It’s the birthday of Edmund Wilson (books by this author), born in Red Bank, New Jersey (1895). He is generally considered one of the greatest American man of letters of the 20th century, though he published almost all of his work in popular magazines. He never took a teaching position and rarely gave lectures.
He went to communist Russia and learned both Russian and German to write about the history of socialism in his book To the Finland Station (1940). He wrote about Russian poetry, Haitian literature, the Hebrew language, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the literature produced during the American Civil War.
Wilson introduced Americans to writers like James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Vladimir Nabokov. He almost single-handedly resurrected the reputation of the novelist Henry James, who had been forgotten for years. He championed new writers like Ernest Hemingway, and it was Wilson who persuaded American readers that F. Scott Fitzgerald had been a genius, and that The Great Gatsby was an American classic.
Wilson said, “If I could only remember that the days were, not bricks to be laid row on row, to be built into a solid house, where one might dwell in safety and peace, but only food for the fires of the heart.”
And: “No two persons ever read the same book.”