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Statistics are so readily substituted for values that are not tabulatable and not so easily understood, that they are paraded on all show occasions and pointed to with pride when they should be viewed with suspicion. Yet even in war, that sternest disciplinarian and inexorable tyrant of organization, an increasingly important place is found for the great imponderable, morale.
Among this group of satellitic idols affecting the orbit of the major idol of the market-place, the idol of the box-office deserves a special mention. It intrudes disastrously whenever the fortunes of the Muses are intrusted, as in some measure they must be, to the book-keeping of the pragmatist. The theater is a business, but the drama is an art; the newspaper is an enterprise, but the information of the public is a trust. The commercial phases of art are as legitimate as they are inevitable; commercialized art is not. There is no easy rule of salvation, nothing more definite than to render unto the artist what is the artist's, and unto the producer and the ticketsalesman what is their due. But the story of the actual fate of the arts under the battery of pretentious spectacular and conscienceless advertising and the pressure of the boxoffice is too familiar to need reciting. There is no need for despair or even depression. There is no need of an organized "union" of critics, nor should there ever be one. Yet the responsible critics of the drama, of books, of motion-pictures, of architecture, of taste in show-windows, alert to the gospel of value are increasing and increasingly heard and obeyed. Their gospel is not always
articulate and they teach by example; they compromise but with no sacrifice of vital values. The advocate of a sense of value is by no means crying in a wilderness. He is amused rather than impressed by the pomposity of the faultlessly dressed official in the box-office whose manner suggests the esoteric conviction that the success of a play lies neither in the hands of the Muses, nor in the author nor the producer nor the players, but of the handler of the coin that makes all else possible. The sculptor who desired to render in bronze-or should it be brass?—the idol of the market-place might hesitate whether to use as his model the occupant of the box-office, the genial traveling salesman, or the smug magnate of the trusts. Despite their contrast of features, their common genealogy should not be overlooked.
Yet of all, the commonest and crudest misappraisal is the confusion of bigness with greatness, of measurable quantity with immeasurable quality. Such is the vulgar statistical boast of the Pullman "smoker" and of the many other Rialtos where congregate the commercially minded -the heedless throngs of unredeemed but not unredeemable victims of the idol of the market-place. Signs of salvation are at hand; there is a receptive tolerance, growing to a suspicion, that not all that glitters in the star of organization is gold, even a suspicion that much that passes for "conference" behind mahoganized steel office-partitions may be anything from gossip to research, from shrewd graft to high finance. There are some corporations so overorganized that it is almost impossible to do business with them, and gov
ernmental departments are not excluded from the number. The story of routine, red-tape, bureaucracy, the circumlocution office, is familiar and ancient; yet again, be it gratefully recorded that this is the economist's and political reformer's business. Our concern with it is only as further evidence of the confusion of values among all sorts and conditions of occupations.
Viewed in its formidable proportions there is a threatened invasion, as of the Nordic hordes, menacing with the insensitiveness of unappreciation the time-attested, classic treasures, hall-marked as sterling in the established marts and shrines of culture. The severest brand that is placed upon the brow of the despoiler and despiser of cherished values
bears the symbolic name of the Hun.
THERE WAS A TIME
A. M. SULLIVAN
There was a time your countenance reflected
To-day, my tongue is fettered and I mumble
Some vacant words or vague banalities
That make you smile-but if a phrase should stumble
And bruise the tissue of your memories,
You leap behind the citadel of years
And snap the manacles upon your tears.
The READING ROOM
141 qven HBH. Inskr
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The most subtly misleading part of Mr. Forster's declaration is that in which he seems to be making a concession: "Yes, the novel tells the story." The point to begin at is this-the novel is a story. Which
It's a brave man
would lead to the logical conclusion that "them as don't like stories" should neither write nor read them. On the quicksand in which he buries the low, atavistic form of the story, Mr. Forster proceeds to build a well-formed and intricate series of speculations. He divides the characters of fiction into two types, the flat and the round; he analyzes
Let Mr. Forster state for himself the craftsmanship of Dickens, Merehis great heresy:
"Yes, the novel tells a story. . . . That is the highest factor common to all novels, and I wish that it was not so, that it could be something different-melody, or perception of the truth, not this low atavistic form."
dith, Hardy, Tolstoy, with acuteness that at times reaches brilliance; and he makes out a good case for the importance of form, melody, philosophy (though one is tempted to ask
the form, the melody, the philosophy of what, if not the story?).
In that statement, Mr. Forster puts himself in the same class with the bad musicians who are more concerned with imitating bird-calls and locomotive whistles, than with melody, and with the bad painters who do nothing but tell a story on canvas. They are both rebelling at the restrictions of their low, atavistic arts, and seeking to ennoble them by transplanted truths.
Dickens' characters are flat, says Forster-that is to say, they are all on the surface, like a photograph; Tolstoy's, in contrast, are round. But here he is tripped up by his own desire to be fair, for he admits that there is a certain reality in Dickens' characters somehow mysteriously communicated to them by the electric vitality of the author.
The shortcomings of "Aspects of the Novel" are such as might be expected when a man who is essentially a mystic and an artist tries hard to play the scientist; its virtues are those of the same restless, inconsistent mind.
Mr. Forster's mysticism is well illustrated in his comment on D. H. Lawrence, whom he holds to be "the only living novelist in whom the song predominates, who has the rapt bardic quality." That statement, to a generation that has read read Walter de la Mare's "Memoirs of a Midget," is a brave one.
Every one who enjoys a good argument is hereby urged to get hold of a copy of "Aspects of the Novel." There's sure to be something in it somewhere that will make you angry, but perhaps this should have been told at first-that's what it's intended for. Published by Harcourt, Brace and Company.
DE SOTO AND MIKE FINK
A piece of sly, imaginative humor in "The American Caravan" made many people inquisitive about its author, Lyle Saxon. Emerging now from that many-ringed circus, he puts on a complete show of his own. And this entertainment that Mr. Saxon stages is none the less varied for being built around a single subject, the Mississippi River; for it runs the gamut from statistics to sentiment, from politics to poetry.
Mr. Saxon is wise in knowing when to put on his acrobatics, his minstrel turns, his historical tableaux, his freaks and his clownsand also in knowing when to turn to the orchestra and whisper: "Soft music, Professor." The information that he has to give-and "Father Mississippi" has more of it than most histories is distributed with the same care for variety.
There has been a good deal of emphasis of late on the "debunking" of history, and the chief result of it
has been a swinging of the pendulum from the distortion of hero-worship to the distortion of exposé. Why not, instead, the de-medicinizing of history, with the tenet that whatever is important must be interesting, and that it's the historian's job to make it so? It's on the social life that made the foot-notes of old-fashioned histories that "Father Mississippi" is built, and out of it emerges the fact, more startling than any revaluation of great men, that American history is really exciting and steeped in rich colors.
In "Father Mississippi" De Soto leads his band of heroic thieves again; Indian braves flirt with the fine ladies of the court of Louis XV; old steamboats race lumberingly on the river, fitted out with rich carpets and elegant spittoons; the giant Mike Fink and Annie Christmas, who might be the progenitors of Paul Bunyan, lay the foundations of a folklore; candles gleam on old plantation tables, while sleepy colored boys work droning fans above them. Also, there is a flood, pushed off the front pages into dry Government reports by strangely enough—“The Spirit of St. Louis." Mr. Saxon not only refuses to acknowledge that the flood is passé, but proves, disturbingly, that it isn't. Published by The Century Co.
MR. BENNETT GOES AFIELD Regarded for years as one of the shining leaders of the realistic school of novelists, Arnold Bennett has been steadily breaking away from that group, by almost imperceptible stages. With his latest book, his disciples will have a difficult task in following him, for he seems to have
wandered off in two directions at once. On the one hand, he is not so much a realist as a materialist, lovingly engrossed with the details of big money and large-scale luxury. On the other hand, he has developed a genial romanticism that is capable of dismissing the cramping realities of everyday life with the negligent grace of a yarn by P. G. Wodehouse. "The Vanguard" is the name of Mr. Bennett's new novel, and of the super-extra-de-luxe yacht on which nearly all of the story takes place. The yacht is the property of Lord Furber, a domineering, table-thumping millionaire who gives the impression of numbering both Napoleon Bonaparte and Booth Tarkington among his ancestors. Lord Furber, for reasons of his own, wants to buy a famous French dressmaking establishment. Therefore, in his simple and direct way, he shanghais Septimius Sutherland, the capitalist who happens to have control of the firm.
But, once he has captured Septimius, Lord Furber doesn't quite know what to do with him. Still less does he know what to do with Miss Harriet Perkins, who was kidnapped also as an afterthought. The story proceeds to grow as exciting as a chase to a fire, and the breathless reader wonders whether Bennett hasn't been fooling him by a false alarm. As a matter of fact, Mr. Bennett has been doing exactly that, and his melodrama turns to comedy. But it's good melodrama while it lasts and equally good comedy. Published by George H. Doran Company.
THE MODERN ROMEO
In its struggle for fame, a first-rate book is like a tall lightning-rod in a
disturbed sky. It seems to be the most likely recipient of the flash; but it doesn't follow that the lightning will necessarily strike in that direction.
There's a quiet Washington schoolmarm named Mathilde Eiker who is bound to catch the flash some day. Her first book, "Mrs. Mason's Daughters" should have done so. Her new one, "Over the Boatside," isn't quite so straight and tall, but it still rises comfortably above the general level.
At its best, "Over the Boatside" has the intensity, the power of gathering and storing up valid emotion, that distinguishes Rebecca West's "The Judge." At its weakest, it can be called amateurish, but that's far from being the worst of shortcomings.
"Over the Boatside" is the story of a girl's experiences with romantic love, and of the making of a feminine cynic. It was a dashing Romeo-andJuliet sort of wooing that took place when Reverdy Smith met Eltin Henderson. Even as was the case with Romeo, young Smith was in love with another girl when Eltin, the right one, came along and made a tabula rasa of his heart. But Reverdy Smith, unlike Romeo, repeated the performance of wiping the slate clean when another right girl came along. Eltin, that charming wise lady, would probably say that the only reason Romeo didn't do likewise was that he died too young.
The path of Reverdy's fickleness didn't run smooth the second time; it was complicated by the fact that he and Eltin had been secretly married in the first fine flush of romance. What made matters still more diffi