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September 16, 1957 - Image 52

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1957-09-16
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Page 4--The Michigan Daily Magazine


Meyer Levin's


Art School's McClure
'When Everything Is Completely Functional, You
As if You're Under an Obligation'

A Full and Sprawling Book With a Plea for Understanding

COMPULSION. By Meyer Lev-,
in. 495 pp. New York: Si-
mon and Schuster. $5.
Daily Magazine Editor
AT THIS WRITING, the hearing
on Nathan Leopold's sentence
commutation is going on, and the
decision probably won't be released
for a month or more. And it
seems doubtful, despite his excel-
lent prison record and his volun-
tary participation as a "guinea
pig" in malaria experiments and
other medical research, that the
living half of the legendary Loeb-
Leopold case will be allowed to go
free. Nathan Leopold has been im-
prisoned since his late teens. He
is now 52 years old, but still pug-
lic sentiment rises against the
brutally senseless, inexplicable
murder of Bobby Frank.
By now, of course, the Loeb-
Leopold case is probably the best
known in the annals of Twentieth
Century crime. The two boys,
brilliant students at the Univer-
sity of Chicago, after months of
scheming over the commission of

a perfect kidnaping and murder,
one day put their plan into exe-
Bobby Frank was a last-minute,
completely random selection. He
was murdered, they claimed, to
prove the Nietzschean theory that
supermen were above the laws of
ordinary men; it was to be an ut-
terly motiveless crime. After a
brilliant, classically compassion-
ate defense by Clarence Darrow,
the boys were sentenced to life
imprisonment with recommenda-
tions of no parole.
Richard Loeb was murdered by
a fellow-prisoner who resented his
homosexual advances; brought to
trial, the prisoner was released on
a verdict of justifiable homicide.
Because of Leopold's participation
in the wartime malaria experi-
ments, Adlai E. Stevenson, then
governor of Illinois, cut his 99-
year sentence to 85 years, making
him eligible for parole.
His plea was denied in 1953, as
were requests for a rehearing .in
1955 and last December. He is
making his plea for commutation
on grounds that he has been suf-
ficiently punished, has been reha-

bilitated, has an exemplary record rationalization; he goes beyond the
in prison and will lead a decent surface in examining their moti-
life if released. vations, and his speculations range
even as far as a completely sym-
ONE OF THE witnesses at the bolic Freudian interpretation of
commutation hearing is Meyer the crime as birth in reverse, al-
Levin, a fellow-student of both though he is ambiguous about ac-
boys. As campus correspondent cepting it.
for the Chicago Daily News at the The novel ranges between the
time of the crime, he was inti- first-person account by Sid Silver,
mately involved in the situation. the campus correspondent for the
Now, more than 30 years later, he Chicago Globe (actually the Daily
has written "Compulsion," a semi- News) and third-person examina-
fictional account of it. tions of both Artie Straus (Loeb)
Levin, like Dostoevsky and Sten- and Judd Steiner (Leopold). It is
dahl, has attempted to investi- divided into two sections, one
gate and account for the psy- dealing with the actual crime and
chology of an actual crime by the pursuit, the other with the trial.

writer's prerogative of fictional in-
terpolations when they "fit," al-
though he has stuck comparative-
ly faithfully to the general outline
of facts in the actual case.
As he points out, it would be im-
possible to know everything that
went on in both boys' minds, but
this is the way it works for him.
Like the examining psychiatrists
in the case, Levin refuses to ac-
cept the allegation that Leopold
and Loeb were out to prove Nietz-
sche right as anything more than

W HAT MADE them do it? Artie
was handsome and popular,
Judd quiet and studious. Both boys
were from wealthy families, both
had brilliant futures ahead of
What made them scheme for
months over a kidnaping plan that
involved fanatically clever and
complicated ransom instructions,
but not pick their victim until a
moment before the actual murder?
The novel begins with Judd in

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class the day after the murder;
we are allowed to see the act itself
in a series of flashbacks through-
out the first section. Even' with all
the scheming, the procedure itself
is incredibly inept and clumsy -
like the Scots patriots who stole
the Stone of Scone, they leave a
blazing trail behind them.
And though finally picked up by
the police, they are on the verge
of release before the conclusive
proof by the chauffeur is dis-
covered and Artie c o nf e s s e s.
Throughout the first section, all
during the chase, suspense builds
up and, despite the inhuman na-
ture of the crime, we find ourself
hoping that they, or at least Judd,
will not be caught.
For in the few short days be-
tween the murder and the appre-
hension, Judd seems on his way
to redemption through Ruth, Sid's
girl, probably a fictional character.
Ruth senses instinctively that there
is something wrong with Judd and,
in her warm sympathy, almost
reaches him. But the knowledge of
his crime keeps him from her. He
has never, up to now, admitted that
love could be anything more than
a biological urge. And now it is too
for Judd is swept away as we
see him and Artie trying to match
wits with the assistant state's
attorney, as the circumstantial
evidence closes in and the confes-
sion comes.
Although it isn't overtly dis-
closed until the trial, it is Artie
who is the strong man in the
strange compact; Judd worships
him. Gradually, the public concept
of Judd as the mastermind is re-
placed with revelations of Artie's
other crimes, his pathological lying,
the fact that it was he, not Judd,
who wielded the chisel that killed
Paulie Kessler.
Yet, as Levin points out, the two
were inextricably bound together
in the crime; the blending of their
distorted personalities produced
the atrocity and they must be con-
sidered together.
But they are still distinct per-
sonalities-Artie verging on schizo-
phrenia, Judd on paranoia. And
Judd is the one, somehow, that we
understand; he is the more obvi-
ously human of the twoThrough-
out the book, Artie remains, psy-
chologically, a shadowy figure, in-
comprehensible, far removed from
the sphere of human values.
The three-month trial produces
a stream of witnesses, and perhaps
even the great Jonathan Wilk
(Darrow) could not have obtained
the life sentence he sought with-
out occasional bumbling on the
part of State's Attorney Horn. But
the life sentence comes, ultimately,
not . because of their partial de-
rangement, but because of their
Yet the amount of testimony
offered by psychiatrists who probed
back into the boys' real motivations
in itself offered a sort of landmark
in medical jurisprudence. And it
raises the question that perhaps
will never be answered-how re-
sponsible are we for our acts?
In that respect, Wilk's plea for
Straus and Steiner is an almost
universal defense and a scathing
attack on capital punishment as
the solution to murder.
EVEN IF LEVIN had constructed
the crime out of whole cloth,
the book would have validity and
excitement. Coming, as it does,
from actuality, it is all the more
effective because it is so terribly
relevant to the last few decades.
The Nietzschean philosophy es-
poused by Hitler trickles through it,
reminding us of what came after.
The senseless, brutal crimes that
have occured since then are echoes.
And Sid Silver constantly reminds
himself and, in the process, us,
that we are all sometimes very

close to the subhuman bestiality
exhibited by Straus and Steiner,
But it is not just a documentary
of the two boys-all the characters
See LEVIN'S, Page 9

Daily Staff Writer
JUDGING BY Prof. Thomas Mc-
JrClure's commercial work,nhis
forte has been sculpture on a
grand scale.
Prof. McClure, . w h o teaches
sculpture at, the College of Archi-
tecture and Design, has designed
a 14-foot high and 26-foot long
metal mural of the world for the
Ford Motor Company Central
Staff Office at Dearborn.
He has done comparatively
smaller sculptures for a Detroit
shopping center and a southern
motel, He is presently working on
a model of another for a Mem-
phis, Tenn. shopping center.
"Stores are finally realizing, or
architects are making them realize,
what is discouraging people from
shopping downtown. Besides being
inconvenient to get to, it's un-
pleasant while you're there.
"You have to want to go shop-
ping, and want to stay shopping.
The too-functional downtown area
doesn't encourage this.
"When everything is completely
functional, you feel as if you're
under an obligation to do your
shopping. This isn't very enjoy-
able, so it isn't very profitable for
the stores. When you don't browse,
you don't buy.
"Proper designing of shopping
centers eliminates this. Sculpture
does its part by providing some-
thing not functional in a strict
sense, but necessary for enjoyment
and relaxation,"
B ECAUSE OF THIS, his main
aim in this kind of sculpture is
making each design pleasing to the
eye. There are two external factors
which must be considered, accord-
ing to Prof. McClure - the objects
that will surround it, an I the de-
sign's function.
For instance, the sculpture at
Memphis must blend in with the
modern architecture, but must also
be the focal point of a pool of
Ford stipulated their design be a
map of the world. Prof. McClure
explained that conditions are not
usually so restrictive. There were
two other unusual problems in
this job, Prof. McClure said. The,
mural had to be used as a screen
for two escalators, butembarrass-
ing difficulty was finding a large
enough place to build the mural,
AS THE OLD cliche goes, Prof.
McClure "has always been in-
terested in art." After completing
high school in Pawnee City, Neb-
raska, where he was born in,1920,'

a recent creation in one of the
eaches in addition to his coni-
He has tried to show in his'
sculpture the range, shadings, ir-
relevancies and association of an
"One simple word cannot be used

SCULPTOR AND HIS WORK--Prof. Thomas McClure pauses with
workrooms of the College of Architecture and Design, where he t

mercial work,
he went to college at the Univer-
sity of Nebraska.
He started school as a journal-
ism major - "hedging his bets,"
as he calls it. Although always
interested, he wasn't sure he was
good enough to make a career of
art, but after one semester of
journalism, he decided he might
as well try. He studied painting
while in school, but has since
switched to sculpture.
After graduating from college,
he received a teaching fellowship
from Washington State College.
But the war intervened. During the
war, he worked as an illustrator at
Boeing aircraft, painting only on
After the war, he studied at the
Cranbrook Institute of Art. "You're
mainly on your own there. It's not
the type of studying you associate
with Michigan.
"Any artist graduating from art
school has just begun. Up until this
time, I hadn't had much training,
just a good art background."
HE GOT a job teaching at a
school at Alfred, New York, but
wasn't satisfied with the type of
teaching he had to do there. So he
quit, and then taught sculpture
and design at the University of
From there, he came to the
University. He was the first full-

time sculpture instructor the arch-
itecture school had. "It's hard to
evaluate the different art schools,
but I think Michigan can comparej
with any of them.
"Traveling around the 4country
helps you to avoid the idea that
there is one right way of doing
things in art." Often the instruc-
tors at one school will get used to
each other and their ideas will
become very nearly the same.
To say that Prof. McClure's com-
mercial sculpture is big, and so
imply it is not much else, is an
injustice. He puts careful atten-
tion and craftsmanship into each
of his sculptures. eldsnare so
invisible that the sculpture seems
to be solid.
AWARDS ATTEST to the fact
that the 37-year-old professor
is more than just a craftsman. He
has received awards in various ex-
hibitions: the main one being the
Founder's prize of the Michigan
Artists Show.
Prof. McClure's personal work
has a different aim. "1 present no
ideals of beauty in my sculpture.
My own part has been trying to
show some of the relationships-
the feelings---within and between
men. I, at least, cannot present
these ideas anyway but through



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Levin's 'Compulsion'


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(Continued from Page 4)
are full and the sidelights very
real. The monumentally sad figure
of Judd's father is there, trying so
hard to understand why it was
that his son did this thing. The
girlfriends, Myra and Ruth, ring
true, and Willie Weiss, the budding
psychiatrist, with his beautifully
hung-together Freudian theories.
And there are the other aspects-
the cruelty the crime brought out
in people; the thousands of crank
notes, the Ku Klux Klan, the

bloodthirsty avidity of spectators
at the trial.
IN A WAY, the book is sprawling,
because, while treating the speci-
fic, it tries to cover and explain an
era. 'In assessing the impact of
Nietzsche, of gauging the effect of
the "new psychology," it succeeds.
But it is still the chronicle of a
horrible crime and its motivations.
And as a plea for understanding
rather than destruction, for fight-
ing inhumanity with humanity, it.
is deeply compassionate and con-



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