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1967 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1967-00-00
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The Line of Least Existence and
Other Plays, by Rosalyn Drexler.
Random House. $4.95 hardbound,
$1.95 paperbound
by Elaine Georges
"This is very exciting!" a girl in
one of Rosalyn Drexel's plays admits to
her boyfriend. Unfortunately, that much
cannot be said for this collection of
farces. Mrs. Drexel has attempted to
write very modern satires about very
modern people. For timeliness, however,
she seems to have traded in meaning and
relevance, and the result is less than
The titles are promising: "Softly, Con-
sider the Nearness;" "The Bed Was
Full;" "Hot Buttered Roll". The
characters range from a 30-year-old vir-
gin who yearns to be deflowered to a nun
who sports a platinum-blond wig under
her wimple to a psychiatrist who is an
-Continued from page two
In Mississippi Morris had been com-
pletely enfolded by the Mississippi ethic;
in Texashe had grown up and not only
found, but asserted himself. Moving to
New York in 1963 he could meet the city
at least partly on his own terms. He
was still put off by New York, which
he came to call the "Big Cave". Mor-
ris doesn't like bullshit wherever it is
found, and he suspected a large quan-
tity of it in the New York literary world.
He especially didn't like the games the
New York literati play, in particular the
literary party where all the names gath-
er to look at all the other names. At one
of these he felt so out of place that he

undercover pimp. The style is reminis-
cent of the early absurdism of Ionesco
and Albee, but lacks their purpose and
nihilistic vision. Somehow the potentially
good things are lost in the author's pre-
sentation of the finished product.
Aiming at the sublime, one kindly sup-
poses, by way of the ridiculous, Mrs.
Drexel merely arrives at the trite. An
FBI agent infiltrates a rock and roll
group called The Feds. People off-hand-

edly light up and turn on.
Other more original gimmicks are em-
ployed. Several characters in "Line of
Least Existence" wear microphones as
security re-inforcers. In "Hot Buttered
Roll" movie projectors and tape record-
ers help set the mood, and indeed are
virtually forced to carry the whole plot.
Some of the plays even take on a sort
of Gilbert and Sullivan quality as people
are constantly bursting into song -the

least :
a per
of the
very c
of the
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North Toward Home, by Willie
Morris. Houghton Mifflin. $5.95.
by Roger Black
The first thing one asks when con-
fronted with Willie Morris and his auto-
biography, North Toward Home, is:
What in hell is this 32-year-old doing
writing his memoirs?
This is quickly answered by the book's
jacket, with its laudatory blurbs about
the newly-appointed editor of Harper's
magazine by such personages as John
Kenneth Galbraith, Michael Harrington,
and Oscar Lewis.
It is later answered by the realization
that anyone who is editor of the Daily
Texan, the Texas Observer, and Har-
per's at various times by the age 32 is
almost obliged to write his memoirs -
if only to establish his place as an
editor among the 50-year-old deans of
the literary world, the people who will
contribute to his magazine, the kind of
people who can sit in a mahogany-
paneled room, sip brandy, and read
Harper's without getting uncomfortable.
If you are looking for a "How to Make
It Big in the New York Publishing
World by the Time You Are 32", you
will not find it here. Morris does not
tell us how he did it; with a little imag-
ination we can infer how this remark-
able young man could be appointed the
editor-in-chief of a literary-journalistic
pillar such as Harper's, but that is left
up to us.
Nor is North Toward Home a set of
embarassing confessions of what a nice
Southern boy has to go through to
"make it big" in a lousy place like New
York. Willie Morris does not reveal any
of his inner hang-ups, nor those of his
friends. His story serves basically as a
background for a raft of intelligent,
amusing, sometimes hysterical, always
entertaining comments about the things
around them. These are mainly: life in
the South, Texas politics, and the New
York publishing world.
Morris grew up in Yazoo City, in the
Mississippi delta. He was a Mississippi
product, instilled wth all the Mississippi
small-town prejudces. He was, per-
haps, an above-average product. He was
valedictorian of his high school and edi-
tor of the Yazoo Flashlight. His sense

of humor was slightly more refined than
that of the average Yazoo City boy. But
his sense of violence was the same, and
his racial bigotry identical:
One summer morning when I was
twelve, I sighted a little Negro boy
walking with a girl who must have
been his older sister on the sidewalk
a block from my house. The little
boy could not have been more than
three; he straggled along behind the
older girl, walking aimlessly on his
short black legs from one edge of
the sidewalk to the other.
I hid in the shrubbery near the
sidewalk in my yard, peering out
two or three times to watch their
progress and todmake sure the
street was deserted. The older girl
walked by first, and the child came
along a few yards behind. Just as he
got in front of me, lurking there in
the bushes, I jumped out and
pounced upon him. I slapped him
across the face, kicked him with my
knee, and with a shove sent him
sprawling on the concrete.
The little boy started crying, and
his sister ran back to him and
shouted, "What'd he do to you?"
My heart was beating furiously, in
terror and a curious pleasure; I ran
into the back of my house and hid
in the weeds for a long time, until
the crying drifted far away into nig-
gertown... For a while I was happy
with this act, and my head was
strangely light and giddy. Then later
the more I thought about it coldly, I
could hardly bear my secret shame.
Morris's boyhood in the South during
the forties is about as foreign to some-
one who has grown up in a northern
middle-class suburb during the fifties as
the boyhood of David Copperfield.
He was much closer to Negroes in
Yazoo City than a liberal is in white
suburbia. He was trained from child-
hood to despise Negroes, and to treat
them cruelly. He was at the same time
trained to expect respect from Negroes,
and on occasion to view them with pity.
Through his anecdotes about the tricks
he and his friends played on the Ne-
groes in Yazoo City, through his descrip-
tion of the country white trash, and
through his stories about the schools he

went to there, one can begin to under-
stand what made certain Southerners
beat civil rights demonstrators and
throw rocks at Negro children trying to
attend previously white schools.
One also begins to understand that
Morris as a child in Mississippi was no
different from the rock-throwers. He
completely accepted the southern tradi-
tions. Intelligence alone is no escape
from the southern ethic. Morris might
easily have gone on to edit the Jackson
Daily News instead of Harper's. It was
just by chance that he got out. One day
his father suddenly suggested he go to
the University of Texas instead of Ole
Miss. And that made all the difference.
Morris's stories about his life at the
University of Texas will be a revelation
to a multiversity student in the activist
sixties. UT during the Eisenhower era
was a place of fraternities, sororities,
and football games. The residents of the
dorm where Morris lived his first year
spent most of their time devising ways
to control the big clock on top of the
tower (causing it at times to chime 18
and 20), preparing better cheat notes,
and playing all sorts of practical jokes
on visiting Texas A&M students-"Ag-

gies." Once, when a general from San
Antonio was reviewing the ROTC ranks,
Morris among them, they rigged up a
loud-speaker system and announced
over it, "The War is over, boys! Gen-
eral Lee just gave his sword to o1'
Grant! Go home to your families and
your crops!"
As editor of the Daily Texan, Morris
engaged the board of regents in a battle
over censorship, and he won. The Daily
Texan's status as one of the best and
most free student newspapers was pre-
served for a time. That was Morris'
first bout with the Texas Establishment,
and it gave him a taste for Texas pol-
itics that later led him, after a Rhodes
scholarship at Oxford, to accept the edi-
torship of the Texas Observer, an ex-
cellent bi-weekly devoted to Texas pol-
As editor of the Observer, Morris met
a great number of Texans, many of
them colorful and quite a few of them
down right hilarious. He describes Texas
politics brilliantly and succinctly. He
probably comes closer to explaining the
background of LBJ than either John-
son's partisans or his opponents.
Continued on page eleven

boy makes
began to imagine one of the group rising
up and yelling at him, "Get out of this
The New York section of the book is
the roughest. Morris has come to con-
sider New York his home, hence the
book's title and the last lines:
Why was it, in such moments just
before I leave the South, did I al-
ways feel some easing of a great
burden? It was as if someone had
taken some terrible weight off my
shoulders, or as if some old griev-
ance had suddenly fallen away. The
big plane took off, and circled in
widening arcs over the city, over the


landmarks of my past, and my peo-
ple's. Then, slowly, with a lifting
heavy as steel, it circled once more,
and turned north toward home.
Morris wrote North Toward Home
partly to present his credentials to the
New York literary world.
But I get the impression that to do so
he plays on our liberal sensibilities. It
is a very witty and amusing book. Those
of us who did not come from New York
and who weren't playing Lenin and Stal-
in when we were kids, but cops and rob-
bers, come quickly to identify with Mor-
ris. ("Bright Star from Hinterland vs.
Texas Fascists and the Inbred New
York Bastards".) We laugh at his


By E. Winslow

A Pol Sci's thesis got a grade lift
For its solution to the cold war rift.

Follett's gave him the clue
For reconciling The Two -

A reciprocal good-book Christmas gift.

of his
his in
his re
It is a
ible li
us en
in th
we b
is (
to c
one C
it he

The Chica
Editor-in-Chief.........David L. Aiken
Managing Editor .... Mary Sue Leighton
Associate Editor........Richard Hack
Advertising Manager ..H. Wayne Meyer
Advertising Assistant.......Dick Clark
Art Editor..............Bob Griess
Art Assistant ..............Sarah Burns
Loyola Editor..... .......Paul Lavin
Michigan Editor ......... Lisa Matross
Mundelein Editor........Kathy Riley
Valparaiso Editor . .Mary Jane Nehring
Wayne State Editor.......Tony Zineski
Wisconsin (Milwaukee) Editor
Mike Jacobi
Wooster Editor.........Gary Houston
Editorial Staff............Jean Rudd
Jeanne Safer
Chief editorial offices: 1212 E. 59th
Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637. Phone:
MI 3-0800 ext. 3276. Subscriptions: $2.50
per year. Copyright 1967 by The Chicago
Literary Review. All rights reserved.

ago Literary Review
Sarah Burns........ ......page 4
Bob Griess ........................3, 10
David Levine (courtesy of Random
House, Inc.) ........................ 1
Marion Sirefman .................... 5
The Chicago Literary Review is pub-
lished six times per year under the aus-
pices of The University of Chicago. It is
distributed by the Chicago Maroon, the
Illinois Institute of Technology Tech-
nology News, the Wooster Voice, the
Lake Forest Stentor, and the Valparaiso
Torch. Reprint rights have been granted
to the Michigan Daily, the Roosevelt
Torch, the Loyola News, the Mundelein
Skyscraper, the Wayne State South End,
the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
U.W.M. Post.

Fill that gift need with something to read

from Follett's
Think of books as bricks for building bridges
from heart to heart.
- m

There's something extra special and sincere in giving
books for Christmas. The recipient can't help but
appreciate your insight and thoughtfulness. Especially if
it's a book by his favorite author or about his hobby or
main interest. And, you don't have to worry about styles,
or getting the right colors or sizes. Follett's has loads
of gift-worthy books-fiction, non-fiction,
hard-cover and paperback.




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0 December, 1967

December, 1967 * CHICAG

December, 1967


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