Twenty-five years ago, for the inaugural issue of The New Criterion, I wrote an essay describing what I thought was the literary situation of that day. Here I am, twenty-five years later, writing an essay on the same subject, setting out to describe how things have changed between then and now. I believe I can promise that I shall not write a third essay on this subject for the fiftieth anniversary of The New Criterion.

My earlier essay, reread today, does not seem to me wrong so much as it seems a touch quaint. No mention is made in it, for example, of computers, let alone all they have brought forth in the way of benefits and distractions in connection with the literary life. Instead I wrote at some length about the university seeming to be taking over literature, offering jobs to writers who could not have survived on their writing alone, making so-called creative writing programs fashionable, valuing writers according...


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