It is impossible to read Gorham Munson's The Awakening Twenties without thinking of Malcolm Cowley's Exile's Return, since both are memoir-histories of the 20's. Munson, however, is concerned only with 1913-1924.
"America will never be the same." So opined the New York Globe after the official opening of the 1913 Armory Show. . . . In an unspecific way, the book ends with the remarkably pregnant situation of 1924, a historical moment unusually rich in possibilities of renascent achievement.
Although Munson and Cowley had known some of the same writers and had even worked together, they did not much like each other. Exile's Return has come to be an indispensable record of the period. Munson's work consists of 16 freely related essays, nine of which have been previously published. Some are on general topics ("Greenwich Village That Was"); some are concerned with individual writers ("Waldo Frank, Herald of the Twenties"). They have the value that comes from being written by an eyewitness, although Munson's claim that he participated in the making of the 20's must be regarded as a very modest one at best. The major difference between Cowley and Munson can be measured by their essays on Hart Crane, well known to both of them.
In a few pages Cowley draws a warm picture of "the Roaring Boy . . . more...