Dabney, Lewis M.
Dabney, Lewis M.
PERSONAL: Male. Education: Columbia University, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Office—English Department, University of Wyoming, 1000 E. University Ave., Laramie, WY 82071. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Educator, author, and editor. University of Illinois, former professor of English; University of Wyoming, Laramie, professor of English.
The Indians of Yoknapatawpha: A Study in Literature and History, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1974.
(Editor and author of introduction) The Portable Edmund Wilson, Viking Press (New York, NY), 1983, revised and expanded edition published as The Edmund Wilson Reader, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor and author of introduction) The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960–1972, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1993.
(Editor) Edmund Wilson: Centennial Reflections, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1997.
Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Lewis M. Dabney has made a specialty of the career of American critic Edmund Wilson. Dabney has edited several volumes of Wilson's writings, as well as writings about this eminent intellectual whose career spanned six decades of the twentieth century. In 2005 Dabney also published a biographical work, Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature.
Dabney edited, added notes, and wrote an introduction for the 1983 book, The Portable Edmund Wilson. Reviewing that selection, National Review contributor Saul Goodwin noted that "Dabney has managed to give us a decently representative anthology of this quintessentially American man of letters." Goodwin added that Wilson himself, who acted as anthologist from time to time, "would have been satisfied with the results." Dabney also served as editor for The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960–1972, a selection from the final diaries and journal entries of Wilson. A contributor for Publishers Weekly observed that Dabney provides a "useful introduction and more than 140 section headings that lend coherence to Wilson's musing on literature, politics and the intellectual scene." Reviewing that same work in Commonweal, David Castronovo found it "skillfully edited" by Dabney.
With Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, Dabney turns from editor to author, detailing the main currents in the life of Wilson, including his works, such as Axel's Castle, To the Finland Station, Patriotic Gore, and Memoirs of Hecate County, among others, and his relations with a host of other twentieth-century notables, such as writers Anaïs Nin, Vladimir Nabokov, and Mary McCarthy (one of Wilson's several wives). Dabney portrays both the literary Wilson and the private man Wilson, with his heavy drinking and womanizing, and by so doing "humanizes Wilson without trivializing him," according to Allen Barra in a review for the Village Voice Online. Barra went on to call Dabney's biography an "enormously satisfying account." However, Colm Toibin, writing in the New York Times Book Review, questioned the emphasis on Wilson's private life and loves, observing: "Dabney's offering so much space to Wilson's untidy personal life may not be to the taste of those who continue to admire the books he wrote and his lifelong commitment to the written word." Other reviewers, however, praised Dabney's balanced perspective. Writing for BookPage online, Roger Bishop noted: "Perhaps Dabney's greatest accomplishment is to demonstrate the depth of Wilson's achievement and why it was and remains important." Benjamin Schwarz, writing in the Atlantic Monthly and praising the thoroughness of Dabney's book, commented that, with "its sorting of the facts from the rumors and apocryphal accounts that have barnacled Wilson's reputation, [Dabney's biography is] as definitive as we're likely to get—and as we need." Similarly, Ben Bruton, writing for Library Journal, called the same work a "comprehensive, well-researched biography," and a contributor for Publishers Weekly cited the book as "a rich context for approaching [Wilson's] writings." For a Kirkus Reviews critic, Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature is a "solid, much-needed work of literary biography."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, July-August, 2005, Benjamin Schwarz, review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, p. 126.
Commonweal, October 22, 1993, David Castronovo, review of The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960–1972, p. 29; December 19, 19976, Paul Baumann, review of Edmund Wilson: Centennial Reflections, p. 20.
Economist (U.S.), August 27, 2005, "Life of the Pen; Literary Criticism," review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, p. 68.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2005, review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, p. 273.
Library Journal, July 1, 2005, Ben Bruton, review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, p. 79.
National Review, July 13, 1984, Saul Goodwin, review of The Portable Edmund Wilson, p. 53.
New York Times Book Review, September 4, 2005, Colm Toibin, "Edmund Wilson: American Critic," review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature.
Publishers Weekly, May 17, 1993, review of The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960–1972, p. 55; June 13, 2005, review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, p. 44.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), August 26, 2005, Allen Barra, review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature.
BookPage, http://www.bookpage.com/ (October 5, 2005), Roger Bishop, review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature.
Dallas Morning News Online, http://www.dallasnews.com/ (September 4, 2005), Allen Barra, "A Lion of Literature Roars Loudly Here," review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature.
Seattle Times Online, http://www.seattletimes.com/ (October 5, 2005), Allen Barra, "Humanizing America's Acclaimed Critic Edmund Wilson," review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature.
University of Wyoming English Department Web site, http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/ (October 31, 2005), "Lewis M. Dabney."
Village Voice Online, http://www.villagevoice.com/ (September 6, 2005), Allen Barra, "Show Me the Bunny," review of Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature.