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April 09, 1968 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-04-09

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Page Two~

THE MICHIGAN DAIL)

T i iocrlri« 'A ri l" 0 :1040

THEMIHIAN.A," ,.-A,.. A...:I0 n_

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i

poetry and prose
Creeping Pro fessionalism Shuts Gen eratlion

"'Gap

By RUSSELL A. FRASER,
Department of English
The quality of writing in the
current issue of Generation
seems to me unusually high for
a student publication. No con-
descension intended - one as-
sumes -that genuinely realized
stories and poems find their
way into more prestigious (i.e.,
paying) magazines, and that
the kind of writing one calls
"promising" is reserved to
purely ocal publications.
Ther6 is, however, at least
one story here that is thorough-
ly professional in character. It
is Lemuel Johnson's "Melon
Flowers," an account of little

business in Sierra Leone. The
protagonists are mostly young
English expatriates. At the edge
of their circle is the self-im-
portant native master of a boys'
school in Freetown, and an
American writer-teacher, ac-
companied inevitably by his
camera. The American figures
in an act of violence. -Qne of
the Englishwomen b. e c o m e s
pregnant by a black student.
Otherwise, not much of conse-
quence happens; the resolution
of the story is desultory. That,
I take it,.is partly the point the
author is attempting to enforce.
He is, along the way, very fun-
ny, horrifying, and absolutely

persuasive in his handling of
details.
Conviction of a different kind
-like that of an expressionist
drama by Georg Kaiser - is
achieved by Richard Keller Si-
mon in his one-act play, For
Old Time's Sake. The protagon-
ist, a human vegetable, is kept
alive for seven years in an oxy-
gen tent, and tended by a vul-
gar and brutal retainer (at
whose expense a few too easy
ironies are ventured). The read-
ing of obituary notices, of tick-
er-tape reports of the patient's
investments, and of miscellan-
eous scraps and tatters from his
inconsiderable past, serves to
fill up the time. To him enters
an aged female acquaintance,
who shuts off the oxygen and
so makes an end of this am-
biguous existence. But perhaps
the patient is already incapable
of life, or perhkaps he is imper-
vious to death. Speculation is
excited - Simon knows enough
to keep it between the lines -
on the nature of these capital-
letter abstractions. It is dis-
quieting and, better than that,
it is amusing,
Peter Brett's story, "Two
Dimes," is engrossing line by
line, but as a total effort, it
fails to come off. The story has
to do - exclusively, so far as
I can see - with the bad luck
of an aspiring artist. Having set
up his easel at a street fair, he
offers to do portraits in sepia
for twenty dollars. The young
girl who is his customer appar-
ently (not very plausibly) as-
sumes that only twenty cents is
in question. Artist is distraught;
subject's irate parent agrees to
settle for ten dollars, and is re-
buffed. The sour ending to this
petty misadventure doesn't
seem to signify (though I sus-
pect that emblematic business
is intended), or contribute to;
or emranate from what has gone
before. The artist is Negro -
gratuitously, in terms of the
data provided - whose color is
insisted on, only, I think as a
hook to catch the reader's at-
tention.
In "A Day Spent," Doug
Fiero tells of the reactions of
a young Northern male, a
teacher and writer, to life in a
Southern girls' school. The
story begins with a glimpse of
a squirrel, mired in mud near
the door of the schoolhouse. It
3020 Wasitenaw - 434-1782
Wednesday-Saturday-Sunday

ends with the hero smiling
"weirdly (sic), bitterly." In be-
tween is much unlocalized
angst. I think one would feel
more involvement were he to
know what ails the hero, and
why.
The comment holds, of Jus-
tin Vitiello's apparent prose-
poem, "Off the Rack," in which
the sense of generalized disgust
is left unbalanced or unverified
by any ascertainable correla-
tive.
SALES
"Generation" sales, scheduled
to begin today, have been post-
poned in respect for the mem-
ory of the Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King. Sales will begin,
tomorrow and continue Thurs-
day.
Motive is also lacking in
John Conron's evocative por-
trait of a bereaved and inward-
looking woman ("Dorothy"),
alone and disintegrating in an
old house. But the portrait is
rendered from the outside, and
so it is more convincing. What
counts is not a rationalizing of
the thing, but only the render-
ing.
The poetry in this collection
eschews conventional form, or
stiffening, and, so it is difficult
to criticize straight ,off. Really
to do a poet justice, one ought
to read him often, to get his'
idiom and to see whether his
idiosyncrasies in meter and
manner are something more
than idiosyncrasies - in other

words, whether they work, or
function only as a blind. A
witty "Late Letter from Mor-
avia," by Thomasl Snapp, is
written essentially in free or
sprung pentameter. It seems
legitimate, therefore, to ask
why the author breaks up his
lines, Dialogue is not in ques-
tion (the distributing of one
versa line among several speak-
ers). A single voice is heard,
but what it says is fragmented:
I kept dust to a minimum.
We were.almost
Into port, and my broom
was almost bald.
I think the answer lies in a
possibly pointless attempt to
obscure formality, rather than
to assert it. Snapp's "Distances"
recalls Eliot's "Gerontion"; and
has also anindigenous life:
"Morning is lifting off New
you." The 'best of these three
poems, "MX Tower," is a fine
summoning-up of a childhood
experience, which speaks, to
more than childhood.
J. K. Snyder's "Homage" to
a black garbageman attempts
to go -. I think successfully"-
the same sort of metaphorical
progress, from a remembered
~ I ~

incident to its wider ramifica-
tion. Thomas Nadar and Daniel
Wire collaborate in a transla-
tion from the German of Wolf-
gang Borchert (d. 1947), whose
work has not appeared pre-
viously in this country. The
sample given here is unexcep-
tionable in sentiment (anti-
war). In form, it is a melange
of prose and free verse that
reads mostly like prose: lines
elongated or else broken off
short to announce the poetic-
- ness. Presumably the trarisla-
tion is good; but whit emerges
is only what you or I might
think and say.

1 :15-3:15-5:15
f, c5
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