The Atlantic Bookshelf: Conclusion

A wrap up of book reviews from Edward Weeks

I HEARD recently of a woman who was attempting to plot the cycle of popularity of war literature, historical novels, mystery plays, and so forth. She believes, I understand, in a seven-year interval between the peaks of enthusiasm. I shall be sorry if this means any shortcoming of interest in Memoirs of an infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon (Coward-McCann, $2.50). This war narrative, based in some measure upon the author’s service in the Welsh Fusiliers, is a rare example of restrained yet beautifully articulate writing. The story carries on with George Sherston, the central figure in Sassoon’s first novel, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.I am frank to say that my respectful but tepid interest in the early book has given place to a warm liking for the second. It is so easy to identify one’s self with Second Lieutenant Sherston, and the phases through which he passed: the early glamour, the unwitting recklessness in attack, which results in a ribbon; then the mingled exhilaration and shock of the Front giving way to nervy apprehension, the brooding convales cence from wounds, the dread of returning, leading finally to the bitter protest against the continuance of such needless and agonizing sacrifice. Either in reality or in mind every veteran touched on these experiences and will know them for the truth. I believe that real identities are disguised by the book’s pseudonyms, but the only one I could recognize was ‘David Cromlech,’who is, they say, Robert Graves.
THERE are some volumes of short stories worth picking up this fall: Scribners have reissued Ernest Hemingway’s first stories, In Our Time, with a stimulating introduction by Edmund Wilson. Though I find it hard to attribute to them so conscious a design as does Mr. Wilson, I do agree when he says that these sketches and stories are ‘early experiments with almost all the themes which he [Hemingway] has since treated more elaborately.’ ‘A Very Short Story’ is, indeed, ‘a sort of scenario for A Farewell to Arms,' But not all is experimental. ‘My Old Man’ and ‘Big Two-Hearted River’ are as fine and finished stories as this original writer has ever published. Incidentally, the first edition of this book (Boni, Liveright) will be worth keeping.
Secondly, there is Dorothy Parker, whose Laments for the Living (Viking, $2.50) has run through several editions to satisfy the New Yorkers. Nobody writes better patter, whether it he sober or alcoholic, and I tip my hat to the lady for her satire, which has grown sharper and more telling since the Vanity Fair days. For me the stories are distinctly lacking in three dimensions, but their voice is certainly entertaining.
Finally On Forsyte 'Change by John Galsworthy (Scribners, $2.50), which, if you value the Forsyte Saga, you will read. Rather looser in form, perhaps, than the best of his tales in Caravan, these episodes and stories fit like mosaic into the fissures of Galsworthy’s finest novel. Here are old Jolyon and James. Swithin, Timothy, and George — to me so roundly drawn, so individual, and so familiar that they people my mind as though past members of my own clan. Galsworthy writes with an animation singularly his own and singularly satisfying. To see what I mean, compare his ’Dog at Timothy’s’ with Mrs. Parker’s ‘Mr. Durant.'
GIFT books should be much iu evidence this economical Christmas. For the generous purse I might suggest the Peter Pan Edition of Sir James Barrie which Scribners have printed so handsomely in fourteen volumes ($140 the set). . . . For the gay there is Hullabaloo, a second volume of Peter Arno’s illustrations which Liveright is bringing out (limited. $20.00; trade edition, $3.00).
. . . For the odd-fancier there are Swift’s A Tale of a Tub, tastefully republished by the Columbia University Press ($3.00), and American Broad side Verse ($15.00), whose many reproductions do credit to the Yale Lniversity Press. . . . For the theatregoer, Green Pastures by Mare Con nelly, with illustrations by Robert Edmund Jones, published by Farrar and Rinehart (limited. $25.00; trade edition, $5.00). . . . For the art lover. William E. Rudge offers a charming monograph on Hokusai, with eight delicious reproduet ions ($2.25). . . . Finally, for those who need cheer, there are the limited edition of A Tourist in Spite of Himself by A. Edward Newton (Little, Brown and the Atlantic Monthly Press, $10.00), and the regular edition of The Treasurer’s Report by Robert Benchley (Harper’s, $2.00), both volumes made the more enjoyable by Gluyas Williams’s illustrations.

THE BOOKSHELF’S List of prominent books in 1929-1930 will be sent free on request to the Editor