By Leonard Casper
Robert Penn Warren's later novels, 1959-1977
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Extra info for The blood-marriage of earth and sky: Robert Penn Warren's later novels
Democracy as poetry. Because the forms that evolved in his later novels in response to this need for a wider, more democratic gathering of perspectives have gone largely unnoticed, this study's focus is on these novels published between 1959 and 1977. Since it was exploratory vision rather than versatility as showmanship that made Warren the rare "man of letters" he was, the interflow between these novels and his poetry and playforms and critical essays is also recognized and, on a lesser scale, measured here.
Fiction focuses on "just what's there, and having to face it as there. Its thereness is all"; and every work, poem or novel, "has some meaning that you haven't solved" beforehand, some lifethreatening, life-energizing issue that seizes the author's attention. ''10 The years of energetic preparation (including disguises) required to write a novel might well become a consideration of real weight as time and opportunity diminished. It is also easier to revise or edit out a poem or poetic sequence, as Warren has done from collection to collection, than it is to rewrite a novel once it is in print.
The duty not to waste one's talent is, with Warren, also a traditional American trait, but without the countervailing American arrogance. Much of John Burt's thesis in Robert Penn Warren and American Idealism recognizes not only Warren's awareness of "doubleness" in lifeirony both tragic and comic, persistent ambiguity, contradiction, self-deceptionbut also the necessity of reconciling apparent opposites whenever possible, much as the opposing thumb in man puts particles of experience usefully within his grasp.