Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fortnightly Book, August 31

When Taylor Caldwell burst onto the scene in the mid-1930s, she was a housewife in New York; because of her name, it took a while for people to realize that she was a woman. Much of Caldwell's career would involve doing what prior women authors often could not do -- writing the kind of novels people had previously associated with male authors (intricate plot-based stories about finance and industry and the like) without being consigned arbitrarily to the Romance genre for being a woman (although there were critics who tried to do that). She would go on to publish 40 or so books, a significant number of which were bestsellers; only a handful of authors have been on the New York Times Bestseller list more often than she was.

Along with a reputation for writing books that sold, she also gained a reputation for casually dropping inflammatory comments in interviews on everything from women's suffrage (wasn't impressed by it) to care of children (thought that they were less important than spouses) to reincarnation (dabbled in past lives therapy without entirely committing to its being really possible) to her views on the human race (said once that human beings were God's big mistake). She was vehemently anti-Communist and highly suspicious of big government. You can see her FBI file online; she repeatedly claimed to be harassed by Communists (which is probably true in the limited sense that outspoken authors tend to be harassed by kooks opposing the positions they take) and the Internal Revenue Service, which she regarded as an instrument for the usurpation of power and the control of the populace. But it's always difficult to determine how much of this side of her was utterly serious and how much of it was dramatic hyperbole. Probably a bit of both, since there is no doubt that she put a high value on saying things frankly and yet also relished controversy. It's also true that expressing herself very vividly is something at which Caldwell excelled.

I've read a lot of her works, but the fortnightly book is one I hadn't read before. It is on my shelves as an inheritance from my grandparents' library, but they had it as an inheritance as well, since it has the name of my great-grandmother (my mother's mother's mother) inside the cover. Never Victorious, Never Defeated was a bestseller for 1954. I know very little about it, beyond the fact that it is about the railroad industry in America between the Civil War and (I believe) World War II. It is usually paired with Captains and the Kings (which I have read and have on my shelves, and which is quite a good book). It is sometimes compared with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, but I doubt beforehand that there is more in common between the two books than the railroad industry and a suspicion of big government -- we will see.

On the title page, Caldwell has placed a poem, her own, explaining the title:

Man is never victorious, never defeated,
The cheater yields up his loot to the cheated,
Wisdom and folly can never be parted,
The waters return to the hills where they started.

2 comments:

  1. Enbrethiliel5:21 PM

    +JMJ+

    I came over as soon as I read your tantalising comment on my Oryx and Crake post, and now I feel like the naughty pupil who studied the Cliff's Notes instead of the actual text. =P

    Do you know what these five cities remind me of? Those personality quizzes that tell you what "type" you are. Like "Which Platonic city would you be most at home in?" I'd probably end up in a democracy, sadly. And I know exactly where I'd place a lot of the people I follow on Twitter--though it's probably not where they fancy they'd go! LOL!

    But I have been torn for some time over my desire to live and let live and my desire for that ideal "village" that Sheila and I have been discussing on my blog. On the one hand, I don't want to force anyone to do anything; on the other hand, I really wish that I could agree on the good with everyone close to me. I long for a kallipolis. But every time I try to brainstorm a way to make my community something closer to one, I end up with something closer to a tyranny. =P Which probably wouldn't surprise Plato, aye?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Enbrethiliel5:24 PM

    +JMJ+

    Oh, dear. This is what I get for commenting using a smartphone! I have no idea how I even git on this page! I'll do a proper copy/paste job later, so that my comment ends up under the right post. I'm sorry for the mess! =(

    ReplyDelete

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