THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Saturday, July 19, 1969
Pag To TE ICIGA DIL
_ r _ _ f ,
By MARVIN FELHEIM
The Collected Stories, by Jean Stafford. Farrar, Straus
& piroux. $10.
Going Places, by Leonard Michaels. Farrar, Straus &
These 'two collections of stories offer some fascinating and
provocative Contrasts. Miss Stafford, if one may be excused the
expression, is an old pro; these 30 stories which cover a 25-year
span of writing, are her collected works to date. These are pieces
crafted for the ultimate- effects, generally irony and/or compassion.
Her masters, as she admits in an author's note, are Twain and
James, a strange team perhaps, but there are traces of both, more
especially of James; to be exact, she derives from James through
Edith Wharton and Katherine Anne Porter, for hers is a feminine
sensibility; and thus she belongs to one of the main streams of
American short story writing. It is no accident that the dust jacket
carries a drawing of her face superimposed upon pages from The
New Yorker, where many of these stories have appeared (she has,
of course, published in many other journals as well). She writes
with elegance; her collection is undoubtedly on coffee tables in-
well-furnished homes across America.
Mr. Michaels is cut of different cloth. His stories have appeared
in the more 'intellectual" journals (all Reviews: Massachusetts,
Partisan, Paris, Transatlantic, New American), Going Places is
his first collection (13 stories). The style is rough, vigorous, mas-
culine and strictly contemporary. These are not cocktail-table or
bedside works. They demand not passive absorption (or even its
more positive aspect, understanding) as much as participation;
indeed, they are best when read aloud, to an audience, preferably
small and able (as well as willinig) to get the punch. These are
urban-oriented, about people today, NOW, and riotiously funny.
Mr. Michaels is young (PH.D., Michigan, 1967), an academic (he
teaches at Berkeley), and a new breed of cat on the writing scene.
His literary ancestry goes no further back than his contemporaries.
The editors have divided Miss Stafford's stories into' four
groups; the bases are geographic and chronological.,Her most per-
sonal works are about girls, young or old, in a small town named
IAdams, Col., where there is a college and where in the summer
rich visitors come from the East. The stories explore the sad human
condition, the little cruelties of poverty, and, whether told in the
first or third person, seem autobiographical. Miss Stafford writes
about this region and these characters with compassion (the
people have none for each other) but essentially without humor,
except for a wonderful "bad" girl, Lottie Jump, who takes Emily
Vanderpool, the narrator on a nerve-wracking shoplifting expedi-
tion to the ten-cent store.
The evolution of a radical mind
By LORNA CHEROT
Communist Councilman from
Harlem, by Benjamin J. Davis.'
International Publishers, $6.95
hardcover; $2.85 paper;:
Although not a compelling or
dramatically insightful book,
Communist Councilman from
Harlem is a good-though sket-
cVy-chronicle of the evolution
of' the radical mind.
Arranged and edited from the
manuscript released after the
death of Davis, the collection of
autobiographical notes could
serve as a sufficient primer. for
the liberal mind on why he must
become a radical.
Benjamin J. Davis' daddy
was a bigwig In the Negro fac-
tion of the Georgia Republican
party, and he firmly believed
that once the Negro obtained
equal voting rights then the
problem of the coloreds would be
solved. But Ben Davis, who stu-
died law at Harvard University,
soon learned that to the com-
mon white man a nigger Is still
a nigger and to the white politi-?
cian a nigra is a nigra even if he
is an Ivy League graduate.
That tenet of Southern coun-
selor backwater life T became
manifest to Davis while serving
as a defense in the Herndon
Case. Angelo. Herndon, a 19-
year-old black communist, was
arrested on grounds of attempt--
ing to incite insurrection in vio-
lation of the Georgia Constitu-
tion, for leading a group of dis-
gruntled black and white work-
ers in an effort to collect un-
employment insurance. T h e
charge angered Davis. And even
more oppressive was the blatant
affroit to black people in the
judge s manners (nigger and
,darkey were upheld as appro-
priate terms with which to ad-
dress members of the Negro race,
because they were recognized as
white terms of affection). All
this incensed Davis, and the ver-
dict enraged hime. Davis there-
f ore became a communist.'
At this point I think some
facts concerning the publication
sof Communist Councilman from
Harlem must be revealed. The
book was published four years
after Davis' death. He suffered
a long and serious illness after
his release from Terre Haute
federal prison where he served a
five-year sentence for violation
of the Smith Act.
I remarked earlier that the
book was sketchy and could at
best serve as an elementary
piece of work. It is my opinion.
that much of the material was
suppressed by the federal gov-
ernment and Terre Haute prison
officials. Davis was under con-
stant surveillance while in pris-
on by the FBI.
The .chapter on prison life is
particularly soft pedalled. Ac-,
The Michigan Daily, edited and- man-
aged by students at, the University. of
Michigan. News phone: 764-0552- Second
Class postage paid at Ann Arbdr, Mich-
igan, 420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48104. Published daily Tues-
day through Sunday morning Univer-
sity year. Subscription rates: $9 by
carrier, $10 by mail.
Summer Session published Tuesday
through Saturday morning. Subscrip-
tion rates: $2.50 by carrier, $3.00 by
cording to Davis, accounts, as
published, the greatest evil of
prison life is extreme boredom.
Although Davis was incarcerated
in the heart of Klan territory,
adjacent to the infamous Cairo,
Ill., there is no mention of men-
tal abuse of harassment by racist
prison guards or inmates. Neith-
er is there any mention of any
type of unprovoked infliction of
corporal punishment. I find this
MARVIN FELHEIM is a pro-
fessor of English at the Uni-
LORNA CHEROT is a radical
sophomore staff member of
quite remarkable when you con-
sider the fact that Davis was
a red-not pink-black, which
amounts to an extra bad nigger.
Another element of the book
is particularly blurry. Why did
Davis join the Communist Party
as opposed to the Socialist Par-
ty? He states that he believes
political equality is not enough,
but that economic equality takes
precedence in the movement for
black liberation. Therefore, I
would assume Davis would join
the socialist party. But he cites
the communist position with re-
gard to local and national legis-
lation as his reason for joining
the Communist Party-namely
their sponsoring of the anti-
lynch act and their participa-
tion for the defense in the Hern-
don case and support for Negro
History Week in New York City.
Also, Davis expresses firm belief
in the spirit of democratic gov-
ernment. Yet nowhere is there a
chapter, a page, a paragraph,
a sentence or. a word devoted'to
the Iexplanation of his belief in
the Marxist-Leninist doctrine
of communism. This blatant
neglect too conveniently perpe-
trates an image of Davis to the
the layman reader as a member
of the "lost generation" who was
driven to his radical subversive
philosophy out of sheer frustra-
tion rather than conviction.
Throughout the patchwork'
publication on parchment there
is a basic lesson for whites in
established positions of political,
economic and social power and
their dark lackeys if they wish
to snuff out the fire that spurs
black militants and theif while
radicals allies towards libera-
The oppression of the Negro
is not accidental, nor is it the
result of some malfunctioning
of the capitalist system. On
the contrary, it is deliberate
on the part of the monopoly
capitalists who derive super-
profits from the oppression of
the Negro. The national op-
pression of the Negro is due
not to capitalism failing to
work properly but to capital-
ism working as properly and
perfectly as it can. The capi-
talists and even their most
liberal apologists avoid this
conclusion like the devil does
Yet it is this statement of Ben
Davis which I view as his trage-
dy-the tragedy of time, because
he and I are of different gen-
erations. I recognize this fact
as Davis recognized the time dif-
ference between himself and his
In the Communist science, I
learned that socialism alone
could give the Negro his full
freedom, for only under so-
cialism could he enjoy full
self-determination. Thus I be-
came an advocate of socialism,
believing that the working
class would in time provide
the revolutionary leadership
needed to attain socialism.
Fbr some reason I always
viewed the working class ' as
starving aspirants satisfied by
a token piece of golden America,
who were staunch supporters of
the status quo, rather than a-
cadre of revolutionary agitators.
Then, who is to foment the rev-
olution? . . . the arnichair in-
tellectual who objectively theo-
rizes- on every social and 'polit-
ical phenomena? . . . the four-
year crop of establishment-
bound graduates? . . the demo-
gogic swayed "everyday people?"
.. or.the young radicals, hip-
pies, yippies, white/black pan-
thers or whatever the latest
group is, who are so insistent on
doing "their thing" that the
revolution has developed a pro-,
The greatest tragedy of Ben
Davis is he became establish-
ment-not in philosophy but in
location. Davis was a member of
the New York City, Council dur-
:ng a era of Tammany Hall. He
became an advocate of change
through the electoral process.
He learned to speak political
bullshit and when he campaign-
ed before his Harlemites, he
found himself in the same awk-
ward position as the college
blcak who discovers he can no
longer rap or jam with the
brothers and sisters on the tene-
Two other categories are Boston and Manhattan. Here we read
about grown up, more or less sophisticated women, who move in
"society." They, too, have their problems: the loneliness of the
spinster, the terrible agony of maintaining one's position-vis-a-vis
neighbors or old friends, in a deteriorating marriage. in any ex-
cruciating choice (and these women seem to have many, such as
whether to give money to drunken or aged beggars or to the
church), and in the preservation and service of beauty. In these
pictures, Miss Stafford stretches her own sympathies, and ours,
frequently to the breaking point; then, the irony takes over and
we are face to face with the truth. These pitiful ladies living their
lives of quietude and despair are neatly dissected; the false notes.
the bleeding hearts are examined and the essential ambiguity of
the human situation explored.
The method throughout is dramatic juxtaposition. A spinster
("the heart of a spinster . . . is at once impoverished and prodigal,
at once unloving and lavishly soft") sees "I LOVE SOMEONE"
written in chalk on the sidewalk, but her experiences of the day
include attendance at the funeral of a friend who has committed
suicide and watching, at night, a street fight between ruffians. She
decides to live with her image, created by her friends, of someone
who once suffered a tragic love affair.
In retrospect, Miss Stafford's stories all seem as wan as her
creatures. We remember her skills, the artful creation of a quiet
but frequently a desperate world. The real problem is that her
characters too often seem to feel sorry for themselves and become
bores. They are helplessly caught in their middleclass existences,
troubled chiefly about their social roles. Reading a group of these
stories together is a depressing and saddening experience. Better
one at a time, slowly with a drink or before sleep, when one can
take time to appreciate Miss Stafford's slight but real talent.
If Miss Stafford's stories all seem to focus on woman, lonely
and sad, white, Protestant, and somehow a bit uninteresting, Mr.
Michaels' folk jump. Here are mainly couples, city-people, young
(mostly in their 20's), hung up on sex, and identity. His plots are
relatively unimportant; the disclosures which he wants occur in
the presentation of character "and events, not in the action. What
we get are impressions, frequently violent, of occurrences and
people. His is an hysterical, cliched, overpopulated world. People
are in motion, colliding, talking, talking, yelling. They rub against
each other, exacerbate each other, but they find something. And
they are never boring. They are not quiet and their desperation is
both dramatic and vigorous. They are not relaxed and like their
counterparts, in Roth, say, they do not allow the reader to rest,
Michaels has a fine ear for dialogue. Whereas in Miss Stafford's
stories girls in Colorado and matrons in Boston speak in the same
restrained voices, here all speak a shrill u'p-to-date clipped form of
Americanese, which pricks its way to the essential truth. In Going
Places, this truth is revealed without being madeiapparent by craft.
It is there all the time, under the appearance like bone under flesh.
Michaels cuts, deftly, without sentimentality, but with a scream
and a laugh, to the bone.
Several of these stories have won prizes. V. S. Pritchett selected
"The Deal" for The Quill Award. It is rpminiscent of Miss Staf-
ford's "I Love Someone." In both stories a spinster lives alone in
F a block of flats in the city, near slums. Here the girl is young. Sher
drops her glove. A Puerto Rican street tough picks it up. The en-
counter is direct: he offers to. return the glove for $10; she coun-
ters: 25 cents. They make a deal: the glove for a kiss. He follows her
into the hall of her building; the others insist too upon kisses. They
force her to the ground. One of them, called "the hat," hits her.
Eventually she escapes through the locked door to safety. The
encounter is violent, fearful, direct. The conclusion is without sen-
timentality: "The hat" asks her for "something": but she closes
the door on his voice. The fear reminds us of Emily Dickinson's
encounter with the snake. It is there, in the human condition, in the
confrontation, in the imagery of hat and glqves and keys. Miss
Stafford describes it; Mr. Michaels presents it. In effect, she tells
us how to react; he leaves us alone with the facts, which are too
violent to ignore. We are forced to think about it; Michaels' eye
and hand have opened up the situation for us. We are chilled and
we don't drift off to sleep. Reading these short stories all together
is disturbing, challenging; they are filled with the drama of life.
Sunday, July 20:
"LE CRIME DE MONSIEUR LANGE"
"WOMAN ON T HE BEACH"
ANGELL HALL, AUD. A
8& 10 P.M.
l1rcut rfa/iona nil)' en('bn urfl'dPianxsl
InI Rackham Auditorium
S ed., July 23-8:30C
(TPhird l ot u / in the Sionzmu .S r 'Q
JOSEF VON STERNBERG'S
"THE SCARLET EMPRESS"O1 P.Ml
ANGELL HALL, AUD: A
Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.
Tombeau de Couperin .
THlE UNIVERSITY MUSICAL SOCIETY
Burton Tower, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
Hours: 9:00 to 4:30. Mon. thru Fri.; Sat. 9:00 to 12:00
(Also 1 % hours before performance at Rackham Auditorium)
Order Your Daily Now--
HERE'S, THE EYE-DEAL"
BY MISS RITZ
World Campus Afloat
is a college that does more
than broaden horizons.
It sails to them and beyond.
Once again, beginning in October of 1969, the
World Campus Afloat program of Chapman
College and Associated Colleges and Universities
will take qualified students, faculty and staff
into the world laboratory.
In-port programs relevantto fully-accredited
coursework taught aboard ship add the dimension
of personal experience to formal learning.
Classes are held six days a week at sea
aboard the s.s. Ryndam which has been equipped
with classrooms, laboratories, library, student
union, dining room and dormitories.
Chapman College now is accepting applica-
tions for the'Fall and Spring semesters of the
1969-70 academic year. Fall semesters depart
New York for ports in Western Europe and the
Mediterranean, Africa and South America, ending
in;Los Anglles. Spring semesters circle the
world from Los Angeles through the Orient, India
and South Africa to New York.
For a catalog and other information, complete and
mail the coupon below.
SAFETY INFORMATION: The s.s. Ryndam,
registered in The Netherlands, meets International
Safety Standards for new ships developed in
1948 and meets 1966 fire safety requirements.
Art student Leana Leach of Long Beach
sketches ruins of once-buried city during
World Campus Afloat visit to Pompeii.
M i R R R f" i" i i" i i R i i R R i i R! f R i R i" " f i!! i i! f i i 0 i 4 R i i i R!! ! i i R R! f R i f..i f i i. i i i i R R i f R i"
O MU WORLD CAMPUS AFLOAT
Director of Admissions
Chapman College, Orange, Calif. 92666
Please send your catalog and any other facts I need to know.
July 21st through July 25th are the days to meet Joan Mont-