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much time planning his work before he actually sits down at the typewriter a small portable, in the mechanical use of which he is expert. So far, except
for a few of his earlier tales, he has never used longhand; but he wants to try it for his next book. As a rule plot is first in the plan, and characters fit themselves around incident. While he composes, incidents and characters often grow and change.
He likes to be absolutely alone when he writes, "so that nothing is with me but those vivid burning characters visualized before me". Sometimes he flees to his ranch, where his chauffeur has a bungalow in which a room is always ready for him. Incidentally, the raising of sheep, hogs, and other live stock is his avocation and chief delight.
As in the case of Mary Roberts Rinehart and many other authors, his original draft is made on cheap, glaring, yellow paper. Kyne says that he does not spare words but uses just as many as he wants. On this first copy he leaves three typewriter spaces between lines.
"Then you do rewrite?" I asked.
rewriting", he replied. "I seldom add anything, but I cut out a great deal. The main purpose of a first draft is to put in all the material that's in my mind. The corrected copy is just enough of the original to leave a story as vividly and cleanly told as I am able."
Ideas? Mr. Kyne's? They come from everywhere and anywhere. The story behind "The Go-Getter" was a personal experience of William Randolph Hearst's. Mr. Hearst, it seems, had seen a blue vase in an antique store window on a Sunday morning, had wanted to take it with him on a 6:30 train. The vase was presented at the appointed hour; but many the adventures that lay between. It is of the romantic material of everyday life that Mr. Kyne is admirably aware. He lives in a man's world, in which sport and adventure and love hold sway. All these he embraces with a touch that is determinedly and wisely wholesome. He understands the American people as do few others, and he writes of them as they believe themselves to be and in a way which they like. Of him, they can ask no more.
THE CHILD IN MODERN LITERATURE
By Eva v. B. Hansl
I DON'T know who started it or when
the fashion was set, but certain it is that the beginnings and endings of works of fiction have in recent times been extended to cover more years in the life of the principal characters than was formerly considered necessary. The first adult fiction I read (not prescribed for college entrance examinations) began with the heroine home from boarding school, dealt almost exclusively with her conquests, and ended with her final capitulation in the arms of the most irresistible male.
Then some horrible realist (I believe it was Herrick in "Together" if I may venture a guess), having developed a notion that the conflict which makes a novel only begins at the altar, started the fashion of going on from the capitulation mentioned above through all the hazardous adjustments of early married life, sounding the tinkling brass as well as the clashing cymbals of matrimony. Not much was said. about the accompanying children — if there were any save as they affected
their elders and the elders' relations to one another. Things went on this way, one revelation treading on another's woes, until Freud and his fellow psychoanalysts called our novelists' attention to the fact that life's conflicts do not begin at the altar but in the cradle. One must understand all the early influences. One must comprehend the effect upon the unconscious of happenings in the nursery, in order to grasp the true inwardness of the hero's soul and to understand why he must inevi
tably choose a career as a manufacturer of brass tacks or drift into a life of sculpturing tigers at the zoo. And so we begin to find our novelists, persuaded by this newer psychology, not only considering their hero in his infancy but going even further back than the psychoanalysts and probing for us the hereditary influences which may be at work before ever he reaches the cradle.
The Victorian novelists, you may remind me, spent any number of chapters describing the childhood days of their heroes and heroines. True but they did it in a manner quite different from the novelists of the most modern order. They described the home, giving us a sense of the refinement or the squalor infusing it; they described the family's activities and sketched in the background against which the childhood was spent. It was, in short, an objective development of character and description of environment. What we find today is, rather, an inventory of material and spiritual forces likely to influence our hero. Samuel Butler is probably the first novelist of the new order. Professor Phelps in his introduction to "The Way of All Flesh" calls it "a wonderful treatise on the art of how not to bring up children". Did not Butler dare to prick the fatuousness of parents by showing that they are not always gods to their children and that love is not the only or the predominant sentiment bestowed upon elders by their offspring? What iconoclasm, what heresy! Since when,
how have we parents been assailed and flayed for our stupidities, in what we hoped would be light and pleasant reading!
In May Sinclair we find, no doubt, the most thoroughgoing proponent of Freudian principles. Has she not taken "the mother complex" as a theme for two books? When she describes, minutely, the emotions aroused by a prickly beard in the child sitting on the knee of its possessor, we certainly must admit that here observation from without has given way to digging from within. Her books are not only novels; each is "A Life". Though the end of her latest volume, when Arnold Waterlow has almost reached the half century mark, may seem far removed from the beginning chapters when he was a toddler among his mother's crinolines, still one must admit that to understand the calibre of the man whom fate ripped from a chosen pursuit of the classics to the sale of cheeses, the reader must spend one third of the book with him in his childhood and study, with the author, the influences at work molding his character.
It is obvious from a casual survey of our latest novels and plays that one of our chief concerns in life today is what Rabbi Wise calls "the irrepressible conflict" between the generations - the relation between parents and children and their divergent attitudes toward morals and customs. Where once it was the evils (or the blessings) of divorce which novelists and playwrights chose to discuss, the theme today is as likely to be its result with regard to the children. Where a Balzac or a Thackeray might have desired to show the effect upon a woman's character of indulging in a succession of lovers, what concerns Miss Sedgwick in "The Little French Girl" is the effect upon the woman's daughter and her chances of
making a suitable and happy marriage. It is not the morality of the husband and father that is the subject of paramount importance in such books as Balmer's "The Breath of Scandal" or Webster's "The Innocents"; it is the effect of his behavior upon the lives of his children.
Researches in psychology must inevitably have an appreciable influence upon contemporaneous literature. As psychologists began to discover the differences between the behavior of children and adults, and the effects of early happenings upon later character and career, it was to be expected that our writers would profit by the new light and use it in their work. But they have done more. They are providing a literature of childhood that is growing up side by side with the literature of child training and that is, in many instances, far more illuminating to the parent in search of understanding than the books written by the learned psychologists themselves. And this is as it should be. Are not our litterateurs the interpreters of life, and the psychologists merely the analysts and recorders of facts?
Aside from the galaxy of new novels which discuss the conflict between the older and the younger generations, there is a group of books which deal only with the younger generation, interpreting its moods, aspirations, tragedies and joys to its elders. There is no conflict here, except that which each individual must make to adjust himself to this extraordinary world into which he is born. It is difficult to classify these books. They are not exactly biography, though written in the reminiscent mood; they are not juveniles, though older children might enjoy reading them; they are not precisely essays because there are too many characters in them; nor are they novels
either, since few or any of them contain what is known in literature classes as "the love element" (the serious, not the puppy kind!).
And yet, broadly considered, they are of two types: the one, the more familiar narrative on the order of Tarkington's "Penrod" and Walpole's "Jeremy"; the other, a combination of essay and short story or shorter character sketch a sort of philosophical contemplation of childhood illustrated by an incident in the life of a particular child. Kenneth Grahame's "Dream Days" and "The Golden Age" are the predecessors of the newer collection.
Let us consider, first, the array of stories about children. Strangely enough, all but one were written by men about boys. Perhaps this is not so strange, after all, for is not a boy's life a much more interesting affair than a girl's, and do not most men look back upon their childhood with chuckles and a feeling of satisfaction? Whereas many women still feel, as they did when they were little, that they have been cheated out of a lot of the best fun because they were born to wear skirts.
When I say that, so far as I know, but one woman in recent years has braved the task of writing a book about a little girl's reactions to life, I am not unmindful of the incomparable "Emmy Lou", written some twenty years ago, nor of one of the newest books, "A Nineteenth Century Childhood" by Mary MacCarthy. But the latter But the latter seems to me to have been written more to regale us with a delightful picture of "the calm and tranquil Nineties", to create a milieu, than to reveal the psychology of a child brought up in that atmosphere of purity and nobility. It is a delicious book, however, full of pictures of another day which make us wish it were not quite beyond recall.
Since "The Child's House" by Marjory MacMurchy is the only book before me which has essayed to plumb the depths of a little girl's soul, I wish the author might have brought to her effort the insight of a Grahame or a Walpole. I find her method a little strained, her point a bit flattened. Perhaps it is only because I believe so hopefully in the treasures to be uncovered in such a study as she has made of Vanessa, and because I did so want the one feminine contributor to measure up well against all the masculine ones, that I am somewhat disappointed. However, if for nothing else, I must always be grateful to her for this perfect description of what appears to be a universal characteristic of all children:
... she had a suspicion that her mother wanted to make her different from other girls; and the one passion of Vanessa's existence was to be exactly like everyone else. . . . If a mould had been invented of the average little girl, she would have poured herself into it with sublime cheerfulness, her substance gurgling with satisfaction as it ran to the desired consummation."
If aching with laughter over a book is a criterion of its value as an interpreter of life, then we must give the verdict of success at once to Booth Tarkington and Owen Johnson. However, we all realize that nonsense and mischief do not make up a child's existence, and he who does not know how to make us suffer their sorrows and perplexities with them has told only half a story. Tarkington is frequently guilty, I think, of sacrificing truthfulness to a telling effect, as when for instance the dialogue smacks of an adult sophistication which you feel cannot be true to life even though you laugh over it uproariously. But no one can describe better than he the clever way of a boy in a hole excavating himself
by changing the subject; no one can better discern the deep dyed contempt of the older brother for his adoring sister who has aspirations to be apprenticed to his gang. And yet, when all his books are read, one still feels that he has skirted over the surface of childhood and forgotten, perhaps, that there are deeper depths to plumb.
"Skippy Bedelle", written about Lawrenceville in the Nineties when collars were worn standing and skirts trailing, is as true of boys today as it is of that time. Though Owen Johnson gives us much to chuckle over, he never lets us forget the great solemnity of life in the teens, the tremendous seriousness of many things which to our purblind souls may seem unimportant.
Children in themselves are so amusing that it is no wonder they tempt the professional humorist. But just because they are, sui generis, so funny and because they are the most natural creatures in the civilized world, their chronicling requires no artifice. Children do not make a good theme for the stylist florid language and children are a contradiction in terms. If you do not agree with me, see what happened when Irvin Cobb, one of our best comedians of the pen, tried to write a book about boys. In "Goin' on Fourteen" you find, not a wise man interpreting childhood, but an author trying to maintain a reputation for humor.
Similarly, when Edgar Lee Masters starts out to write a book about boys and puts it into the vernacular of "the kids", he loses the value of the narrative because he has sacrificed its plausibility. I defy anyone to find a twelve year old boy who can report the proceedings of a court trial as Skeets Kirby does in "Mitch Miller". I know but one story purporting to be written
by a child himself that is convincing, "The Diary of Plupy Shute". That
one small urchin should have been able to think of so many diabolical things to do taxes our credulity somewhat but it reads like an honest-to-goodness diary for all that! Unfortunately, when Judge Shute tried to recapture its charm in "Plupy and Old J. Albert", he proved again that it is always wiser to let well enough alone.
Joseph Anthony, in "The Gang", has succeeded most satisfactorily in catching the vernacular of the East Side kid, and his psychology too. Against a background of the Hebrew-Hibernian feuds of uppermost Park Avenue, he has etched in an amusing collection of credible Jews, any one of whom you will recognize the next time you travel on a Madison Avenue car - northbound. But the most interesting thing he has done is to show how a high I-Q and the family's expectations can conspire to make a student out of a boy whose greatest joy is to read Horatio Alger and whose real ambition is to be Kid Diamond, Leader of the Twennies and dread foe of the Park Avenooers.
An outstanding book in this collection, to my mind, is "One Little Boy" by Hugh de Sélincourt, a book which all parents should read together to remind them never to regard a child's action with an adult's sophistication. It is a poignant study of a little boy's groping for the truth and of a mother, bewildered and helpless in her lack of understanding. We have here that simplicity of style with which all books dealing with children ought to be written. I have read no more lucid interpretation of the questionings about life which must arise even in the most wholesome little minds and which cry out to be answered honestly by their elders. There is much beauty here, and much wisdom.