The Middle of the Journey
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Published in 1947, as the cold war was heating up, Lionel Trilling’s only novel was a prophetic reckoning with the bitter ideological disputes that were to come to a head in the McCarthy era. The Middle of the Journey revolves around a political turncoat and the anger his action awakens among a group of intellectuals summering in Connecticut. The story, however, is less concerned with the rights and wrongs of left and right than with an absence of integrity at the very heart of the debate. Certainly the hero, John Laskell, staging a slow recovery from the death of his lover and a near-fatal illness of his own, comes to suspect that the conflicts and commitments involved are little more than a distraction from the real responsibilities, and terrors, of the common world.
A detailed, sometimes slyly humorous, picture of the manners and mores of the intelligentsia, as well as a work of surprising tenderness and ultimately tragic import, The Middle of the Journey is a novel of ideas whose quiet resonance has only grown with time. This is a deeply troubling examination of America by one of its greatest critics.
quoting an exchange between two American novelists on the subject of the very rich. “The very rich are different from us,” one novelist had said, and the other had replied, “Yes, they have more money.” It was generally felt that the second novelist had disposed of the first, who had shown himself to be a snob, but Kermit Simpson suggested that the very rich are indeed different, that they move at a different tempo, have a different density and intensity, that they have different nerves and, when
the only thing that matters. The world is full of open secrets, Maxim, and one of them is the ferocity—” “If you had said ‘tenacity,’ the tenacity of your kind of mind, that might have made sense. But if you defend yourself with ferocity, John, we have won—we take you into camp. Better wait for the resurrection, John.” “Most fortunately I lack that kind of historical perspective, Maxim.” “Oh, what are you two talking about!” Nancy cried and brought their cold exchange of taunts to an end.
Laskell’s kidneys, said Dr. Graf, would need watching for some time, but at present they were clear. There was no longer need for two nurses. One nurse on duty through the twenty-four hours would do. “And so you can let Miss Paine go,” said Dr. Graf. “Why let Miss Paine go?” Dr. Graf shrugged. “Just the usual way. The usual thing is to keep the day-nurse and let the night-nurse go. But if you prefer—” “I’d rather keep Miss Paine.” “She’s more efficient?” “Yes. And quieter.” “The other one
cigarette from the box and lit it. He inhaled the smoke as if searching out with it depths of his being that could be reached in no other way. He shook out the match and then blew the smoke out of his lungs in a long desperate exhalation. “Yes,” he said. “Me.” He got up slowly and went over to the luggage. He picked up the creel by its strap and looked at it curiously as it dangled. He turned to regard Laskell with a still, hooded, waiting amusement. Laskell understood this tactic of pacing
yourself, and maybe now you’re pretty pooped out. What you got you got, and what you lose you don’t get back.” And Duck opened his mouth and pointed to the gap in his upper teeth. “Even if I got me some store teeth, they might look good, but they wouldn’t be my teeth. What’s gone is gone. Well. Anyway. What I was saying, what you lose, you lose, so I’m talking from my head.” Duck covered his brow with the palm of his hand. “It comes from here,” he said, “and not from you-know-where.” And Duck