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October 24, 1937 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1937-10-24

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY SA9

r', OCT

WORLD

OF

BOOKS

I

Louis Adamic

Waxes

Eloquent

poi tical faith, whatever may be the In Ta e O f A E
olitical faith of their papers, they I
love you."
Such fulsome praise must be in- THE HOUSE IN ANTIGUA, by Louis
vestigated. What did this man Nor- Adamic. Harper & Brothers, New
1ris actually do? What is his record? York, $3.00.
Representative George W. Norris By FRANCES CARNEY
{a,,rived in Washingt~on in the winter ByFACSCRE
of 1902 with a weepuig-w i ow mous- "There's something about it --" Mr.
tache, a little black bow tie, and Adamic quotes himself as saying 'to
r"iplicit faith in the rectitude and his host, Wilson Popenoe, a botanist
wisdom of the Republican party." and owner of the Casa del Capuchino
The disintegration of Norris' devotion in Antigua, Guatemala, a 300-year-
to party discipline began two years old house which has in the last few
later. Speaker Joseph Cannon, years become a place of pilgrimage
through his power to appoint the for tourists and archaeologists. This
Pules Committee, dictated what legis- "something," which Mr. Adamic ex-
lation was to be considered by the plains at the end of the book in some-
IHouse. Norris led the fight against what cosmic terms, compels him to
"Czar" Cannon, and in 1910, after write a book on the house's history,
out-maneuvering the Speaker, pro- from its building in 1634 through sev-
posed a measure which vested the eral earthquakes to its restoration
appointment of the Rules Committee and present occupation, incidentally
in the House as a whole, telling the story both of the people
That was Norris' first escapade in who lived there and of Antigua.
wnsurgency. From that time on he i i t f

louse In Antgiua
Mild earthquakes occurred at in-

about him in the book; to chapters
about the love-life of the Popenoes.
"Thirteen years later he told me that
the minute she entered his office he
knew-that is how he talks:* simply,
directly, in quick, eager little spurts
- I just knew that she was the
one I'd been waiting for-looking for
-for a long time.' He was an ideal-
ist in regard to women; here was the

tervais from 16i57 to 1702; in 1717 s
ideal.Fortunately, the ideal, on her
there were several bad ones, which side, had been looking for him-and,
cracked most of the buildings and to make a short story no longer, the
caused the Montufars to move out result was a case of love at first sight."'
of the Casa del Capuchino. In 1730 ( Somehow the knowledge that the
a series of quakes caused a dispute name "Popenoe" comes from the
between church and state as to the French "Papineau" or that Dorothy
wisdom of abandoning the city, and used to look over her husband's socks
the populace was stirred to frenzy doesn't thrill me; these facts as well
by the predictions of a madwoman as many others-their respective
that the end of the world was at birthplaces, educations, accomplish-
hand. In 1773 the great earthquake ments, eccentricities and wayward
occurred, destroying the city and kill- thoughts-not only add nothing to
ing and injuring hundreds. When the the story of the house, but are quite
inhabitants had recovered sufficiently out of harmony with it. One is given
from their fear that the end of the all the gory and unnecessary details
world had come at last, the capital of" Mr. Adamic's visit, his writing of
of Guatemala was moved to the pres- the book, even the proofreading; ex-
ent site of Guatemala City, and a actly where he went and what he
small part of the population re- said and what Wilson Popenoe said,
mained, mostly the poorest and least until one wonders why Mr. Adamic
competent. These moved into the did not take his host's advice: "Who
ruins of the old palaces and churches cares how and why we met? What's
and monasteries and opened shops, that got to do with the house?" I
raised pigs, and grew vegetables there, think anyone would be as miserable
some of them paying a small rent to as Mr. Popenoe apparently was to be
the former owners. The Casa del put in the position of an insistent
Capuchino, badly damaged except for intruder into a story where he is ob-
the kitchen, was occupied by a series viously persona non grata. All this
of tenants, the last of whom had to trivia gives the book the effect of
be disposed of somehow when the being undigested and indigestible, of
Popenoes bought it after the War lying heavily on the stomach. There
and undertook its restoration. is no unity: it is more like the notes
Part Two and the introduction and one would take in preparation for
conclusion. comprising at least half writing than the book itself.

Mr. Adamic's explanation of the
house's charm is based on three
things: the way in which it exempli-
fles man's struggle against nature, the
"riddle of Time" which we find posed
there and the symbolism of ruin
created out of order and order re-
created out of ruin. The house he
regards as symbolic of the world,
"really a Ruin, a Mess, a Wreck."
"Then of a sudden, amid ruination,
this house-this very eloquent state-
ment as to what is, to be done with
ruins-this indirect suggestion as to
what could be done with the Ruin."
Which sounds just a bit superficial:
a comparison of an archaelogical res-
toration to the restoration of the
world. It seems to me that what he
calls "the riddle of Time" alone ac-
counts for the appeal of the house.
At any rate, though the illustra-
tions, the story and the descriptions
do give us some sense of its beauty
and mystery, Mr. Adamic is not quite
successful in catching that "some-
thing about it," partly because he does
not seem to know what to select and
what to discard; partly because he
wastes our patience and detracts from
the book's effectiveness by explaining
at too great length why and how he
wrote it; partly because he occasion-
ally writes sloppily; but most of all
because he talks too much. A long
essay, with very little introduction,
telling with economy the history of
the house and describing it, but leav-
ing something to the imagination,
might have been a small masterpiece.
The House in Antigua is not a master-
piece; and it is destressing to see such
exciting material so clumsily handled.

.I

raphies resembe ne norn-blowing
efforts of the paid publicity agent has followed his ndependent course'
Equally repugnant have been the with his "conscience for his boss." He
- has never recognized party lines and
recent attempts to capitalize on the GEORGE W NORRIS has blithely managed to maintain a
appetite for scandal of a great ma- rarious pinetween the po
jority of the reading public, as evi- recarious position between the p
denced by the popularity of mag- from the halls of the University of litical parties.
azines and newspapers which make Oregon, Neuberger and Kahn have When Norris was elected to thel
sensationalism and intrigue their already proven themselves newspa- Senate in 1912, the clash and thun-
guiding principles. der of war in Europe was already
A new trend in biography, however permen of note and the publication rumbling over the horizon. Norris
s mewk enits bioeraphynhever' of this volume is an excellent aug- and five other senators, La Follette,
s making its appearance in the con-.GrnaVrdm ,LnendSo,
temporary scene. Literary newspa- ury for their careers as biographical Gronra, Vardaman, Lane an Stone,
pernen like Marquis James, Claude historians. refused to be stampeded by the war
Bowers, George Fort Milton, William George W. Norris is one of those fever and voted against the entrance
of the United States into the World
Allen White and Allen Nevins, with men just mentioned whose biography War. It was the most momentous
continuous backgrounds of critical in- demanded writing. In the hands of decision in Norris' career for it meant I
quiry, and intellectual honesty which Neuberger and Kahn, the telling of living in Washington in an atmo-
they have never compromised to con- sphere of actual bodily danger as well
form to the inevitable bias of the that life is an interesting, vivid and
newspaper industry itself, -have en- vital affair. Throughout the 35 years as vinicathatPu brave act. Norris
tered the field, and the results have he has served in the Congress of has vindicated tt bave at Noris
been most encouraging. They give the United States, George Norris has as of that little band of six which
rise to the hope that the biographies stood forth, in the words of Presi- has lived to hear a conservative like
of the men who were active in the dent Roosevelt, as the "perfect, senator Vandenberg of Michigan de-
recent period of American history, gentle, knight of American progres- scribe his deed as "one of the finest
and which actually cry out for pub- sive ideals." acts in American history."
lication, will soon materialize. There Rarely does history pass judgment The Norris keynote is thus described
never has been, for example, a biog- on a man while he is still alive. In by the authors:
raphy written of the late Robert M. the case of Senator Norris history
LaFollette, the progressive Senator has already written the verdict. When "It is a part of the folkways of
from Wisconsin, and the leading po- the National Popular Government America to classify public figures ac-
litical exponent of the reform move- League gave a dinner in honor of cording to their outstanding qual-
tn.ent which was gathering momen- Senator Norris, a large number of ities, whether it is an actress for
tum in the pre-war era. Nor have newspaper correspondents reserved shapely legs or a senator for strength
>ther stalwarts of that period, Louis plates. There are few men who are of character. Down through history
F. Post, the editor of "The Public," better qualified to offer judgment on notable Americans have been cata-
Tom Johnson, of Cleveland, "Golden public figures than the newspaper- logued and remembered for certain
Rule" Jones, the reform mayor of men in the national capital. Speak- traits . . . perhaps George W. Norris
Toledo, and Senator Harry Lane of ing for the Washington corps, Charles will come to symbolize integrity, for
Oregon, been treated biographically, G. Ross, of the St. Louis Post-Dis- it is that characteristic above allI
although there are doctoral disserta- i patch, said: , others that he represents to his con-
ions on some of these men now "This is indeed a novelty. I have temporaries."
under way at several American uni- interviewed you, Senator Norris a
ver sities. Igetmn ies aewitn WINDSORS GO TO PARIS
It s great many times. I have written MUNICH, Oct. 23.-(AP)-The Duke
It was with great anticipation many thousands of words about you, Duchess of Windsor completed
therefore;' that we read Richard L. but never have I had the opotnt and Duchtw wesstd of indsor coplete
uberger and Stephen B. Kahn's to stand up in public and tell you their two weeks' study of social condi-
tiography of George W. Norris, the what I think about you. And what tions in Nazi Germany and left on
senior Senator from the, State of I think about you is shared by all my the Orient Express late tonight for
Nebraska. Only four years removed colleagues. Whatever may be their FParis.
II

Part one is without question as-1
cinating. It tells how, after the trans-
fer of Antigua to its present site when
the early city was wiped out by at
earthquake and an avalanche, Don
Luis de los Infantas built the house,
achieved a prominent position in An-
tigua, quarreled with the governor of
Guatemala, and eventually returned
to Spain a ruined man. The next
owner, Don Teofilo de Alvarenga, was
a justice in the supreme court, a re-
spected man; but when he had his
daughter's suitor murdered, and a
Franciscan named Hermano Pedro
harassed him with admonitions to
"confess and repent," he admitted
his crime and was hanged. His daugh-
ter entered a convent. The next ten-
ant had an affair with a married
woman, and when she died in his
arms "overcome with emotion," he
repented and became a Bethlehemite.
The next residents, the Montufars,
were quiet people who owned the
house until the second quarter of the
eighteenth century.

of the book, are devoted to the not-
very-exciting lives of Wilson and Dor-
othy Popenoe; to long expositions of
their sterling characters; to ten-page
excerpts from Dorothy Popenoe's di-
ary and archaeological reports telling
about her interest in meteorology,
housekeeping and Indian burials-all
this inserted in the book to "reveal
her mind;" to chapter-long conver-
sations with Wilson Popenoe about
the advisability of including so much

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