USING a plea of economy to mask a deliberate attempt at censorship, public libraries in certain large cities have in some instances placed only a single copy of Ann Vickers on their shelves, thereby effectively removing the book from the reach of most of their readers. The fact remains that Mr. Sinclair Lewis’s new novel has been more eagerly sought for, more widely read, than any hook of the past year. The sale has already passed 80,000 copies. . . . Magazine editors who have been trying for years to pry loose a manuscript from Lawrence of Arabia will be amused to hear the rumor that under his present pseudonym, ’T. E. Shaw,’this rare author has had manuscripts rejected by some of the very best people. . . . Willa Gather’s Shadows on the Rock was the first book to receive the Prix Femina Américaine. . . . Next come the Pulitzer Awards.
Among publishers the spring months are regarded as the most likely season in which to put forth books by unestabli.shed writers, the theory being that they will gain swifter recognition then than during the rush (?) business of the autumn. Among the life stories and ‘human interest’ books, I have picked out three which seemed to me especially inviting. True North, by Elliolt Merrick (Scribners. $.3.00), is the unvarnished, agreeably honest diary of a young man who, being heartily sick of job and office routine, escaped to the top of the world, Labrador, where he first found himself — and then a wife. He Went Away for a While. by Max Miller (Dutton, $2.00), is another kind of escape story, the idle fleeting moments in the life of a born reporter when he was off duty and free to exercise his curiosity and his imagination. Miller (he took charge of Heywood Broun’s column last summer) writes a refreshing brand of English, unhurried, perceptive, gently ruminating. Naturally I Was a Spy, by Marthe McKenna (McBride. $2.7.5), is a war story, having as its basis the secret exploits of a Belgian nurse (and an Allied spy) within the German lines. I don’t think it matters whether you believe it all or not; enough of it is true to have brought ail official British citation to the author, as Winston Churchill points out in his foreword. Personally. I get more excitement out of recollections of this kind than I do from twenty mystery murders.
Finally, I want to come back within our borders to a book that is the singular record of one of America’s most courageous and intelligent women. Earth Horizon, an autobiography by Mary Austin (Houghton Mifflin, $4.00), has the same kind of distinction that leads readers to Lincoln Steffens. Mrs. Aust in is a forthright Independent, a woman who was raised in the Middle West and who knows it like a book. She moved to Calitornia and discovered for herself the history and pulse of the great Southwest. She became a flaming defender of the Indian. She became a writer and knew everyone here and abroad, and so grew in stature unlit she is to-day one of the few authorities, one of the real champions of native American culture. The genealogical account of her girlhood may be dry reading for male folk, but pick up her story anywhere after the first third and you re in for a rousing and aggressive record of American resourcefulness. As someone has said, the trouble with Mary Austin is that she was n’t allowed to be at the right hand of the Throne during those first six days. If she had, it might have been a different world.
The Atlantic’s List of Readable Books will be found on the page following.