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January 17, 1937 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1937-01-17

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-PAGE EIGHT

rTl T.TI ASTPTTTP A IV I"1 A TT'V

17NnAY. JAV. 17. 1.937

IN THE WORLD OF BOOKS

oullilt7x, Jt]ly. 1/ ia70/

I

"All Right, Have It Your Way,
You Did Hear A Seal Bark!"

EINSTEIN
Short History Of Music'

Women Are Blissfully Romantic

In Far Too

Subjective

Verses

THE ENJOYMENT OF LAUGHTER
By Max Eastman. Simon an(
Schuster, New York. $3.75. 367 pps
By JOSEPH GIES
Max Eastman, that peerless en
j oyer of laughter and remarkabl
critic of literature and life, whos
career has swung through editorshii
of the old Masses, books on poetry
and the Russian Revolution, a trans-
lation of Trotzky and several othe
political works; and through it al
has managed to retain one of the
sharpest senses of humor extant, hay
published here what may be, in pos-
terity's eyes, his most important
work. -
Mr. Eastman set out some months
ago to find out what it is peopl
laugh at when they laugh. Afte
careful research, discussion of the
problem with various professiona
humorists, and quite a bit of thought
he has decided that there are two
things that amuse people: first
something being offered them and
then suddenly taken away; second
something grotesque or ugly, pro-
vided, in both cases, they are in a
laughing mood.
Embroiders On Essentials
These are the bare essentials of
humor, in Mr. Eastman's opinion.
He embroiders on them at great
length, shows how one of them is
present in every joke of every var-
iety, and points out the additional
elements or conditions which en-
hance jokes by presenting one of the
essentials in a state of near-perfec-
tion, as well as demonstrating the
rel'ationship between humor and the
other senses, an important point in
itself.
One of Mr. Eastman's best illustra-
tions of the first (and more common)
type of humor, that is, wit, is taken
right off the Ann Arbor scene, from
a few years back. A school teacher
was discoursing on the lives of the
Indians, and asked if there was any-
one in the class who had Indian
blood in his veins. Hubert Skidmore,
1(35 major Hopwood winner-to-be,
raised his hand. "Oh is that so?"
asked the innocent teachex. "What
tribe, I wonder?" "Oh, it wasn't a
tribe," explained Skidmore, "it was
just a stray Indian." Eastman re-
fers to this episode as "one of the
few true stories of our generation not
to be found in the joke books of the
previous century."
Grotesque Humor
Probably the best example of the
grotesque type of humor, the some-
thing - horribly - out - of - place type
given, is the celebrated cartoon of
James Thurber printed in the New
Yorker depicting the irritated wife
in bed saying to lier puzzled-looking
husband, "All right, have it your way'
- you heard a seal bark!" while over
the top of the bedstead, above the
heads of both, a large seal diffidently
protrudes his head and fins. Here
the grotesqueness is accentuated by

, the wife's remark, which in itself is
d perfectly natural, the very response
. anyone would make to the sugges-
tion of a seal barking in his bedroom.
Of course both of Eastman's basic
- types of humor can be refined, but
e i always the essentials are present.
e Perhaps it is only a word that is out-
p of-place, or a piece of bad grammar
y or a redundancy, "His wife's mother
- on the female side" of Artemus Ward,
x for example. The witty joke, also,
1 usually consists of merely leading us
e to expect a certain conclusion to a
s sentence of phrase or even word, and
- then substituting another. "I'd horse-
t whip you," says Groucho Marx, "if
I had a horse." Here the conclusion
s. expected was "if I had a horsewhip,"
e and it is the sudden removal of this
rsensible meaning that amuses us,
Salthough in order totdo so, the "non-
sense must be plausible," as Eastman
, puts it;' that is, the relationship be-
tween the word "horse" and the an-
tecedent "horsewhip" must be estab-
lished.
Exaggeration Plus
An example of the same thing in
a modified form, according to East-
man, is the exaggeration or under-
statement, in which the substitution
for the expected conclusion is a little
. more plausible and less nonsensical;
while losing in punch, it gains in
effectiveness through added meaning,
or point. Wodehouse, almost the
only foreigner who breaks into En-
joyment, demonstrates the under-
statement thus: "Except for that
slight bias toward dishonesty which
led her to steal everything she could
lay her hands on which was not
nailed down, Aileen Peavey's was an
admirable character." Of several
examples of exaggeration, the deftist
is easily Dorothy Parker's comment
iwhen told Calvin Coolidge was dead,
"How can they tell?"
The chief weakness of the book
is, perhaps, that the system of inter-
spersing a serious analysis with such
excellent bits of comedy acts to pre-
vent complete concentration on the
serious anlysis.
FORTHCOMING BOOKS
a BELOVED FRIEND, Barbara Von
MECK and Catherine Drinker
Bowen. Random House. $3.
SPANISH PRELUDE, Jenny Ballou.
Houghton. $2.50.
A WOMAN OF WASHINGTON,
Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. Dutton.
$2.
BEHIND THE SPANISH BARRI-
CADES, John Langdon-Davies.
McBride. $2.75.
NOVEL ON YELLOW PAPER, Stevie
Smith. Morrow. $2.
WITHOUT CHARM, PLEASE!
Louise Platt Hauck. Penn. $2.
LANCER AT LARGE, Francis Yeats-
Brown. Viking. $2.75.
THE HUNDRED YEARS, Philip
Guedalla. Doubleday. $3.

is H andbook For K o-- r
Dilettantes CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN
WOMEN POETS. By Tooni Gordi.
A SHORT HISTORY OF MUSIC, by $3.00. Henry Harrison.
Alfred Einstein, Knopf, New York. By MARY SAGE MONTAGUE
253 pps. The time is ripe, Tooni Gordi
By STOWELL EDWARDS thinks, for anthologizing the poetesses
of America; those who could still see
One accustomed to getting through beauty in the kitchen sink, and ro-
as many books a day as this depart- mance in a window box. No longer,
ment does, speedily develops a set of need women hide their talents-no
yardsticks. Otherwise the feat would longer need their voices cry in a po-
be impossible. etic wilderness. So the challenge and
When musical histories and such appeal were sent to all parts of these
turn up, we usually turn at once to United States, and the manuscripts
the section on Haydn. We were rolled in; sentiments and reminis-
brought up on the idea that Haydn cences, loves and sorrows, pains and
was a jolly old man, living almost as aches which proved all too glaringly
a servant in various princely Austrian that women writers are still deserving
houses and especially at Esterhazy. of the criticism so often applied to
"Papa" Haydn was, we were told by them-over-subjectivism.
well meaning people, a bright peas- "Look at our literature," is a prey-
ant whose chief contribution to mu- alent cry. "Polluted with propaganda
sic was a kind of light-hearted and dedicated to the memory of Karl
clarity, and a melodic .gift of the Marx. Artamasquerading as a ma-
second grade. chine gun and a battle cry in some
This is inbelievably stupid. One badly - conceived cause of social
justice." They need not have worried
of the great geniuses of all times, -for women, the bulwark of the
Haydn takes a mature mind and a home and family is concerning her-
clear one for proper appreciation. self not with the problems of the un-
Hence his use as a yardstick. employed or armament, or taxation,
Alfred Einstein's "A Short History but with nature and the red flag of
of Music" passes the Haydn test with courage, and the white badge of
a very high grade. And true to the honor, and death and parting, and
indicated trend, it proves itself to honeysuckle in summer, and wild
be one of the best panoramas of the geese in fall.
art of music in any language. Ex- Perhaps one of the greatest faults
eluding the index, Dr. Einstein has of the anthology as a whole, is the
written only 253 pages, barely monotony of technique. Emphasis is
enough, one might say, for a short placed almost always on subject mat-
book on Schubert. ter, on a lyrical and picturesque ex-
Just the same, the good Doctor has pression of sentiments, and the in-
told all the dilettante must know: evitable result is, that the poem, while
about the history and formative in- possibly neat and pleasing, lacks vi-
fluences of our music. And he has tality. There is no single poem here
told it in such a way that many dilet- that could equal in scope one of
tantes will use it as a springboard,PindrebautofformhSpedeBu
and go off the deep end into the sea it ould be utnfair tom Sp nder tB
A more detailed books on the subject, is none which approximates it. Mar-
All that is essential to appreciation ianne Moore who is a very careful
)f the book is interest in the art, technician, is represented here with
and some slight experience with it. a short poem called the Labors of
Or. Einstein's rapid prose will do the Hr-cults certainly no master-piece
rest. in its own right, but a good example
The first page mentions the dawn of her style. Miss Millay has one
of music, probably in some savage's sonnet; again not an outstanding
mind when he struck a hollow ob- poem, but pleasant. Some of the
ject with his club and heard a boom best poetry and in this group comes
instead of a smack. The last pages the first poem in the book, is from
have arrived at the era of Paul the very young poetess, Muriel Ru-
Hindemith, which is our own era. If keyser, who at the age of twenty-
th'ere is anyone sufficiently interest--
ed, we should suggest a slow reading A small volume containing John
of "A Short History of Music," fol- Masefield's Lines on the TercentenaryI
lowed by exploration into Sir Donald of Harvard University is to be pub-
Francis Tovey's "Essays in Musical lished in an edition limited to 250
Analysis," a set of five small but rath- and 50 autographed copies on Feb. 2.
er expensive volumes in which Sir The regular edition will follow on
Donald does the best job of explain- Feb. 9. Mr. Masefield's delivery of
ing the various masterpieces of mu- this poem at the Tercentenary cele-
sic that we know-up to now. bration last fall aroused wide interest.

one was awarded the Yale University
book prize. Eunice Tietjens likewise,
has some good poems, one of which is
particularly memorable called Seven
Nuns Watch an Express Train.
Naturally any anthologer encoun-
ters difficulties in obtaining the selec-
tions he wants, and perhaps here
more than in many volumes, for the
rule was strictly observed that no
poem would be printed which had
appeared in any other anthology. And
so in this volume which has gathered
together 1311 poets, and several1
poems by each, it is not astonishing
that the work should be uneven; that
for the small group of good poems
one should have to wade through a
larger group of mediocre ones. But
although this mediocrity is to be de-
plored, Tooni Gordi should still be
commended for having added fuel
to the fire.
Also to appear on Feb. 2 is Sophus'
Keith Winther's novel of Nebraska,
Mortgage Your Heart, the story of
Peter Grimsen and his wife, Danish
peasants who love the soil they are
tilling as rent farmers in their adopt-
ed home in Nebraska; and of their
sons who develop the independence
of American boys. Mr. Winther's
portrayal of Hans' adolescence and
young manhood is marked by imagin-
ation and understanding.
Mr. Winther is of Danish descent,
and his childhood was spent on a
Nebraska farm; he is now teaching
English literature in the University
of Washington, in Seattle.

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