Sunday, July 10, 2011

An Alternate Marguerite Young

I went to Bookfinder to see what was available for Marguerite Young, and came up with this book, entitled Pacific Transport:

Here's the back cover, which makes it clear that this is not our Marguerite Young:

It was published by Vantage Press in 1976; I assume that then as now Vantage was a vanity publisher. I do wonder why no one there pointed out that there was already a Marguerite Young, though maybe ours had already fallen into neglect by then? Here's the jacket copy:

At once a detailed map of the mind and heart of a sensitive, intelligent, loving woman, and a dazzling meditation on the inexorable forces of history and destiny, Pacific Transport is a novel that sends one into literature's Hall of Fame in search of comparable experiences with the printed word. In its focus on woman's sensibility and its portrayal of human thought processes, it is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway; in the breadth and depth of its observations on the tide of human affairs and and its comprehensiveness, it is the fictional equal of Edmund Wilson's magnificent exercise in the philosophy of history, To the Finland Station. It is possible to go on and on with a list of giants whose work is in some degree echoed by Pacific Transport, but only at the cost of minimizing author Marguerite Young's prodigious originality and ingenuity.

Her protagonist, a woman of middle years named Aimee, is portrayed from within and without at various stops along a journey with her husband Henry, a brilliant physician. In the manner of a picaresque novel, the places and people encountered, and the ideas, memories, hopes, and fears they inspire in Aimee are portrayed with great insight and virtuosity. Aimee looks back – into her own past as a newspaper reporter, and into the American nation's historical and artistic past – and ahead – up to the Moon, across the Pacific to China – to her own, and our, destiny.

Brilliant in both conception and execution, Marguerite Young's Pacific Transport is a Bicentennial book that will be pertinent at the time of the Tricentennial.

I have not read this book yet, though with jacket copy like that I wonder if I can afford not to.


  1. We'll get cracking on this one after we finish page 1198...

  2. This makes me think that vanity press descriptive copy has suffered a fall-off in quality since the 1970s. Check out the ads for self-published books in the NYRB, for example, and I doubt you'll find anything so coherent. And maybe a fall-off in ambition, too? Consider: she's being compared to Woolf and Wilson--but the copywriter wants to be very clear that those comparisons are to be seen as best attempts at placing the book, not limiting descriptions, since it's so much more original than those books!