The author of ‘The Golden Age’ and of ‘Dream Days’ has disappointed us. There is no getting away from that melancholy fact. He has written in ‘The Wind in the Willows’, a book with hardly a smile in it, through which we wander in a haze of perplexity, uninterested by the story itself and at a loss to understand its deeper purpose. The chief character is a mole, whom the reader plumps upon on the first page whitewashing his house. Here is an initial nut to crack; a mole whitewashing. No doubt moles like their abodes to be clean; but whitewashing? Are we very stupid, or is this joke really inferior? However, let it pass. Then enters a water rat, on his way to a river picnic, in a skiff, with a hamper of provisions, including cold tongue, cold ham, French rolls, and soda water. Nut number two; for obviously a water rat is of all animals the one that would never use a boat with which to navigate a stream. Again, are we very stupid, or is this nonsense of poor quality? Later we meet a wealthy toad, who, after a tour of England in a caravan, drawn by a horse, becomes a rabid motorist. He is also an inveterate public speaker. We meet also a variety of animals whoso foibles doubtless are borrowed from mankind, and so the book goes on until the end. Beneath the allegory ordinary life is depicted more or less closely, but certainly not very amusingly or searchingly; while as a contribution to natural history the work is negligible. There are neat and fanciful passages; but they do not convince. The puzzle is, for whom is the book intended? Grown up readers will find it monotonous and elusive; children will hope in vain for more fun.
On The Catcher in the Rye: “This Salinger, he’s a short story guy. And he knows how to write about kids. This book though, it’s too long. Gets kind of monotonous. And he should’ve cut out a lot about these jerks and all that crumby school. They depress me.” — James Stern, The New York Times, 1951
"I still think that Ernest Hemingway wrote like a man and that Jane Austen wrote like a woman, and that there are discernible differences both in style and content."
And he concludes with asserting that a man couldn't have written Tiptree's "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?"
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