By Love Possessed: Too many pages, too many semicolons

By Love Possessed covers 49 hours in the life of Arthur Winner, a respected lawyer in a small, rural New England town in the early 1940s.

James Gould Cozzens puts readers inside Arthur’s head. They see the story unfold through his eyes. They also hear what Arthur thinks and feels about what’s happening.

Since there’s no narrator to provide context, readers have to figure out who is who  and what’s going on. That’s not easy.

At times, By Love Possessed reads more like By Semicolons Obsessed. This is dense prose, folks.

If you dig long enough, the plot that emerges is this: Ralph, the brother of one of the secretaries in Arthur’s office, is accused of rape. Arthur jumps in with all lawyerly speed. While working on Ralph’s problem, Arthur learns he’s got a few problems of his own. Meanwhile,  unhappy with lawyerly speed, folks take things into their own hands, bringing the plot to a climax while Arthur fritters.

This novel could have been a lot better if it had been 200 pages shorter. Cozzens got so wrapped up in producing a literary work, he forgot about telling a story.

Too bad.

With ruthless editing, this could have been a great novel.

By Love Possessed
By James Gould Cozzens
Harcourt, Brace, 1957
570 pages
#1 bestselling novel for 1957
My grade: C
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni