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A series of really brilliant masked balls go on for six weeks. Then come street parades on floats at night lit by flaring torches carried by coons in Ku Klux robes who are constantly in motion doing fancy steps to the music of the bands. Fat bank presidents, leading doctors, prominent lawyers, and business men ride the floats under mask, disguised as courtiers, kings, queens, and varlets, Japanese, Chinese, Indians, and nondescript characters such as were never seen before. The whole city turns out to greet them and the maskers throw candy, beads, and trinkets to thousands of upturned faces and outstretched hands. The climax comes on Mardigras day. The city goes wild. Your friends, all under mask, load up on huge trucks early in the morning and go riding all over the city, dancing to the jazz band which always accompanies them, and stopping now and then at friends' houses to get up "steam". Half the populace dress themselves up in the most fantastic of costumes, even the children of three, and parade around on foot. The other half stands on the curb to watch them. Good nature, laughter, and waves of wild, unthinking, hectic joy sweep the crowds. Rex in royal robes and impressive whiskers (in real life a staid middle aged bank president) advances up the street perched 15 ft. in the air on the first float with 20 or 30 more following. He graciously bows and waves a rhinestoned sceptre to right and left. In pre-prohibition days he is known to have indulged so often at the various stops before the clubs that one of his low obeisances has carried him clean off the float in a terrible tumble onto the side walk — by the grace of God uninjured.
The Druids follow with more floats, then various marching organizations such as the Jefferson City Buzzards some screamingly funny the thing goes on for hours and breaks up in groups, dancing, coonjinin', and skylarking on every corner.
Over in the back part of town the colored ape the whites. The King of the Zulus, black as night and dressed in a leopard skin, lands from a barge at the canal, and with his dusky queen parades at the head of his retainers. They end up at the "Bull Club" (the largest club for the American niggers). Here they have four bands, and a razor battle royal often takes place among the "Dukes" to determine which of the colored girls shall have the honor of being the maids".
Little bands of Negroes wander through the quarter dressed as red devils, tramps, skeletons; the women often dressed in ballet skirts of "nigger pink" with bodices cut away in the back down to the waists, showing great areas of bronze or briqué colored skin. One big buck, 6 ft. 4 at least and
beautifully built, staggered along in a strange, graceful way, perfectly insulated from the outside world by an overdose of "Sammy-kick-yo-Mammy" wine. He was garishly dressed as a Spanish "Valentino" and clutched firmly to his bosom a large silver cup which he had won in a dancing contest. A weird crew came romping after him, all evidently under the influence of "Sweet Lucy".
Prizes come and go, and many of them these days are for limericks and cross word puzzles. Do you ever win any? I have been so fortunate as to have a friend who won a cross word puzzle prize. Now young Robert Hillyer has won the prize offered by the "Garden Magazine and Home Builder" for the "best brief lyric of joyous mood with the Dahlia as its theme". All prizes should be awarded in a joyous mood, judged in a joyous mood, too, doubtless. These particular judges were Christopher Morley, John Erskine, and Frank Ernest Hill. It is said that nearly a thousand poems were submitted. Think of all that lyric inspiration arising from a mere dahlia. Mrs. W. E. Bingham won a prize of a year's subscription to THE BOOKMAN in the Ashland "Daily Press" (Wisconsin) "Book Thrills" contest. Her thrill was "Plumes". John Crowe Ransom, author of "Chills and Fever", was awarded the Caroline Senkler Prize for that volume as the best book of verse published by a southerner last season. This is a prize awarded through the famous Poetry Society of South Carolina. "The Horn Book", published four times a year by the Bookshop for Boys and Girls in Boston, announces a hundred dollar prize for a good original play for children from 8 to 14 years of age. September the first is the date on which this contest closes and further particulars may be obtained by application to "The Play Contest", 270 Boylston Street, Boston. I have
heard rumors of a large prize soon to be offered for a full length play by an American, but apparently the time is not quite ripe for a definite announcement. Prize plays often fail, but what's the difference? The prize money is secure, anyway, and a production is a good deal. It is great fun to see your own plays produced, even if they do fail.
"A Reader's Guide Book", by the May Lamberton Becker whose name is so well known to club women everywhere, is filled with good information for the rambler in literary ways. Countless persons all over the country have written her and asked her questions on one thing or another in connection with books, and she always replies. Here is a section in which you can find whether there is a novel about a musician, or about gypsies, or dogs, or what not. Another section gives you sidelights on the drama. If you have ever met Mrs. Becker, you know that she keeps more facts stored in her head than any other woman alive. Also, she has that happy faculty which should be possessed by every good secretary, of being able to go quickly to exactly the right place to find whatever information she does not carry in her head. This is a gift possessed by all too few human beings. Occasionally you will find a great librarian who has it; there is one member of my own office force who is so gifted; and, of course, Mrs. Becker. Her book has just one fault, which is perhaps not her own the index is totally inadequate.
Occasionally there comes out of the west a writer with a large frame and a simple soul, a man of the Lincoln type. Of such, apparently, is Roy Helton, although I have never met him. He has written in "The Early Adventures of Peacham Grew" the story of a boy
with a delicate fancy, a fancy which should develop in future books into something of really great importance. His verses, too, are worth watching. More and more we shall develop this sort of writing in America, it is to be hoped. It has been done by a few among the natives: Henry Beston and, yes, Frank Baum; and in "Beggar on Horseback", George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly. Satire and fantasy are just now playing hand in hand. We are still a trifle afraid of allowing ourselves to indulge in the veriest day dreams. "Peacham Grew" is realism touched with fantasy, or perhaps vice versa. Occasionally Donald Ogden Stewart writes fantasy. More often, it comes from the winged pen of Don Marquis. There are others, but too few. It is not because the public is unwilling to read, it is more likely because we are afraid to look into our hearts and see the reality of our dreaming.
Stewart Edward White has departed for Africa, to discover some of its mysteries. Of his former trip he tells the following story: In 1913, just before he sailed, a friend gave him an opera hat to present to some native chief. Hats are greatly prized by the chiefs, and these marks of civilization will work
themselves back into the country far beyond where white men have been. Every once in a while you'll come across villages with the chief out to greet you in a derby. Mr. White took this opera hat along, all folded up in the top of a case, and when they made a camp for the night, he would put on the hat. Then he would put it carelessly on a chair, walk away, and returning after a while would sit on it with a plop. The natives would get quite excited and come up and motion that he had crushed the hat. Then White would snap it back into shape, much to the amazement and delight of the natives. They had never seen anything like it be
I wish that I had met him before he sailed. I should have liked to suggest that he introduce the crossword puzzle to Africa. (A Brazilian correspondent informs me that South America has succumbed.) Although the peak of the craze has passed here, steady interest does not diminish, and "The Cross Word Puzzle Magazine" flourishes. In one of the new volumes called "Brain Tests", which I found particularly engaging, is an “accuracy test". Alas, it is to be avoided by all persons with brains like my own! Ruth Hale writes an introduction for "The Complete Cross Word Puzzler", a volume for puzzle constructors. The "Bible Cross-Word Puzzle Book", by Paul J. Hoh, pastor of a church at Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, has many uses, one of them being to test the real knowledge of the Bible on the part of those who claim to have read it through several times.
Things theatrical have been so dangerous to write about this winter, that first night gossip has irked me considerably. To attend a first night was likely to be an experience mixed with censorship and other vicarious thrills.
The dress rehearsal of the Actors' Theatre production of "The Wild Duck" was memorable, for although the performance lacked speed (a fault since remedied), it was yet one of the most impressive pieces of ensemble acting it has been my good fortune to see in America. As for the play, according to his temperament any playwright would either be inspired by it or driven to suicide. Theatrically, the Dutch Treat Club Show was the event of the year. Not that the crowd was distinguished and noisy; it was. David Belasco appeared in all his impresario impressivity. Meredith Nicholson told me politely, "We must uphold the higher ideals of literature." One could but agree. The editors of "The New Yorker", their lean noses alive for gossip, prowled through the halls. Tad Jones, the famous football man and coach, arose from the midst of a group of sporting writers that cannot be equaled and met, with amusement, the author of "They Knew What They Wanted". N. C. Wyeth, having been told that he was a direct descendant in art of Giotto, seemed pleased at the show. All this, however, did not matter, in the light of two sketches, one by Marc Connelly and the other by George S. Kaufman, and the acting abilities of that same Connelly and his fellow humorist, Robert Benchley. Benchley has already taken to the stage, and it seems only a question of time until Connelly does likewise. There is a quality about Marc's acting which suggests Charles Chaplin. As for Mr. Kaufman's sketch about the hotel fire, it was as good a piece of nonsense as I've ever seen. The show was given before the gentler sex this year at a special performance, and was therefore quite the most proper stag show one can imagine.
Dr. Konstantin Issakovich has had an odd idea and has believed in it strenuously enough to publish a book about it himself. The title of the volume is "Your Life, Written by Yourself". Dr. Issakovich tells you just what you should put into an autobiography, then furnishes a lot of blank pages at the end upon which the casual reader is urged to indulge his autobiographical fancies. The earlier pages are devoted to a sample of this type of narrative, in which Rufus Franklin tells his day-by-day experiences. This is the sort of thing that the Doctor would have you write:
The most important motive that operates over the field of human activities is service. Explain in your Book what you understand by the spirit of social service - the basis of modern life, how you worked out and what you gave to society. Explain why in your experiences through lifenotwithstanding you had different interests in different spheres in each of them was found the spirit of social service. Write how from childhood you used all the rights and acquiesced in all the obligations of a member of society, voluntarily. What you and your children will write may possibly bring about a more complete understanding of social service. Thus you write social history.
You remember your duties to your family. You helped your mother in the household, your father in his business, your younger brothers and sisters in their education, your neighbor in creating order, in enforcing some law. These first duties and services are of great importance to a record of your life.
From Georgia comes acquaintance with the famous poet J. Gordon Coogler, a precious copy of whose immortal works was loaned me by a kindly Savannah matron, who promises to set her husband's hunting dogs on me if I do not return it. Have you never seen the work of this bard, celebrated by Don Marquis and others? It was published in 1897 at Columbia, South Carolina, and copies are almost impossible to obtain. In his preface the poet
quotes many reviews, among them one from THE BOOKMAN which we take pleasure in repeating:
We were going to write quite a lengthy review of this inimitable little volume; but the author has made such a thing practically impossible by reprinting in the Introduction a collection of the comment and commendations already bestowed upon his verse by the most eminent critics from Bill Nye to the literary editor of "Munsey's". These comments so perfectly anticipate all we should ourselves have said as to make it needless for us to do more than subscribe to them as expressing our sentiments exactly...
We trust that this fifth volume of his verse may have many successors; and we are pretty sure it will, for a little poem we cull from page 28, is fraught with golden promise for the future:
"You may as well try to change the course Of yonder sun
To north and south,
As to try to subdue by criticism This heart of verse,
Or close this mouth."
Nor should this paragraph pass unnoticed:
As a frontispiece to his little volume, Mr. Coogler prints a tasteful, half-tone engraving of himself. He is a fine, manly-looking young fellow of some twenty-nine or thirty, with a broad, high forehead, earnest deepset eyes, prominent ears, and a small dark mustache. He is dressed in a neat, wellfitting suit of some dark shade. Of the quality of Mr. Coogler's verse, we prefer not to speak. As he says, his style and his sentiments are his own; and who are we that we should say them well or ill?
Just a couple of verses from that matchless lyric "A Mustacheless Bard":
"His whiskers didn't come, his mustache is gone,
And to-day he's standing ashore Enjoying the breeze with a cleaned shaved lip,
Relieved of the burden it bore.
He's feeling so lonely, dull and forsaken,
Ring Lardner has returned from Europe, having spent much time there with the F. Scott Fitzgeralds.
Mr. Lardner, tall, dark eyed, indefinite of expression and manner, is a most impressive figure as he walks across Forty Second Street at Fifth Avenue. He pays no attention whatsoever to traffic; even the large policeman who refuses passage to smaller mortals like myself is dwarfed when the author of "How to Write Short Stories" ventures into the stream of buses and taxicabs. Fitzgerald is apparently enjoying the soft air of Italy and France. Not so, Dorothy Speare, who writes that her opera début and her invitation to sing before the Queen of Italy must both stand in abeyance, since she has been quite ill. W. E. Woodward and Homer Croy, however, both report from Europe that they are enjoying the best of wealth. Handwriting is difficult, and even though the author of "Bunk" has a perfectly legible chirography, I can't quite make out what the title of his new book is. I think he writes "Bread and Circuses" of the circus part I am sure; not so sure about the bread. Mr. Woodward, at any rate, is well and happy in Paris and, rumor says, also at work on a Life of Washington which removes some of the "bunk" from the general impression of that great and presumably human American figure. Ernest Boyd's good wife, Madeleine, has sailed on the "Paris" for France, and on the same ship, Britton Hadden, the editor of "Time". The Floyd Dells are to spend the summer abroad; in fact, I know of few writing people who do not plan to do it this year in Vienna, Madrid, or near the Bois. Does that mean that the few who are left at home will be the ones actually to get the work done? Perhaps it doesn't matter. Surely, a rest will do them all good; perhaps the color of the Continent will flare forth from future books.
From the middle west to Vermont is a long leap; but it has been taken successfully by Lynn and Lois Montross, authors together of the much talked of "Town and Gown", and separately of
other works, including many short stories. To be sure, they write short stories together, too. stories together, too. Here are a collaborative pair who have seized upon the literary world with determination and with a fine sense of perspective. Recently they visited New York, had a gay time, but soon went back to Woodstock, Vermont, where they have found hearty and amusing friends and the leisure to turn out stories, while they survey Killington and Pico, and admire the sun shining on the snow along the Green Mountain ranges. Lois Montross has a turn of phrase, a quiet and mouselike mischief as she surveys life, that is easy to recognize in their joint work. Lynn is steady, firm in his opinions, with an eagerness of mind