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Enemies of Promise

With a new foreword by Alex Woloch

“Whom the gods wish to destroy,” writes Cyril Connolly, “they first call promising.” First published in 1938 and long out of print, Enemies of Promise, an “inquiry into the problem of how to write a book that lasts ten years,” tests the boundaries of criticism, journalism, and autobiography with the blistering prose that became Connolly’s trademark. Connolly here confronts the evils of domesticity, politics, drink, and advertising as well as novelists such as Joyce, Proust, Hemingway, and Faulkner in essays that remain fresh and penetrating to this day.
 
 “A fine critic, compulsive traveler, and candid autobiographer. . . . [Connolly] lays down the law for all writers who wanted to count. . . . He had imagination and decisive images flashed with the speed of wit in his mind.”—V. S. Pritchett, New York Review of Books
 
“Anyone who writes, or wants to write, will find something on just about every single page that either endorses a long-held prejudice or outrages, and that makes it a pretty compelling read. . . . You end up muttering back at just about every ornately constructed pensée that Connolly utters, but that’s one of the joys of this book.”—Nick Hornby, The Believer
 
“A remarkable book.”—Anthony Powell
 

 

288 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 1938, 2008

Biography and Letters

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature, British and Irish Literature, General Criticism and Critical Theory

Reviews

“Very ably introduced by Alex Woloch. . . . One of Connolly’s great gifts was self-deprecation, and one of his easier styles was that of the tongue in the cheek. He puts one in mind of two of the great contemporaries about whom he wrote—George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh.”

Christopher Hitchens | Atlantic Monthly

“You cannot read Cyril Connolly for very long without wanting to acquire—and then developing—a relationship with the personality of the man himself. This small, podgy, balding, pug-faced, funny, gossipy, lazy, clever, cowardly, hedonistic, fractious, difficult man somehow manages to enshrine in his words and life everything that we aspire to, and that intellectually ennobles us, and all that is weak and worst in us as well.”

William Boyd | Guardian

“A fine critic, compulsive traveler, and candid autobiographer. . . . [Connolly] lays down the law for all writers who wanted to count. . . . He had imagination and decisive images flashed with the speed of wit in his mind.”

V. S. Pritchett | NYRB

“Anyone who writes, or wants to write, will find something on just about every single page that either endorses a long-held prejudice or outrages, and that makes it a pretty compelling read. . . . You end up muttering back at just about every ornately constructed pensée that Connolly utters, but that’s one of the joys of this book.”

Nick Hornby | Believer

“A remarkable book.”

Anthony Powell

Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction

Part One
Predicament
I. The Next Ten Years
II. The Mandarin Dialect
III. The Challenge to the Mandarins
IV. The Modern Movement
V. Anatomy of a Dandyism
VI. A Beast in View
VII. The New Mandarins
VIII. The New Vernacular
IX. The Cool Element of Prose

Part Two
The Charlock’s Shade
 
X. The Blighted Rye
XI. The Blue Bugloss
XII. The Thistles
XIII. The Poppies
XIV. The Charlock’s Shade
XV. The Slimy Mallows
XVI. Outlook Unsettled
 
Part Three
A Georgian Boyhood
 
XVII. Credentials
XVIII. The Branching Ogham
XIX. White Samite
XX. Dark Ages
XXI. Renaissance
XXII. The Background of the Lilies
XXIII. Glittering Prizes
XXIV. Vale

Index

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