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A Briefer Comment

ISSUE:  Autumn 1939


Black Is My Truelovc’s Hair, by Elizabeth Madox Roberts.

This new novel has its place in the best picture of modern literature. The story of a girl in her Kentucky village, it is both poetic and dramatic. Miss Roberts is a skilful craftsman, and the simplicity of her language is admirably modern. The leanness of plot and singleness of purpose put “Black Is My Truelovc’s Hair” in the class with the novella abroad, rather than the novel. Viking $2.50

Dynasty of Death, by Taylor Caldwell.

TAYLOR CALDWELL has written a first novel of more than ordinary importance. In spite of several bad moments he manages to tell a good story which holds out to the end, and describes the rise and fall of a munitions dynasty with fine irony. It is safe to predict that this novel will have a wide reading. Scribner’s $2.75

The Land Is Large, by Emerson Wald-man.

NOVELS of Jews who fled from the pogroms of Russia to the sidewalks of New York are numerous enough, but the flight of the Jew whose story is told in this novel takes him to Mississippi. Here, after giving up a farm in Pultava, after being a pushcart peddler in New York, Duvid ben Gabriel becomes David Gabrielson, and establishes himself in business and once again “on the land.” And here too he finds in his son a lust for the same oppression and power that drove

him from Russia. An excellent first novel, written simply and with power.

Farrar $ Rinehart $2.60

The King Was in His Counting House, by Bronch Cabell.

SUBTITLED “A Novel of Common-Sense,” Branch Cabell’s latest novel is another statement of a theme well beloved by him. The story is laid in sixteenth-century Italy, and abounds in poisonings, other murders of varying violence and picturesqueness, and uncounted legal and extra-legal love-makings. The point of the story is that one grows old and gives up childish things, like romantic love, to heed the claims of the mundane world. Mr. Cabell admits that this is trite, but his book remains the best work of fiction he has written since “The Biography of Dom Manuel.”

Farrar cy Rinehart $2.60

And Tell of Time, by Laura Krey. THIS book moves slowly at first, recording the mistakes of the characters and their gallant acceptance of responsibility in spite of the sacrifice to their own personal happiness, and describing the differences between Texas and Georgia. The descriptions of the glancing sun on the prairies arc the finest in the book. The activities of the Southern planters in defence of their liberties occupy more than half of the novel and absorb the render’s interest thoroughly. “And Tell of Time” is not a landmark on the scene of literature, but it is extremely entertaining. Houghton Mifflin $2.75

We’ll to the Woods No More, by Ed-ouard Dujardin.

THE story of a student in Paris eager to be a man of the world was first published fifty years ago in France as “Les Lauricrs Sont Coupes.” Today, it is brought to light in English as a stream of Victorian consciousness, and its author, Dujardin, is hailed as the forerunner of James Joyce and the inventor of this form of literature. The little volume presents a delightful picture of the 1870’s, yet the humor of the book is contemporary.

New Directions $2.60

The Fishmans, by H. W. Katz.

A first novel, this was awarded the Heinrich Heine Prize by a group of well-known German writers exiled in France. It is a story of Galician Jews caught in the World War and the endless odyssey of the race.

Viking $2.60

A Day of Battle, by Vincent Sheean. INVENTION has little to do with this novel and evidence a great deal; it is a kind of history, the best Vincent Sheean has done. The action takes place on May 11, 1745, when the battle of Fontenoy was fought in Flanders between the French and English. It was a victory of lost causes, with the general of the French army, the German Maurice of Saxony, depending on the Jacobite Irish Brigade, made up of exiled Irish, Scots, and English.

Doubleday, Doran $2.50 i

My Son! My Son! by Howard Spring. THIS novel tells the story of two men and their sons. Essex, the narrator, wanted his son to have a better life than he himself had had; his lavish care, however, does nothing but spoil Oliver, who ruins the lives of all who love him. The novel covers a long period of time, but time itself is not made dramatic. Written in a flat, matter-of-fact tone which may be called artistically accurate, the narrative nevertheless does not come to life.

Viking $2.60

The Back Door, by Julian R. Meade. THE plight of the Negro worker in the South is the theme of this “novel with a purpose.” Drawing his characters in simple black and white, Julian R. Meade tells the story of a young Negro couple who marry under difficulties. The man’s death from poor working conditions in a tobacco factory, and the seduction of his wife are part of the drama. The plot is also concerned with the efforts of a young liberal who is fighting to provide a sanatorium for Negroes, and the defeat he and his plan suffer at the hands of the town’s solid citizens. An unconvincing book.

Longmans, Green $2,50

Tides of Mont St.-Michel, by Roger Vercel.

WITH the Middle Ages’ setting of Mont St.-Michcl as a background, the latest novel by Roger Vcrccl, winner of the Goncourt Prize, tells a modern story of two men, guides on the Mount, and the wife of one of them. The plot is not a “triangle,” although the author’s French love of a tidy plot structure docs in the end prevent the book from being his masterpiece.

Random House $2.50

The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine, by Ernest Hemingway.

MR. HEMINGWAY’S latest hero is a journalist engaged in counter-espionage for the Loyalist government in besieged Madrid. The play relates how he directs the discovery of the “fifth column” operating within the city in co-operation with General Franco’s four besieging columns, and how he resolutely turns his back on the pleasures of the “normal” life with a Vas-sar girl doing magazine articles on Spain, because for better or worse he has identified his life with political-social forces. Adroitly written, arresting as all of Hemingway is, and filled with many interesting minor characters. The book includes also all of the author’s forty-nine short stories. Scribner’s $2.76

The Long Valley, by John Steinbeck. THIS book of sixteen stories clearly establishes the author’s right to be considered one of the foremost practitioners in the field of the American short story. Dealing chiefly with his own paisanos and American farmers of Salinas Valley, John Steinbeck writes with great economy and tremendous incisiveness. Some of the stories lean upon a too strict use of symbols, but at least one story, “The Red Pony,” deserves to be classed with the best stories written in this country. Viking $2.50

Death on the Installment Plan, by Louis-Ferdinand Celine. THIS novel relates the childhood of the same Ferdinand whose later story was told in “Journey to the End of the Night.” It is a bitter, impassioned book filled with tremendous invective and spleen, but even those who are revolted by its extreme naturalism must admit its vividness and power.

Little, Brown $2.76

Southways, by Erskine Caldwell. THESE short stories will not provide any new insights into or any new friends for the work of Erskine Caldwell. They are distinctly second-rate material, dealing with the same types of people he has already used. Not one of them approaches the artistry and power of “Kneel to the Rising Sun.” Viking $2.60

The Best British Short Stories of 1938, edited by Edward J. O’Brien.

THIS compilation is supposed to rep-

resent the best work of British writers * in the short story for the year. It 1 contains twenty-five stories, none out- ; standing, many in the various English dialects. Houghton Mifflin $2,60


Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, by John Dewey.

ACCEPTING n virtual identification of logic and methodology, this book takes the position that logical forms have their genesis and meaning only in continued operations of inquiry. Judgment is the resolution of “problematic situations” through existential operations transforming the subject matter originally given. This view of judgment characterizes the operations both of common sense and of science and, in so doing, is an exhaustive description of logic itself. Holt $4-00

The Doctrine of Signatures, by Scott Buchanan.

SCOTT Buchanan has herein set up the liberal arts of grammar, rhetoric, and logic as the basic patterns of any rational or scientific thought. Grammar gives the rules for manipulation; rhetoric, the analogies of structure; logic, the set of scientific abstractions. This methodological function of the liberal arts is then sought and discovered in the practice of medicine, both in its descriptive and analytic phases, and the terms of analysis are turned into a metaphysics. A welter of criticism will be leveled at the author because of his nostalgia for medieval terminology, but it is fruitful to recognize the logical and dialectical substance of his criticism of present-day pragmatic, empirical science.

Harcourt, Brace $2.75 Potver; A New Social Analysis, by Bcrtrand Russell.

ASSUMING that power is to social science as energy is to physics, Bcrtrand Russell seeks the laws governing the transformations of power. After considering the psychological factors involved, he elaborates by historical example the forms of power, and investigates power relations between individuals and organizations, good and bad power philosophies, and the possibilities for the rational charioteer to curb the beast. Mr. Russell’s scientific attitude does not impede his fiery judgment upon agencies high and evil. Norton $3.00

The War against the West, by Aurel Kolnai.

THIS book is an attempt to make clear to English and American readers the full extent and meaning of the development of the Nazi ideology. It is only an attempt, because it is almost impossible to translate adequately the Nazis’ Germanic and volkisch mysticism into any other tongue. Nevertheless, Dr. Kolnai’s ironic and profound book is immensely important, and he does show that the Nazis have no other ultimate goal than the destruction of the Western inheritance from the French Revolution.

Viking $4.00

The Nasi Primer, translated from the German by Harwood L. Childs.

SEVEN million young Germans read and study the “Official Handbook for Schooling the Hitler Youth”; this makes clear the importance of the work done by the translator. The primer gives the Nazi version of the Creation, the Mcndelian laws of heredity, the history of Europe, and the achievements of the Third Reich.

Harper’s $1.75

Hope in America, by John Strachcy. IF the New Deal fails to “moderate” capitalism, the United States will be inevitably led towards Fascism and a renewed imperialism. Socialism is the answer, says Mr. Strachcy, and the greatest hope for the future of America lies in the progressivencss and strength of its labor movements. Mr. Strachey’s presentation of this by-now familiar argument is obviously intended for the “man in the street,” but to many readers its too condescending, written-down air will prove irritating. Modern Age 50c


Poems New and Selected, by Melville Cane.

THE author’s first book, “January Garden,” published in 192(5, introduced an American poet of richness and skill. Now, with “Poems New and Selected,” Melville Cane shows a fulfilment of his early promise of technical proficiency and style that is consummate.

Harcourt, Brace $2.00

Lee in the Mountains, by Donald Davidson.

THIS is a notable volume of American poetry. Emotion and intellectual power, beauty and strength arc blended. Confederate and Southern themes, “suddenly alive in a new morning,” predominate, many of these narrative and none difficult to comprehend. The poems are modern in form, rich in suggestion, and packed with serious thought. Houghton Mifflin, $2.00

Maine Ballads, by Robert P. Tristram Coffin.

THE author asks that these ballads of Maine people, in Maine idioms, be judged not as poetry but as folk song, and as folk song they arc the work of a master singer. As poetry, as Mr.

Coffin admits, they are sometimes hardly more than doggerel, rambling and loose. Macmillan $2.00


densperger, poet by practice and nature, intimate with nuances in French and in English, has ranged through all types of short poetry valued by endurance among English readers and has turned them into French which is faithful to the original and to the poetic. Harvard $1.25

The March of Literature, by Ford Madox Ford.

IN this 325,000-word volume, the “old man mad about writing,” as the author is prefatorially described, conducts his readers leisurely through the highways, and not a few byways, of the world’s literature from Homer and Confucius down to the moderns. The narrative thins after we have passed Sainte-Bcuve, but each of the hundreds of productions is made to appear in its proper mise en scfaie. A truly remarkable achievement.

Dial $8.76

The Silver Branch, edited by Serin O’Faolain.

AN anthology of Old Irish poetry, collected as a work of devotion by one of literature’s most delightful Irishmen. Intelligent in its exclusions, enchanting in its inclusions. Viking $2.00

Never to Die, arranged by Josephine Mayer and Tom Prideaux.

This is a collection of writings, drawings, and sculpture from all known periods of ancient Egyptian history. It is as though the greatness and sorrow of life were symbolized by this completed cycle of the rising and the setting of the sun of a great people. A book to be revisited with some reverence. Viking $3.50

D’Edmond Spenser ft Alan Sccger, by Fernand Baldensperger.

Poetry has rarely been treated so justly in translation. Fernand Bal-


Thomas Paine, Liberator, by Frank Smith.

This biography is an appreciative account of the great revolutionary period in French and American life, and, of its most courageous propagandist, Tom Paine. Frank Smith very adequately fuses the man with his time and depicts the continuous struggle that Paine waged in America, England, and France. In our time of faint hearts this story of a brave man is both exemplary and exciting.

Stokes $3.00

King of the Beggars, by Serin O’Faolain’.

In the nineteenth century Daniel O’Conncll became the first lender of the Irish, of whom the British had made beggars and pariahs. Although in his old age he turned against the peasants whom he had given unity and a cause, it was O’Conncll who gave to Parncll and to Sinn Fein the tools with which to fight for Irish freedom. Serin O’Faolriin has written in splendid prose a moving biography, as much of Ireland as it is of O’Conncll.

Viking $3.60

March of the Iron Men, by Roger Burlingamc.

This is not a history of American invention, but nn attempt to evaluate the influence of inventions upon our culture. Told in a style that is clear and interesting, it packs into five hundred pages a great amount of factual information, together with a philosophy of our history that is highly suggestive. We have long needed such a book. Scribner’s $3.75

Franco-British Rivalry in the Postwar Near East, by Henry dimming. A WELL documented, scholarly study of the French and British power politics in the Near East. Henry dimming has limited himself to the political character of the struggle. The romantic temperament may chafe at the sober prose of the author, while the historian of culture would object to the isolation of the political from other fundamentally significant aspects of Near-Eastern life. Oxford $3.00

The Journals of Branson Alcoll, edited by Odell Shepard.

Originally one of the least appreciated of the New England Tran-scendentalists, Bronson Alcott is achieving proper recognition for what he was as much as for what he published. What he was is now more fully exhibited in his “Journals,” which crown Odell Shepard’s recent sympathetic biography. Since in the selection of material the editor has preserved on a reduced scale the original proportions of Alcott’s subjects, one can wander through this collection knowing that the picture they give of the man has not been arbitrarily distorted. Mr. Shepard has written a compact introduction to Alcott for new readers, and his preliminary discussions for each year covered by the “Journals” arc helpful and illuminating. Little, Brown $5.00

Listen! The Wind, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

The sensitively recorded account of the flight of the Lindberghs from the coast of Africa to the coast of South America. Written with strong emotional lyricism, as well as containing all the scientific data. It is of technical and historical value, in addition to its strong record of personality and value as entertainment.

Harcourt, Brace $260


Goya, by Charles Poore. A SPLENDID biography of Francisco Goya, liberally illustrated with black-and-white reproductions of his paintings, etchings, and drawings. It is well documented and authoritative and evidences an impressive amount of sound research. Charles Poore has written with breadth and sympathy and yet with admirable restraint. His book has compelling significance, too, in its timeliness. Scribner’s $3.60

Toulouse-Lautrec, by Gcrstle Mack.

THIS biography of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, after Sir. Mack’s first book, is somewhat disappointing. Only in the final chapters docs it equal that penetrating study of Cezanne. It may be, because of Lautrcc’s brief life, that the material was more scant; but too great a proportion of the book is devoted purely to the Montmartre background. The last third of the book is admirable, dealing sympathetically and: with authority with the work and closing vcars of this fine painter.

Knopf, $6.00


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