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March 22, 1941 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1941-03-22

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Page Twelve

TE RSPECTI VES

BOOKS IN SEASON

Sergeant Lamb's America
Robert Graves
Random House
Oliver Wiswell
Kenneth Roberts
Doubleday, Doran & Co.
Since the American Revolution, few
novelists have attempted to do anything
about the Tory point of view in that con-
flict. The Guns of Burgoyne represents
one effort along this line, an effort.
however, which missed. But recently
two successful novels, botltf holding a
brief for the British side, were offered
the public. Kennth Roberts has added
another volume to his formidable col-
lection of Americana with his latest.
Oliver Wiswell, and the English author,
Robert Graves, has'temporarily desert-
ed his ancient Rome, and writings of
the I, Claudius genre, to have a go at
Sergeant Lamb's America, and the sol-
dier philosophy of the good non-com
himself.
Those who' have followed Roberts up
and down east coast warpaths and in
and out- of her colonial barracks, bi-
voaucs and meeting houses will have
no difficulty in realizing that America's
most vigorously truth-sleuthing histor-
cral novelist has done a complete about-
race with espionage-agent Wiswell.
Heretofore Mr. Roberts' protagonists
and supporting heros have been drawn
from the ranks of our revolutionary
forbears who, under the pen of their
delineator and animator, could do, little,
f any wrong, were struggling for the
noblest ends and were, all in all, models
f what so fondly our D.A.R. hail. But
after a look at Oliver Wiswell, one ser-
tirnsly wonders what the revolutionary
daughters think of their dirty necked
progenitors now. Through Wiswell, Rob-
erts offers a picture of the conflict not
as a glorious Revolution, but as a mean
and unbeautiful civil war. Wiswell is a
gentleman of firmness and vision. To
him, the rebels are little better than
the dregs of humanity and their leaders,
by and large, but slightly elevated above
that status. He looks upon the pack of
them as a cowardly, undisciplined mob.
At the same time, he does not lose sight
of the fact that things might be very
much better in the ranks of the red-
coats. As a capable under-cover man, he
is driven to near despair over the dilly-
dallying of the British command; he
is indignant at the general ineptness
and corruptness of the English regulars;
he has no use for Howe's picnic attitude
towards the campaign, would prefer to
see the general more frequently sans
mistress, and suspects that the man
gives but small damn whether or not
the British win the war. But through-
out the book, he views the struggle as a
civil issue and not a revolution, and
TA.R.'s will like him better for knowing
that he is American Loyalist first, and
that his foresight, at the close of the
novel, leaves him with something of an
optimistic view of the future.
The book is so full of Roberts' typical
vigor, drive and heated attack that the
reader who likes his adventure in koda-
chrome and close to home will stay with
him to the end. By means of powerful
description and stirring plot sequences,
the continuity unfolds a tale of perpet-
ual interest. Roberts' description of the
peresecuted Loyalists on Long Island
and of the relief of the fort at Ninety-
Six rank well up with comparable ad-
venture and bloody-thunder episodes
from his other works. And when you lay
the book down, chances are, if you've
liked it in the least, you'll find yourself
siding with Oliver Wiswell, American
Loyalist.
Graves' book is toned down to the
point where it appears nearly pallid be-
side its competior. And yet it is quietly

and carefully written, stylistically more
evenly and capably controlled than Rob-
erts' volume. Sergeant Lamb is-and
was, actually-- common soldier with a
job to do, and this job he handles to
the best of his ability. Graves drew his
character from the only extant letter
of the real Lamb, and on the basis of
the decent subordination, upright char-
acter and quiet manliness of that epistle,
written to a superior officer upon re-
tirement, Graves has painted a very
real and very admirable man. Neither
Graves nor Lamb are rabble-rousers in
any sense. Lamb is an Englishman and
one who respects English law and order
and knows what it means in his day.
He has nothiei but the good soldier's
scorn for war and for the blind civilians
and conniving politicians who bring war
about. Through Lamb, Graves brings out
the factual case for Britain much more
clearly than does Roberts, and makes
a solid contribution to the background
of the Revolution. Every schoolboy, if
I may resort to a familiar introduction.
has had a chair at the Boston Tea
Party, and the beverage, as concocted
by benevolent and home-team historians.
has cvCr been tasty. But it is to be
solemsnly predicted that Graves' sound
documentary writing wit upset many an
elder when they read that the Stamp
Art. hi ,lt;upipesedly gripped so many
of the helpless in its merciless vise,
actually did rot average more than a
.penny per person per month, and that
John tiancok. that fellow who wrote
such anrrs nnisinerly large hand, was
taking tnts himself a small fortune
in th, t'-,edcllin game, and was sore
afraid tat English tea would put hin
where' he belonged-it being, tax in-
cluded. slated to undersell him. Heigh
ho. What were your ancestors?
Lamb is a practical man who realizes
that the protested revenue did not pay
one third of the cost of collecting it;
that what was happening to the little

ther overshadows the more scholarly
Graves. Not entirely, however, for
Graves is a sound and careful writer who
carries the conservatism and accuracy
of his Roman writings over into this
new field. He has taken an insignifi-
cant man and around him written truth
and simple intelligence into an histori-
cal event too often sacrificed to the
showmen. While we are condemning
his seeming dullness let us give him due
credit for veracity, scholarship and a
very human approach to a subject
which has grown, through the years,
into something superhuman, if not in-
human . . . Roberts, for all energy and
preferances for realism, falls short of
that in Oliver Wiswell. With his book,
Craves has definitely moved up a peg.
Roberts, though rousing. seems to me
simply to have installed inner springs
in his laurels. - a. Edelman
My Name Is Aram
William Saroyan
Harcourt, Brace & Co.
William Saroyan has added a new
name to the list of typical American
boys. Alongside the names of Tom Saw-
yer, Huckleberry Finn and Penrod will
be added the name of Aram garogh-
lanian. You may not eh able to pro-
nounce or remember the last name, but
despite the fact that Arnem is of Arrmen-
ian descent, ie is as t'r in American
boy as the others t-ci a twentieth,
century American.
In "My Name Is Aram-. Saroyan has
collected a group of short stories about'
Aram and his family living in Cali-
fornia. Saroyan himself says, "I do not
pretend that the took has any plot,
and I hereby give fair warning that
notiing extraordinary is going to hap-
pen in it." And while nothing extraord-
inary does happen ti it, the short stories
Saroyan tells are delightful.
Aram is in every one of the stories;

Reflections In a Golden Eye
Carson McCullers
Houghton, Mifflin Co.
Last year, when The Heart Is A Lonely
Hunter made its appearance, the critical
world was extravagant with praise for
a new talent rich in warmth and hu-
manity, alive with insight into human
personality and human variety. It was
to this reviewer almost a definitive study
of human loneliness and the need for
love.
This year the same critical world looks
askance, and with reason, at Mrs. Mc-
Culers' new production, Reflection In a
GldenuEye. If it were her first novel
(as some rumor has it that her publish-
ers, scenting a good ting, have foisted
an earlier work of tiers on the public)
its critical reception would have been
nil; but the shock of seeing so im-
mense a talent gone so far astray has
caused an inordinate amount of com-
ment. There are undeniable virtues, un-
common virtues. There is a psychologi-
cal validity of almost clinical order, for
Mrs. McCullers apparently possesses per-
ceptions beyond the ken of those twice
her age. Her language is always clear.
clean and a delight. A curious balance
has been effected between the music of
her language and the dissonance of her
plot.
Yet the toosl is nothing so, much as
literary tight-rope walking or an exer-
cise in the Gothic novel with its horrors
brought up to date to include frustra-
tions, repressions, neuroses, homosex-
uality, adultery and possibly some things
the reviewef hasn't caught. Even in their
roos desperate need, the characters ex-
cite no sympathy, and the fault lies not
in their abnormality, but in their lack
of any human vestments. They are al-
ready dead when we meet them.
A woman tortured to death by her
husrband's infidelity; an army captain
who loves his wife's lovers; a Filipino
servant who loves his mistress; an im-
becile private who loves a horse; all of
them secure or insecure in their illusions
of love's being returned-these could
have been materials for greatness. Yet
there is no life here. We shed only those
crocodile tears which we weep at the
tragedy in a Punch-and-Judy. There
is the author, standing in the back-
ground, grinning satirically at her mis-
erable phantoms, who cry in reedy
voices, "But what do we do next?"
It goes against the grain to have any
author so play hob with human misery.
Let us hope that Mrs. McCullers has
been dominated only temporarily by her
desire to achieve clinical reality and, in
haste-or from whatever reason-has
neglected the human dimension. For
she has already shown us her potentiali-
ties, and we can still well afford to be
confident about her future work.
- George Spelvin
get lessons from Lionel Strongfort; his
cousin who stole the horse; his cousin
who was a great debater; these and all
the rest of them are put together to help
tell the story of Aram. They are differ-
ent from anyone yet written about,
and are put together by Saroyan to form
a real and simple picture of this Ar-
menian family in Fresno.
There is no stress or strain in the
writing; it flows along easily and
smoothly, completely in accord with
Saroyan's assertion that he did not know
what was coming next as he wrote.
There are some long stories, and some
short stories-one no more than five
pages, but in every one there is the
easy, charming comedy of Aram, the
kid from the Armenian colony who is
as real, and as unreal, as life itself.
- Bernard Dober

-it JL.J ..9ttee
Etta and the Greeks, by John E. Bingley ........... . .......... Page 1
A Heretic Looks at Painting, by John Maxon ... . :................Page 3
The Concert, by James Turner Jackson ........................Page 4
A Game of Solitare, by William Kehoe ........................ Page 5
Poetry .. .................. ............ Pages 6 and 7
Episodes in the Perpetration of a Dastardly Crime,
by Dennis Flanagan .............. ...Page 8
Reviews .................................... .Pages 11 and 12

man in England in such holes as Man-
chester and Birmingham made the lot
of the griping colonists look like a day at
the races. Lamb, too, is a complete Brit-
isher, where Wiswell's sympathies are
with the colony first. There is little
glory and a great deal of work in the
campaign for the honest sergeant. For
those who will have it so, there is a
touch of romance in Lamb's Indian
marriage, and adventure in his special
missions for Johnny Burgoyne and in
the machinations of General Arnold.
Perhaps the closest that Sergeant
Lamb's America comes to the color and
descriptive strength of Roberts' work
is in Graves moving account of the long
march to Boston by the surrendered
British Army.
In one sense it is regrettable that the
two books appeared so nearly together,
for Roberts has been writing Ameri-
cana for popular American consumption
for many years. He either has, or knows'
what the American public likes to read
about its early history. His is the uncom-
promising brand of attack which ra-

so there is opportunity to become well-
acquainted with this new American boy.
"As to whether or not the writer him-
self is Aram Garoghlanian," the author
says, "the writer himself cannot very
well say. He will, however, say that he
is not, certainly not Aram Garoghlan-
ian." And so to bed.
Best of all the stories is "Locomo-
tive 38, the Ojibway." If it's true, it's
a crazy story. If it's not true, it's a story
every boy dreams will happen to him
some day; and it's still a crazy story.
But that's what makes this and the
other such good reading: they are so
real. Aram is more fun than a boy liv-
ing in Fresno; he's you and I, doing the
things we have done or have dreamed
about doing.
One of the things about all of the
stories which makes them so delightful
is the picture of Aram surrounded by
the rest of the Garoghlanian clan. His
uncle who wanted to grow pomegranate
trees in a dry, arid country; his father
who loved the "poor and burning Arab";
his uncle Gyko who gave him money to

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