Unless she was out of her mind there was no way of accounting for her behavior...
Nowhere in the prodigious output of William Dean Howells is there an example more poignant of his heart-felt dedication to the realist movement than this achingly suspensfull novella.
The story centers on a young "alienist"--a psychologist--who meets a young woman who, at subsequent encounters, has no recollection of him. The doctor launches a psychological investigation that appears to be based upon the most painful memories of the author himself--Howells had recently experienced the loss of a beloved adult daughter (from what appears to have been anorexia) and the institutionalization of another for "emotional collapse." The story's surprising ending reveals not only the author's deft sense of craftsmanship, but speaks movingly to his enduring faith in the sublime power of literature.
The Art of The Novella Series Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the ART OF THE NOVELLA series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.
Set against a vividly depicted background of fin de siécle New York, this novel centers on the conflict between a self-made millionaire and a fervent social revolutionary-a conflict in which a man of goodwill futilely attempts to act as a mediator, only to be forced himself into a crisis of conscience. Here we see William Dean Howells's grasp of the realities of the American experience in an age of emerging social struggle. His absolute determination to fairly represent every point of view is evident throughout this multifaceted work. Both a memorable portrait of an era and a profoundly moving study of human relationships, A Hazard of New Fortunes fully justifies Alfred Kazin's ranking of Howells as "the first great domestic novelist of American life."
The Rise of Silas Lapham was the first important novel to center on the American businessman and the first to treat its theme with a realism that foreshadowed the work of modern writers. In his story of one of the millionaire industrialists who flourished in the post-Civil War years, William Dean Howells probes the moral and social conflicts that confront a self-made man trying to crash Boston's old-guard aristocracy. Silas Lapham is a man of conscience who fully realizes his folly; but he is also an ambitious man who lets his aspirations lead him to risk both his fortune and his family's happiness for status in a society that will never truly accept him.
'His perceptions were sure, his integrity was absolute,' wrote Henry Seidel Canby of William Dean Howells, whom he credited as being 'responsible for giving the American novel form.'