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January 1967 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1967-10-00
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IL

40-

7

Turner: Old violence is the sire

rI L 'Generalists often finish last

Cities in a Race With Time, by
Leanne R. Howe; Random House,
N1o.
by David L. Aiken
Jeanne R. Lowe is a generalist.
She's a journalist with a specialty,
>ut makes no pretense to being an
xpert in the usual academic
ense of expertise. She has written
:or several magazines, specializ-
ng in urban affairs.
It's often valuable to be a gen-
ralist. Sometimes you can look
it things from a perspective
)roader than that of the "expert."
Vliss Lowe has not really been
ible to do so in this book. The
)roblem generalists face is saying
;omething somebody hasn't al-
'eady said.
She hasn't solved the problem.
Ostensibly, the book is "a ma-
or study of how leading Ameri-
:an cities are facing their ...
>roblems," to quote from a jacket
>lurb. Well, "major" it is -
here's about 600 pages of it. Well
locumented it is, too - in some
:hapters, every sentence is "ac-
:ording to" somebody. But it just
loesn't seem to come across as
t really original contribution to
he literature of urban problems
- an ever-expanding literature,
t may be noted, now that recent
-evolts are making the causes of
rnrest even more popular topics
'or pundits to ponder.
The sections presenting
:ase studies of urban renewal pro-
rams in several cities are of
;reatest interest. In them, Miss
owe makes quite clear what
nany critics of urban renewal
ave been saying for a long time
- from its inception, planning for
)rojects under the urban renewal
>rogram has been done at the top,
among professional planners, real
state interests and merchants.
.oncern for the people affected
iy projects has come rather late
n the game.
Her cases are New York (or,
nore specifically, Robert Moses);
'ittsburgh (for which read, Rich-
rd King Mellon and Mayor David
.awrence); the Southwest section
f Washington, D. C. (New York
eal estate investor James H.
)cheuer); Philadelphia (Mayors
;lark and Dilworth, and the city

planners); and New Haven (the
renowned Mayor Richard Lee,
and his innovative sidekick.
Mitchell Sviridoff).
This list is organized by Mrs.
Lowe as a sort of continuum, both
in time and in style of operation.
In the beginning was Robert
Moses, and Robert Moses was ur-
ban renewal in New York. Moses
didn't let anybody know, least of
all the commissioners who were
supposed to know, what was being
planned. He came out with one
grandiose public works project or
concentration of blockhouses after
another, none of them integrated
into a comprehensive plan for the
city's development. A good deal of
hanky-panky with favored real e-
tate developers was also un-
covered during his reign.
If Moses is the bottom, then
Lee is the top in Miss Lowe's little
totem pole of urban renewers. By
the time New Haven came around
to electing him in 1954, a number
of lessons were available from
other cities which had begun ur-
ban renewal projects earlier. Phil-
adelphia, for example, had shown
what a carefully-drawn master
plan for development could ac-
complish for pepping up the city's
core and co-ordinating redevelop-
ment of industrial and commer-
cial areas. Southwest Washington
had just begun an extensive relo-
cation program, which was being
handled fairly carefully in an ef-
fort to move poor people with as
little fuss as possible, to smooth
the path for middle- and upper-
income people who were to oc-
cupy the high-rises.
Lee and his advisers had even
learned from the experiences of
developers of suburban shopping
centers about the necessity to
have at least one, preferably
more, big, solid, good-credit chain
of department stores around
which little shops can cluster.
So Lee, Sviridoff, Edward
L o g u e and others sweated
through until downtown New Ha-
ven was being rebuilt from the
ground up, secure with a nice
new Macy's store. But for per-
haps the first time, the munici-
pal officials of an entire city re-

alized that building up the down-
town alone would not suffice.
The story of New Haven's pro-
grams to reach out to people
in the poorer sections, help them
help themselves, and maybe even
give them a voice in what was to
be done in their neighborhoods, is
by now familiar.
In Pittsburgh, the predomi-
nance of Richard King Mellon, in-
heritor of most of the vast Mel-
lon family wealth and power, in
Pittsburgh's post-war "Renais-
sance" is enlightening. (It may
be noted that one of the fellow-
ship programs in the University
of Chicago's Center for Urban
Studies is named for him.) But
the narrowness of Pittsburgh's
program is also instructive -
little attention was given to im-
proving the neighborhoods of the
little people, for example, other
than moving them out to make
room for an expanded Jones and
Laughlin steel plant.
Although the case s t u d i e s
are instructive, Miss Lowe makes
the mistake of biting off a bigger
chunk of the complex tangle of
urban problems than she could
comfortably chew. When she gets
into chapters which are supposed
to cover the difficult dilemmas of
slum life and urban decay, she
can do little more than regur-
gitate undigested hunks of a
smorgasbord of "experts."
It is praiseworthy to devote at-
tention to the crucial role of pub-

lic schools in affecting urban life,
for example. It is even praise-
worthy to have done one's home-
work as diligently as Miss Lowe.
She has read a great deal of the
literature, it seems.
But a reader would be misled
if he thought he were reading an
adequate treatment of the motiva-
tional problems of Negro res-
idents of slum areas when Miss
Lowe tells him,
According to recent sociological stud-
ies, juvenile delinquency and crime,
in disproportionate amounts among
-the lower classes, are caused by
the society that encourages certain
aspirations yet withholds the pos-
sibilities of achieving these aspira-
tions legitimately.
... For many young Negro males
another principal cause is the early
and often permanent absence of a
father, as former Assistant Secre-
tary of Labor Daniel P. Moynihan
made clear in his paper on The
Negro Family.

Continued from page ten
prison a doom greater than that
which the officials of Southamp-
ton County have prepared; the
ultimate doom of being, in John
Donne's words, "everlastingly,
everlastingly out of the sight of
God."
But the novel ends with the
tragic deed unaccomplished. In
the last moments before his exe-
cution, Nat Turner finally com-
prehends the meaning of God's
silence: it is the other nature of
God-him who commands us to
love:
I feel the nearness of flowing waters,
tumultuous waves, rushing winds.
The voice calls again, "Come!"
Yes, I think just before I turn to
greet him, I would have done it
all again. I would have destroyed
them all. Yet I would have spared
one. I would have spared her that
showed me Him whose presence
I had not fathomed or maybe
never even known. Great God,
how early it is! Until now I had
almost forgotten His name.
"Come!" the voice booms, but
commanding meunow: Come, My
son! I turn in surrender.
Surely I come quickly. Amen.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Oh how bright and fair the
morning star . . .
The simultaneous conclusion of
the two tragic actions is what
gives The Confessions of Nat Tur-
ner its power. It is an immensely

moving book, whose force in de-
termined by a thoroughly worthy
conception of man's nature and
destiny.
Most of the arguments I have
read which fault The Confessions
seem to me mere cavils. Of these,
the most plausible attacks "the
clumsiness of the historical meth-
od." Though Styron's ideas are
impressive, the argument goes,
t h e r e is something inherently
messy.about fictionalizing an his-
toric personage like Turner. One
major problem is the idiom: to
white men, Turner talks like Lit-
tle Black Sambo; writing in his
journal, Turner is a cross be-
tween Dickens and the King
James Bible.
Such an argument has a grain
of truth in it: the juxtaposition of
Turner's florid writing and his
"nigger talk" is often pathetic,
and reveals Styron's weakness for
the old-fashioned periodic sen-
tence. But the simple charge that
the language is not contemporary
smacks of prejudice: I see no
reason why contemporary novel-
ists should be barred from at-
tempting the effects of the Vic-
torians. Is the tender sensibility
of Dickens no longer effective

with readers? Or the grandeur
and sweep of Hardy? If we could
no longer feel these emotions,
then Styron would surely have
been wrong to try for them. But
if his style comes off most of the
time-which is all we can expect
of any writer-then the pathos we
are made to feel justifies his ob-
solescent means.
Neverthelesssthere remain ser-
ious weaknesses in The Con f es-
sions, faults not of language but
of thought. A major novel, we all
know, cannot have less than four
hundred pages- and in padding
his magnum opus to that length,
Styron courts the charges of ir-
relevance and over-motivation.
There are such unnecessary in-
cidents as the history and internal
affairs of the white Turner fam-
ily, Nat's first masters, Nat's
brief stay with a homosexual
preacher, and lengthy, seeming-
ly interminable scenes of na-
ture. The tendency of the novel is
to be inclusive, that of tragedy to
be brief and clean; Styron chose
the former, at the sacrifice of fo-
cus and power.
Styron also chooses to over-mo-
tivate Nat in a typically twentieth
century manner. It must be
made clear that one predisposing
cause for Turner's violence was
his backed-up sex drive. But we

would
of this
barely
garet V
a white
witness
repress
gy-ride
be telli
differe:
perhap
1960's,
of Nat
Nat Tu
God is
tragedy
en by a
Styro
his dig)
ment o
side isc
prevent
ing a n
it from
greatne
irony ti
make I
time, in
masks
and tha
from b
from no
Mr.
graduati
ment of
sity of C)

This author says this,

that

author says that, and then there's
this other guy over here ... Miss
Lowe throws them all at us.
Perhaps this book can act as
"an indispensable guide for the
interested layman ... who wants
to go beyond news stories," as the
jacket blurb claims. But, even
after traversing the 600 pages of
Miss Lowe's guidance, he will be
only a short distance from where
he started.
Mr. Aiken is an M.A. candidate
in the sociology of education at
the Department of Education of
the University of Chicago.

==m........==

Important works of
Fried rich
N ietzsche-
translated and edited by
America's leading
authority on Nietzsche
Walter
Kaufmann

I

TIME'
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TI M E
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TIME TI
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his backed-up sex drive. But we sity of C

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I
I

THE WILL TO POWER

The Chicago Literary Review

Editors-in-chief . .Edward W. Hearne
Bryan R. Dunlap
Associate Editor ... David L. Aiken
Executive Editor . . David H. Richter
Managing Editor .Mary Sue Leighton
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Editorial Staff.........Jean Rudd
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Picture Credits
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Giuseppi Graffiti............7
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A new translation by -
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A wide selection from
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and offer a fascinating
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The topical arrangement en-
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nihilism, art, morality, reli-
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(Both works in one volume, ed-
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October, 1967

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