Library has reprinted Scott Fitzgerald's best novel, The Great Gatsby. It is a book whose unique value has been overestimated by many people, including T. S. Eliot, Rebecca West and its own author, but nevertheless it is a fine piece of work, a sentimental poem to the Jazz Age that I was glad to reread in 1934: It hasn't staled or withered. The item about Mencken appears in the preface to the new edition.
Hell’s Angels, according to the unexpectedly accurate statement of its corps of press agents, is “the most pretentious spectacle ever produced.” It cost four million dollars. It took four years to write and film. The producer and director, Mr. Howard Hughes, assembled for it the largest fleet of aircraft ever brought together by an individual—a larger air force than is possessed by the governments of many great countries. In an aerial conflict between Mr. Hughes and China, between Mr. Hughes and the Argentine Republic, between Mr.
In writing not a few studies of literary history, I haven't said much about the new generation of the 1960s. There is a reason for the oversight. I like to write about situations that I have known at first hand, whereas from 1963 to 1973, the years when the Love Generation flowered and faded, I was a detached observer, a deaf man gardening in the country and writing about books.