The Atlantic Bookshelf: Conclusion

A wrap up of book reviews from Edward Weeks

THE appearance of new pamphlets on the bookstalls is an immediate and, I believe, very welcome sign of the times. In this form small books can be made available for twenty-five or fifty cents instead of being padded and ‘leaded’ until they could be sold at a dollar plus, as was the practice in the fat years. The pamphlet is a form of economy, and, what is equally important in these momentous days, it is the most rapid method of publishing we have. Pamphlets are invariably a sign of social change; they impress upon the community facts and conclusions of immediate importance. That they should crop up now is merely one more manifestation of the fact that we are about to receive a new deal.
Thus far the leading series of pamphlets has been edited and published by John Day & Company. The series numbers close to thirty booklets which are sold at twenty-five cents a copy and which appear to have been written only last night by some of the ablest men and women in the country. Of course, many of the subjects are contentious. For instance, here is John Strachey advancing his ideas about Unstable Money; Albert Einstein leading The Fight against War; and Pearl S. Buck asking Is There a Case for Foreign Missions? Of the several I have read there were two which gave me particular relish — Walter Lippmann’s well-balanced and objective address, A New Social Order, and six short poems by Archibald MacLeish, which have been gathered together under the pertinent title, Frescoes for Mr. Rockefeller’s City. Of the booklets published by other firms I have singled out two for honorable mention. First, The Means to Prosperity (Harcourt, Brace, 30 cents), four articles by John Maynard Keynes which were written this spring with primary reference to British conditions but which strikingly set forth certain principles that are of very general application. And secondly Ten Days, by George Gray (Duffield & Green, 50 cents), a Washington reporter’s swift and detailed accounting of the ten days which were to make or break Roosevelt’s administration. For men who have to commute, I strongly recommend a pamphlet as pocket reading.
For complete diversion on a (sticky) summer’s evening I turn to fiction, the lighter the better. I don’t mean mystery murders, but rather a narrative that stretches the imagination and that can be enjoyed for its own sake without arousing too much of one’s critical energies. To enjoy this sort of thing one must, of course, agree to a willing suspension of one’s disbelief. Thus if you read Grand Canary, the new yarn by A. J. Cronin (Little, Brown, $2.50), there’s no point in asking if it all could have happened. For it manifestly could n’t. The good points to look for in this light novel are the many amusing episodes aboard ship; the genial, lazy life in the Canary Islands; two smashing good fist fights; and two character sketches of Americans which, for all their inaccuracies of speech (they are drawn, you see, by a Scotchman), do provoke one’s self-regard. The love story, of course, is sentimental; the betrayal of the missionary is old stage stuff; and the climax rings about as true as a parrot’s laugh. But, as I said at the beginning, if you’re in the mood for light fiction, such things don’t detain you.