Scribner's Magazine
Book Reviews by Eli Siegel 1931-1934

From Scribner's, July 1932

The Soul of America, by Arthur Hobson Quinn. University of Pennsylvania. $3.

This is an amiable and quite bad book on a tremendous and extremely beautiful subject. One cannot be fair to that gloriously comprehensive land, America, by writing of it from one angle—cultural, industrial, ethical or any such. America has crags and swamps, flint and marshes, grizzly-bears and violets. It has a flaming impersonality to it; it is bawdy and Puritan; spinsterish and harlotlike; it will give anything for culture, and at the same time doesn't give a damn for it; it is real both in the case of Henry James and of Jack London; it has both wraithlike Emily Dickinson and a long series of heavy, curved, golden and very kind Lady Lils. America is like life in that you can't see it straight slantingly. And Doctor Quinn just rambles along making observation after observation, without much order. His paragraphs don't come out of each other; they are just placed above and below each other. There is a placid disarray in "The Soul of America"; a lack of stylistic federalization. And America, deeply, is neither placid nor disarrayed. Doctor Quinn sees unemployment as caused largely by cultural and ethical deficiencies of the moment; and I'm sure isn't an authority on the complete mental state of an angry Polack or a desirous, communist Finn workman or a bounding successfully rouged shopgirl; and these somehow belong to the soul of America as much as Daniel Webster or Henry Adams. I don't think books should be written—particularly about that giant storehouse of excitements, America—unless one's blood-pressure and nerves have undergone some tingling and sustained impacts from the subjects of the books.

Eli Siegel.


Reviews by Eli Siegel from Scribner's Magazines 1931-1934. Copyright 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 Charles Scribner's Sons; copyrights renewed. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.

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arrowAdventures in Genius by Will Durant
arrowAnn Vickers by Sinclair Lewis
arrowBreathe Upon These Slain by Evelyn Scott
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arrowJohn Dryden by T.S. Eliot
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: 1917-1932 by T.S. Eliot
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arrowThe Sibyl of the North: The Tale of Christina, Queen of Sweden
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arrowThe Soul of America by Arthur Hobson Quinn
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arrowEdmund Kean by Harold Newcomb Hillebrand
arrowWilliam Carlos Williams: Collected Poems, 1921-1931
arrowA Cultural History of the Modern Age by Egon Friedell, Vol. II
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arrowThe Proud and the Meek (Men of Good Will, vol. III) by Jules Romains

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