American literary critic (1905-1996)
Diana Trilling (née Rubin; July 21, 1905 – October 23, 1996) was an American literary critic and author, one of a group of left-wing writers informally known as the New York Intellectuals.
We Must March My Darlings (1977)Edit
- It seemed to me, ruled my writing, whatever its subject: my belief that even in an unsatisfactory society the individual is best defined by his social geography.
- To be sure, the part played by television in disturbing the normal rate of national and even international development and in robbing us of the physical distance which formerly separated us from events and therefore forced us to exercise our own minds and imaginations in order to get even a first grasp on history-in-the-making, is not to be underestimated as a factor in our recent dislocation in space and time. The death of John Kennedy, however, made for a subtler and perhaps a more pervasive disturbance in our historical balance. It altered our sense of ourselves as a people; it deprived us of the promise of a future. What could more profoundly affect the motions of time?
- we may protest that women's small contribution to culture doesn't indicate a lack of capacity but merely reflects the way men have contrived things to be: we can blame women's small place in culture on culture. But this leaves unanswered the question of why it is that over so many hundreds of years women have consented to follow the male dictate and allowed men to fashion the culture according to male design. It also leaves unanswered the even more fundamental question of why it is that in every society which has ever been studied-so Margaret Mead tells us-whatever is the occupation of men has the greater prestige
- as Freud's views on the childhood source of mental disorder have permeated our culture, there has been mounted a wide campaign of mother-suspicion and mother-discreditation. From Sidney Howard's play The Silver Cord, in the mid-twenties, to Philip Roth's more recent Portnoy's Complaint, our literature has disseminated the idea that American women alternate a diet of husbands with a diet of sons.
- Love idealizes, or at least traditionally that has been one of the differential diagnoses: love idealizes, adds, but sex is just body meeting body, sometimes with love, sometimes with affection, sometimes with neither, just for the fun or satisfaction of it.
- In a speech last year on women's liberation, I said how wonderful it was for us to be living in a period in which Dostoevski's statement that there was no such thing as an ugly woman was at last coming true. Of course I don't mean that absolutely and literally but I said it seriously in that speech because I was talking about the terrible Madison Avenue-contrived notions of sexual attractiveness that were imposed upon the girls of my generation and how dreadful it was to be made to think, as I did, that you had to conform to some impossible standard of advertising beauty in order to be in the sexual running at all. How can anyone of my generation do anything except celebrate the fact that this is no longer how things are?
- What I have found in life-it makes me very sad-is that one friend sustains me in one direction, another in another direction. What's missing are the friends who sustain one altogether.
Quotes about Diana TrillingEdit
- In the forties Diana Trilling could write words that in their sharp moral focus may remind us of some Victorian prophet: "Ours being in all spheres such a 'know-how' culture, a civilization so brilliantly skilled in turning out anything it sets its hand to and yet so appallingly ignorant of what is worth making or to what use the things it makes should be put, we cannot be surprised that our literature, too, shows a marked ascendancy of craft over conscience. Probably there has never been a time when so many people wrote so 'well' as now but to such meager purpose; when, indeed, the emptier a novel's content, the surer its technical proficiency." If the reader thinks that sounds more like a critic than a book reviewer, he is right. And as a critic, Diana Trilling has range; she is not satisfied to leave literature sitting there uninterpreted in its fullest psychological, social, and political meaning, for she perceives that "literature is no mere decoration of life but an index of the health or sickness of society." It follows that "just as dictatorship, war, and all the other hideous phenomena of our political day undoubtedly answer a profound need in the modern mass-personality, so the debasement of our literary standards reflects a loss of standard throughout our lives."
- Paul Fussell in We Must March My Darlings (1977)