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November 25, 1923 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1923-11-25

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A CRITIC (Continued from Page One)
FICTIONIZES only as it calls forth our emotions-
they are the mediums of transfer from
DON JUAN, by Ludwig Lewisohn. this world to that. The meaning of
Boni & Liveright, 1923. $2.00. this evil is as incomprehensible to us
The only chance this book has for as the idea of the universal and lse-
just criticism is at the hands of such cause the road to it is full of terrible
youngsters as me. The professional dangers we avoid it.
critis in their Jesuitical, log rolling We have childish ideas of evil, th
way will insist that it is good liters-. products of our limited experience.
tre, or keep silent on that point, be- We picture the devil as a snarling.
cause they, perhaps, have a novel brawling, savage beast and are natur-
under the mattress. ally horrified to see him as perhaps
The initial assumption that all a co-god. We cannot know pure evil
books not textbooks nor detective any more than we can know pure good
stories are literature is, of course, and our misfortune is to flee from the
false. More eminent men than I have one and by doing so miss the other.
remarked on that; and such is the neither good nor evil are human so 1
case of Mr. Lewisohn's "an Juan." would be justified in calling them the
. it holds no claim to literature. same thing expressed differently. We
Now this appeals to me as not be-.. recoil at the sight of evil because it is
Ing the fault of Mr. Lewisohn so much an unaccustomed sight. Beardsley was
as it is the effect of his training. That broader in his view.
is, he probably had no deliberate in- Beardsley's art is dedecadent art.
tention to compose a precis of his at- it calls to mind the splendor of an
titude generally toward life or par- empire before its fall. The gorgeous
titularly toward marriage. Yet that dress, the perfect elegance of figure,
is what he does. the mavelouslustre and sparkle of a
To be sure, it is inevitable that a highly cultlygted group searching for
writer should imply his philosophy in. a new ideal are suggested. But the
whatever he writes; butcustom has lt ideal sought is one that wrecks and
that in literature this statement destroys mere humans, an ideal that
should be implicit. In "Don Juan" paints a sardonic smile on the death
the statement is explicit, head. The fire has been carefully laid
The situation Mr. Lewisohn choses and flames for a brief, powerful,
is legitimate enough. Lucien Curtis cleansing moment but the air dissi-
is to wed to a woman for whom he pates the spirit that would soar and
has ceased -to feel and affection. Meet, flattens the ideal to cold, grey ashes.
ing a woman in whom he finds a re- With Beardsley it is as If the fire had
sponsive note, he seeks divorce as a produced instead of reduced, as though
solution to his problem. His wife the flame had blazed in a vacuum.
blocks this action on the grounds of The result of such a thing can only
tois.venTlohal goodness,-the "home" be suggested In human form but the
nust be preserved. OAtworR social suggestion is heightened by inhumat
forms are sunraoned as her shadowy forms whose grotesque and stgrtling
but e tient' alies. Prohibited from features have a 'horrible charm, the
the. san 'he wants and unsatised charm of the snake's eye.
with other women, Luoien finds pro- A P
mise .of en te philosophic con- Letne me ow-you a fewof Beards.
tempiatioa of his soul in tradition- ley's rawings, two or.three of those
shattered, post-war Europe. that have moved me most powerfuly,
A Don Juan by the inexorable ac- My translation .of them to wards will
tion of estom and tradition; caught be woefnlly inadequate but perhaps
in The luo of zsafety and woven into I can suggest the emotions they give
the web againsat iis instincts and rea- me. Ose of them is before me now.
soothat is. si case. Ake many of Beardasleys it Ias re-
"be art of le story-teller in this soved Itselfianto a desisgn that has
book ile aot in ,the *eople who em- neither time arsr lace. 'Is very con-
body the ideas, but in the presenta- c'ptlion is unreal. First you see a
tibnof the sidess lthemselves. Mr. Lew- ysag nan in a long, Sawing robes.
olaso Is a critc by training and pro- His eyes are narrowed, his eyebrows
fession; his faculty is the critical perlexed, and he is listening to a
faoulty-he can.dono other than what bodiless head that hovers near him.
he -does, and what he does is not lit- It is a head with white hair and some-
erature. itt is what has been well-j thing infinitely old in its youthful
cslled the thesis novel as such it Is face. A slightly inocking smie
capably banlel 1et foliage .of uno tonches its lips and its eyes triumph-
ncessary plot and character has atly but warefally watch the young
ruthlessly been .pruned away, leaving man. The slim graceful candles fixed
only the tragic and remorsless logic in fantastically beautiful holders, their
of the situation to work Uaeh out.- smoky tlanes wavering In the slight
Cast in the form of literature as itbreeze, stand in the center. Back i
is "eiDon Juan" stands as a dangerous the head rises the slim, sparkling ig
document. 't wi1l command a wider ure Of a *eoman. She is stiffened as
attention than tracts or plpitpoad- if by sheer force of will, she seems to
ing, and its attitude is rebellious. Mr, he on :the .very edge of twisting intc
Iawisohn is a true rebelt and he ap-t a snarling, writhing demon. She rises
peals to the young ,men and women palet and erect .held by a diabolic
of the land boause he is aan idealist power that glitters in her eyes. She
(a notorious conditiun..of youth.) makes the candles colorless and cold
-Se preaches the integrity of 'the the darkness damp and poisonous. The
soul, a sufficienty innocuous doc- fantastic beauty of the scene fades
trine in the abstract, but when con- before her strange splendor. There Is
sidered in the- context of a practical a fascinating horror, a lurking fear
institution like marriage and its in this picture, a horror and a fear
amendment, divorce, it is thoroughly that pure beauty lifs into an all-pow.
dangerous. The soul in its straight- erful 'and incomprehensible world.
forward flight toward the bright lamp iThe beauty rises in the splendor ofa
of the ideal Is likely to tip over mysterious creation.
or severely joggle the law and order And here is another drawing, one
of the land. Therefore 'Mr. Lewisohn, for Oscar Wild's "Salome," a fittin
as a teacher of youth, is subversive ground for Beardsley's genius to start
to the moral structure of the time and its flight from. It is of a woman, this
hence Is eligible for suppression and drawing, of a woman in a long, black
other machinations of Comtockery. robe, fronwhich her arms and neck
Jno: Panurge I stretch in white sharpness. Before
her rises a fuzzy, black growth sur-one yabsiadloiglk

40 mounted by a ,basin and looking like
a toad-stool in a dark, wet cavern.
On the basin is a man's head, the
mouth open, the hair in tangled con
ffusion, and :from it blood drips in a
coagulated black-red §tream. There
is a wild stare in the eyes of the wo-

man a stare like triumph fading into should like to have you see. The beau-
madness the madness of a victory thaf tful, white body of a girl is twisted
was eternal defeat. The drooping in the sensuous curve of an eastern
features of the severed head are an
unholy travesty on life. A greater
crime than has ever been committed tennae of the butterfly, spring from
has reached its consummation and her heair and seem to sway slightly
we are carried to the very brink o as the body continues its slow move-
the result. The gaping head, the hor- I oment. She is lightly and gracefully
ror on the woman's face, express a draped and there is a hot, fleshy sug-
greater tragedy than the flesh -has gestion about her that her slanted
ever known. "The Dancer's Reward!" eyes suddenly arrest. Those eyes make
Here is still another drawing I you conscious of something else in
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