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Oursler - Macaulay. Blunt realism marks this tale of a love affair between a beautiful Sybarite and a spiritual coward.
INVISIBLE WOUNDS - Frederick Palmer Dodd, Mead. Enough romance, mystery, good writing, and war to make it well, at least a lieutenant in the combat division of best sellers.
THE CHASE - Mollie Panter-Downes Putnam. It is difficult to disassociate the seventeen year old author's age from her work, but judged on its merits this second novel is well written and shows promise of finer things to come.
THE TREASURES OF TYPHON - Eden Phillpotts- Macmillan. A philosophic novel pleasantly enlivened by humor and
THE EDITOR RECOMMENDS —
Society and the Fringe
O group Edith Wharton and F.
Scott Fitzgerald may seem, at glance, ridiculous; but if you will read "The Mother's Recompense" and then "The Great Gatsby", I think you will discover my reason. In one, we find a mature woman, with an amazing tolerance of life and an understanding of its smallest values, writing with force and clarity on a theme as tremendous as any she has ever touched. In the other, a brilliant young man, immensely puzzled by life and disturbed by shifting values in his own scheme, writes vividly but chaotically on a theme that is as tremendous but scarcely as clear. "The Mother's Recompense" (Appleton) is, it seems to me, the best story Mrs. Wharton has
ever written. It is the same in theme as a rather lame play which flared forth on Broadway recently for a week, "Ostriches". A man falls in love with a former mistress's daughter. The plot is as simple as that; but in the character of Kate Clephane we have delicacy and complication of emotion that is dramatic and poignant. Wharton tells this story swiftly, and with her usual command of masses of dialogue. She does not attempt to explain differences in the generations. She shifts from the Riviera to New York gracefully and with a complete understanding of both moods. I think
she has achieved an even greater understanding of the mother-daughter relation than Edna Ferber evinced of that of mother and son in "So Big". To be sure, "The Mother's Recompense" is not always pleasant reading. It is painful, exceedingly painful, and cruel. This author never spares heroines; with unflinching zeal she lets us see their souls. Kate Clephane is so human that she terrifies, and her tortures and psychological adventures hold the reader as do few mystery stories, for in this novel suspense plays a large part. Actually, we do not know the solution until the final page, and it is a solution in which we are vitally interested.
"The Great Gatsby" (Scribner) is a strange combination of satire, burlesque, fantasy, and melodrama. It is Fitzgerald writing with his old gusto, with driving imagination, and with a sense of the futility of life and of the constant presence of bootleggers. A hideous and grotesque comedy this, yet a comedy in which truth lurks where. the thread of the tale seems least plaus
ible. It is a satire on present day fame. It is a story of people who, through some twist of fate or personal magnetism, arrive at great notoriety, to whom those on the fringes of society flock, whose liquor the sycophants drink, and who fall into ruin and neglect when the inevitable scandal attacks them. them. Fitzgerald has told, really, the story of a modern Cagliostro, and told it amazingly well. That I do not always know what he means, is perhaps my fault. Whether you like "The Great Gatsby" or not, whether you understand it or not, you at least cannot deny its vitality.
More Wrangling over Wrangel TEFANSSON'S books always have
Stang of controversy as well as
adventure. His newest volume is no exception; in fact, it is the liveliest of the lot. Here he tells the true story of the settlement on Wrangel Island, of the death of the settlers, and of the manners and actions of the famous Ada Blackjack. "The Adventure of Wrangel Island" (Macmillan) has a multiple appeal. To those who enjoy stories of hardship and conquest it will prove a story of dramatic incident and pathetic heroism. To those who enjoy detective stories, it will offer a problem in the unwinding of truths not clear at first glance; for the facts were apparently mistold in many of our prominent papers last year. To those interested in international politics, it gives a study of the movements of nations in the obtaining of new lands. To those who know Mr. Stefansson's vivid narratives of old, it gives, I think, the most of all. Can I say more?
Two other travel books I read this month and found only mildly interest
ing. "Unknown Tribes, Uncharted Seas" (Appleton) is a somewhat vivid narrative by Lady Richmond Brown who tells how she regained health by travel. Carveth Wells's "Six Years in the Malay Jungle" (Doubleday, Page) makes one wonder just a trifle, in spite of many interesting facts, how a man could spend so many years in a jungle and come out with so little sense of romance. However, don't let me keep you away from the books if you care for the ordinary travel story.
New England and the South
advertisements of Alice Brown's "The Mysteries of Ann" (Macmillan) lead one to believe that she has turned from realistic fiction of New England to the writing of detective stories. Quite the contrary, she has never penned a shrewder, more deft, or more captivating study of New England character than in this short novel which seems to me technically a masterpiece. She is writing, of course, of insanity in a mild form; but she does so with humor and a delicious sense of the ridiculous. What an absurd and charming play "The Mysteries of Ann" would make. The story of how Ann confused life with a story in her own mind, and how life turned out just like that, is fascinating and even thrilling. The comic New England sheriff has never been done with better wit. For several hours' reading there is nothing to beat this.
James Boyd, whose "Drums" (Scribner) has already received much critical acclaim, writes curiously like Thomas Boyd, to whom he bears no relation other than that his books are published by the same firm. "Drums" is the story of Johnny Fraser of North Caro
lina and the American Revolution. Johnny is a youngster of bravery and charm. Mr. Boyd writes with great attention to atmospheric detail and with an uncanny sense of dialects. Still, for all that, there is something missing. I suspect that this Boyd will some day be considered one of our best; yet he lacks poetry and fire, and that curious quality of romance that one finds in others of his generation, in Sidney Howard, for example, or Louis Bromfield or Robert Nathan or Cyril Hume or, among his elders, Joseph Hergesheimer. Mr. Boyd is solid. He is worthwhile. I don't think he is exactly dull; but he is, without a shadow of a doubt, weighty.
Literary Genius et al.
ARY AUSTIN'S articles on genius, which ran, most of them, in this magazine, have now been published under the title "Everyman's Genius" (Bobbs-Merrill). For the craftsman of any sort who wishes to understand the workings of the subconscious mind and the ways to which it may be put to serve the conscious, here is a book as necessary as an arithmetic. Mrs. Austin's claims are difficult ones to state, and she has accomplished the seemingly impossible. Her theory is that every man is possessed of genius if only he knows how to use it. One of the most interesting parts of the volume as it stands, and new to me, is the collection of data she has made on the methods of work of various geniuses in one line or another, from Bill Robinson, the buck and wing dancer, to Wilfred Lewis, the inventor. All of them testify in one way or another to the accomplishment of their best work through the use of the sub
conscious mind. With my own classes in composition, I have always used Mrs. Austin's theories. I find that after one or two talks on the use of the subconscious, the writing tends to become expressive of the students and to gain in power and force. In directing a young actor I once used Mrs. Austin's method, quite unknown to him; the resulting performance was the best he had ever given. Many people will find something strange in this theory and in this book; but to me it is thoroughly understandable, and vitally important.
"Principles of Literary Criticism" by I. A. Richards (Harcourt, Brace) is an excellent text on this much discussed subject. Mr. Richards not only advances his own critical theories, he analyzes, too, the history of æsthetics in a clear and understanding way. With this volume, Spingarn's "Literary Criticism in the Renaissance", and W. C. Brownell's brochure, “Criticism", the library of the potential critic or the student of reviews should be adequate.
A good book, too, is Ernest Boyd's "Studies from Ten Literatures" (Scribner), a discussion of leading contemporary figures in the various European countries. Mr. Boyd is informed on a variety of subjects and writes with amazing facility. As a literary journalist he is unexcelled, and his books occasionally rise above journalism to a high level of thought and entertainment. This is one of his best efforts.