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November 29, 1936 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1936-11-29

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T r THE MICHIGAN DAILY SU3

NDAY, NOV. 29, 1936

IN

THE

WORLD

of

BOOKS

FAZULKNER
Incoherence Mars His
Attempt To Achieve
A Masterpiece

Sherwood Anderson Portrays
Mountain Girl's Life In City

Months Of.
For Twe
FROM SNOW TO SNOW, by
Frost. Holt. 75 cents.

Year Are Setting
lve Poems By Frost

ABSALOM, ABSALOM! By William
Faulkner. Random House. $2.50.
By PROF. JOE LEE DAVIS
(Of the English Department)
After the harassed reader has puz-
zled out what happens in Absalom,
Absalomn! with the assistance of the
chronological outlinesand the gene-
alogical table at the back of the book
(and these are in error concerning
the important dates 1909 and 1910),
he is impressed with the possibilities
of the 'tale which Mr. Faulkner has
attempted to tell.
Unlike Mr. Faulkner I will begin at
the beginning. The boy Thomas Sut-
pen is nothing but "poor white trash,"
yet he has a heart. When a servant
at an ante-bellum Virginia mansion
reprimands him for coming to the
front door, that heart receives an
abiding hurt, out of which is evolved
the Sutpen ruling passion and life-
long design. Finding that Eulalia
Bon, the wife he has taken in Haiti,
has negro blood that will prove fatal
to his achievement of aristocratic re-
spectability, Sutpen puts her and her
son aside in New Orleans. He comes
to Mr. Faulkner's imaginary Jeffer-
son in imaginary Yokna(patawpha
County, Mississippi, the scene of all
the Faulkner novels with the excep-
tion of Soldiers' Pay, Mosquitoes, and
Pylon. He acquires there a hundred
acres of land, imports a wagon load
of savage negro slaves and a French
architect, and builds a mansion. He
marries Ellen Coldfield, the impec-
cably respectable daughter of a local
merchant and begets Henry and Ju-
dith. These two, he opines, will per-
petuate inviolate the Sutpen name
and blood.
Then nemesis overtakes his dream
iii the person of his put-by son,
Charles Bon, whom Judith falls irre-
vocably in love with and Henry mur-
ders. After the Civil War, in a des-
perate effort to beget still another
son, Sutpen outrages the genteel sen-
sibilities of Rosa Coldfield, Ellen's
younger sister, and brings about his
own destruction by offending the
long-quiescent pride of Wash Jones,
his poor-white tenant and the grand-
father of his latest mistress. Judith
consoles herself in her immeasurable
bereavement by mothering Etienne
Bon, the son of her dead Charles
and his octoroon mistress. Etienne,
tortured victim of miscegenation like
Joe Christmas in Light in August,
marries a full-blooded negress. After
the death of Judith and Etienne,
there are left at Sutpen's Hundred
only Clytemnestra, the daughter be-
gotten by Thomas Sutpen of a negro
slave, and the semi-idiot, Jim Bond,
the spawn of Etienne and his negress
wife. Finally, in the winter of 1909,
when Clytemnestra burns the dilapi-
dated mansion, along with herself
aid the aged and penitent fugitive
murderer, Henry Sutpen, who has
come home to die, only the semi-idiot
Bond, reminiscent of Vardaman in
As I Lay Dyng and Benjy in The
Sound and the Fury, remains alive
to symbolize the ultimate frustration
of the Sutpen dream and the ulti-
mate decadence of the old feudal
South.
With :iuch a tale to tell, Mr. Faulk-
ner might have written a novel rich
in social significance, in psycholog-
ical revelation, in philosophic sug-
gestiveness, and in the catharsis of
genuine tragedy-in other words, the
masterpiece that Soldiers' Pay and
Sartoris suggested he had the power
to write, and that The Sound and the
Fury and Light in August showed he
was trying to write, and that the
publishers and some of the reviewers
of Absalom, Absalom. mistakenly
suppose he has written. Instead, he
has merely repeated all his charac-
teristic indiscretions as an artist and
has surpassed himself only in achiev-
ing a new nadir of unreadability. The
Sound and the Fury is more difficult
to follow, but not to get through.
One of Mr. Faulkner's artistic in-
discretions is his penchant for Gothic
sensationalism, at is worst in Sanc-
tuary. In Absalom, Absalom! this
penchant has led him to transform

the Sutpen mansion into a veritable
haunted castle concealing its awful
secret, to endow Sutpen himself with
a demonism as fantastic as that of
Montoni in Mrs. Radcliffe's The Mys-
teri~ of Udolpho, and to harrow the
nerves by such episoes of gratuitous
sadism as Wash Jones' bloody effi-
ciency with scythe and butcher knife.
Another of Mr. Faulkner's artistic
indiscretions is his preoccupation with

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KIT BRANDON, A PORTRAIT by terpret human life in human terms
Sherwood Anderson. Scribners. with remarkable accuracy and
$2.50. beauty, but he cannot interpret hu-
By ARNOLD S. DANIELS man life in terms of machinery..
It is a historical fact that Sher- Kit's best friend in the factory
wood Anderson once wrote a great town is Agnes, a tough, experienced,
book. Extant copies of Winesburg, worker, who has witnessed strikes
Ohio, which was first published in and violence. She hates the mill
1919, are undeniable proof of his ' owners, and the power which theyj
greatness. represent. Yet on the same pages
In view of his previous work, it is through which Agnes tells in fu-
surprising that Anderson has written rious, almost hysterical words of her
as inadequate a book as Kit Brandon. hatred, Anderson salaams before the!
About the life of his main character, golden statues of the Dukes, "The
a Virginia mountain girl, who moves Dukes the new kings." To phrase E
from the hills to an industrial town it mildly, this is inconsistent. And
to great cities, he has attempted to Anderson is inconsistent throughout.
weave a picture of American life in He presents on one hand the views ROBERT FROST
the days when bootleggers waxed of Agnes, asking for fairer treatment
strong, the lustier, bloodier days of of her fellow workers, pleading, for a
just a few years ago. chance to live, and on the other hand
In the early phase of the book, An- he praises the Dukes, building a great
derson writes about people whom he kingdom of wealth, crushing human RT
does understand, simple mountain happiness and human lives.
folk. The contrast between that part The book rings true to a certain Pens Napoleonic Novel
of the book and the chapters devoted extent as far as the general course W
to the life of the industrial town of Kit's life is concerned. Fleeing Wilth HUn~d red Days
where Kit works in the great mill her mountain home, she gets work in As Backg round
clearly indicates Anderson's greatest a cotton mill, and there Anderson
weakness: he attempts in Kit Bran- teaches her to love the machines and THE BALLAD OF THE HUNDRED
don to write about things which are their dizzy, ceaseless activity. From DAYS, by Joseph Roth, translated
far beyond his ken. He does not the mill she is graduated to a position from the Germah by Moray Firth.
understand the life of people living in as a daring chauffeur for a gang of New York, the Viking Press, 1936.
a factory town, cannot appreciate bootleggers, and she acquires a myth- 303 pages, $2.50.
their problems. He is able to in- ical reputation for daijng. Her mar- '_*_
riage to the son of the leader of the
a muddled mysticism, carried to its bootleg gang is a failure, and she be- By JOSEPH GIES
extreme in Light in August. In Ab- comes a solitary, lonely person, liv- Joseph Roth, best known for his
salom, Absalom! most of his main ing only for the excitement of driv- Radetzky March of a few years ago,
characters become vaguely symbolic ing fast cars loaded with White Mule has added another to the long list of
of suffering or bale, and the char- from the hills to the cities. attempts by authors of all nationali-
acter who serves as the center of Finally the vengeance of justice
eference adumbrates compassion. overtakes the gang. Kit escapes and ties to give an accurate and intimate
Still another of Mr. Faulkner's ar- is picked up by Anderson, to whom portrayal of Napoleon I, in a book
istic indiscretions is a psychological sheds p ty Anderon, to whhe titled in English The Ballad of the
emphasis that is traceable partly to telth story of her life, to whicharHudeDys
Dostoevsky and partly to Freud. This added bits of information about
mphasis gets out of hand in both her collected by the author. At no Writing with a slight foreign ac-
Thasis getnsnoth uryand igothttime during the telling of the tale cent, Herr Roth gets off to a labori-
'he Sound and the Fury and Light does Anderson catch the mad, con- ous start, with a rather pointless
here is much probing into the char- fused spirit of the times. although often entertaining and
cters only for the purpose of mak- occasionally absorbing 200 pages,
ng their motivation more mysterious. omniscient narrator. This style, de- then swings into action in earnest in
Also, there is an undue specialization spite indubitable incidental felicities, the final third of the book, and scores
n the pathology of lacerated per- is without a parallel for flatulence repeatedly with carefully restrained
onality. And, finally, there is gro- and incoherence, even in any of Mr. dramatic passages and effective de-
esque overstressing of the role played Faulkner's previous work. There are scriptions.
n human experience by such stuff of perpetual motion sentences that do The story concerns the love of a
iightmare, such fantasia of the un- not stop running even after being simple-hearted, simple-minded laun-
onscious, as the urge to incest and tackled in midfield by hefty paren- dress from Napoleon's native Cor-
he dread of miscegenation. thetical sentences and sentence frag- sica for her emperor, and the trials,
We come now to the most besetting ments. There are panting sentences tribulations and frustration result-
f Mr. Faulkner's artistic indiscre- that halt only because they are over- ing. The book is divided into four
ions, and that is his tendency to in- come by their own excessive coordi- parts: the return of Napoleon from
lulge in unrestrained and bizarre ex- nation or overlapping subordination, Elba for the last desperate rally from
perimentation with technique and as the handbooks say. Forlorn pro- which the volume derives its name;
tyle. This tendency was a healthy nouns appear with their lost ante- the life story of the laundress, An-
ign in his first novel, Soldiers' Pay, cedents skulking after in parentheses. gelina Pietri; the downfall of
)ut it makes As I Lay Dying seem Trios of adjectives romp in the wake Napoleon following Waterloo and the
abored and mars the tale unfolded of their nouns with a kind of lyrical death of Angelina, which comes at
n The Sound and the Fury and in, abandon.-_ the hands of a Royalist mob in Paris
Pylon. In Absalom, Absalom! it is To defend the studied syntaxless.
atal. The story of the Sutpens is spontaneity of the prose of Absalom,
?resented as Quentin Compson, one Absalom. on the ground that it ex-
Sf the memorable characters of The presses the flow of Quentin's con- CHRISTMAS CARD
Sound and the Fury, hears it from sciousness as the center of reference ORDER NO'
Miss Rosa Coldfield and from his or that it is an attempt to equate
ather in September, 1909, and as artistically the locutions of excited STUDENTS S
ie reviews it with his roommate speech or thought is no palliation for 1111 South University
Shreve one night at Harvard in 1910, what it does to the reader. _ 11__ SuthUniversity _
]ow Quentin narrating, and now
vhrevea interru ting him n dri nn

RobertE

By SIDNEY BOBB
That stock term of reviewers,
"slender volume," which usually pre-
cedes a mollifying statement that
what there is is very good indeed,
may well describe this bound leaflet
as Napoleon is boarding ship for
England.
There are only two characters in
the book worth remembering, Napo-
leon and Angelina, and Angelina is
rather a dull sort. It is difficulty to
feel sympathy for a simpleton, and
her misfortunes at the hands of a
brutal sergeant-major lover, her
broken heart and even her frightful
death hardly stir the reader.
Not so Napoleon! Wrong, ironic,
incredible as it is, the humiliation of
the great arrogant conqueror re-
mains far more moving and poignant
than the anguish, suffering or death
of any of those millions crushed be-
neath the juggernaut of his ambi-
tion. The conqueror of Europe looks
for the last time at the sky of France,
the Emperor of the West prepares
to become the captive of St. Helena,
and we feel sorry for him in spite
of ourselves. Knowing he does not
deserve our sympathy, we are unable
to withhold it.
In this one phase of the book, Roth
accomplishes something. He man-
ages to reconcile the different parts
of Napoleon's character for a mo-
ment, and make him appear convinc-
ing by his very inconsistencies. In
this connection he succeeds where
Manuel Komroff failed last summer
with his similar novel, Waterloo,
Roth's Napoleon is neither a wooden
villain nor a tin soldier, but 'an
impetuous, imaginative genius, som-
bre, erratic, impatient and compas-
sionate, all by turn and all at once.
The signing of the abdication is one
of the best scenes: Napoleon calmly
dictating while his generals silently
weep. And again, when he learns the
name of the English ship and captain
who are to transport him to England,
he thinks, "These names will be
made immortal by me, an honor they
do not deserve!"
The poor people, loyal to the end,
and the soldiers, are rather well done,
although it is difficult to avoid mak-
ing a detrimental comparison of
Roth's work in this line with the
stirring and memorable sketch of
Balzac, The Napoleon of the People.
And anyway, aren't there enough
novels already with the Hundred
Days for background?

of 12 of Robert Frost's most recent
poems. However, it does not follow
that they are "all roses"; they are
merely in the best Frost tradition,
and to many this will be sufficient.
But this cycle of poems should be
valuable to the critical reader be-
cause, in its small space, it clarifles
most of the poet's merits and his
chief fault.
It must be admitted that no poem
of Robert Frost ever lumbers along
in ,its rustic pas de seul without exe-
cuting at least a few graceful steps.
We may be bored for three stanzas
and then light upon a really good,
phrase which compensates, in part,

for the rest of the poem. The virtue
of the phrase invariably lies in a
juxtaposition of a simple form of ex-
pression with a striking image. Take,
for example, this description of but-
terflies in April.
"There is more unmixed color on
the wing
Than flowers will show for days
unless they hurry."
But the poet is not always so suc-
cessful in capturing this proper com-
bination; too often, he omits the
striking image and gives us mere
simplicity, which is worthless in it-
self. Moreover, Frost's is not the
impressive and meaningless sim-
plicity of Blake or Housman; it is
merely irritating. For all his touch-
ing sincerity and genuinely poetic
temper, he finds the roles of bucolic
moralist and gentle commentator the
easiest and most relaxing, and this
-for, after all, the man is no Words-
worth-is to be regretted.

W- -w w-

rs

r - -1 R ' s " 1 -

-- -----Wl

I,

The Class of '39
PRESENTS

"DERBY

DAY"

r

The 1936
SOPHOMORE CABARET

r

Friday and Saturday
December 4 and 5

Michigan League

Admission 25c

rr~.. r -~

A

r

w

up

I

I

1I

S and STATIONERY
W -$1.00 Box
UPPLY STORE
Phone 8688

0111C zn pt.,, g4W Ufl±n1111, an. nowi
both merely thinking in unison. This
technique represents a miscegena-
tion of James, Conrad, and Joyce, to
employ a metaphor which Mr. Faulk-
ner would appreciate. It is a tech-
nique of extreme indirection, it in-
volves a bewildering legerdemain with
chronology, and it results in an un-
necessarily mechanized suspense.
Rosa Coldfield, Mr. Compson, Quen-
tin, and Shreve, whether talking or
thinking or in a letter, express them-
selves in a style not dissimilar from
that of the occasionally intruding

BO OK S - Current
A Few of This Year's Best Titles

N

Did You Know
We Have
300 MYSTERIES

Carl Van Doren - THE BORZOI READER.
Nordhoff and Hail - THE UNTY TRILOGY.
George Blake - THE SHIP BUILDERS
Gilbert Chesterton -AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
Constance Rourke - AUDOBON.
Henry Thoreau - MEN OF CONCORD.
William Herbert Hobbs - PEARY.
Schevill - FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
A. E. Housman - MORE POEMS.
Dorothy Parker - NOT SO DEEP AS A WELL.

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