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This review is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

1939 Wyndham Lewis, The Vulgar Streak, with Afterword and Notes by Paul Edwards (Black Sparrow Press, Santa Barbara, California 93130) $20, $12.50 pb.

The tenth of the Wyndham Lewis titles to be published by the Black Sparrow Press is The Vulgar Streak, a book missing from the reading even of many Lewis fans. The small first edition of 1941 was partly destroyed in an air-raid and, as Paul Edwards says in his 'Afterword', the novel 'virtually disappeared from sight on publication.' Its re-appearance is greatly to be welcomed.

The book comes at an interesting but in some respects unsatisfactory point in Lewis's development. The revolutionary inventor with his brilliant insistence on appearances and sometimes boring bally-hoo about the 'self' is cracking, to be replaced in due course by the profound realizations of Self-Condemned. Edwards defines the change more extensively by reference to major works of the 1920s and 1930s, and anyone coming to Lewis for the first time with The Vulgar Streak should certainly follow up the indications he gives.

Apparently started in England early in 1939, the novel was mainly written in 1940, after Lewis had taken up his war-time residence in the other hemisphere. 'Lewis', we are told, 'blamed the extraordinary international situation for his failure to produce the book' at the promised time. Edwards apparently thinks this might be judged 'a peculiarly weak excuse' but he is undoubtedly right in suggesting that Lewis was 'simply telling the truth' when he made it. There is no difficulty, for anyone in England who lived through the period, in believing that the general turmoil and expectation of war ...


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