Desperate Characters

Critical reception

The novel received generally good reviews both upon its release and in subsequent printings. Irving Howe, in his afterword to the 1980 reissue, placed it within "a major American tradition, the line of the short novel exemplified by Billy Budd, The Great Gatsby, Miss Lonelyhearts and Seize the Day": a tradition in which "everything—action, form, language—is fercely compressed, and often enough, dark-grained as well."[1] It fell out of print until it was republished in 1999.[2] In the preface to the new edition, Jonathan Franzen called it the greatest realist novel of the postwar era.

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