"A few intuitive, sensitive visionaries may understand and comprehend Ulysses, James Joyce's new and mammoth volume, without going through a course of training or instruction, but the average intelligent reader will glean little or nothing from it -- even from careful perusal, one might properly say study, of it -- save bewilderment and a sense of disgust. It should be companioned with a key and a glossary."
"“ Dr. Joseph Collins, in The New York Times, May 28, 1922
My wife stumbled upon a fantastic feature buried in the Times archives "“ the Top 100 novels, with links to their original reviews (where available). I love stuff like this. So here are a few more excerpts.
The Great Gatsby
(Reviewed by Edwin Clark, April 19, 1925)
"The philosopher of the flapper has escaped the mordant, but he has turned grave. A curious book, a mystical, glamourous story of today. It takes a deeper cut at life than hitherto has been essayed by Mr. Fitzgerald. He writes well -- he always has -- for he writes naturally, and his sense of form is becoming perfected."
(Reviewed by Mark Schorer, June 12, 1949)
"It has always seemed to the present writer that the fourth book of Gulliver's Travels is a great work of static art; no less, it would seem to him that George Orwell's new novel, Nineteen Eighty-four, is a great work of kinetic art. This may mean that its greatness is only immediate, its power for us alone, now, in this generation, this decade, this year, that it is doomed to be the pawn of time. Nevertheless it is probable that no other work of this generation has made us desire freedom more earnestly or loathe tyranny with such fullness."
The Grapes of Wrath
(Reviewed by Peter Monro Jack, April 16, 1939)
"There are a few novelists writing as well as Steinbeck and perhaps a very few who write better; but it is most interesting to note how very much alike they are all writing: Hemingway, Caldwell, Faulkner, Dos Passos in the novel, and MacLeish in poetry are those whom we easily think of in their similarity of theme and style. Each is writing stories and scenarios of America with a curious and sudden intensity, almost as if they had never seen or understood it before. They are looking at it again with revolutionary eyes. Stirred like every other man in the street with news of foreign persecution, they turn to their own land to find seeds of the same destructive hatred. Their themes of pity and anger, their styles of sentimental elegy and scarifying denunciation may come to seem representative of our time."
Explore the others here.