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October 16, 1955 - Image 4

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Page Four
The Mountain People
From the Kentucky Hills
To a Detroit Housing Project
By ROY AKERS with a dream or Max, the young w -
bride, who was ever in quest of
"T'L DOLL LIAKERt is a mag- one.
nificent book filled with many e v
wondrou kids o thngsand The very finest work in "The
wonderous kinda of thinga and Dollmaker" is the characteriza-
people. Between its covers one tion of little Cassie and Max. Cas-
fnds the sumac, dogwood and wild sie, Gertie's little girl, has a dream
honeysuckle foliage of the south- playmate whom she calls Callie
ern Appalachians, the cindered Lou. Callie Lou follows Cassie from
smell of a war-time Detroit hous- the mountains to the city but, up-
ing project, and the all-prevailing on entering school, Cassie finds
theme of a faceless bust of Christ that she is losing her playmate.
carved in cherry wood. She goes out into the alley one -
It is a woman's story: the story day and is calling for Callie Lou
of Gertie Nevels, who became under some freight cars when the
transplanted from her native engine of the train moves. Cassie
mountain habitat, during the is killed but, then, she is never
years of the second world war, in- forced to really lose her dream.
to the frenzied environment of a And Max, the young bride, finds
Detroit munitions plant. Gertie herself married to a man who
was merely one of the wives who couldn't even understand a dream, ^-Daily--Ether oudsmit
followed their hillbilly husbands much less a wife who dreamed. It
into the Northern munitions cen- is Max who is always popping in
ters during the period of hostility, and asking Gertie to tell her some-
but to many she will come to re- thing to dream about; a place like H a'e t
main as a symbol for all of them. the ocean that is always romantic
And this is good. For one occas- and far away. Max finally leaves the
tonally suspects that Gertie, in her husband and goes to the ocean,
herself, is not really a character but the husband remains in the
at all. That she is, instead, a look- house always waiting for her to
ing glass with the reflective return. Non-dreamers in the world BACK IN THE HILLS of Ann Ar- writing from thIs first book. She
strength of all the women who of "The Dollmaker" suffer too. bor, where the roads are or- knew she didn't want to be a
ever followed their husbands from ange clay in the rainy season, Har- literary woman-"If you spend all
the wilderness into the city gates. HE INHABITANTS of "the al- riette Arnow keeps house for her your time being literary, you don't
t ley" have been thrown to- family, takes care of her children, have any time to write"-but she
GERTIE was a massive women of gether by chance, and it is through and writes her novels. also found out that it was hard
geter y canc, ad i isthrugh Coming from five generations of "to write about life and forget
the Kentucky hills who want- Gertie that the reader comes to see Kentucky ancestors, Mrs. Arnow about art."
ed nothing quite so much as free- and know them. Each of the char- grew up with the traditions of the Since that early period, Hen-
dom and a farm of her own where acters here Is a person, there are mountain people that she has riette Arnow has become a novel-
she could watch children, animals no stereotypes. They are little peo- written about in her three novels. ist of accepted literary ability. In
and plants growing in the sun- ple, all of them, but in the face of With her husband, her 13 year- 1949 she published "Hunter's
rinsed beauty of mountain air. adversity they are big with cour- old daughter and eight year old Horn," which was a best-seller
But even the people in the back age, and in defeat they seldom son, she still maintains a life not and a Fiction Book Club selection.
hill regions of Kentucky are never shrink from lack of faith, far removed from the hill people. It is a book that is now somewhat
quite removed from the effects of Gertie whittles wooden dolls in Mrs. Arnow's life has been difficult to obtain, partially be-
a war. A cartridge shell on a De- the evenings and sells them for straightforward: s h e attended cause it has been overshadowed by
troit lathe is always infinitely more money. From sheer frustration, Berea College and the University her most recent novel, "The Doll-
important than the dream a little she turns to whittling on her block of Louisiana, received a bachelor maker"
girl might happen to be chasing of wood through the empty and of science degree and went on
around a shrub of chrysanthe- lonely hours of the night. Her to graduate work in mathematics. "THE Dollmaker" has been ac-
mums on a lonely Southern moun- neighbors are first to see the Writing was something she had claimed by critics as "one of
tain. likeness of Christ in the rough and always been interested in (she will the outstanding novels of 1954."
Clovis, Gertie's husband, is a faceless wooden head. Only at the admit that she had a poem pub- More impressive than this official
man with an affinity for tinkering end of the book does there come lished at 18 in the county news- word is the reaction of readers,
with machinery. He hies himself to to Gertie the sudden awareness of paper), but teaching was her first even more unusual in light of the
Detroit, takes a job in a war plant, where she might have found a face profession. book's size and cost. "Dollmaker"
and writes Gertie to bring the for Jesus. But it is better to leave is a five dollar book-a gamble
children and join him. Much that as a pleasant surprise for the WRITING, however, proved the for any publisher no matter what
against her better judgment and enjoyment of the reader. more important. "I went up the stature of the author, and a
certainly against her wishes, Ger- This, though, will not be the to Cincinnati," she says in her thick book that requires more than
tie takes herself and the five chil- only surprise the reader will find quiet Southern voice. "I didn't casual attention.
dren to join Clovis. Before leaving in the novel Gertie inhabits. For, know anybody-I rented rooms But despite its somewhat im-
the hills, however, she takes great just as surprising, is the pace of near the Public Library and I got posing appearance, "The Dolmak-
care to send on to Detroit a huge "The Dollmaker" and, what might odd jobs-typing, cashiering, wait- er" has evoked extraordinary read-
block of cherry wood upon which be termed, its author's intent. ressing-to pay the rent and eat er response. Readers have found
she has been whittling, It seems to be written in the and write." the characters of "Hunter's Horn"
ambling gait of the shuffling feet This was in 1934. With the en- and "The Dolmaker" so real that
GERTIE and the children arrive of hill folk who are not ashamed couragement of editors like Har- they write to their author about
at Merry Hill, the housing pro- to pause beside a stream merely old Strauss, now editor-in-chief them.
ject, on a cold and snowy morning. to admire the beauty of water of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., she pub- The women, particularly, are
She is as repelled by the cheerless flowing over pebbles. And in a lished her first novel, "Mountain strong, complete figures. Their
Sbie as livinl barte ce Clovis very real sense, it is a book about Path" in 1936. lives are simple-but beneath the
ci enth lled by i . Bu it is here the earth. For Gertie and her She learned a great deal about hard-working surface is something
isthrale byItesButaIt is he children were removed, only in that sets them apart-a deep sen-
that she becomes a part of the physical distance, from the moun- thvt to the y a- e
neighborhood known as "the al- tain clay. Their bodies and not her friends are portrayed in sitivity to life which they are
ley," and it is here also that Mrs. their hearts left the land. tration, but the imagery is focused compelled to express.
Arnow's book touches greatness. on all opposing forces of human Gertie Nevels of "The Dollmak-
Gertie, for the first time in her BUT, most of all this is a book endeavor, and not Just the ele- er" is one of these women -
life, has entered a world that is of, for, and about people. And mental plane of pure and simple maintaining her family while put-
devoid of privacy and freedom. She in her handling of people, fabri- se tcg the poet part of herself into
has been caught in the things that, cated characters though they may book is in the handling of the carves. It is impossible not to
to Clovis, stand as the symbols be, Mrs. Arnow has brought a book Isin The hal e c ave cosimosibl not to
- - . ma.le anma Th ..ale ,.haracters draw the conclusion that Mrs. Ar-

of success. A used car, and used freshness to current American n''- hersef Xs nM era""
cars to come, on which he will writing. Beside the work of Micky as such, are handled well but as now herself is another version of
owe payments for the rest of his Spillane, Kathleen Winsor - and people they emerge pretty much Gertie-living on a farm and rais-
life; inflated, war-time wages for many other sensationalist writers as weaklings. However, Arnow, at Ing her children, while she ex-
the privilege of buying wilted let- of our day =- "The Dolimaker" her worst, is never quite as bad in presea in writing the integrity
tace, and a fancy washing machine can and does stand as a sun-rinsed her treatment of men as is Paulk- that is particularly hers,
for the purpose of swishing clothes gem on a rather littered, and ner at his best, with women. --De ,ehsl.
through the chlorine odor of city sometimes filthy, shelf. Mrs. Arnow is a lady possessed
Water-these are the things that The relating of moral values to of myriad facets. In creating "The
Clovis lays at the feet of a moun- valid, ethical standards is the role Dollsnaker," she has become the Published
of philosophy and not of litera- greatest dollmaker of them all.
ture. Still, it is refreshing to find Love and hate, charity and greed,
T MOR ALL the pettiness of an author with both the talent understanding and prejudice: Novels
B Aand the gumption to replace the these are some of the labels at-
the things, there is the com- fictional patrons of the bordello. tached to the gradations of human
pensation to be found in the peo- and semi-commercial boudior with emotion. And after living with The published aerves of Bar-
ple of "the alley." Mrs. Arnow is other characters who have the Gertie among the inhabitants of rttte {nom) Ar'ow:
gifted with the uncommon talent basic, human strength to seek a "the alley" for a few hours, the "MO iiede Path," 374 pages,
of not being able to create a minor somewhat higher, meaning for reader smiles and says to him- Covler'iede New Yeft, 1936.
character. All of her characters living, self, "Yes, these things do apply. 'Hunate's Roe," 56 pages,
live and breathe and walk. And the Mrs. Arnow has, somehow, be- but that is the one redeeming MTe Dillan, Nw Yoek, 1P49.
eccentricities of Dock, the mule, littled the grotesqueness of man's feature about our race, our time, "The Dellm sker," 549 pages,
are almost as unforgettable as lit- nature by painting with words the our world - each person has them Maculdlaa, New Teh, 1854.
Sle Cassie who lived and played broadness of his soul. Gertie ansd all."

A Man's Hunt
For a Red Fox ,
riette Arnow was published
six years before her next book,
"The Dollmaker." To r e v i e w
"Hunter's Horn" at this date with-
out an intruding aspect of com-
parison is practically impossible.
One point is immediately evident. j
"Itunter's Horn" is more than a
first-novel of "promise," for it
contains to as great a degree as
"The Dollmaker" Harriette Ar-
now's integrity with characteriza-
tion. "The Dollmaker" shows the
writer at full maturity, but
"Hunter's Horn" stands on its own
In "Hunter's Horn," Harriette
Arnow deals entirely with those
persons shut away in the Ken-
tucky hills--the superstitions and
the self-made codes they live by
and the stern injunctions of bibli-
cal knowledge and interpretations.
Under the creative hand of some
they have been little more than
caricatures, or presented more
deeply, they have still remained
beyond the ken of the sophisti-
cate, the intellectual, or any one
who hals solely inhabited the large
cities. These limitations are not
in "Hunter's Horn,"
THE AUTHOR'S full portraiture
is further refreshing, for un-
like a few of her southern com-
patriots of literary stature, Har-
riette Arnow does not view her
people microscopically with the
emphasis upon the diseased cells,
tissues, emotions and mentalities.
The people of "Hunter's Horn"
are not types; they are individuals,
They do not stand for anything
symbolically, except in the com-
plexities of those things that are
universal to all of us. She does
not insult her characters into be-
ing separate enities for a minute
dissection of a vague past, a pur-
poseless present, and no future.
They live. They breathe. They are.
What they are is many things.
"Hunter's Horn" brings them into
focus with a breadth and warmth
and scope that is a pleasure, and
in an ever broadening under-
standing, a gratitude.
Ignoring subthemes, the plot
of "Hunter's Horn" can be simply
stated. We follow Nunn Ballew and
his pursuit of an uncanny red fox,
King Devil. Nunn sacrifices every-
thing to this pursuit, for although
the whole community is affected,
it is Nunn's challenge, and his
personal victory or defeat. He sac-
rifices his family, his land, the
honor of his name and his own
self-respect to this pursuit. He is
a man of weakness and of strength
and he contains this desperate -
self-knowledge. He knows, too,
that the price may be greater
than the conquest-that an ele-
ment grown out of proportion to
actual size may prove a final dis-
actuality. Knowing it is one thing.
Believing it is another.
"HUNTER'S HORN" contains
cka qualty o sute anol
icking humor that is not in evi-
dence in "The Dollmaker" There
are many instances of it as a part
of the characterization and inter-
spersed with the action. Perhaps
the best is the chapter containin
old Andrew, the teacher, ina goo,,
light with the visiting schoolUP
erintendents who haye ROW&-to
judge hs competenxy- aecording
to their stasdards-standards
neither of the bll vsuntry nor of

old Andrew. This, i. &hmor at its
best, for there is of pathos
and satire behi It. The (omplete
chapter, even As well integrated as
it is with the book, could stand
alone as anf cellent short story.
This is, hewonderful ability of
Harriette :Arnow. There Is 'a full-
ness. a completeness to each
ehapt+ . There is no rush, no sense
that chapter was presented be-
cx o 'the need to be on to the
. ee HUNTERS, Page 5

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