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February 13, 1967 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1967-02-13
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The Transce:::idental Fox Fur

A Look Beneath Beards

The Woman with the Little Fox, by
Violette Leduc, translated by Derek
Coltman. Farrar, Strauss, and G-
roux, Inc. $4.95.
Violette Leduc is not the French
equivalent of Virginia Woolf, yet
The Woman with the Little Fox
seems to be a revisitation of the
martvred ghost herself. After a thir-
tv year lapse, since the technique
for exressinv profusion of sensa-
tions was "originated," Leduc has
plunged deeper and ranged wider
than Woolf was capable of doing.
Leduc's sensuous vision of the inex-
plicable insanity of consciousness
expresses all the freshness of terror
and ecstasy which Dr. Leary claims
to be the domain of psychedelic ex-
perience. For those of us off drugs,
reading Leduc at one sitting is rath-
er like an all-day drunk.
Leduc does not seem to share
Woolf's esoteric concerns with in-
tellectuality, with good and bad
taste. The Leduc quality of dreams
and fevers suggests surrealism,
rather than Woolf's impressionism
(if one must make artistic parallels).
Most obviously, Leduc's is an ex-
pansive world of uncompromising
emotion communicating with every
ecstatic and eerie flicker of con-
sciousness. Her attempt to express
the inexpressible has none of
Woolf's occasional clumsiness in the
flow of poetry. Little of the desire
to impress us with innovation is evi-
dent in Leduc's three novellas. And
although one could say that Leduc's
technique is borrowed illegitimately
from her mentor, it must be noted
that stream of consciousness re-
auires, more than a studied tech-
nique, a peculiar concentrated ori-
entation toward all of life which
cannot be reproduced unnaturally.
The war-shattered world to which
Woolf responded is still with us, al-
though doubts have settled deeper.
Particularly because we now have a
name, Nihilism, for our twentieth-
century phenomenon, it would be
difficult to judge Leduc's book
from any moral standpoint. To draw
philosophical statements from Led-
uc's fantastic world would be to
twist her intention. She is simply af-
firming the wealth of individual ex-
perience - which, even more than
for Woolf, takes on the intensity of
art - in the face of the surround-
ing dominance of a brutal, materi-
alistic age. In this sense, Leduc is
most compassionate in her human
capacity for understanding what
makes life rich and what ravages
that richness.
Whether the immediate can also
we the substantial is a problem to
which both Woolf and Leduc ad-
dress, their creations of myriad
poetic impressions. Both affirm the
importance of trivialities: in Jacob's
Room Woolf perceived that "it's not
catastrophies, murders, deaths, dis-
eases that age and kill us; it's the
way people look and laugh and run
up the steps of omnibuses." Even
though they may kill us, without

the flux of sensations we become
bored, our sensibilities are sterile
rooms. Leduc's characters escape
the boredom of their mundane
country existence by keeping their
eyes "wide open as a clearing in a
forest." Thus a farmhand is de-
scribed as "intent on pulling the
teeth of a danger that never came."
Her beggar with the precious little
ragamuffin fox fur was
sick to death of all those silent
bandstands in the parks . . . she
would hurl herself upon the photos
outside the, movie houses and soak
up some of the drama put out on
Trying to outrace time - the night-
mare with which modern poetry
seems to be obsessed - the old

the Dead Man" is a tenderly
wrought love story, opulent with na-
ture imagery. The grisly concluding
passage, set in a dim abandoned
cafe, suggest the surrealism which
typifies Leduc:
The dead man lying stretched out
on his back was flying away from
her now at dizzying speed; the
statues were moving together into
groups, marble hands were joining,
alabaster brows were meeting,
gray stone necks accustomed to the
bold light of the dawn. were bend-
ing as the stone heads all fell to-
gether: the statues were leaving
their gardens and their museums
empty for the dead man. And the
silence afterwards was the memory
left for Clarisse.
The second experience, a longer
novella than the other two, gives us

poverty-ravaged mind of an old beg-
gar who is tenderly in love with a
castoff fox pelt found in a garbage
heap in the alleys of Paris. Like the
others, but particularly because she
is starving, she "melts into (her) ec-
stasies as though they were jams."
There are several problems in-
herent in stream-of-consciousness
writing. All-inclusiveness can be-
come chaos; insanity can get out of
hand. But Leduc fortunately-is not
the passive feverish patient of many
griefs. She is actively creating with
the guiding intelligence that is re-
quired for any work of art. Some
may attribute her special artistic
power to the pervading myth of the
mad artist: indeed, her characters
progress towards insanity. The
touch of the macabre, dutifully pre-
sent in almost every work dealing
with the terrifying shapes of self,
seems to reinforce neurosis as a
source of poetic insight for Leduc.
But a work of artistic beauty must
represent the artist in his whole-
ness. It is true that "only an aching
heart / conceives a changeless work
of art," but the mind and sensibility
of the artist must have healed suffi-
ciently to understand the meaning
of painful exerience - and Leduc
is very much the master of her ex-
Half-statement arouses the imagi-
nation; saturation of detail tends to
shrivel it. The paradoxical effect of
stream of consciousness a la Leduc
is that statement of detail is not a
dead-end street. Life is an infinite
number of combinations in her
woozy kaleidoscoic vision. It defies
capture or parahrase.
The important thing, Weiss's
Jean-Paul Marat has warned us, is
to "pull yourself up by your own
hair / To turn yourself inside out
and see the whole world with fresh
eyes." Less traumatically than Mar-
at/Sade, The Woman with the Lit-
tle Fox also asks us to give birth to
ourselves. More obscurly than Vir-
ginia Woolf, and with a far richer
store of sensuous experience, Vi-
olette Leduc reminds us that hu-
manity and insanity are as intimate
as a rhymed couplet,-and that life
and death are "two maniacs locked
in a well-matched struggle." But
against this absurdity is the fresh-
ness of Leduc's naive child-adult
magic in meeting the terribleness of
isolation with poetic fantasies. Led-
uc is deeply involved in her revela-
tions. Speaking of the old woman:
"A day would dawn. The earth
would be all ashes and ganing
burns, and she would smile the
smile of an accomplice who had
known all along." Leduc knows. and
it is sometimes a painful smile: but
to her martyrs, a small blessing:
"wretchedness was also a tender-
ness, and resignation is not the
same as oblivion."
Sally Janson
Miss Janson is a fourth-year student
majoring in English at Valparaiso Uni-

(continued from page seven)
Democratic Society, having worked
as a full-time activist with the group
in 1962.
While clearly sympathetic with
the current crop of SDSers, SNCC
workers and others, Newfield is
able to stand aside a bit, noting
both the virtues and the limitations
of each species in the New Left or-
The distance between the observ-
er and observed is never great
enough to obscure Newfield's own
background. For instance, when
discussing the current "hangup"
of SNCC with the public misunder-
standings arising from the black
power program, Newfield is the
white Northern liberal, sympathe-
tic but skeptical. "It is a joyless
desperation that fuels SNCC's gam-
ble with black nationalism today,"
he writes, contrasting the recent
self-examination of SNCC leder-
ship with the feelings of hope and
F"ar during the 1964 Freedom
I','mmer. He can pinpoint the rea-
-nns for the new policy, but he
questions its future.
Likewise, Newfield analyzes the
differences between the more or
less non-ideological, free-wheeling
and action-oriented SDS members,
and the ideologies of the "heredi-
tary left," which follows old lines
laid down in the thirties.
The ways in which the "heredi-
tary left," such as Progressive Labor,
differs from the mainstream of the
"New Left" are many. Newfield first
noints out d i f fe r e n c e s in
ideology-PL's belief in violence as
a way to bring on the revolution,
and its strict adherence to Marxist-
Leninist dogma. rejecting the here-
ticism and revisionism of Trot-
skyites the New Left, and even the
Communists (who are old fogies
The difference of "atmosphere"
is even more revealing than that of
ideology. Newfield contrasts the
"i n f o r m a 1, communitarian and
warm" atmosphere of SDS with that
of the PL, whose members "spend
considerable time in 'secret meet-
ings,' disappearing 'underground,'
infiltrating the Communist Party,
dodging FBI agents, and changing
their names...."
Newfield's scorn for DuBois club
members is even sharper. He as-
serts that they are not only "knee-
erk Marxists," but 1934-vintage
knee-jerkers. "DuBois Clubs (are)
an anachronism today, pro-labor,
pro-Russia, and pro-Democratic
party at a time when the New Radi-
cals consider all three conservative,
worn out, and hierarchies out of
touch with the people."
Not only the young inheritors,
but the over-thirty donors of the
legacy of "outworn radicalism" also
come into Newfield's New Left line
of fire. He dismisses a number of
liberals, old-time socialists and for-
mer radicals turned reactionaries
by placing them into convenient

categories and discussing the views
he attributes to each category.
Thus, Sidney Hook and Lewis
Feuer are "ex-radicals, now pro-
Cold War liberals;" Irving Howe
and Bayard Rustin are said to share
many objectives with today's stu-
dents, but have carried on a ranco-
rous debate with them based more
on style and tone than substance.
Of course, there are those who
are close to the New Left, such as
Staughton Lynd of the "Romantic
Left," and I. F. Stone and his fellow
"Humanist Liberals." These are
treated more sympathetically.
While the categories may be
slightly restrictive and oversimpli-
fied, Newfield's discussion of the is-
sues on which each segment of the
Old Left differs and agrees with the
New Left conveys a mine of infor-
mation in a few well-chosen verbal
Newfield's personal acquaintance
with SNCC and SDS people enables
him to present deftly brushed mini-
atures. which are extraordinarily
helpful in assessing just what kinds
of neople are in the New Left bag.
Stokely Carmichael, for instance,
was for a time caught between his
schoolmates at the highly selective
Bronx High School of Science, and
playmates in Harlem, who consid-
ered him a "faggot" for messing
around with books so much. His
sensitivity to the "two-ness" of
being both American and Negro led
Carmichael first to largely Negro
Howard University in Washington
to study philosophy, then gradually
into "pilgrimages to the South," fi-
nally to the 1964 Summer Project.
Such personal descriptions of a
few of the leading actors in New
Left groups provide sharp insights
into the movement. Frequently,
however, clumps of characters who
play smaller roles in Newfield's
scenessareedismissed with labels
that are disturbingly reminiscent of
Time-style-"ideological and Puri-
tanical Steve Max" of SDS; Jake Ro-
sen of Progressive Labor, remem-
bered as "trying to sell Communism
like a door-to-door salesman, cheer-
fully and aggressively."
It is Newfield's practice of set-
ting scenes and characterizing the
actors that is perhaps most valu-
able. In recounting the efforts to
organize Negroes in one of the most
violent of the redneck, red-clay Mis-
sissippi counties, for example, New-
field both gives a taste of the condi-
tions, and looks into the feelings
and motives of the people in his sto-
ry. Much of his tale is told in the
actors' own words, adding to the in-
sight afforded.
For a valuable view of the people
and issues of the "New Left," New-
field's book is a fine piece of per-
ceptive journalism.

. ,,
. ;, ;
. ;
_ ,



e.Ou r A

s sea4O
dvertisi 1


By JEROME AGEL, Editor of a
Every month we put out a lively news-
paper for the literate reader with a
sense of humor. In spite of our
agency, we're a roaring success.
We cover What's Happening. Who's
Happening. Underground. Over-
ground. Long before anyone els:,
We call ourselves "BOOKS." Our
readers call us other things. Like,
"BOOKS the damn thing I can't put
down until I have read everything in
it-twice." "BOOKS my sophisticated
LSD cube." "BOOKS the funniest,
hippest thing I've ever read." "BOOKS
my monthly brunch coat."
While reviewers are praising for the
umpteenth time the diary of a Swiss
private and the history of glass 6,
sign, we're reporting what's hanp..-
ing, what's really happening, baby.
Our theory is that books, authors,
films, viable ideas-people-aren't as
dusllas others make them out to be.
Highlights from our monthly psy-
- daho's 1omOSCXU :andals "The Bw-i
of Boise."
-The real message of Barbara Garson's
"MacBird": "Don't jump on the RFK band-
-Marshall McLuhan: "Art is anything
you can get away with."'y
-Tom Wolfe, why do you dress that way?
Tom Wolfe, why do you dress that way?
Tom Wolfe, why do you dress that way?
-For Hotch the Belle Tlolls.
-"Best Minds in Medicine Are Taking
Care of Rabbits."
-Deane Dixon, the seer: "Governor Wal-
lace would make a good President."
-The new journalist is replacing the old
-One of Truman Capote's "In Cold
Blood" killers, Perry Smith, sounds like-
well; like Holden Caulfield: "She was trying
hard to act casual and friendly. I really liked

her. She
S.o mcthi
that kir
for ~Co
of our
ser vice
the mi
so goof
i a t
can yc
enou g
want t
pon to
598 N
One ye
Two ye


woman walks back and forth in
front of the packing case where she
keeps her "angel," "Because she
wanted the fringes of her shawl to
brush from time to time against
what was awaiting her. against what
she was waiting for. Hope: the op-
posite of death."
Leduc's characters are isolated
from normal human relationshins
and so build fantastic dream worlds
above their no-nonsense country
surroundings. The first character is
a lonely spinster, owner of a cafe
and general store, whose life-long
waiting is finally satisfied when a
dead man arrives one evening on
her doorstep. "The Old Maid and

Clotilde, a willful, dreamy-eyed girl
who lives on her secret tragic love
for a pale boy of fifteen. More suc-
cessfully than with people, Clotilde
relates to copper pots, whiffs of
dust, velvetduckweed, oak tree
roots-her perpetual worship of
natural sensations is also Leduc's
childlike reverence. Clotilde's reli-
gion confuses reality with illusion.
She relates the death of her little
brother to the church in a way re-
miniscent of the first novella: "He
was pretending to be dead, but he
would come out of it. The statues in
the church would give him a help-
ing hand."
The third novella, for which 'the
novel is named, plunges us into the


The Ameri<
The Journa
Journal of ]
The Journa
Modern Ph
The Social


David L. Aiken

Mr, Aiken is a first-year graduate stu-
dent in the department of education at
The University of Chicago.

February, 1967, - M I D W E S T L I T


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