By L. J. Davis
L. J. Davis's 1971 novel, A significant Life, is a blistering black comedy in regards to the American quest for redemption via actual property and a gritty photo of latest York urban in cave in. simply out of school, Lowell Lake, the Western-born hero of Davis's novel, heads to long island, the place he plans to make it immense as a author. as an alternative he unearths a task as a technical editor, at which he toils away whereas ardour leaks out of his marriage to a pleasant Jewish lady. Then Lowell discovers a stunning crumbling mansion in a crime-ridden component to Brooklyn, and opposed to all recommendation, let alone his wife's will, sinks his each penny into purchasing it. He quits his task, strikes in, and spends day and evening on demolition and building. ultimately he has a project: he'll dig up the misplaced historical past of his apartment; he'll fix it to its prior grandeur. he'll make stable on every thing that's long gone fallacious together with his existence, and he'll even homicide to do it.
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But there are limits to reading this importation of the exotic into novels of manners as a covert imperialism. For one thing, the domestication at work in the texts I will analyze is concerned with the perceived strangers and strangeness already at home. 38 This is especially true of novels about life in the United States, where what was foreign was not always easy to distinguish from what was domestic - hehce the uncanniness of the Other in America, whether it is the immigrant, the freedman or another racial stranger, or the overcivilized citizen, Veblen's rich "barbarian" made somehow unAmerican through her conspicuous consumption, all figures portrayed as simultaneously inside and outside of American society.
But by the same token, if race and culture are entirely separable, all equivocation is eliminated. 20 I have suggested that a similar doubling of race and culture can help explain an aesthetic segregation in The Marble Faun, a "fundamental disjunction" that has led critics to go so far as to declare the novel in effect two books between the same covers. " The difference goes beyond their divergent passions and actions. " 21 This incommensurability has remained the central interpretive problem for the novel's critics, who look variously to biographical, historical, and ideological solutions to the aesthetic split.
18 And even where civil society did remain open to the possibility of development for people of color, it could always shut down the prospect for reasons of culture. Another scholar, for instance, argues that "the breaking down of the instincts and habits of servitude, and the acquisition, by the masses of the Negro people, of the instincts and habits of freedom, have proceeded slowly but steadily" since Emancipation. " 19 Thus, even when racial difference is conceded to be breaking down, cultural difference could be elided with ineradicable racial instinct.