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August 13, 1944 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1944-08-13

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LITERARY PAGE
Book Reviews-Original Prose Every Sunday

TRE MICHIGAN DAILY

SUNDAY, AUGUST 13,

Arican Heritage in
Treasury of Folklore

NewWar Heroine East by Southwest'

Woo Collected Letters

Reveal Author's

Vast

Scope

THE LETTERS OF ALEXANDER WOOL-
COTT. Edited by Beatrice Kaufman
and Joseph Hennessey. 410 pp. Vik-
ing Press. $3.50.
By VIRGINIA LaRUE
W OOLLCOTT'S editors inform
us, in their "Note on the Let-
ters," that the collection they have
made represents only a fragment
of Woollcott's actual correspond-
ence; the reader, bewildered by a
speedy succession of famous names,
must realize that the immensity
of Woollcott's scope as a writer of
letters has only been suggested in
this book. The limelight has of
course been directed upon figures
of the literary and theatrical
world. but Woollcott had friends
of every kind. And it is as friends
that Mrs. Kaufman and Mr. Hen-
nessey have edited the letters. In.
the biographical introduction which
serves as a guide to people and
places encountered in the letters,
we are told that they do niot intend
to criticize Woollcott as a writer.
As a man, thowever, he emerges
from their description gigantic in
every respect.
The letters do not represent
Woollcott's impatient nastiness in
the face of what he disliked. None
of his scathing letters were sub-
mitted to the editors. And so we
discover him as invariably cur-
ious, ,gossipy, funny, and some-
times rude, but kindly, too, in al-
most every situation. We are giv-
en some idea of his fabulous ego-
ism, but little of his notorious
sharpness.
That Woollcott's contributions
were in reality more those of the
heart than of the head is an
impression we receive from the
letters. There is nothing au-
stere about his tastes; he is likely
to praise and urge upon ev eryne
all his own favorites, whatever
they are, and he seldom con-
demns the work of his friends.-
Moreover, he is a supporter of
causes, and compassionately per-
suades his correspondents of the
importance of The Seeing Eye,
or Aid to Britain. He is an en-
thusiastic alumnus of his college,
and we are able to detect in his

loyalties, in his tenderness as
well as in his love of pranks," a
kind, of lasting youthfulness,
Woollcott was not primarily re-
flective. His letters are informa-
tive rather than thoughtful, and
there is nothing awful or inspir-
ing in what he writes. But from
Woollcott we'do not expect inspira-
tion. His flippancy was intended.
What we find disappointing in his
letters is their lack of detail. Wooll-
cott was in too much of a hurry.
He knew, too many people, and the
clutter of names in this book will
help to "date" it. The delight-
ful pictures of his world which
Woollcott, with his gift for witty
emphasis, might have given us,
have been sacrificed to mass pro-
duction, and the result is of a less
enduring kind than one might
have hoped.
BUT Woollcott did not write for
posterity; he wrote for his
friends, who undoubtedly liked to
get letters. They were made hap-
pier by a frequent and impudent
word from him than they would
have been by an infrequent master-
piece. Woollcott was indefatig-
able in this, as in everything else,
and the mere range and number
of the letters indicate the huge-
ness of his capacity. Their tone
reveals that" all of the people to
whom Woollcott wrote, and every
one of the stories he told them,
were really important to him.
One of the nicest of these stories
is that of his protege Frode Jen-
sen, whose history he relates for
the benefit of Laura E. Richards.
As a group the letters written in
Woollcott boyhood are especially
charming. Those written after the
beginning of this war and during
his own illness are darker in tone
than the earlier letters, but even
at the end Woollcott appears
frank, eager, and very much alive.
Clapper Leaves Book
Raymond Clapper left some in-
teresting observations for the
world in his "Watching the World"
(Whittlesey House, 1944) before he
was killed.

Editors Note-Professor Williams did his
undergraduate work at the University of
Washington and received his M. A.
from that institution in 1928. After
joining the faculty of the University
he prepared his doctoral thesis and was
granted his Ph. D. in 1938. His field of
specialization is American literature
which he is now teaching in. the Eng-
lish department.
A TREASURY OF AMERICAN FOLK-
LORE. Edited by B. A. Botkin. Crown
Publishers. $3.00.
By MENTOR L. WILLIAMS
T WAS JUST seventeen years
ago that Carl Sandburg gave
an astonished American audience
its first serious collection of the
chief folksongs of America. Here
was proof that America had an
authentic, oral, grapevine litera-
ture.. It is appropriate that Mr.
Sandburg's American Songbag has
been republished in a popular edi-
tion in the same year that Mr. Bot-
kin has edited this inclusive Treas-
ury of American Folklore; it is also
appropriate that Mr. Sandburg
has written the foreword to the
Botkin volume.
For, between the years 1927-
1944, the American public has
really been waking up to its rich
background of folk-say and folk-
lore. Not only have the ballads
of the several sections and occu-
pations of the country been re-
corded (many for the phono-
graph), and the work and play
songs set down, but also the leg-
ends and tales of the folk heroes
like Paul Bunyan, John Henry,
and Pecos Bill, of the wild men
like Crockett and Fink, of the bad
men like Quantrell, Billy the Kid,
and Jesse James, or of the saints,
like Lincoln and John Brown and
Johnny Appleseed have been un-
earthed and classified according
to scholarly patterns.
In Mr. Botkin's anthology all
the efforts of these patient seek-
ers, recorders, and compilers
have been made as much a part
of our literary heritage as
Grimm's Fairy Tales or Motheir
Goose's Nursery Rhymes. The
extent of that heritage can only
be suggested here. Would you
know about Crockett's exploits,
the legend of Sam Bass, the law
of Roy Bean, the adventures of
Big-foot Wallace, the character
of Bowleg Bill, the wizardry of

ii

Johnny Inkslinger, the weather
of Febold Feboldson?
WOULD YOU like to hear again
the booster yarns, the knock-
er tales (remember "Duluth" and
"Change the Name of Arkansas?
Hell, No!"), the Little Audrey
jokes, the Little Moron stories(they
are centuries old), the "You tell
'em" phrases, the "knock-knock"
gags? Would you refresh your
mind with homely proverbs and
witty sayings? Would you read
anew the tall tales of both an older
and a modern society, or listen
again to the liars' club whoppers?
All are here in abundance. There
are animal tales, witch tales, ghost
stories, devil stories-those that
are clearly from the folk tradition.
There are also play rhymes and
play-party songs as well as an ex-
cellent selection of old and new
ballads.
It is abundantly clear from
this volume that folklore is more
than the stories of the past which
"literature" has caught up with;
it is that mass of tale, song, and
jest that we hear in our social re-
lationships every day: the rookie
joke, the soldier song, the war's
catchwords-"pass the ammuni-
tion," "sighted sub, sank same"
and all its variants, the gremlin
jests, the bomber plant stories.
Much of it will pass from oral to
written tradition within the next
fifty years but in its place will
arise a new grapevine or book-
less expression.
Some men have lamented that ,
the machine age has destroyed
the folk tale. -The Ford stories,
about both the man and his
flivvers are sufficient evidence
to disprove that assertion. Our
rapid industrial growth resulting
in an urban folk pad the effect
of cutting us off from the folk-
lore of an agricultural and rural
populace. We are not quite
confortable in the presence of
our ancestral folklore nor are
we yet quite conscious of the
folklore of the present. Sind-
burg, Benet, Dos Passos and
others are helping us appreci-
ate and understand our "peo-
ple's literature."
Pioneers, farmers, truck drivers,
engineers, miners, housewives, soda
clerks, sophisticates, city slickers
are creators of songs and stories.
Theirs is a "stuff that travels and
a stuff that sticks"; it is of the
land, the people and their exper-
ience. As Whitman put it:
"Forever alive, forever forward
they go; they go, I know not where
they go, but I know they go toward
the best, toward something great."
New Novel
Misses Point
FIRE BELL IN THE NIGHT. By Con-
stance Robertson. 342 pp. Henry Holt.
$2.50.
By ROBERT E. HAYDEN \
MRS. Robertson's novel of the
abolition struggle in Syracuse,
New York comes as a disappoint-
ment to this reviewer. We may
compliment the writer on her
knowledge of the modus operandi
of the underground railroad and,
to some extent, on the manner in
which she has dramatized history.
But one is aware from the first
few pages to the last that Mrs.
Robertson, for all her researches
in old journals and newspaper
files, has failed to grasp and fix
for the reader the spirit of the
men and women engaged in the
conflict-the ethos of the times.
The writer has, instead, tried
to dramatize the struggle be-
tween slavery and abolitionism in
terms of the eternal triangle;
and what results is an over-writ-
ten formulistic love-story which
throws the book off-key and

weakens the impact of the histo-
rical material.
Fire Bell in the Night is just
another adequate piece of story-
telling, with no distinctiveness of
style and no particular evidences
of insight into the, lives of men
and women caught in a burning
maze of history.
Preview of Next
Week's Reviews
Next week in the Literary Page
of The Daily:
Robert Hayden reviews William
Rose Benet's new book of poems,
Day of Deliverance.
Virginia LaRue reviews Trumpet
Voluntary, new autobiographical
volume by the British novelist G./
B. Stern.
Constance Taber reviews The
Green Continent: A Comprehen-
sive View of Latin America by Its
Leading Writers, selected and edit-
ed by German Arciniegas. This
anthology surveys both Latin-Am-
erican life and literature in selec-

Joan of Arc Story in
Modern Setting
SIMONE. By Lion Feuchtwanger. 238 pp.
The Viking Press. $2.50.
By HENRY POPKIN
LION Feuchtwanger's new novel
deals with a French heroine of
1940, a modern Joan of Arc. Si-
mone Planchard, a fifteen-year old
orphan living with patronizing rel-
atives, reads of Joan of Arc and
longs to emulate the peasant maid
of Domremy. When the Germans
near her town, Simone burns her
uncle's trucks and gasoline stores
to prevent their falling into enemy
hands. The- Germans take the
town, and local officials commit
Simone to a reformatory.
All the narrative comes to us by
way of Simone's point of view.
All the physical events are im-
portant only insofar as they are
stimuli to Simone's thoughts. And
it is in the inner recesses of Si-
mone's mind that the reader may
lose his way. Feuchtwanger makes
much of the parallel with Joan of
Arc, for Joan, Charles VII, and
their English adversaries are as
real to Simone as the people around
her. She identifies herself com-
pletely with Joan, and Feucht-
wanger works out ingenious, occa-
sionally over-ingenious, similarities
to Joan's career. Frequently the
author inserts straight narratives
about Joan of Arc, and twice Feu-
chtwanger narrates Simone's reve-
ries, in which she becomes Joan of
Arc and the characters of modern
and ancient times are completely
mixed.
The parallels with Joan of Arc
serve to enrich and to enliven the
plot, but Feuchtwanger some-
times carries them too far, so
that the personality of Joan ob-
scures and intrudes upon the
personality of Simone And Si-
mone herself is so lacking in per-
sonality and vigor, that the char-
acter simply would not exist
without the superimposed
strength of Joan of Arc.
Simone seems too much like a
passive container of emotions and
imaginings. The character of Si-
mone does not live because it pos-
sesses no positive, unmistakable
traits of its own. Other characters
in the book are better realized,
notably Simone's uncle (sometimes
identified with Charles VI) and
Maurice, a garage-worker (doubl-
ing in brass as Gilles de Rais, Jo-
an's loyal friend).
Except for the somewhat labored
development of the Joan of Arc
theme, Feuchtwanger's plot runs
rather smoothly. Simone is a
competent job. Feuchtwanger
knows how to create suspense, to
build character, to capture the
atmosphere of a few critical and
nerve-wracking days. My chief
complaint is that he gives us a lit-
tle too much of Joan of Arc and
not quite enough of Simone.
Ann Arbor's
BEST SELLERS
FICTION-
Strange Fruit . ... Lillian Smith
History of Rome Hanks...
Joseph Pennell
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ..
Betty Smith
The Robe.......Lloyd Douglas
The Razor's Edge ..........
Somerset Maugham
NON-FICTION-
I Never Left Home . .Bob Hope
Time for Decision ..........
Sumer Welies
Barefoot Boy with Cheek ....
,Max Shulman
U.S. War Aims, Walter Lippman
Ten Years in Japan.......

Joseph Grew

Disappoints Reviewer

EAST BY SOUTHWEST. By Christopher
La Farge. 208 pp. Coward-McCann.
$2.50.
By DAVID STEVENSON
THIS collection of ten short
pieces was composed on the as-
sumption that a mixture of fac-
tual reporting an fiction would
retain the virtues of both, and its
main result is to disprove-that no-
tion. Sent on a tour of the South
Pacific by Harper's Magazine, Mr.
La Farge soaked up various facts
and impressions. Thevfacts might
have made good feature articles
and the impressions might have
been converted into good stories,
but that is not what happened.
Instead, the two have served to
dilute each another.
In about five of the pieces, told
in the first person, the narrator is
a correspondent surprisingly like
any correspondent writing in the
first person, and he climbs -aboard
a plane (duly described) or spends
a night on asmosquito infested
island much as a correspondent
would be apt to do. Yet we are
told in the. trustworthy foreword
that the place names are syn-
thetic and the characters compo-
site. In other words, we are not
to accept this man and the men
he meets and talks to as real
people. But in these first person
essays there is no central event
or characterization sufficiently
clear to warrant the" term- "short
story." You cannot take an abso-
lutely undistinguished slice out of

I - -____-_____________

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Make the most of
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*..."sun shades"
created by
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life, even South Pacific life in
1943, write it down in good prose
and call it good fiction.
The best example of this fiction-
report method is the first unit of
the book, called "All the Comforts
of Home," because, in this in-
stance, the reporting is disguised
by a superstructure of plot and
characterization, the subject mat,
ter is new and interesting, the
characters have a semblance of
life, and the plot complication is
well handled.
0 N THE other hand, the tale
which is most legitimately en-
titled to the name of short story
is the worst thing in the book.
This sounds like a contradiction
of the above charge that the book
flops because its reports are not
true and its fiction not untrue, and
that I could not deny, if all short
stories were good short stories.
This one, called "By Word of
Mouth" is, however, an orgy of
melodrama and sentimentality
based on the sad experiences of
a beautiful Free-French refugee
and a rich, thoughtless American
aviator.
If all other war literature
(Faulkner's These Thirteen, for in-
stance) were to be forgotten,
East by Southwest might be re-
garded as a rather pleasant col-
lection of apocryphal anecdotes.
As such, it is not too bad, but as
fiction it is on the bottom side of
mediocre.

Light Summer Reading-
The Woman in the Picture - John August ......$2.50
The Life and Death of Little-Jo - Robert Bright. .2.00
Island in the Sky - Ernest Gann .. ............2.50
The Steep Ascent - Anne Lindberg........... ..2.00
The Mocking Bird Is Singing - Louise Mally. .. .2.75
High Tide At Noon - Elisabeth Ogilvie...........2.75
Time For Each Other - Margaret Runbeck......2.00
The Signpost - E. Arnot Robinson ............2.50

Town & Country Make-p film. Ptal-cool
all-day foundation in glowing
Mauresque or sunny Rico Tan. 1.00, 1.50
Helena Rubinstein Face Powder. In
Mauresque, flattering Sun Tan or the
dramatic new Royal Tan.°1.00, 1.50, 3.50
Helena Rubistein'Lipsticks. Bright beauty
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.Jhe Qarrj
On State at the Head of North University
WE DELIVER

W A k-I R

Eh0 i

"tO0REP%

i

I316 SOUTH STATE STREETI
THE MICHIGAN DAILY SERVICE EDITION

ANN ARBOR, MICH.

SUNDAY, AUG. 13, 1944

ant. Dr. Wile, on leave
from the University, is in
charge of all venereal di-
sease work for f the United
States" Public Health Ser-
vice.
* * *
THE MICHIcrAN REP-
ERTORY PLAYERS of
the Department of Speech
presented "Fresh Fields,"
Ivor Novello's comedy of
Lady Lilian Bedworthy and
Lady Mary Crabbe, impe-
cunious noblewomen who
are forced to raise money
by such plebeian means as
writing a lovelorn column
and renting the second
floor of their home to
friends of Lady Mary's de-
ceased husband, Wednes-
day through Saturday at
the Lydia Mendelssohn
Theatre. Mary Jordan was
cast as Lady Lilian, Mada
Ruth Steinberg as her sis-
ter, Lady Mary, .while Don
Mullin portrayed Tim,
Lady Mary's son. Theodore
Viehman, head of The Lit-
tle Theatre of Tulsa, di-
rected the production.
* * *

ing the Chinese to con-
tinue their struggle.
In answer to the pop-
ular questiola of how China
can still fight on after sev-
en long years of war, Dr.
Shi gave various answers.
First, he attributed China's
endurance to her remark-
able leader, who at the
outbreak of the war,
pledged his country's cause
as a fight to the finish.
"The bravery and endur-
ance of the' Chinese army
is unequaled by any other
country in the world," said
Dr. Shih, adding that it
had progressed half a cen-
tury farther than it would
have in peace time. His
third reason for China's
fighting was the whole-
hearted support of the
army by the citizens, and
fourth, the fact that Japan
had underestimated the
morale of the army. The
other factors included the
support by the Allies, par-
ticularly the United States,
and the immense area in
which the Chinese could
fight.

the showing of his squad,
hampered as it was by un-
usually hot weather and
inexperienced players. "I'd
hate to play a game to-
morrow," he commented,

"but we'vec
pretty well.
much as we
do, but there
of work to bet
* *

come along
We did as
expected to
is still a lot
done."
*

UNEXPECTED DISAP-
POINTMENTS for the
team were the definite an-
nouncement that former
All-American fullback Bob
Westfall will not play for
Michigan this fall, even
though he will.probably
enter the University, the
fact that much publicized
Dick Rifenburg probably
will be stationed elsewhere
in the Marine corps when
the starting whistle an-
nounces the opening game,
Sept. 16, and that Gene
Derricotte, a good fresh-
man prospect for the tail-
back post, will take his
pre-induction physical for
the Army Monday. The
loss of Westfall still leaves

Tom Wright; guards
George Burg and Joe Oem-
ing; center John Lintol or
Charles Wahl; quarter-
back Joe Ponsetto; half-
backs Bob Nussbaumer
and Warren Bentz, and
fullback Wiese.
TOMMY KING, stellar
forward on last win-
ter's basketball squad, will
represent Michigan as a
member of the 1944 Col-
lege All-Star cage squad
which will compete with
the world's professional
champions Dec. 1 at Chi-
cago, it was learned
Thursday.
* * *
MICHIGAN MEN AT
WAR making the news
this week include Ensign
Mervin Pregulman, twice
chosen for all-American
football teams in 1943-44,
who has recently been as-
signed to the Newport
Naval Base, R. I. for duty
on a tanker on the Atlan-
tic convoy route and Lt.
Swift Tarbell, Jr., who was
recently awarded the Dis-

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