James Gould Cozzens

Franklin Library James Gould Cozzens books

Guard of Honor - Library of Pulitzer Prize Classics - 1978

Author James Gould Cozzens

James Gould Cozzens, born on August 19, 1903, in Chicago, Illinois, was an American novelist known for his critically acclaimed yet often controversial works. His writing career spanned several decades, and he garnered attention for his meticulous prose style and intricate exploration of human relationships and societal issues.
Cozzens attended Harvard University, where he studied literature and philosophy. He began his writing career with the publication of his first novel, Confusion (1924), at the age of 21. Despite his early start, Cozzens achieved wider recognition in the 1930s with novels such as S.S. San Pedro (1931),
Men and Brethren (1936), The Last Adam (1933) and The Just and Unjust (1942).

One of Cozzens's most significant achievements came with the novel Guard of Honor (1948), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1949. Set during World War II, the novel provides a detailed and realistic portrayal of life on an Army Air Forces base in Florida, exploring the complexities of military and civilian relationships during wartime. While Guard of Honor brought Cozzens critical acclaim, his later works, particularly By Love Possessed (1957), faced mixed reviews. Despite being a bestseller, the novel was criticized for its complexity and perceived lack of accessibility. Cozzens was known for his dense prose and intricate narrative structures, which sometimes made his works challenging for a broader readership.

By Love Possessed

By Love Possessed was published in 1957. The novel is a complex exploration of social and moral issues in a small town, delving into the lives of its characters and their intricate relationships. The story is set in a fictional town called Charlestown, and it revolves around the lives of Arthur Winner, a successful lawyer, and his family and associates. Arthur is a pillar of the community, respected for his legal acumen, but as the narrative unfolds, the novel explores the challenges, conflicts, and moral ambiguities that exist beneath the surface of his seemingly ordered life. Central to the novel is the theme of love and its various manifestations. Arthur Winner finds himself entangled in a web of emotions and relationships, including his marriage to his wife, Clarissa, and a past love interest, Julia. As the characters grapple with love, desire, and duty, the novel examines the complexities of human relationships and the choices individuals make in the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment.

By Love Possessed is known for its intricate narrative structure, with multiple characters and perspectives woven together. Cozzens employs a detailed and dense prose style, which has been both praised for its literary merit and criticized for its complexity. Upon its release, the novel received mixed reviews, with some critics lauding its literary craftsmanship and others finding fault with its challenging style and the portrayal of its characters. Despite the varied critical reception, "By Love Possessed" became a bestseller and was even adapted into a film in 1961. Over the years, the novel's reputation has evolved, and it remains a subject of discussion among literary scholars and readers interested in mid-20th-century American literature. James Gould Cozzens's exploration of human nature, morality, and the complexities of love in "By Love Possessed" reflects his commitment to delving into the intricacies of human experience.

In addition to his novels, Cozzens wrote essays and reviews, contributing to various literary and cultural publications. He was known for his conservative views and was often critical of societal changes in the mid-20th century. Despite the controversies surrounding his work and his reputation for being somewhat reclusive, James Gould Cozzens remained dedicated to his craft. He continued to write novels, including Morning, Noon, and Night (1968), until his death. James Gould Cozzens passed away on August 9, 1978, in Stuart, Florida. While his literary reputation has undergone shifts in critical assessment over the years, he is remembered for his meticulous craftsmanship, exploration of complex themes, and the impact of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "Guard of Honor," on American literature.

Guard of Honor

Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Guard of Honor balances a vast cast of intricately enmeshed characters as they react over the course of three tense days to a racial incident on a U.S. Air Force training base in Florida in 1942.


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