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May 10, 1936 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1936-05-10

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY

SUNDAY, MAY 10, 1936

Mm

Puli'tzer
DAVIS'
Fiction Winner Is Mere
Apprentice Work Of
Novelist

Awards

Stir

Dissension

Among Critics

Russian

Noblewoman Or Cosmopolitan Adventuress?

Competent But U
I Wins $I,oo F

HONEY IN THE HORN by H. L. Da-
vis. Harper & Brothers. 1935.
By MORRIS GREENHUT
"I had originally hoped to'include
in the book a representative of every
calling that existed in the State of
Oregon during the homesteading pe-
riod - 1906-190*8. I had to give up
that idea, owing to lack of space, and
consideration for readers. Within the
limits set me, I have done my best.'
These words, with which Mr. Davis
prefaces his Harper Prize and now
Pulitzer Prize novel, indicate, it seemns
to me, the chief defect of the book. Mr.
Davis has attempted to write an epic
of the hard, adventurous life of Ore-
gon settlers in the early nineteen
hundreds, and has attempted to do so
by cramming into 380 over-crowded
pages various aspects of Oregon life
culled from personal experience, leg-
end, history. The result is that the
novel is unsuccessful in more ways
than one. It tries to cover too much
ground and lacks direction. Mr. Da-
vis does not do justice to his theme
or his material; the book he intended
to write still remains to be written.
He has as yet to learn - Whitman's
failure might have provided him with
an object lesson-that a mere cat-
alog of particulars hardly consti-
tutes an epic, or even a novel less pre-
tentious in scope.eAs it stands Honey
in the Horn is a heterogeneous mass
of interesting but unsifted matter;
it can hardly be said to rise above
the novel of local color, which a
few years ago was held in such high
esteem.
Mr. Davis, to be sure, does attempt
to give design to his work. The ac-
tion centers around the fortunes of
the youthful Clay Calvert and his
equally youthful girl, Luce, which
carry them from the Oregon hopfields
and mountain-grazing lands, through
the Indian fishing villages on the
coast, to the homestead farmlands in
the eastern part of the state. But
the plot is weak, and almost col-
lapses under the burden of extraneous
matter it is forced to carry. Only
occasionally does the author manage
to'weld the broad and variegated pat-
tern of Oregon life into the main nar-
rative pattern of the novel.
Honey in the Horn, far from being
the outstanding novel of 1935, is
merely the apprentice work of a prom-
ising writer. Mr. Davis writes with a
sure and steady hand. Some of his
descriptive passages are about as good
as any I have read in recent years, and
his salty humor and healthy outlook
provide an exhilarating antidote to
the Faulkner school. But if he is to
transcend the category of the pic-
turesque and the local, if he is to rise
above being merely "folksy," he must
probe more deeply into the lives of
the Oregon people he knows so well,
he must show greater insight and
comprehension than is revealed in
Honey in the Horn.

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The above scene occurs near the end of Robert Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Idiot's Delight."
Lynn Fontanne is seated at the left. Alfred Lunt is fartIr-st upstage and first to the observer's right of Miss
Fontanne.

t

STRANGE HOLINESS, by Robert P.
Tristram Coffin. Macmillan. $1.75. 1
By DR. ARNO L. BADERE
(Of the English Dept.)i
With the award of one thousandt
dollars to Robert P. Tristram Coffin
for his Strange Holiness, the Pulitzer1
Committee continues its practice oft
recognizing what one critic has called
"competent but unexciting poetry."c
There was a time when the awardst
went to poets such as Robinson Frost,(
Amy Lwell, and Conrad Aiken, butE
the recent awards, except for the
recognition of MacLeish in 1932, havei
gone to distinctly minor talents. TheE
Committee's phrase, "For the best
book of verse by an American author,"t
would seem to be in need of furtheri
definition when books by Georgei
Dillon, Robert Hillyer, Audrey Wurde-<
meyer, and R. P. T. Coffin receive theE
coveted distinction.
Coffin's volume is composed of1
about sixty lyrics on the theme of1
;ountry life and nature. The poems1
BOOK-ENDS
Alice Liddell Hargreaves, inspira-
.ion for Lewis Carroll's immortal
Alice In Wonderland, is the subject
of a new book, Carroll's Alice. Part
of it is an address delivered by Harry
Morgan Ayres for the Carroll Cen-
tenary Celebration in 1932 at Co-
lumbia University. Mrs.. Hargreaves,
a little old lady of 77, crossed the
ocean to be present at the function.
* * *
Van Wyck Brooks, famous critic
Who served as a judge in the essay
division of the Hopwood Contest last
year, launches on the major work
of his career in The Flowering of New
England, a literary history of the
United States. The book will appear
June 22. Apparently this is merely
the first volume of a longer work,
for the years it covers are from 1815
to 1865, and deals with Boston, Cam-
bridge and Concord for the most part.
The contribution which the New Eng-
land writers made to a new and
changing America receives particular
stress in Mr. Brooks' conclusion.
Such critics ,in the opinion of this
reviewer, are hopelessly near-sighted
By all odds the largest and most im-
minent peril confronting the United
States today is the peril of European
war. When he comments on this
peril, when he ridicules the idiocy
which makes it possible, Mr. Sher-
wood, in the highest sense of the
phrase, is dealing with the American
scene.
For America happens to be part of
the world, although William, Ran-
dolph Hearst denies it, and the soon-
er the Pulitzer committee, and all
committees, and everyone, realize
this, and what it means, the health-
ier will America be.
American scene, indeed!

rnexcitingPoetry
or Robert Coffin
are short, they exhibit a genuine
familiarity with and feeling for the
simple, homely aspects of farm life
in American as well as an occasional
touch of mysticism, and they are
written in simple, restrained style.
If there is any unifying theme in
the volume it is that of man's kin-
ship with the ancient earth, the per-
ception of beauty and mystery in
tree and field beast. This per-
ception the author has significantly
entitled Strange Holiness. The poems
are product of sure, finished crafts-
manship, and reveal occasional flash-
es of marked poetic beauty.
But with so much said, it remains
to note the author's limitations. His
range of subject and form is nar-
row; the music of his verse repeats,
and though he has at times a pretty
enough fancy, the intellectual range
is slight. The only attempt at a long
poem is a distinct failure. If, as has
been said there are dashes of poetic
beauty, they are weli sca teree, ano
there is much dull or merely pleasant
verse. In some ways Coffin shows
affinities with Frost, but he has little
of Frost's homely incisiveness or wit.
He is at his best in simple descrip-
tions of a barn in winter, of potato
diggers, of the death of a pheasant -
legitimate enough subjects for poetry
but indicative of the minor poet. The
Pulitzer award should be given for
work of greater significance.
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Drama Prize T
Melodramatic
By C. HART SCHAAF
When the Pulitzey commiatee an-
nounced, several months ago, that
the drama prize was no longer to go
more than once to one author, the
critics, professional and amateur, be-
gan to wonder whether Robert Sher-
wood might not win the 1936 award
with his forthcoming play.
Dead End and Winterset, both out-
standing plays and both likely choices
for the prize, were dropped from the
running because their authors, Sidney
Kingsley and Maxwell Anderson, had
each already received it. Mr. Sher-
wood was one of two major con-
temporary American playwrights who
had not yet been crowned. The oth-
er was Clifford Odets, and, as it be-
came apparent that his 1935-36 ef-
fort, Paradise Lost, wasn't quite up to
expectations, interest in the script
on which Mr. Sherwood was working
was understandably heightened.
The Sherwood play was named
Idiot's Delight. It opened in the mid-
dle of the spring, and the Theatre
Guild, true to its best form, gave it
a flawless production with a cast
headed by Alfred Lunt and Lynn
Fontanne and also including, inci-
dentally, Frances Compton, whom

their arms again are around one an-
o Sherw ood s other - and then the tinkle of break-
ing window-glass ,sounding above Mr.
W a I Lunt's reckless jazz version of "On
C var -riiC1sr ward Christian Soldiers," and a sud-
denly darkened stage, indicate that
Mr. Henderson has made well known one more Sherwood romance is about
to be nipped in the bud-this time by
to Ann Arbor audiences. I the bombs of war birds.
From the very beginning it was a No one who has seen it will deny
smash hit, and the critics were soon that the play chosen for the 1936
agreeing that their earlier hunch Pulitzer prize is first-rate theatre. Of
had in all probability been sound all shows produced this year in New
York, Idiot's Delight almost certainly
in other words, that the Sherwood has for most people the highest
play would get the prize. amount of agreability, measured in
Thus it was that, when the Pulizer terms of amusement content per min-
announcements were made last week, ute. And its denunciation of war,
the drama award failed to surprise taken out of the role of wearisome,
anyone. More significantly, for the platform morality, and sugar-coated
first time in years the critics and the with a highly melodramatic plot, is
drama committee were on the same apt and effective.
side of the fence and the atmopshere The Lunt-Fontanne team is
remained free of the loud and caustic superb. Mr. Sherwood, in fact, will
jeers with which the critics, nearly do well to cut his award in thirds and
every spring, have been wont to fill divvy up, as a matter of principle,
it. with these two stars for their in-
Idiot's Delight is through and valuable contribuion to the success of
through a typical Sherwood play. In his play.
the first place its background is a There is a clause in the Pulitzer
Large Issue-War. Nearly all Sher- drama rules which states that a play
wood plays are similarly set against should preferably be chosen which
a Large Issue. In last year's Petri- deals with the American scene, and
ficd Forest, for instance it was Psy- some persons - ardent sympathizers,
chological Decadence in 1935 Ameri- no doubt, with Mr. Hearst's "Buy
ca. American" program - are complain-
The second bit of typical Sher- ing that Idiot's Delight, dealing as it
wood technique is bang-up melo- does with European war clouds, fails
dramaexcitingly conceived, expert- to fulfill this Americanism clause.
ly tailored - and bearing no relation
to the large background theme. In
Idiot's Delight, Alfred Lunt is a
twangy, hard-boiled, immensely real-
istic hoofer from the American Mid-
dle-West. Lynn Fontanne is intro- j
duced as the exotic, White Russian
mistress of a fabulously wealthy mu-
nitions manufacturer. Earthy Mr.
Lunt feels, inspite of her present
sophisticated glory, that he has
known her in other and much humb-
ier circumstances. The audience is
pretty sure Mr. Lunt is right, and the
considerable suspense of the play
arises from the question, will Miss
Fontanne admit it?
The third hall-mark of a Sherwood
play is the cliactic situation in which
hero and heroine break through the
barriers to a short, ecstatic period of &
love -- and are separated forever. In
last year's Petrified Forest, it will be
recalled, Mr. Sherwood utilized a bul-G
let from Duke Mantee's gun to end
the romance of Alan and Gabrielle.
In Idiot's Delight, Miss Fontanne fi-
nally confesses she is the girl Mr. fo
Lunt knew briefly but unforgettably,
back in Iowa; for a few moments ofM C am p
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FOR EACH
DEPOS3TOI
CAN I MAKE DEPOSITS
IN YOUR BANK BY MAIL?

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Yes, if you are a depositor of this bank you can send, at any
time, checks or money orders for deposit in your account. Entries
will be made in your account the same as if you brought them in
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Checks or money orders for deposits should be properly en-
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used when it is inconvenient for them to come to the bank in
person. However, we like the personal contact with our customers
and prefer to see them whenever possible, rather than transacting
their business through the mails.
We invite you to use this convenience of banking by mail.
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&Commariraercial Bank
Main Office University Office:
Southeast Cor. Main & Huron 707 North University Ave.
Phone 2-2576 Phone 4281

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