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July 30, 1944 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1944-07-30

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SUNDAY, JULY 30, 1944

Book Reviesw-Original Prose Every Sunday

Cross Section' Presents Writers in
Drama, Fiction, and Poetry

Sumner Wells Surveys
World Political- Scene

How an American

SoughttOut His Pasl
NOTE-Received his B. A. from Michigan. Was awarded a Major
Hopwood fiction award in 1943 eand is now working on his Master's
Degree here.
Pennell. Scribner's. 363 pages. $2.75.
THE NOVELS pour off the presses and we watch them come to make
their little or larger splashes and disappear. Sometimes one comes
along, like The History of Rome Hanks, of which we can say that if it
dies soon, it didn't deserve to die soon and if it lasts that it was worthy
of long life.
Rome Hanks is a long, sprawlingr--- -
book built around a variation of bers of Harrington's great grand-
the frame or story-within-a-story father who was in Grant's Army
technique. By the end of the bqok of Tennessee.
we can recapitulate this frame as He goes to the brother of th
follows, A young man named Lee great-grandfather who fought with
Harrington is sitting at a desk gaz- the 86th North Carolina in Pick-
ing at some sonnets he has written ett's Charge at Gettysburg. Als
to the beautiful girl he loves. He he pieces together other informa-
recalls how she was bored when he tion he has learned, tracing down
told her about his great-grandfath- the route by which ruined lif
ers and their part in the Civil War. after ruined life terminated in hi
He was quite piqued by her bore- own-until he sits and gazes at
dom because it reflects both on the four sonnets he has written
himself and his ancestors. and finally reads aloud to the pic-
Presumably-Pennell does not ture of the girl -who was bored.
try to be clear about it-he sets WHILE PENNELL. may have ac-
out to find out all he can about complished everything he set
these ancestors. His search be- out to do, it cannot be said that
comes, for him, more than a re- ' the result is faultless. If a persor
vitalizing of history to offset the less capable of giving the illusion
slight of the young wvoman. He of life to an odd and vast array of
seeks the roots from which his characters had used the same ma-
diseased body and his morbid, terial and devices, the critics would
melancholic outlook came. He probably have a field day over his
goes to the shack where Wagnal, corpse. His book is structurally
eivil War surgeon and post war intricate, has little consecutive
minister, lives. Wagnal knew narrative, and is overpopulated
well both Rome Hanks and the with characters created out of the
man who cheated him out of his Civil War and the Reconstruction.
rightful military and civilian It is purposely cloudy (the author
prestige and income, says so) in chronology and focus
The young nifan drinks old Wag- of interest. One is not supposed tc
nal's whiskey out of a communion know or care just who is talking
goblet and listens while he wheezes or what is happening.
out his tale of the Civil War, of But most of us have been spoil-
his own life, and what he remem- See CIVIL WAR, Page 8

NOTE--Hayden was a major Hopwood
winner in poetry in 1942. Received his
B. A. from Wayne University, Detroit
and his M. A. from the University last
June. At present he is writing a nar-
rative poem THE BLACK SPEAR which
will be published this fall.
Edwin Seaver. 559 pp. New York: L.
B. Fischer Co., $3,50.



anthology Seaver is careful to
make clear that by the term "new
American writing" he does not
mean anything esoteric or philo-
sophical; he means simply hitherto
unpublished work by writers who
are Americans. It is well that he
has clarified his meaning, for oth-
erise critics (whose chief diversion
is hair-splitting) might challenge
him as to the "newness"' of the
writing he has selected.
Cross Section does not represent
any particularly new directions in
American writing. There is no
experimental"' work (in the New
Directions sense) included. The
native avant-gardists, with the ex-
ception of the poet, Charles Henri
Ford, are conspicuous by their ab-
sence. The best of the fiction harks
back technically to the twenties
and thirties, , employing devices
which were experimental during
those decades but which are less
so now, though still effective. This
exterior resemblance to the work of
the twenties and thirties has led
some critics to minimize the sig-.
nificance of this book on the
grounds that it is merely a postlude
to the literature of those periods.
But this is hardly the case. For it
contains neither the cynicism nor
the belligerent social protest char-
acteristic of those decades. It is
rather difficult to say just what
the prevailing mood of the literary
forties, as here represented, is. It
may be significant that the best
stories and Arthur Miller's play,

The Newest Qnd Best in Books
Wen ow have shipments arriving constantly.
Keep up with the current books.



The Man Who Had All the Luck,
deal with people who are in one
way or another failures in life.
Short stories and novelettes
make up the bulk of Seaver's an-
thology, with poetry constituting
the next largest group. Dramatic
writing is represented by two
three-act plays, one by Arthur
Miller, a former Hopwood winner;
while the only example of critical
writing is an essay by Stanley Ed-
gar Hyman.
On the whole, fiction comes off
better than the other types of writ-
ing included. There are stories that
are merely competent, which rep-
resent a good "job" of writing;
there are two or three which seem
to have originated in an inner
Only a few stories deal in any
way with the present war, but
the war is no more than a back-
ground of disaster against which
sertain moments in the lives of
frustrated or unhappy individu-
als are presented. Norman Mail-
er's novelette, "A Calculus at
Heaven," is the story of a small
group of soldiers defending an
island against the Japanese. The
emphasis, however, is upon the
inner strife within each man, and
by a series of flashbacks we are
shown strategic moments in his
past. The Spanish Civil War pro-
vides the background for Pru-
dencio de Pereda's "Resurrec-
tion." Here again, the central
character, Mickito, isan unhap-
py failure touched by war though
not transformed by it.
Richard Wright's "The Man Who
Lived Underground," along with
de Pereda's novelette, is another of
the small number of stories in this
anthology written genuinely from
within. It is Perhaps the most im-
pressive story in the collection.
Utilizing again the fear-motif,
which seems to be his preoccupa-
tion, Wright has written a power-
ful psychological study of a fugi-
tive from justice who seeks haven
in a sewer, who ,questions the val-
ues of the world from which he has
been driven and comes in the end
to see them as false and worthy
only of rejection. The harsh photo-
graphic realism for which Wright
is both praised and condemned is
here employed to the full. But this
is not the element which gives the
story its real power. It is, rather,
Wright's sharpness of insight into
the ind of a tortured human being.
He seems t'o be moving away from
racial to universal implications. It
is incidental that the man who
lived underground was a Negro.
SEVERAL STORIES deal with the
Negro in one way or another.
Carl Offord and Ralph Ellison,
both Negroes, write of their own
people with objectivity and the
photographic realism which, for
better or worse, is characteristic of
American writing motivated by so-
cial problems. Offord's insistence
upon such details as the way an
empty ash-can sounds when bang-
ed against the pavement and the
smell of garbage constitutes his
chief fault, as it does in the case
of other writers represented here,
for imaginatively it adds nothing
to the story or our understanding
of life. BothJohn D. Weaver and
Leonard Robinson in the stories,
"Oak Shadows" and "Trouble
Keeping Quiet" have chosen Negroes
as their leading characters, and
these, since they were written by
white authors, indicate that the
stereotypes and cliches which have
vitiated so uch of the fiction about
Negroes are being disposed of by
serious writers. In this at least,
Cross Section seems to be pointing
a new direction.
The poetry which Seaver has
selected is disappointing in the
amin. Both established poets,
such as Oscar Williams, Lang-
ston Hughes, Isidor Schneider,
and Edwin Honig; anti newcom-

ers, such as Robert Whittington,
Helen Wolfert, Robert Tallman
and Will Gibson have been in-
cluded. Norman Rosten, former
Michigan student and Hopwood
winner, is represented with a
poem, "Introduction," from a
work in progress which in spite
of mannerisms and echoes of
Macleish is eloquent and vivid.
Langston Hughes' three poems
are poems only in the broadest and
most uncritical sense-are little
more, actually., than cartoons in
verse. Robert Tallman's lyrics are,
I think, the best among the youn-
ger group, fusing as they do emo-
tion and intellect. Jean Garrigue's
three poems are written with intel-
lectual vigor but fail emotionally.
Robert Whittington's verse drama,
"The Death of Garcia Lorca," is
an experiment in the Lorca idiom.
On the whole, intellection usurps
the place of emotion and poetic
insight, and few of these poets
seem to be reacting dynamically
to anything.
Arthur Miller's play is a sensitive
draam of a young man seeking the
great Why of his world. Though it
builds slowly in dramatic interest,

NOTE-Received his B. A. from Brown in
1943 and was awarded a fellowship in
English to the University last fall. He
was granted his M. A. here in June and
will begin work for his doctorate on a
fellowship at Harvard in November.
Welles. 431 pps, Harper & Bros, $3.00.
Decision presents o u r former
Under-secretary of State's views on
American foreign policy. It is not
-precisely the "now-it-can-be-told"
book that its jacket-blurb hints,
but The Time for Decision is a
sober, reasoned narrative and an-
alysis of recent world history, with
emphasis upon the American point
of view. Welles sets forth explana-
tions of motives and events which
have not been fully understood.
He excels in probing the whys and
wherefores of things already
known. Events which were shroud-





which Roosevelt permitted an em-
bargo on arms to 'Loyalist Spain.
By a strange volte-face, Welles
condones later dealings w i t h
Franco on ground of military ex-
pediency; he has no comment on
what our policy should be now
that the expediency is over.
Throughout the book Welles dis-
plays the same extraordinary fi-
delity to "expediency" and the
same interest in ends rather than
means. Thus he can excuse Sta-
lin's non-aggression pact with
Hitler and Chamberlain's appease-
ment in 1938; he can justify our
dealings with Darlan and our
slighting of DeGaulle; he can find
words of praise for those staunch
partisans of democracy, Batista
and Vargas; he can criticize our
State Department's failure to rec-
ognize the Fascist Farrell regime
of Argentina. Liberal - minded
Sumner Welles assuredly is, but

put into operation, should be both
permanent and effective.
The former Undersecretary of
State concludes with a scant fifty
pages on "world organization",
describing a permanent union of
the United Nations. There would
be an eleven-member Eixecutive
Council, empowered to maintain
peace with the aid of armed force.
Welles envisages also an Agency
of International Trusteeship, a
World Court-and eventually a
World Congress.
His plans are ambitious. Prob-
ably the least likely outcome of
this war will be the adoption of so
thorough and so feasible a con-
ception of world organization. But
the idea is excellent and should be
considered by our peacemakers as
an ideal to build upon or perhaps
to build for.
It should be noted that Welles'
primary concern is with PEO-
PLE, with the actual nationals
of the countries of which he
writes. He fully realizes that
leaders, diplomats, and even eco-
nomic forces alone cannot shape ,
events. Welles knows the im-
portance of the human factor, of
public will, public opinion, and
public morale the world over. In
almost every country, he finds
that the government, good or
bad, exists because its people
want it. In Germany, "the con-
tinuing loyalty of the bulk of
the population is given to that
military force controlled and
guided by the German General
Staff. H u m a n rehabilita-
tion, as well as economic reha-
bilitation, is necessary in Ger-
many and Japan.
In other ways, governments re-
flect the needs and wants of their
people. Thus, since the American
people were isolationist, both Re-
publican and Democratic Presi-
dents had to be isolationist. The
American people were misinformed
about the Spanish Civil War, and
the Neutrality Act was passed.
Only proper dissemination of in-
formation by authorized officials
can direct American opinion cor-
The Time for Decision is an im-
portant book. It contains, despite
some omissions, a most convenient,
concise, and yet clear interpreta-
tion of the background of our war
and our coming peace. Welles
knows the facts and knows which
are the important facts as few men
do. He does not tell all, but he
tells enough to stimulate our think-
ing about the kind of World we
had and the kind of world we



ed in genuine secrecy (and there
must be many known to Mr.
Welles) are not going to be dis-
closed yet-at least not by Sumner
Welles. Welles is content to inter-
pret history and to offer his reme-
dies for the world's ills. The book
is by turns autobiographical, his-
torical, analytical, and speculative.
Welles begins with a straight
narrative of the tragedy of world
history from 1918 to 1940. He
punctuates his account with.
acrid comments on the want of
decision among the victorious
powers of World War I, the fail-
ure to strengthen the League of
Nations, the criminal ignorance
of our own Coolidge and Kellogg,
and the fatal blunders of the
statesmen who let Hitler rise to
mastery in Central Europe.
Welles introduces some personal
history here with a description
of his own mission to Europe in
1940 when, at the President's re-
quest, he sounded Mussolini, Hit-
ler, Daladier, and Chamberlain
on the prospects for an early
peace. The replies h e received
were what might have been ex-
The general result, as far as the
book is concerned, is nothing very
new, except for some excellent
human interest pictures of a
stoutly anti-Nazi Ciano straining
to hold a faltering Mussolini in
the ranks of non-belligerency and
of the sadistic Anglophobe Ribben-
trop exercising an almost hypnotic
power over the "criminal para-
noiac" Hitler. Welles writes more
briefly and less interestingly of his
encounters with the, less neurotic
leaders of the democracies. With
the conclusion of the hopeless mis-
sion, Welles picks up the thread
of history again.
For the most part, Welles sanc-
tions the foreign policy of Roose-
velt and Hull. His most important
criticism is of the "oversight" by

he is a- shrewd professional diplo-
mat as well and not exactly the
apostle of liberalism that our press
pictured at the time of his resig-
THE SECOND main section of
the book takes the reader
through each trouble spot of
world politics. Welles painstak-
ingly presents the issues at stakes
and offers his own suggestions
for future action . Welles attri-
butes great'gains in Latin Amer-
ica to the Roosevelt administra-
tion. Our former Undersecretary
of State seems to favor a silken-
hand-in-the-silken-glove policy
toward our neighbors to the
south. It is just such a policy
which has been working with
great success. Less peaceful
policies have only made enemies,
Welles insists.
WELLES' plans for Germany
seem drastic, but the menaceis
very real; the results, if Welles' way
of action should be whgle-heartediy

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