Set largely in the fictional town of Great Falls, Connecticut ; Boston; and England, in and around Oxford , it relates the life of Oliver Alden, the descendant of an old Boston family. Santayana wrote of the novel that "it gives the emotions of my experiences, and not my thoughts or experiences themselves. Alden's life demonstrates "the essential tragedy of the late-born Puritan. He convinced himself, on puritan grounds, that it was wrong to be a puritan. The novel took Santayana forty-five years to complete and was a best-selling novel in second only to Gone with the Wind.
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Return to Book Page. William J. Holzberger Editor. Herman J. Saatkamp Jr. The Santayana Edition Editor. Published in , George Santayana's The Last Puritan was the American philosopher's only novel and it became an instant best- seller, immediately linked in its painful voyage of self-discovery to The Education of Henry Adams.
It is essentially a novel of ideas expressed in the birth, life, and early death of Oliver Alden. In Oliver's case the puritanical self-destruction Published in , George Santayana's The Last Puritan was the American philosopher's only novel and it became an instant best- seller, immediately linked in its painful voyage of self-discovery to The Education of Henry Adams. In Oliver's case the puritanical self-destruction that prevented him from realizing his own spirituality is transcended by his attainment of the type of self-knowledge that Santayana recommends throughout his moral philosophy.
The Last Puritan is volume four in a new critical edition of George Santayana's wroks that restores Santayana's original text and provides important new scholarly information. Books in this series - the first complete publication of Santayana's works - include an editorial apparatus with notes to the text identifying persons, places, and ideas , textual commentary including a description of the composition and publication history, along with a discussion of editorial methods and decisions , lists of variants and emendations, and line-end hyphenations.
Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published August 4th by Bradford Book first published More Details Original Title. Oliver Alden. Connecticut United States. Other Editions 9. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Last Puritan , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3.
Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Because of my affection for Santayana, I want to give this book a better rating; but this is the internet, after all, and so I must be honest: this is not a terribly good novel. I find this a bit strange. After all, Santayana was an excellent writer—one of the best. Yet, being a good writer is not the same as being a good novelist.
Writing novels depends on several specific skills not found in other genres—most obviously characterization and dialogue; and it is painfully evident that Santayana l Because of my affection for Santayana, I want to give this book a better rating; but this is the internet, after all, and so I must be honest: this is not a terribly good novel.
Writing novels depends on several specific skills not found in other genres—most obviously characterization and dialogue; and it is painfully evident that Santayana lacks these skills. Characters that are supposed to be coarse and dull speak like a famous philosopher, employing learned allusions and copious metaphor, delving into deep analyses and abstruse topics. Here is a more or less random sample from the kind of soliloquizing Santayana has his characters do: At least you, Mr.
Oliver, will be spared. Our young men will drop like apples in a wet year in the orchard, some green and some ripe and some rotten and each with an iron worm in him. Some writers, it appears, are so good that they forget how to be bad. Every character speaks in this manner; and as a result, the characters lack sufficient individuation. Santayana, being a true philosopher, instead tries to characterize his dramatis personae by ascribing various quasi-philosophical views to them.
This is interesting, and I think is a great example of the philosophical temper at work; but it sucks the lifeblood out of the book. There are no fiery collisions of personality, just collisions of worldviews, which do not so much as collide as slide off one another. An additional tool of the novelist that Santayana lacks is a sense of drama. Not much happens in this book, either internally or externally.
The main character, Oliver, develops his peculiar philosophical malady early on, which merely intensifies as the book progresses; he reaches no epiphany nor suffers any reversals of fortune, but merely carries on, wandering about, wondering why he doesn't fit in. There are several false starts at what might have been more interesting directions for the plot, and the whole thing comes to an abrupt halt at the end with an anti-climatic deus ex machina.
If I may be permitted to speculate for a moment, I think that—aside from all the tricks of the novelist's trade—the reason that such a great writer of philosophy ended up such a mediocre novelist has to do with tolerance of ambiguity. When writing philosophy—or, indeed, science or criticism or journalism—it is the job of the writer to get her message across, with minimal risk of misinterpretation.
But a novel, by contrast, is necessarily open-ended; it is up to the reader to like or dislike a character, to approve or disapprove of an action, or to be satisfied or dissatisfied with an ending. In other words, writers of fiction must not only tolerate, but cultivate, ambiguity in their works. This is, I think, the reason why The Last Puritan is so flat-footed: Santayana has a point to put across; the reader is either right or wrong.
What is this point? I will say, however, that a large part of this point has to do with a critique of American culture—specifically, of puritanism. Considering that this book became a big best-seller—something I find almost impossible to believe—it seems that, at the time, Santayana had touched a cultural nerve; but the nerve has apparently since gone numb.
This book is not, however, a total failure. The story is sometimes charming, the characters occasionally break out of their monotony, and some interesting observations are made along the way. Santayana includes several aphorisms worth writing down which are condemned to be repeated , and spins many a handsome line. Santayana also includes, perhaps unwittingly, several insights into his own life. Perhaps most interesting is seeing how Santayana, a very private and reclusive man, saw the world and other people.
Feb 14, Manifest Terror rated it it was ok. John Gray seems to have led me astray. Let everything bloom that has within it the seed of a flower.
View all 3 comments. Jun 21, Elizabeth rated it it was amazing Recommended to Elizabeth by: C. Conrad WRight. Shelves: treasured-memory , inspirational-display-item. Conrad Wright said this was the best study of the dying generation of American Unitarianism and he did not lie. What is striking is that affluence was so unhelpful to a young adult who felt he had been born into a life without the meaning his elders ascribed to it.
Sort of a partner to Scott Fitzgerald's Beautiful and the Damned in that regard, and ultimately just as bleak. But for a late-in-life boomer wondering what went wrong, there's a lot of food for thought in the dour Professor Santayana. Apr 22, Eric marked it as to-read. Bizarrely, the second-place bestseller of , behind Gone With The Wind.
View 2 comments. Jul 26, Ronald rated it liked it. If you prefer your dose of philosophy in a novel instead of a textbook, this is a very good one. It's pages in length, but at the end you don't feel like there was anything that should have been cut or reduced.
When I bought this book, I knew it was going to be great. Personally, I enjoy philosophy very much and appreciate the lessons that are found therein especially about life. Though this is a memoir in form of a novel, it had everything that I set out to expect.
Geaorge Santayana, was a philosopher and teacher at Harvard University. It is his experiences that inspired the writing of this book. At that time when I was reading this books, I was very much disturbed and confused about certain aspects o When I bought this book, I knew it was going to be great. At that time when I was reading this books, I was very much disturbed and confused about certain aspects of my life.
A fact that plagued Oliver Alden throughout this novel. He does not know how to place his father and mother on the one side and his friends on the other. His father Peter Alden turns out to be a murderer who killed his own father while his mother an overprotective woman who cannot help but watch and judge the suitability of her son's friends.
The Last Puritan
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The Last Puritan: A Memoir in the Form of a Novel
It was a sympathetic review. This year Harold Bloom wrote in The Western Canon that canonical works are those works which deserve re-reading. Without the philosophy to support the novel, I am not sure it would have a reason for being. And these are, indeed, in principle, the very same reasons why one reads and rereads Plato, Lucretius, or Dante. The critical edition, put together by Saatkamp and Holzberger, with an introduction by Irving Singer, is a first-class piece of work.