A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation

A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation is a 1973 book by Malcolm Cowley, examining the Lost Generation through profiles of eight of its most prominent writers. This generation of writers, he says, produced “a second flowering of American Literature.”1 Many of the chapters were originally written for other purposes, including introductions to anthologies, reprinted works by various authors, lectures, and magazine articles.

The chapters of the book are as follows:

  1. The Other War
  2. FITZGERALD The Romance of Money
  3. HEMINGWAY in Paris
  4. DOS PASSOS The Learned Poggius
  5. CUMMINGS One Man Alone
  6. WILDER Time Abolished
  7. FAULKNER The Yoknapatawpha Story
  8. WOLFE Homo Scribens
  9. HART CRANE A Memoir
  10. HEMINGWAY The Old Lion
  11. Taps for the Lost Generation

In his afterword Cowley explains why he chose the selected writers: “I have tried to present the generation in terms of eight representative figures each of whom had an effect on American writing in his time and after. All were born in the years from 1894 (Cummings) to 1900 (Wolfe).” 

Acknowledging the homogenous attributes of these men, he continues, “It has to be said that the men of the Lost Generation were white, middle-class, mostly Protestant by upbringing, and mostly English and Scottish by dissent, with Fitzgerald to stand for the Irish and Wolfe, through his father, for the Pennsylvania Germans (Dos Passos had a Portuguese grandfather). In other words, these writers had what would come to be regarded as a privileged background, though the notion would have seemed preposterous to most of them when they were twenty.” (Pg. 240)

Quotes

“For the next ten years, until the crash in Wall Street, the aims that young men would cherish were the self-directed ones of making money, of becoming famous-it was the age of very young celebrities-of living intensely, of having a grand time, and, for a larger number of Americans than before, of creating works of art.” (Pg. 15)

“It was an age of literary experiment when young writers were moving in all directions simultaneously. They were showing the same spirit of adventure and exploration in fiction that their contemporaries were showing in the business world.” (Pg. 35)

“Paris was freedom to dress as they pleased, talk and write as they pleased, drink as they pleased, and make love without worrying about the neighbors. Paris was a continual excitation of the senses.” (Pg. 53)

“They were disillusioned by the postwar reaction, cynical about politics, hostile to the institutions of society, and pessimistic about the future, while having a good time in the present and feeling a little guilty about it, or hung over.” (Pg. 121)

“A new generation does not appear every thirty years, as Pio Baroja and other theorists have maintained, or ‘about three times in a century,’ to quote Fitzgerald; it appears when writers of the same age join in a common revolt against the fathers and when, in the process of adopting a new life style, they find their own models and spokesman.” (Pg. 238)

“Did other generations ever laugh so hard together, drink and dance so hard, or do crazier things just for the hell of it? Perhaps some did – most certainly they did – but they did not leave behind such vivid records of their crazy parties and their mornings after. Those records testified to a bargain struck with themselves by writers of the generation. They had taken more liberties than other people, and in return they had accepted the duty of portraying their new world honestly, in all its exultation and heartbreak.” (Pg. 248-9)

“The writers of the Lost Generation, as a rule, had done their best work before they were forty-five and they had no second careers.” (Pg. 253)

See also

External Links

References

  1. Cowley, Malcolm. A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation, 1973.
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