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February 02, 1936 - Image 6

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1936-02-02

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?AGIC SEK

IlHE MICHIGAN DAILY

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1936

'IN THE WORLD OF BOOKS

BELL
Ma
TH
CL
Fri
Ac
of th

Soviet Book s umerous Authors
)MOR, with an introduction by they are so different that comparison is written by 34 authors, whose mostly
xim Gorky (Smith & Haas); is impossible. unpronouncable names are given op-
E CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE There is, first, Belomor, which is a posite the title page. This is the first
ASS, by Lewis Corey (Covici- Soviet product in every sense of the of the Soviet's jointly written books
ede.) word. It is the story of the canal to be published in the United States
ouple of books from the left side built by prison labor, between the and deserves a place on the shelves
e house are up for remarks. But White sea and the Baltic. The book of anybody interested in literary cu-

riosities regardless of its merit, whichR
The canal has been a dream among
Russians for a century. Stalin isA
credited with making the dream come
true by incorporating it in his second STUDS LONIGAN, A Trilogy by
five-year plan, and by turning over James T. Farrell. Vanguard Press.
supervision to the GPU. The work $3.00.
was "laid out" in 1931, and completed By ARTHUR A. MILLER
.n 2When Zaharoff was speeding over
in 20 months. Prisoners did the workI the face of Europe in a cool effort to
and according to Belomor the work sell guns, -- when the Czar was madly

-77
.fir l:E.:

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did more for the prisoners than the{
latter did for the canal. It seems
that digging the canal "reforged" the
prisoners, and numerous touching
stories are included to prove the
point.
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dispatching Cossacks throughout
Russia in a frantic effort to root
out rebellion, - when the peoples of
the world were lined up against the
wall,-Studs Lonigan was a boy
wondering whether to walk into his
father's living room with a cigarette
in his mouth.
These were the days Studs Lonigan
thought back upon as he lay, much
too old for his thirty years, on the
bed in his father's house, dying from
a recurrence of pneumonia, the dis-
ease he had contracted when his
"pals" neglected to lift him from a
puddle of water next to the curb-
stone one hilarious and alcoholic
New Years' Eve.
Jame's Farrell's trilogy, Young
Lonigan. The Young Manhood of
Studs Lonigan and Judgment Day, is
much more than a photograph of
living death, and death in Chicago's
South Side. Farrell lived his youth
with the street Arabs of Chicago but
he graduated from the pilfering,
brawling caravan and with the halls
of the University of Chicago behind
him, he returned to the scene of the
street gang, Catholic education, rape,
prayed - against - drunkenness and
downright Irishment.
Of all the aorenamect Farrell has
plenty to say. His study of the be-
wildered Irish middle class might
merit, by virtue of a black and white
characterization alone, more than
the usual congratulations. But Studs
Leniga n, with class-conscious James
Farrell to set it down on paper, must
certainly be worth more than the
usual bouquets since it possesses be-
sides the above setting, the sparkling
stone of scientific extra-literary pur-
pose.
But propagapda, as any extra-liter-
ary purpose flust be called, is not
tacked on to the appalling truth of
Studs Lonigan's tragedy. Farrell has
written with unquestionable honesty
and convincingness, and the quiver-
ing tale of American boys standing
in the jaws of a slowly closing steam-
shovel atmosphere; boys who strag-
gle up to manhood, spurning the
letters of those who teach for pay,
drinking in emulation of the pool
parlor philosophers, functioning like
cannibals and always, persistently
always, rubbing their finger tips
rough to claw their individual ways
toward a new suit, a new conquest,
toward the new. They stand in the
mouth of a monster, Farrell forces
one to see, and they learn to curse,
to brag and bully not because they
are "born tough" or "born Irish,"
but because the organization, the cul-
tural habits of American cities and
Chicago's South Side in particular,
are founded on what Farrell sees

LL: Seething Slums Strangle
. Their Spawn .".".
as a decadent and wholly barbaric way through the volume in his own
and worn economic system, language, and Farrell follows him
-, . I along Indiana Avenue enveloping him
Yet as clearly as Ferrell is con- in words Studs would recognize. And
vinced that the fault is the system's, this is the marrow of any criticism
his propaganda for the overthrow of which could possibly be made of the
that system and its replacement by book. In rare but present spots, the
Socialism is not superimposed with University of Chicago rears its
the short-fingeredness with which 1mortar-boarded head for just the
another writer might have superim- twinkling of an eye, utters a three
posed it, were he interested with the syllable word, and slides back into
conviction that society is the uncon- its holes, the damage done.
victed waylayer of Studs and the This fault of slight inconsistency of
gang. The story of Studs is not a language, although it occurs rarely,
unit in itself which cries out inter- may be taken as a reminder, for one,
mittently against capitalism, against of the art with which Farrell has
the injustice of a dying system which told his story. It is certainly a strike
has overlived its natural span. Far- against him but it is also the hammer
rell has not "woven propaganda" in the hand of the reader who would
into his saga. He possesses such skill hit a very definite nail on the head.
that it is apparent he has spotted That Farrell's language is Stud's is
propaganda, alive and living without accentuated by the spots where Far-
the benefit of the literary weaver, rell's language isn't. But the nail
in the very life and situation of the to be struck is that which indicates
sons of the middle class. What can a subtle desire on the part of the
be found, however, and what slams author to plant in his reader's mind
any reader between the eyes is the the relationship between the economic
continuous, slow, ever-present and environment of an organism and the
present everywhere declamation that culture of that organism. It is part
all this terrible ignorance, all these of Farrell's skill, or perhaps his for-
mistakes and blasted lives cannot be tune, that he has succeeded in im-
the result of an individual's heritage parting a describable sense of the
or a mayor's whim. In this respect strangulation of every and any Indi-
Farrell has found, slipped into his ana Avenue bud which shows signs
palm and reported the actual propa- of the smell of learning. He has
ganda that lies in every filthy street obviously taken it as his function to
and every reform school. It is the demand his reader's attention to the
kind that millions of Americans know economic system which he sees as
and fail to recognize as such. It is the cause of a miscarried culture.
the kind that drags one to the cor- As was stated before, however, his
ner to peer up Indiana Avenue to see ideas are not smeared on whenever
a ribald band of Studs bound, torch a surface which will hold the paint
in hand, for the library where those presents itself. All he does is pre-
book-learning anti-Old Glory for- sent the case of dead-at-thirty Loni-
eigners are quietly planning sedition gan against society. The economics-
and a new idea culture relationship arises like a
For Studs, his gang, the gang's steady fist above a wavering mob. It
fathers and mothers are ever alert is a steady fist because it is attached
to ascribe every misfortune to the and is growing out of and with an
encroachment on the Irish neighbor- arm and body, itself rooted in the
hood of either the Negro or the Jew. mob. It has not been thrust from
Yet their anger at this arises from above, into the crowd, like a pumpkin
causes which Farrell has not left to on a pole. It is rooted in the mob.
the imagination. He illustrates im-
plicitly, what can only be an actual
state of affairs. It is a kind of living D BINON
implicitness, more like that which ROBINSO~JN
exists in life than on the usual printed
page. Here the implicit is not a
device to be used for this or that Lines Fall Like Flowers
purpose. Here it is the expression of ACross The Page
inhibited development in a stifling Acos h
environment. Ina Last Poerm

'1;

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The book is classified as a prole-
tarian novel. The name is a bad
one especially ill-suited to Studs Lon-
igan. For although Farrell is surely
of the Left, Studs cannot quite be
called proletarian. His status is
bourgeois and his psychology, -his
acts and his manner of thinking,-
all stand at the darker end of the
middle class. However, if the name
proletarian is to be granted a work
because it may be read and under-
stood by the working class, this is,
surely one of those. Studs kicks his

KTNG JASPER, by
Robinson; with
by Robert Frost;

Edwin Arlington
an Introduction
(Macmillan).

.I

I

______,

Delightful Stories Of Childhood
Are Among Recent Non-Fiction

,,

By JOHN SELBY
THREE FLIGHTS UP, by Helen
Woodward (Dodd, Mead); IF THIS
BE I (AS I SUPPOSE IT BE) By
Margaret Deland (Appleton-Cen-
tury).
By one of those pleasant coinci-
dences which happen occasionally in
the book world, two delightful stories
of childhood come out within a few
days of each other. Each is auto-
biography; each differs from the us-
ual; neither is like the other except
perhaps in the sincerity with which
both are done.
Three Flights Up is by Helen Wood-
ward. She is telling the straight and
usually unadorned truth about a
German-Jewish childhood in the New
York of the 'nineties. The childhood
was not spent in the Ghetto, but in
Yorkville. It is not a record of loose
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wandering, wicked influences, sear-
ing contact with life.
Quite the contrary. Mrs. \ Wood-
ward's mother was a Puritan. Her
father was a cigarmaker whose best
wage was in the neighborhood of $16
weekly. The mother's life was bound-
ed by the austere, painfully clean
fiat in which the family lived. At
first the father was a socialist, then
a single-taxer; finally he found re-
lief from home repressions in play-
ing the races enthusiastically and
not too unluckily.
Mrs. Woodward has given the facts
of her childhood, and has psychoan-
alyzed herself, her brother and sister
and her parents -not forbidingly or
in bad spirit or in technical language:
Just by truthtelling. The result is
one of the best books on childhood
in years. It should not be missed.
Margaret Deland's If This Be I (As
I Suppose It Be) is an attempt to re-
create the girl Mrs. Deland was in the
sixties. She lived in good circum-
stances in Pittsburgh. She was a
fascinating little imp, possessing most
of the material things Mrs. Wood-
ward lacked. Mrs. Deland sees her-
self rather clearly, and writes around
her girlhood a deft and probably
faithful picture of the time. The
book is less consciously a social docu-
ment than Three Flights Up, but
there are implications in it for those
who want them.

This blank verse opus, the last from
the pen of one of America's most
distinguished poets, will neither add
nor detract from the reputation some
40 years of writing built for him.
Of course, those 40 years witnessed
a kind of writing in verse which only
Edwin Arlington Robinson could have
produced- that is what is import-
ant. The yearshave little to do with
it. Chatterton was 18 when he died,
and Rimbaud stopped writing at 18.
But they are remembered for quali-
ties that were theirs.
Now Robert Frost, perhaps the
most distinguished for the American
poets, alive or dead, raises precisely
this same issue in his touching, ap-
preciative and analytical foreword.
Mr. Frost calls attention to the fact
that in recent years there has been
an amazing scramble on the part of
poets, old and young, to write in a
new way. Mr. Frost has no quarrel
with newness per se, so long as the
result is a poem. But few poems have
resulted from dropping rhyme, from
omitting rhythm, from discarding
sense. And he admires Mr. Robinson
for sticking to his forms - once Mr.
Robinson had discovered that he had
a way of using them that was dif-
ferent.
The followers of Edwin Arlington
Robinson will find again, in King
Jasper, that finely attenuated, in-
voluted thought structure clad in the
characteristic blank verse of which
this poet was a master. The wars
of strong personalities are vividly
projected, and as usual, throughout
the long work, lines fall like flowers
across the page or strike into music
as if the reader touched unseen
strings.
SET COMPLETED
The Cambridge University Press
will publish in March the eighth vol-
ume of the Cambridge Medieval His-
tory which will complete a set begun
twenty-five years ago. The complete
set will be sold for $90, and no cheap-
er edition will be issued during the
next fifteen years.

I.

II I

f1

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