The Atlantic Bookshelf: Conclusion

A wrap up of book reviews from Edward Weeks

ONE could not help thinking, as the Wendel fortune was bandied about in the newspapers, of the many beneficent Authors’ Aids (say $2500 a year to those of need and worth) that might have been provided for our Poes and Melvilles by a very small fraction of that great wealth. There’s a form of bequest I shall argue for whenever I meet wealth and generosity in a single person. We have the Guggenheim Fellowships, to be sure, but why not others to encourage our writers at home? Of the Guggenheim Fellowships for the coming year, those awarded for ‘creative writing’ interest me the most. Maurice Hindus, author of Humanity Uproofed, one of the best contemporary accounts of Russia, ought to have an uncommonly good volume to show for his year abroad. I hope we can expect more poetry from John Crowe Ransom, the Southerner. And certainly we shall have some from Hart Crane, the American-in-Paris, whose poem. The Bridge, the cognoscenti ‘discovered’ a short time ago. Walter Stanley Campbell, alias Stanley Vestal, is given another year to complete his biography of Sitting Bull (one wonders impertinently what new light the Sorbonne can throw upon the subject). Carleton Beals, a rising authority on Mexico, is to do a prose portrait of Porfirio Diaz. And to another American, now residing in Mexico City, Miss Katharine Anne Porter, is likewise accorded the year of pursuit and security that so many covet.
Miss Porter is the author of short stories, keenly sympathetic, firm, and knowing in their character, and — though I imply no softness — surely touched with poetry. Six of them were published in book form last year by Harcourt, Brace, under the title Flowering Judas. The edition is scarce, but for those who look for quality in writing it is definitely worth securing. So many of our short stories are stereotyped for the magazines to-day that one must hail with positive refreshment work such as this. For their range in subject and their strength of treatment, I have seen nothing so good as these tales for many moons. If I were king, the prize for the best short story of 1930 would be divided between ‘Maria Concepción’ and ‘The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,’ both in this volume.
Miss Porter first broke into print by way of the Hound and Horn, transition, and the New Masses, periodicals whose taste, championship, — and whose rates, alas, — are quite other than those of the fiction magazines. Another American writer who has come to attention by the same path is Miss Kay Boyle. Her first novel. Plagued by the Nightingale (Cape and Smith, $2.50), is published this spring. Here, too, very definitely is quality. Miss Boyle tells of an American bride and of her introduction into a conservative and dominating French family. With what deftness and color does she show us these people whose traditions and whose manners are as fascinating as they are foreign to an American! It is portraiture that the author is chiefly concerned with, and in her affectionate, telling study of the family she unwittingly slights her heroine and misses the emotional possibilities of her story. But for those to whom the French mean more than ‘the frogs, this story, with its light and shade, its delicious characterization, and its crisp style, will mean much.
Edward Weeks