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February 05, 1972 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1972-02-05

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Saturday; February S, 1972

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Five

Saturday, February 5, 1 972 THE MiCHIGAN DAILY Page hive

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Maya kos ky:

Painting One's

Wiktor Woroszylski, THE
L I F E OF MAYAKOVSKY,
Grossman, 1971, $15.00
By RON VROON
The Life of Mayakovsky, both
in capitals and in lower case, is
a study in energy and enigma.
His name is as household a word
in the Soviet Union as Agnew is
in America. Outside his Rus-
sia he is perhaps the best
known poet of the Soviet era: at
least three volumes of his poetry
have been published in English
translation. His poetry was
praised by Boris Pasternak and
by Joseph Stalin. The latter's
brief pronouncement ("Maya-
kovsky was and remains the
most talented poet of dur Soviet
epoch; indifference to his mem-
ory and to his work is a crime")
had the effect of instantly freez-
ing Mayakovsky in the block of
Russian literary tradition. Sta-
tues of him can be seen every-
where in the Soviet Union today.
Mayakovsky's life was de-
signed to be biographed.
Throughout his life he made a
concerted effort to be noticed,
and he almost invariably achiev-
ed his goal. By the age of twelve
he had already participated in
a demonstration protesting the
death of Bolshevik; at the age
of thirteen he was a member of
the Party, at fourteen he was
first detained by the police for
distributing Bolshevik propa-
ganda. Until the October revolu-
tion he was constantly in trou-
ble with the police. During one
particularly crucial e 1 e v e n
month stint in prison he claims
to have read "all th? classics"
and decided that he could do
better.
But politics was perhans the
least important source of pub-
licity during his lifetime. He
met David Burljuk, a young
painter and literary propa-
gandist, while both were enrolled
in the Training College of
Painting and Fine Arts. It was
after some excruciating party
that one of the more interest-
ing encounters in Russian lit-
erary history took place. Maya-
kovsky pulled out a poem and

read it to Burijuk as "the work
of a friend." Burljak immediate-
ly saw past the deception, called
Mayakovsky a liar and a genius,
and demanded to -see more
poems. Later Burijuk admitted
that he hadn't been all that im-
pressed, but thought that the
poem showed promise, and that
calling Mayakovsky 'a genius
would frighten the poet into
that role.

and in its employ he praised
the proletariat, painted posters,
and made up jingles to accom-
pany them, describing every-
thing from the benfits of elec-
trification to the loathsomeness
of spitting in the streets. At the
same time he was lyrically and
emotionally involved with one
Lila Brik, wife of Osip, a bril-
liant critic and publisher. He
had met her before the revolu-

ing the revolution were filled
with artistic ferment and of-
ficial fury. True freedom span-
ned a . period of perhaps five
years, during which Mayakovsky
continued to write, to work in
the cinema and theatre, and to
read his poetry. From 1919 to
1922 he worked for ROSTA, the
Russion T e 1 e g r a p h Agency,
painting more posters and writ-
ing diatribes in rhyme. It was
also during this period that his
first major play, M y s t e r y
Bouffe, was produced under
Meyerhold's direction. Later he
was to see his oiner two plays,
The Bedburg and The Bath-
house produced with the same
care under Meyerhold, but re-
ceived a good deal less sym-
pathy.
He made several trips abroad,
mostly to Paris, once to America.
He was a great lover of tech-
nology, and New York im-
pressed him with its skyscrap-
ers, automobiles and redundant
use of light. One of his best
works of this period is an ode
to Brooklyn Bridge. He also
visited Detroit and the Ford
plants here, and was appalled at
the lack of revolutionary senti-
ments among the workers. Their
major problems seemed to cen-
ter around the absence of spit-
toons. "In Detroit," wrote Maya-
kovsky, "there is the greatest
number of divorces. The Ford
system makes the workers im-
potent."
In the course of the twenties
Mayakovsky encountered more
and more opposition to his po-
etry and to his futurism. In 1923
he founded a new journal which
was to take over the functions
of earlier Futurist journals and
become the leading medium for
avant-garde works. The first
issue, published in 1923. con-
tained works by Kamensky, Pas-
ternak, Brik, Khlebnikov, and

Facef
others. The magazine folded
after seven issues, ostensibly for
financial reasons, but more like-
ly because of internal dissen-
sion and outward pressure. Less
and less individualism was be-
ing tolerated in the arts.
By 1930 it had virtually died.
Mayakovsky realized this when-
ever he read his poetry. The
voices of the hecklers were ug-
lier, the lack of appreciation
more obvious than ever before.
His last play, The Bathhouse,
was severely criticized in the
press and badly received by the
public. On April 14 he commit-
ted suicide.
The Life of Mayakovsky is the
first full length biography trans-
lated into English. Wiktor
Woroszylski spent five years in-
side the dustieckets of Soviet
Archives collecting material for
this book. In a very real sense
he is not the author, but the
editor of Mayakovsky's life. The
book consists of hundreds of
excerpts from newspaper ar-
ticles, police reports, memoirs,
letters, and speeches, collated
and arranged chronolozically.
The result is a documentary in
the truest sense of the word, a
life as seen through the eyes of
M a y a k o v s k y ' s contem-
poraries. replete with all the er-
rors, gossip, inconsistencies and
realism of a newspaper report.
It is perhaps the most accurate
type of biography that can be
written. For the space of the
book we become contemporaries
of Mayakovsky, reading about
his arrogance, his poetry, his
notorious yellowhjacket. and his
travels as though he were living
in the same city and surrounded
by reporters.
Perhaps the most impressive
thing about this format is the
fact that the author refuses to
allow himself the selfish pleas-
ure of reconstruction. He leaves
it completely up to his report-
ers. Nor does ,he allow the re-
ports to continue beyond the
death of the poet. We hear the
final shot and, in accordance
with supreme art of objective
journalism, areanot allowed to
Stopping daily
internal feminine
odor is easy:
just think
of Norforms asel
a tiny tampon
that dissolves.

Mayako vsky and Vsevelod Me yerhold

Futurism probably did as
much for Mayakovsky as Maya-
kovsky for for futurism. What
other literary movement could
give one of the world's great
extroverts the chance to recite
poetic manifestos on a public
bridge, to outrage a bourgeois
audience by painting his face
and wearing a wooden spoon in
his lapel, to travel through the
provinces of Russia declaiming
poetry and insulting the poor
provincials - and all in the
company of other painters, poets
and "wits?"
In his prerevolutionary poetry
Mayakovsky complained in hor-
rifying images of his lonliness
and the malignant god with
whom he had to contend. He
found his true god and respite
from lonliness in the revolu-
tion. He became its spokesman,

tion and remained enamoured of
her until his death. The lovely
amorality of the times is beau-
tifully captured in Lila Brik's
memoirs: "Osip was my first
husband. In the high school
which I attended. Osip was in
charge of a political economics
circle. We got married in 1912.
When I told him that Maya-
kovsky and I had fallen in love
with each other. all three of us
decided never to part from one
another."
The years immediately follow-

Vladmir Mayak.oisky
see the poet fall to his death: restored the time when he
rather, we see the reporter Ver- called himself the beautiful
onica Polonskaya, collapsing twenty-two-year-old, because
outside his door. The last report death had stiffened the facial
is Pasternak's: expression, which hardly ever
He was lying on his side, gets into his clutches. It" was
face to the wall, stern, big, the expression with which one
under the sheet reaching up to begins life, not the one to end
his chin, with his mouth half it - --
open, as if asleep. His face Full stop.

Evil Adventures

Better Way of Building

Lionel Brett, ARCHITEC-
TURE IN A CROWDED
WORLD, Schocken, $6.50.
By THOMAS H. LOGAN
"Ecology" these days is not
so much a scientific concept of
the world as it is an emotional
almost religious - attitude to-
ward the world. This attitude
is attractively conveyed in Lionel
Brett's small book on planning
and architecture. As with a suc-
cessful piece of building art, his
book is a statement with a sense
of structure, an argument whose
point can be felt more easily
than it can be repeated. The ele-
ments of the structure all lend

of the now pervasive belief in
the architectural and planning
profession: "Townscape and
landscape were a process, not a
product: time, not technics, wag
its master parameter."
By way of introduction, the
author points out the growing
recognition that human needs,
economics, and the earth's re-
sources are basic parameters in
building and planning, and that
they may not be suppressed by
the desire to impose a strong
image of form on buildings.
These parameters are the basic
reality in the planning process.
Yet visions of form are shown
to have an often unadmitted
strength. This is a second ingre-

living systems, too rich and
complex for easy imposition of
controlling form. Along the way,
however, ever larger scales of
urban patterning have come
about: land use segregation on
a large scale, regional develop-
ment programs (TVA), express
highway systems. Both the com-
plexity of human interaction
and the scale of development are
inevitable parts of our under-
standing of the world.
Finally, the awareness of
waste on a scale matching that
of development, is a part of the
contemporary outlook. While
Brett makes some popular un-
supported assumptions about
which actions will be disastrous
to natural and human ecology,
his discussion suggests a calm
and balanced approach to plan-
ning with ecological values in
mind. He declares himself in fa-
yor of dynamism, counseling an
attitude which seeks to make
change consonant with the val-
ues of world survival.
In order to do this, more care
must be exercised in evaluating
our state of knowledge about the
ecological relationships among
mankind. his technology and his
natural environment. The ques-
tion of saving prime agricultur-
al land, for example, cannot be
settled with Brett's simple state-
ment, that it is criminal to build
on it. Population growth may
not be eternal, technology is
certainly not static, very little
development is irreversible; all
these factors should be consid-
ered together with the dynam-
ics of urban growth in planning
before deciding that every farm
is a holy spot.
And the Mid-Town Manhat-
tan mental health study cited by
Brett to show that high density
living is disastrous also showed
that the population studied
heavily represented social climb-
ers subject to great emotional
stress. And the finding of a high
rate of mental problems reminds
one of the works of Szasz, Hal-
leck and Laing which question
the political motives of psyphia-
trists who diagnose some people's
mental states as "illness," while
others are considered "normal."
Patronizing statements like the
following are not evidence to be
used in assessing difficult ques-
tions about quality environment:
"No one should be deceived by
the neat and smiling Chinese
and their highly artificial econ-
omies into supposing that any-
thing but a social disaster can
sooner or later ensue from such
(Hong Kong and Singapore) liv-
ing conditions."
This shortcoming of Brett's
seems to be a final aspect of the
dnminant world-view he de-

Bruce Lowery, WEREWOLF,
Vanguard, $5.95,
By MARCIA ABRAMSON
When a promising young writer
comes up with a bad second
novel, it usually is published
anyway. Once a novelist has pro-
duced one success, there's al-
ways a fair chance that the
writer will do it again, and pub-
lishing houses don't want to let
any potential big ones get away.
That explains the publication-
not particularly heralded - of
Bruce Lowery's second novel,
Werewolf, subtitled, somewhat
unexpectedly, "A Novel of Fra-
ternal Attachment." Lowery's
first novel, Scarred, won the
Prix de Rivarol and some criti-
cal praise for the author, an
expatriate so attached to French
Today's Writers .
RON VROON, a graduate
student in Russian Literature,
fond of fenugreek and tea.
THOMAS LOGAN is an As-
sistant Professor of U r b a n
Planning at the University of
Wisconsin.
M A R C I A ABRAMSON, a
graduate student in compara-
tive literature, writes frequently
for the Daily.
culture that he writes in French
and then translates back. Were-
wolf, however, should win neither
prizes nor praises. There are
occasional passages of lyric in-
tensity, especially in descriptions
of the Colorado landscape, and
occasional flashes of insight into
adolescence and its crises, but
they are not enough.
Children, especially brothers
and sisters. may be notorious
for cruelty (so much that adole-
scent evil is practically a cliche
of modern fiction), but the four-
teen year old protagonist of
Werewolf goes too far. He is
not merely misunderstood and
miserable like any other adole-
scent; he is about as sick as they
FREE wisperson
~ NEW
TESTA-
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in English,
Yiddish,
Other literature or Hebrew
available. For
more information,
write:
CHRISTIAN P.O. Box 1048,
INFORMATION Rochester, N.Y.
SERVICE (Baptist) 14603

come. His evil is neither im-
mense and fascinating nor hu-
man and sympathetic; instead,
he is repellent. In the course of
a few months, he tortures his
brother, nearly kills his father,
torments myriad animals, and
finally tries suicide.
Darrick's excuses are the bru-
tality of his father and, more
important, his own personal
demon, the Gwint, described in
Lovecraftian, l a n g u a g e. This
beast represents the boy's con-
sciousness of evil, ever-present,
unconquerable. He must learn to
accept and fight the evil in him-
self, and his dull, petty, often
violent parents offer no example
,to follow. As a result, the boy
revels in evil-until, unexpected-
ly. he is converted by the last
minute apparition of a kindly.
all-knowing Marcus Welby who
loans him books and miraculous-
ly channels his little mind into
the glorious satisfaction of a
medical career. Though it is only
partial, the conversion, like most
of the novel, is unconvincing.
Some of this is due to bad
dialogue, lines like, "My brother
George was a; sissy and a weak-
ling, shirked his duty during the
war," or "Her breast had never
known a sob." The characteri-
zations suffer from the language,
and they are not very strong.
Perhaps the narrative could have
been a decent short story of
adolescence, from one boy's
point of view, but the novel
drags. I can only wish better
luck next time to all concerned.
For the Student Body:
SALE
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I Mail to MUSKET, Michigan Union,
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
(Please enclose a self-addressed
stamped envelope).
Name __Phone
Address - --- -
DATE PRICE No. of Tickets Amt.
Wednesday, Feb. 23 8 p.m. $3.00 -----
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* w Iww

to its integrity and stability: the
end result can no better be
summed up by saying it is an
argument for ecology than
Chartres can be summed up by
naming it "cathedral."
This is so because Brett is
showing a basic attitude or in-
tellectual stance which goes be-
yond simple statement and elab-
oration. To communicate a
Weltanschauung requires an
evocative, somewhat involuted
commentary. Brett gives rich-
ness to his by building on a re-
view and critique of the "mod-
ern" movement in architecture.
The critique gives a sense of
how today's attitudes are tied
to the development of the mod-

-Photo by Willard Conrow
dient of the contemporary atti-
tude, one which must be kept
under control. The "iconoclasts"
of the modern movement tried
to destroy the old architectural
images. and thought they were
destroying the need for images
as well. In their own romance
with the machine 'age, they
adopted the clean, strong im-
ages of machine technology for
their own, simply replacing the
catalog of historical styles with
them.
Brett credits the production
techniques of the Second World
War with promoting the work-
ing style of pragmatic team-
work in building. This has be-
come a mode of operation which

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