The Peripatetic Reviewer

BY EDWARD WEEKS
God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing yon dismay.
So the old carol sings to us at this, the most open-minded season of the year. Between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night our thinking is freshly lit with generosity and hope, business is relegated to second place, and our personal relations are prompted by the resolution to meet the world on more considerate terms. While we are in the act of taking the pledge I should like to glance at live futurities, situations susceptible of trouble, which already exist on the American horizon and which may grow to be sore spots in our national life.
1.Motor paralysis. All of our cities are seriously suffering from motor paralysis. The disease is most noticeable at five o’clock quitting time: then as the main arteries, the bridges, and the tunnels jam up, the accidents begin. We are the most irascible drivers in the world. When we are held up, our temper makes us contemptuous of the man ahead and murderous of the man afoot. There are more cars on the road than ever before and many of them injuriously decrepit. It lakes more than traffic cops to slow down this motorized fury; it takes better planning and more patience on the part of each individual.
2. Waste. Anyone really want to stop the reckless waste and defacement of this superb country? The pinelands cut over and left as lfre hazards, the automobile graveyards that litter the suburbs, rivers as beautiful as the Hudson, the Connecticut, and the Penobscot polluted, the chestnuts and elms blighted for lack of sufficient precaution, tin cans and bedsprings in the creek where a boy once went swimming. Out of our forests last year came 20 billion tons of newsprint and in all this mass of advertising and high-pressure talk not a single Audubon to tell us what we were throwing away.
3. Our living wage. “Gimme” rates higher than gumption. The pressure exerted by strikes, the farm bole, and protected interests in Congress has thrown all wage scales out of line. Fishermen are reporting incomes of $4000 and over for last summer’s haul, striking truck drivers settled for a top of $3700, and TVA pilots (whose flying expectancy is about fifteen years) struck for a top of $15,000 a year. Speaking for the Screen Writers’ Guild, Mr. Ernest Borneman reported in Harper’s that six film writers “earned more than $100,000 during the past fiscal year, eleven earned between $100,000 and $75,000, thirty-seven between $75,000 and $50,000, twentyeight between $50,000 and $40,000, thirty-two between $40,000 and $30,000, and so on down the line. In the same year public school teachers in Massachusetts had their salaries raised from $300 to $400 to a high average of $2500. Put librarians and ministers in the same income bracket; remember that we pay trained nurses not much more than we pay cooks and general maids, and ask yourself what is going to happen to the dedication and skill of such people who are left on the ground as prices and salaries continue to spiral upwards.
4. Recrimination. The time for “I told you so” is here. New is the open season for official inquiry and recrimination. Some of this inquiry is long overdue: some of it., like the Mend Committee investigation of Representative May, is healthy; some of it, like Rankin’s star chamber proceedings against Dr. Shapley, is outrageous. The contagion of the hue and cry throws people into an emotional state when hate has the commanding voice. If vindictiveness flares out as it may, people will do well to remember Republican Charles G. Dawes’s testimony at the end of the First World War: “Hell Maria, we had to get the job done! ”
The mal-effect of reerimination is that it will divide and slow us down when we ought to be forwardmoving. Faultfinding, Red-baiting, tomato-throwing of that word “Communist anyone you disagree with, are not the behavior of responsible people.
Not every veteran came back with a matured sense of responsibility. The majority did; the minority, strained, restless, easily exasperated, are the boys who need watching. When they fail to get what they want they will be disillusioned, suspicious, and inflammable, a fact which is known to the psychiatrists in the Veterans Bureaus and one which is being exploited by the leaders of the Klan, America First, the Communist Party, and by a multitude of veterans’ organizations. In The Plotters, John Roy Carlson has given us his searching case-history of the blind leading the blind: a name and address record of those who since V J Day have been misleading the veteran for all he is worth; a depressing revelation, and an honest warning of the risk we run through ignorance.
When in a sleepless night you examine your past it is with humility. There is one Inquiry, more dreadful than that of Pearl Harbor, we still have to face. A handful of Americans wiped out a hundred thousand lives. When I heard the Second Bomb had been dropped my immediate reaction was of relief, relief that the war would end. We unleashed that weapon; and having done so, it is our responsibility to reckon the consequences more clearly and humbly than those who have been hurt. In his small book Hiroshima,John Hersey tells what the bomb did to six of the luckiest in that city — if to survive is lucky — tells what it did to them and the thousands they saw and attended. The prose is stark and stirring in its revelation of fortitude. The Strategic Bombing Survey had given us the cold appalling facts, but here is the living tissue, the human behavior of Doomsday pictured as no American could imagine — or forget, once he has read, There but for the grace of God go we.
3. Impotence. The individual feels overpowered. What can you and I do about it ? Nothing except to find a hide-out in Vermont, or the Grand anyon, or Pukapuka; nothing, that is, unless you believe that the only defense against atomic disintegration is the cohesive attraction of mankind.
The ablest editorial writer in this country is E. B. White of the New Yorker, and if the Pulitzer Prize Committee were on their toes, they would give him a special award for the incomparable irony and the irrefutable logic with which he has attacked the growth of nationalism here and in Soviet Russia. In the spring of 1943, Mr. White, who has no infatuation for guns or dinosaurie bigness, began quietly and insistently to proclaim that until we had leveled the walls and the suspicions of sovereignty, we could have no hope for lasting peace. The atomic blast which disturbed the brain fluid of most of us only intensified the urgency of what Mr. White had been saying. His new book, The Wild Flag, gives his searching commentary on our efforts to arrive at a unity of nations; it is alive with phrases that bite the mind. When he says that “The anatomy of loyalty is largely unexplored,” or “The awful truth is, a world government would lack an enemy, and that is a deficiency not to be lightly dismissed,” or “A big city is a noisy proof of man’s ability to live at peace with strangers,” or “It is stimulating to learn that the ones who have been doing the fighting have an extremely low opinion of the whole business”; when he nominates Dinosaur Park in the Black Hills as the perfect site for the assembly of prehistoric sovereign nations “who kept on fighting one another until they perished from the earth”: when he says that “The whole business of the bomb tests at Bikini is . . . almost enough in itself to start a bitter fight in the crazy arena of amorphous fear,”Mr. White lifts our minds out of the despairing present and leads them at one leap to the Promised Land of World Government. He does not tell us how we are to cross the Red Sea. He makes us understand that we must.

The girl and the river

In the tone and quality of her writing Rurner Goodden is in direct succession to Katherine Mansfield. In Miss Godden’s novels, as in Miss Mansfield’s short stories, there is an apprehenisve interest in time and the change which it is effecting in the character, and in each case the characterization is made luminous by details chosen with skillful, feminine intimacy. In comparing Miss Godden’s new novelette. The River with either of Miss Mansfield’s famous stories “To the Beach or “The Garden Party,”one notices the same natural nervous flush in the prose.
The River tells the story of one decisive winter in the life of Harriet, an adolescent English girl, half child, half woman, beginning to write, on the verge of calf love, deeply shocked by a death for which she is partly responsible, the sensitive, eager, curious youngster caught at the turning point in her selfrevelation. Harriet’s family live in India, operating a jute works on the bank of a river, with the children confined at home because of the war. Thus the household is enclosed within itself, and its reactions compose this story; Harriet is learning fast from her mother, from her critical older sister, Bea, from her clear, composed Indian nurse, Nan, and most of all from the sympathy of Captain John, a young soldier crippled and imprisoned by the Japs, who is searching, as Harriet is searching, for the key to life.
The India background is pastel and incidental. What concerns us in the foreground is the series of turns — the publishing of Harriet’s piece, the cobra in the garden, the snatching of her diary, the flying of a kite, the last walk with Captain John — with which Harriet emerges from her cocoon.
This deft and delicate story is for those who relished Take Three Tenses.

Living it over

DEAR MR. WEEKS:
You have put away your rod for the year and three thousand miles away a non-fishing reader mourns. All fishing season I turned to your page first. You evoked scenes I had almost forgotten. The Ipswich River. New England hills, fields, woods. Familiar roads. Often, I think, one rebels against one’s background at some time in life and then, as the years pass, one finds oneself returning to one’s traditions, early habits, and most of all to memories of the scenes of childhood. Arizona is home to me now. I feel a thrill of homecoming when I first see the depthless turquoise sky, the wild rugged scenery. Yet of a summer evening, I love to sit and remember some spot — Rowley, Sunapee, Lynn Beach, Nahant, Moosehead, Champlain, Brandon, Woodstock — until I can smell its special seent and hear its sounds. I am grateful to you for many pleasant hours.
LOUISE HOLLIS BLACK
It is hard to say which is the zenith of pleasure: whether it is the anticipation of the night before, when you choose your flies, wax your line, mount and whip the rod (being careful not to tip off the lamp shade), and go to sleep dreaming of the olive water in the early dawn; whether it is that instinctive action when you set the hook and the rod curves in its domination; or whether happiness really dwells in remembrance. Anglers like myself, who must, hibernate until next, April, will find food for imagination in A Treasury of Fishing Stories, selected by Charles E. Goodspeed. The quintessence of fishing, centuries of experience, American exaggeration, and the imperishable beauty of many streams flow through this sparkling current of Izaak’s literature.
Here are the masters of the art : Audubon catching Ohio catfish; Richard Jefferies watching a London trout ; Negley Farson surf-casting on the New Jersey coast; Bliss Perry and Henry van Dyke; Charles Dudley Warner in the Adironducks: Ray Bergman confessing his first embarrassment with a plug; George Bosworth Churchill using a dry fly on the Miramichi: and Philip Wylie writing of the giant ray and the harpoon; Theocritus, John Masefield, and Don Marquis all of them lovers of the green and gold, detectives of the swiftest mystery that swims. True stories and whoppers, prose and verse, and lovely black and whiles by Everett Ward, this book is tonic beyond price for those who have to wait.