« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Apparently the novel and the short energetic among them revel in exstory, as we have known them, are to pression, and it seems to make little be scrapped. Plot, which began to difference whether it is the exquisite break down with the Russians, has chiaroscuro of Chicago they are decrumbled into a maze of incident. scribing, or spots on a greasy apron. You can no longer assume that the The less enthusiastic are content to be hero's encounter with a Gipsy in as full of gritty realistic facts as a fig Chapter II is preparation for a tragedy of seeds; but with all of them everyin Chapter XXIX. In all probability thing from end to beginning, from botthe Gipsy will never be heard from tom to top, must be said. again. She is irrelevant except as a And just here lies the explanation figment in the author's memory, as an of the whole matter. As one conincident in autobiography. Setting, siders the excessive naturalism of the the old familiar background, put on young realists and asks just why they the story like wall-paper on a living- find it necessary to be so excessively, room, has suffered a sea change also. so effusively realistic, the conviction It comes now by flashes, like a movie is inborn that they are not realists at film. What the ego remembers, that all as Hardy, Howells, even James it describes, whether the drip of a were realists; they are romanticists of a faucet or the pimple on the face of a deep, if not the deepest, dye, even the subway conductor. As for character, heartiest lover of sordid incident there is usually but one, the hero; for among them all. the others live only as he sees them, The novels I have mentioned so far and fade out when he looks away. If in this article have all together not he is highly sexed, like Erik Dorn, the enough plot to set up one lively Vicother figures appear in terms of sex, torian novel. Benét, Dos Passos, just as certain rays of light will bring Fitzgerald—the flood-gates of each out only one color in the objects they mind have been opened, and all that shine against.
the years had dammed up bursts The novel, in fact, has melted and forth in a deluge of waters, carrying run down into a diary, with some- flotsam and jetsam and good things times no unity except the personality and mud. whose sensations are recorded. Many I am aware, of course, that "roof us have wished to see the conven- mantic" is a dangerous word, more tional story forms broken to bits. It overworked than any other in the was getting so that the first sentence vocabulary of criticism, and very of a short story or the first chapter of difficult to define. But in contrast a novel gave the whole show away. with its opposites it can be made to We welcomed the English stories of a mean something definite. Now, the decade ago that began to give the romanticism of the juniors is not the complexities of life instead of the opposite of realism; it sometimes emconventions of a plot. But this braces realism too lovingly for the
a complete liquidation rather appals us. reader's comfort. But it is the oppo
It is not surprising that, having site of classicism. It is emotional given up plot, these writers escape expansiveness as contrasted with the from other restraints also. The more
The more classic doctrine of measure and re
straint. By this, the older meaning ness, merely encouraged him to be of romanticism, we may put a tag more shocking. Nor is it any use to upon the new men that will help to sit upon the hydrant of this new identify them. Their desire is to free expansiveness. If a youth desires to their souls from the restraints of cir- tell the world what has happened to cumstance, to break through rule and him, he must be allowed to do so, proconvention, to let their hearts expand. vided he has skill and power enough
But they do not fly into Byronic to make us listen. And these juniors melancholy or Wordsworthian enthu- have power even when skill has not siasm for the mysterious abstract; they yet been granted them. What is are far more likely to fly away from needed is a hose to stop the waste of them. Byron and Wordsworth do literary energy, to conserve and direct not interest them, and Tennyson they it. Call for a hose, then, as much as
. hate. Romantic in mood, they are you please, but do not try to stop the realistic, never classical, in their con- waters with your Moses's rod of contact with experience. In poetry they servative indignation. prefer free verse, in prose they eschew grand phrases and sonorous words.
§ 5 It has been the hard realism of an It is no crime to be a romantic,-it
a unfriendly world that has scraped is a virtue, if that is the impulse of the them to the raw, and they retaliate age,-but it is a shame to be a wasteby vividly describing all the unpleas- ful romantic. Waste has always been ant things they remember. Taught the romantic vice-waste of emotion, by the social philosophers and war's waste of words, the waste that comes disillusions that Denmark is decaying, from easy profusion of sentiment and they do not escape to Cathay or the formlessness that permits it. Bohemia, but stay at home and pas- Think of “The Excursion,” of sionately narrate what Denmark has Southey, and the early poems of done to them. Romantic Zolas, they Shelley, of Scott at his wordiest. And have stolen the weapons of real- these writers also are wasteful, in proism to fight the battle of their ego. portion to their strength. And the fact that a few, like Ben They waste especially their imaginaHecht, Dos Passos, and Stephen tion. Books like "The Three SolBenét, pause in their naturalism to diers” spill over in all directionssoar into idyllic description or the spill into poetry, philosophy, into rapture of beauty merely proves my endless conversation, and into everypoint, that they are fundamentally thing describable. Books like "The romantics seeking escape, and that Beginning of Wisdom" are still more autobiographical realism is merely wasteful. Here is the poignant romanticism à la mode.
biography of a boy who loves his Let us criticize it as such, remem- environment even when it slays him, bering that we may be reading the plus a collection of prose idylls, plus a first characteristic work of a new group of poems, plus a good piece of literary era. Let us give over being special reporting, plus an assortment shocked. Those who were shocked of brilliant letters; and imbedded in by Byron, the apostle of expansive- the mass, like a thread of gold in a tangle of yarn, as fresh and exquisite the merits of the young romanticists. a love-story as we have had in recent My guess is that some of them will go English. Of course I do not mean far. But the diagnosis at present that all these elements cannot be seems to show an inflammation of the woven into, made relevant to, a ego. The new generation is discovertheme, a story. Stendhal, himself a ing its soul by the pain of its bruises, romantic, as these men are romantics, as a baby is made aware of its body by could do it. But our romantics do pin-pricks and chafes. It is explainnot so weave them; they fling them ing its dissatisfactions with more out as contributions to life's evidence, violence than art. they fail to relate them to a single in- Therefore at present the satirists terpretation of living, and half of and the educators hold the best cards, the best incidents are waste, and and most of them are elderly. No clog the slow-rolling wheels of the one of les jeunes writes with the skill, story.
with the art, of Mrs. Wharton, Miss They waste their energy also. So Sinclair, Tarkington, Galsworthy, or keenly do they love their own concep- Wells.
Wells. It should not long be so in a tion of true living that their imagina- creative generation. In sheer emotion, tions dwell with a kind of horrid fasci- in vivid protest that is not merely nation upon the ugly things that didactic, the advantage is all with the thwart them. Hence in a novel like youngsters. But they waste it. “Main Street," the interest slackens as They have learned to criticize their one begins to feel that the very vivid- elders, but not themselves. They have ness of the story comes from a vision boycotted the books of writers who strained and aslant, unable to tear were young just before themselves, eyes from the things that have cramped but they have not learned to put a life instead of expanding it. The curb on their own expansiveness. We things that these writers love in life readers suffer. We do not appreciate often they never reach until the last their talents as we might, because we chapter, and about them they have lose our bearings in hectic words or little to say, being exhausted by undigested incident. We lose by the earlier virulence.
slow realization of their art. Waste, of course, is a symptom of Youth is a disease that cures itself, youth and vitality as well as of un- though sometimes too late. The bridled romanticism, but that is no criticism I have made, in so far as it reason for praising a book because it is refers to youthful impetuosity, is disorderly. We do not praise young, merely the sort of thing that has to be vigorous states for being disorderly. said to every generation, and very loudLife may not be orderly, but literature ly to the romantic ones. But if these must be. That is a platitude which autobiographians are, as I believe, it seems necessary to repeat.
expansive romanticists, that is of deeper significance, and my hope is
that the definition may prove useful It is difficult to estimate absolute to them as well as to readers who with achievement except across time, and an amazed affection persist in followthe time has been too brief to judge of ing them wherever they lead.
Behind the Rose O'Neill best known to the American public only through her kewpies is the serious artist the latest phase of whose work is herewith reproduced for the first time. Miss O'Neill has exhibited in Paris, where the critics wer quick to appreciate the tremendous poetic imagination which lies back of a power of expression so virile and forceful as to be comparable to Rodin, the more because of a technic which has the plastic quality of sculpture. Her first American exhibit is soon to be held in New York. Arsène Alexandre, the well known French critic, has written of her drawings:
"One will not be surprised, in coming upon the drawings by Rose O'Neill, to learn that this strange and profound artist is also a poet. Her melodious and haunting verses, written in the tongue of Edgar Allan Poe, are both the product and stimulus of a sensitive soul. But for us it is our opportunity at this moment to enjoy only the visions traced by her pencil, and these are enough to bring us pleasure-pleasure a little strong and disquieting, to be sure, but very rare in this hour-in significant form adequate to express significant thought. Rose O'Neill has achieved the alliance of pagan force with an intellectual conception that the pagan world could not have produced. Her drawings are at once mysterious and revealing, exalted and terrifying. If she draws her inspiration in a certain measure from the ancient Greek, an influence modified by intense modern culture, it is from Pan rather than from Apollo that she receives it."