« PreviousContinue »
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. 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
the New York Bobbs-Merrill in the persons of young Thomas Coward, squash player of note, and Herbert S. Baker was doing its share of entertaining at a farewell luncheon to Dr. William E. Barton, before he sailed for Europe. Dr. Barton has made a lifelong study of Lincoln, and his two volume Life to be published this spring represents the fruits of careful research. At the luncheon were Alexander Black, Dr. Albert E. Wiggam, and Professor Nathaniel Stephenson. Several Lincoln volumes are appearing this season several each season as a matter of fact. Jesse Weik of Greencastle, Indiana, told us that more books had been written and published concerning Abraham Lincoln than any other historical personage except Napoleon. It is Mr. Weik who collaborated with Lincoln's partner, William Herndon, in the writing of the Herndon and Weik Life of Lincoln. "Lincoln trusted old man Herndon", Mr. Weik said, "because he knew that Herndon wasn't ambitious for office." Mr. Weik has a shock of white hair, he is short and stout and quick-moving. He darts at a bookcase and pulls out a treasure to show you. His library and office, with its fireplace, its picture of Lincoln, its photograph of Coolidge, leaves little doubt of political leanings. one learns that he has written a history of the Republican party. Anecdote after anecdote flows from a rich store. "Most of my collection is in New York City being catalogued", he explained, and told us that he had been seeing much of Senator Beveridge, who is now working on a large Life of Lincoln. Mr. Weik himself will probably soon write a Life of Herndon. It is a work which should be done, and Mr. Weik knew Herndon better than most other persons. "I've
one thing I'll show you!" He sprang to the wall and came back triumphant with a volume of Holmes's poems. "Oliver Wendell Holmes knew that there was one of his poems that Lincoln loved, and he wanted to find out which one it was, so he asked old man Herndon, who remembered, "The Last Leaf'. I wrote Holmes, and here's the letter he wrote and the book he sent me." There it was, with its curious linking to the past. We gathered that Mr. Weik does not believe all the Lincoln legends, that he thinks Lincoln was treated with rather more respect and dignity in Springfield than is generally supposed. "They didn't call him 'Abe"", he insists. "Why, he used to call Mr. Herndon 'Billy'; but Herndon never called him anything but 'Mr. Lincoln'." What a curious pair the two partners must have been!
We have often tried to figure out our relation to Alexander Black, the author of "Stacey", a book which we have found vastly interesting. Now Mr. Black has been adopted by a certain club of ladies as club husband, and we have been adopted as club son. Does that make us well, what does it make us? Alexander Black did not start writing novels until he was fairly well along in years. Then he wrote "The Great Desire" and it was received with enthusiasm. "Stacey" in our opinion is a better book. Its author has keen wit and graceful eloquence. He always makes a good speech, and he is always interested and kind. Long life as a newspaper man has not destroyed his charm of style in writing, or his leisurely manner of life outside his office. It always annoys us a bit when some young college boy says, "Won't it ruin my style if I go into journalism?" That's
what certain college professors not worth the name think. If anyone has a style it can't be ruined, and most of us who haven't won't come to any great harm in the offices of print and ink. Another author whose book may be found on the season's list (and, we prophesy, very soon on the best seller lists) is A. Hamilton Gibbs. Arthur Gibbs, as has been told in these columns heretofore, is a brother of Cosmo Hamilton and of Sir Philip Gibbs. He served during the war with distinction, came to this country as an actor, and remained as author and assistant to one of our large literary agents. Short, dark, quiet, positive, a soldier still in his manner, with little of the actor left, he looks entirely unlike the tall sedate Cosmo, or the slight, nervous Philip. He is deeper, somehow, than either of them. He plays a good game of golf and likes a good story. His book on the war, "Gun Fodder", is one of the finest productions of the conflict.
From our St. Louis friends, more especially from Jane Francis Winn, we hear good news of local authors. We hear, for example, that:
Louis Dodge, whose "Runaway Woman”, published a few years ago, was characteristic of his quaint and humorous style, has spent the last six months at the historic old town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, so reminiscent of the French occupation in the state. He has written an article about the town which will be published in "Scribner's Magazine", and has gathered material that will one day be used for a novel. This winter he is visiting with his brother at Dardenelle, Arkansas, a beautiful mountain town, and will work upon what he describes as his great work, a novel of the time of Christ. Mr. Dodge has arrived at that happy stage of life when it is possible for him to write when and what he pleases, and this work will be purely for his own pleasure, whether it appeals to the popular taste or not.
Temple Bailey, whose "Peacock Feathers" has been one of the best sellers of the
year, has spent the winter at Pinehurst, where she is working upon her new novel. While Miss Bailey's vocation is that of a writer of fiction, her avocation is devotion to her mother, who accompanies her wherever she goes and is a charming, cultivated woman, frail physically, but sturdy intellectually. Miss Bailey reads her manuscript to her mother as she writes it and "talks it over" with her.
While in St. Louis Miss Bailey is an ardent Red Cross worker, spending a great deal of her time at the Marine Hospital for disabled veterans. She took an active part in the Christmas celebration there. In fact, with her home duties and her philanthropic work, it is always a wonder to her friends that she gets time to write as much as she does.
Arthur E. Bostwick, St. Louis librarian, whose published books are so numerous, read an interesting critical paper at a recent meeting of the St. Louis Authors' Club on the subject of English authors who write about Americans, with special reference to Stephen Graham. Mr. Bostwick, by the way, goes to China very soon in the interests of library work, and one may expect something interesting in the way of a book when he returns.
The St. Louis Writers' Guild held a Poetry Contest during the month of December, awarding prizes and honorable mention to three of its members. The announcing of the prizes was made the occasion for the annual dinner and entertainment, all of which was original. Mrs. Margretta Scott Lawler, whose poems have appeared in many of the leading magazines, wrote a play called "Snow", a comedy with a Russian background. The principal part was taken by Miss Shirley Seifert, the talented young magazine writer. The play was an admirable bit of writing of its kind and Miss Seifert interpreted it quite as admirably.
The other day we told Sidney Howard that out in a western university they were solemnly studying one of the stories in his new volume, "Three Flights Up", and considering it the finest short story of recent years. They never even knew that he is also author of one of the year's most successful plays, "They Knew What They Wanted". That seemed to please him. After all, there is something peculiarly your own about a story. In a play, the actors have their part in the crea
tion. Howard didn't say that, how-parently is a story of American ship
ever, and probably he never thought it. We went into the New York Public Library with him, where he is at work gathering material about old Philadelphia for his novel. What an extraordinary place the reading room of the Library is on a cold day like this. Practically every seat taken, and everyone reading too, hundreds and hundreds of them. Mr. Howard had come upon a nice item during the morning which we insisted upon being shown. It was in a paper read before the City Historical Society of Philadelphia in 1907. It seems that in 1779 a law was passed forbidding theatrical performances. This, however, did not daunt the American Theatrical Company, who announced that they would give a series of "Concerts and Lectures". There is always a way of getting around the blue laws. The wise ones of this ancient company apparently put their heads together in those days and decided that they were wiser than the law. They announced "The School for Scandal" as "Comic Lecture in Five Parts, on the Pernicious Vice of Scandal", while "Hamlet" was billed as "A Moral and Instructive tale called 'Filial Piety' exemplified in the History of the Prince of Denmark". So at an early date did the spirit of Thespians defy the Puritans, or perhaps in this case the Quakers.
Louis Forgione, whose first novel "Reamer Lou" has just appeared, is a young Italian-American, a friend of Pascal d'Angelo's. They both come from the same section of Italy; they have known each other for some years. Forgione is of light complexion, with dark hair and brown eyes. He looks as though he might be part French. He is clever and alert, a good business man and a graphic talker. His novel ap
self to that success by wile and by hard work, got his first job while he knew practically nothing of draftsmanship, and studied on the side, using various strategies to keep the position. The tale of one of his first efforts is a nice one. It seems that the foreman knew no more than he about drawing, so he depended on Forgione's knowledge. The man who was to make the construction from the drawing was old fashioned and didn't understand blueprints, so he went ahead and made the construction without following the drawing. Thus, by leaning on each other, they achieved success through ignorance. A nice fable that, although somewhat immoral in its conclusions. Forgione has written poems and short stories, and has tried his hand at musical compositions. He is ambitious and wideawake. "When do you write?" we asked. "Evenings and Sundays," was the reply, "like most other people who have a job, too." He has another novel nearly finished, a third started, and has almost completed several plays.