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His drinking almost cost him his final and happiest marriage to Elena Mumm, who took to suggesting that something be purchased by remarking: Wilson will dream guiltily of her for the rest of his life. All the same, he meticulously recorded the details of his sexual life.
He hoped, he said: He was anxious that Americans take communism from the Soviets and rework it according to homegrown democratic values, and in this he was prescient, as the Comintern dominated US party went from a series of catastrophes to self-liquidation. The Forties find him hobnobbing with Stravinsky and Auden and trapped in an unhappy marriage.
He lacked the dominating presence necessary for success as a guest professor and found academic atmospheres, English departments, and literary types enervating and soulless, but his tenuous finances demanded long periods lecturing in his thin, quavering tenor at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago.
The depth and breath of Wilson's erudition astounded, and he remained a Victorian in his absolute insistence on strength in the face of all that life deals those who insist on living as Hemingway said: But the Republic to which he had dedicated so much of his intellectual energy has ceased to represent either progress or sanity. The Second World War puts an end to attempts at changing the United States, and instead much of what Wilson had valued is subverted in the long fight to defeat Fascism.
He writes a book damning the Cold War and the income tax, and wages a long struggle over his own tax delinquency with the IRS; finally resolved with some help from well-placed friends. And yet the charge sticks.
Edmund Wilson Papers
There is something impersonal about Wilson. Part of it is simply the magnitude of his achievement: For sheer range of intelligence, no one comes close. Did Irving Howe write a fine little biography of Trotsky? Well, Wilson wrote To the Finland Station , covering the entire history of socialism.
Did Alfred Kazin write a moving memoir, New York Jew , about the literary life of the forties through the sixties? Did Partisan Review spend the forties championing European Modernism?
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