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IN THE BOOKMAN'S MAIL
Y DEAR JOHN FARRAR:
I notice that in your short review of new books, "Paulus Fy" is reviewed as "an unsuccessful attempt at sophisticated writing". I might with equal authority say that is sheer nonsense. And that it is more than merely a matter of opinion. If it were only a matter of opinion, there are some seventeen reviewers who disagree with yours.
Just what does your reviewer mean? It is an attempt at sophisticated writing. And since it is an attempt, and the attempt has come about, it is successful. How can such an attempt be unsuccessful? If it is a question of whether the writing is sophisticated, what does sophistication mean? Amusing? An ultramodern viewpoint? No bourgeois compromise? Unexaggerated? Novel? Naive? "Paulus Fy" is all of these and more.
But all of this is beside the point. point, from my standpoint, is that in this day of so few beginners of promise, it seems to me that there is a duty on the part of THE BOOKMAN, which I and many others use as a guide and help. A duty of saying which book is "a first". And a duty to consider it rather more carefully than "the arrived". And if, as "Paulus Fy", there's evidence of extraordinary talent, it should not be dismissed with a line of scoff. "Paulus Fy" was written by Helene Mullins and her sister. of the finest verse written by an American has appeared in F. P. A.'s column by Helene Mullins. I venture to predict that THE BOOKMAN will one day herald her as a great force in American letters. Sincerely yours,
S. JAY KAUFMAN.
DERuth Hale's article "As a Child Reads"
in the November BOOKMAN brought to mind two things: my grandfather's fondness for the old Alsatian proverb, "Paper is patient, one can print anything on it", and Owen Wister's onetime description of something of Harold Bell Wright's as a "bewildering mess of mildewed pap".
And then a letter by Amy E. V. Putnam in THE BOOKMAN'S Mail for September has been rankling in my mind. complaint on the lack of suitable reading matter for pupils in schools reads like letters written twenty five years ago by Dr. Burke, the noted California educator
who recently died. Since that time this problem has been solved in California by exactly the agency which Miss Putnam claims will not supply the need. She says "The public libraries will not solve this need and there is no use putting up that argument." Yet in forty two of California's fifty eight counties one can go to the remotest school and find a live, new collection of children's books and school books which are changed constantly throughout the year, and this because the schools pool their funds with a library at the County Seat which buys with their needs in mind, making it a point to meet teacher and children and pay attention to their individual requests. These books go over mountain and stream, often on muleback in the mountainous counties, but they go. Only through cooperation could this have been accomplished. Yours sincerely,
ESTELLA DEFORD, County Librarian, Napa, California.
In passing a news stand recently, my eye, accustomed to devouring title pages en route, lighted on this "How to Stay Out of the Movies". Observing also that this article appeared under John Farrar's editorship in THE BOOKMAN, I delightedly pressed forty cents upon the bored magazine vender and went my way with said BOOKMAN tucked cozily under my arm à la Ben Franklin. I was consumed with curiosity and my funnybone considerably tickled at seeing such a title in THE BOOKMAN-I could not help but wonder what the subtitles were! Presently I had a chance to regale myself on a Hershey bar (you don't have to be thin to write for Pictures) and the surprising "How to Stay Out of the Movies", chuckling away in the privacy afforded by a full train bound Somewhere on a holiday.
My suspicions were confirmed effusion proved to be merely a part of John Farrar's consistent and laudable campaign against all those stepping studioward. However whimsically, sarcastically and dishearteningly written it may be, it does contain several truths apparent to the
discerning eye and worthy of being followed by the discerning genius, eager and determined upon success. Course, if you're just writing to fill up your wastepaper basket, pay no heed to these friendly signboards!
The need for action stories and character stories is apparent to all, even to those who are not interested because of a clandestine desire to "get into the movies". When you've missed your train and go to the movies for consolation and to find a more comfortable seat than the depot bench, the picture must be gripping enough to catch your interest and thoughts at once, lest they deteriorate into angry mutterings at fate for letting you miss your train and lest you realize that your present seat is just as hard as the bench you just left!
"How to Stay Out of the Movies", especially its last paragraph, makes one reminiscent of articles read in other warning publications which told of the hosts of pretty waitresses in Hollywood - all "would be" but "not yet" screen stars "of great magnitude". If directors would more often avail themselves of their eyes while lunching, some of these geniuses might come into recognition even if it were via spilling soup down someone's neck or giving the wrong change. A small price, indeed, to pay for Fame and we must remember that talent is talent no matter how humble its medium of expression!
But what brings forth my one and only dimple in reading these red lantern writings (this particular bit by James Creelman, several of John Farrar's fatherly admonitions and others) is the understanding of the conviction that must have been well up in the minds of these fellows at the time of writing said articles. They must believe that all of us who chew pens and drink
ink will immediately abandon this nourishing diet upon reading their portentous words and become grave diggers, ragmen, "I Confess-ers", or what nots.
At least such scripts reveal one certain fact and, I fear me, a fact which their authors did not intend: how little, evidently, these gentlemen know of "bulldog grip" characters and antlike workers who for neither a John Farrar nor a James Creelman will give up one drop of their daily sweat even though they "arrive" barefoot and ragged with tongue lolling out. There are, to my way of thinking, two concrete things which such essays will accomplish. First, they will scare and dissuade everybody who's out with the desire to pose exchange for a meal ticket and a bed tag. Second, they will inspire (by rousing their dander) those who have real ambition and a love for the job to a definite "I'll show you if I can stick" course of action.
And though, naturally, I hate to travel second class, I admit that this time I fall in this latter category - in other words, personally these articles make me want to scale the highest walls of all and slide triumphantly down t'other side into the very "Secret Gardens" of the Moving Picture World. After which rather Patrick-Henryian speech I am reminded of the little engine chugging hardly up the hill: "I think I can, ·I- think - Í— can", was can, - I think its refrain wearily puffed over and over. But do you remember its jolly descent with changed tempo and tune? - "I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could."
THE GOSSIP SHOP
VE have an unhappy faculty of saying unpleasant things about people's books to audiences, whereupon the uncle or cousin of the maligned person appears upon the scene and says, "I was so interested in what you said about Lulu." In Cleveland, the agreeable sister of Anne Douglas Sedgwick was introduced only we hadn't said anything so very dreadful about "The Little French Girl". How could one? It's a harmless book. In Canton, Ohio, we didn't make any breaks of that sort, although we remember distinctly talking of the forthcoming John L. Sullivan autobiography. However, what's such a break in a world of Fords? Of course, Indiana is a dreadful state for authors and their relatives. Three charming cousins of Booth Tarkington smiled nicely at us in Greencastle, even though we had opined that Mr. Tarkington sadly misunderstands modern young folk.
We received several new ideas about young folks out west. The papers are filled with their scandalous goings on, yet those we met seemed mildmannered and sober. We cannot figure out whether it's just because these things get into the papers out there, or whether youth is really a little more tempestuous in the corn belt. In Greencastle, we were introduced to a high school class under the able tutelage of Miss Lela Walls. One young man presented us with several of his poems and informed us that Henry van Dyke was his favorite author of all time. We liked one of the poems quite a little, and we hope that, unless he finds something more
useful to do, he will keep on with his writing. We liked Indiana. We liked Greencastle. It reminded us, somehow, of Vermont, where the people have the same slow, dry wit and something of the same drawl, where they are cordial enough, but curious. As the large gentleman in the small hotel at Greencastle said, "Out west further they're nice to people no matter who they are; but here, well, we sorta like to know what it's all about, I reckon." A midwest basket ball game is quite as exciting as eastern football, and far more strenuous. A close contest between Butler and De Pauw found us cheering lustily. It was the first athletic contest we had ever attended at a large coeducational institution, and you have no idea how the feminine shriek in large quantities adds to the tone of excitement. R. W. Pence, who edits anthologies of short stories and essays, teaches at De Pauw. He, with a patient group of undergraduates, won our eternal gratitude by sitting with us for hours in the dawn, while the train which should have arrived didn't, and didn't and didn't some more.
Why do all the young men with artistic ideas want either to write or to act, and refuse to be told that both callings are not only overcrowded but precarious? Also they all want to come to New York City and prove for themselves how difficult it is, and we don't blame them; we know just how they feel. What a desperate and fine and altogether encouraging thing it is to find youth daring the impossible and making it actual.
We had hoped for a week's rest in snowy Vermont, with snowshoeing across wide quiet moon-filled valleys, but circumstances hold us close to New York and the best we can do is to read with fascination Ornulf Poulsen's small but complete book "Skiing", which contains a chapter on snowshoeing. The dedication of this book, we consider a rare one. It reads, "To my mother, with love, and thanks for all the ski-pants mended." The skiing scene from the motion picture version of Cyril Hume's "Wife of the Centaur" was a new thrill, too. Hume is still in Florence, wondering what we on this side of the water will think of his new book, "Cruel Fellowship".
As a Christmas card from Richard Kirk and George and Flora Seymour of the Chicago Bookfellows came a nicely printed little edition of some of Kirk's poems, "Penny Wise". He has a gift for presenting thoughts in tiny verses, like this one which seems to us striking:
THE SKILFUL PHYSICIAN One came not sent for, undesired, Yet skilful far beyond the skill Of him who came with draught and pill, And looked, and nodded, and retired.
Letters have been coming into the office from all over the country, from those intending to enter THE BOOKMAN'S contest for the best papers by club members. We shall be glad to furnish the conditions of this contest on request. Six hundred dollars in prizes has been offered, and the closing date of the contest is April first. We have an unreasonable hope that the papers will be interesting to the judges. Obviously, that depends on the judges as well as the papers. We trust that these essays, when published in the magazine, will eclipse the regular contents (we have just
been watching that heavenly phenomenon along with millions of other awed souls in the New York streets). Speaking of New York streets, the prospectus of the new weekly magazine to start in February, "The New Yorker", sounds more than interesting. It sounds as if the publishers had decided to present the current so called "smartness" of Forty Fourth Street with determination. If the magazine does do this cleverly enough, without confining its interest too closely to Broadway and the Forties, it will probably be a huge success. Who could conceive a paragraph more cleverly constructed to catch the eye of the rest of the country than this:
The New Yorker will be the magazine which is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque. It will not be concerned in what she is thinking about. This is not meant in disrespect, but the New Yorker is a magazine avowedly published for a metropolitan audience and thereby will escape an influence which hampers most national publications. It expects a considerable national circulation, but this will come from persons who have a metropolitan interest.
Appealing thereby to the snobbish in all of us, this magazine should profit tremendously. Its editor is a gentleman with a straight shock of hair and a quick smile, and his name is H. W. Ross. On his advisory board are ten of the gayest of current celebrities, including Edna Ferber, Ralph Barton, Dorothy Parker, Laurence Stallings, Rea Irvin, etc. etc.
Whether or not the public will be ready to receive the large numbers of historical romances which tread upon M. Sabatini's heels this spring is a question. Tired of realism, the writers are having again their heyday of romance. The Atlantic Monthly Press gives a two thousand dollar prize to Clifford M. Sublette of Harlingen, Texas, for his
adventure story, "The Scarlet Cockerel". Mr. Sublette is a fruit grower and has never written a novel before; but he has been much interested in history. He has, however, published a number of short stories. His winters he spends in writing, his summers in field work for commission houses dealing in fruits and vegetables. This occupation takes him about a good deal in the west and gives him an excellent opportunity for gathering material for his stories. Other prizes come and go. Several prominent poets have already announced to us that they will win the Blindman Prize for 1925. This is the largest prize of its kind in the world, offered by W. Van R. Whitall of Pelham, New York, in commemoration of Hervey Allen's poem, "The Blindman". It is awarded for the best poem of fourteen lines or over, and manuscripts must be in the hands of the Poetry Society of South Carolina by February 28. Further details of the competition may be secured by application to the Society at 57 Broad Street, Charleston.
Robert Nathan, with all his accomplishments, should join Robert C.
Benchley on the vaudeville stage. This fine young stylist who has chosen Jewish history as the background of his new novel, "Jonah", has always astonished us by his long series of deeds. He fences well. He writes music. He plays the piano exquisitely. There you are: the Nathan-and-Benchley vaudeville team, literary lights and humorous humdingers. humorous humdingers. However, Mr.
Nathan has this winter been quietly teaching poetry at New York University. We find that his "Autumn" and "The Puppet Master" are well known wherever we go, and this is encouraging; for since "The Plastic Age" stands for the younger generation in many minds, it is comforting to know that a few find worth remembering the work of one of the young people who has real artistry.
The home of the Bobbs-Merrill Company in Indianapolis is a comfortable building, overlooking pleasantly a broad park. Its offices are more like libraries than offices. Its officials are kindly hosts. While Hewitt Howland and his charming wife were entertaining us with stories of literary happenings in the midwest, it seems that