The Peripatetic Reviewer

As a boy summering on the Jersey coast, I remember looking up from the sand to see a sixmasted schooner, all canvas spread, coasting memorably close to shore against the thrust of a gusty west wind. Square-riggers were rarer, but we saw them too, though much further out on the rim of the sea. We set our clocks by the black and white single-stackers of the Old Dominion Line which passed our beach at 12 noon and at 6 P.M. on the dot, a warning to a boy that he had better hurry if he was going to get cleaned up in time for supper. These glimpses of seafaring we took for granted; it never occurred to us that these ships were the last of an epoch vanishing into history. Now, half a century later, I can remember so clearly the lumber schooner that came ashore in such shambles below Lavollette; I can see the black lumps of the fishing trawlers and the sun glistening on the oars of the lifesaving crew as they pulled out beyond the trough of the waves for their weekly exercise in capsizing. But I haven’t the faintest recollection of when I saw my first plane, the vessel in which I have since voyaged several hundred thousand miles.
What I can remember is every uncomfortable detail of my first flight. It was in 1931, Boston to I fart ford. There I was to speak in the midaft emoon. “Why take that long train ride?" asked my friend, Dale Warren. “Fly down. You can leave here at one o’clock. The flight is only fifty-five minutes.”So in my pressed blue suit, stiff collar, and my lecture cravat I presented myself at the Statler, where I boarded the limousine. It was a warm day for October, and the plane, a Ford tri-motor with tilted seats, which had been standing some time on the field, felt stuffy. I took the window seat looking out over the wing tip and waited with apprehension. The take-off tightened my stomach, and once we were in the air I made the mistake of concentrating on the wing tip. As it rose and fell, so did my gorge. After we had been flying for some time, I felt a slight mistiness on my brow. “Well,” I thought, “we must be almost there,” and I looked at my watch, which showed that we had been traveling exactly thirteen minutes. The plane was now riffling over what looked like a forest, the wing tip rose and fell, and the thought of those forty-two minutes to go was too much; like the Whale, I gave up Jonah and wished I had never been born. When we came down at Hartford, I staggered into the nearest taxi and found sanctuary in a hotel room. There 1 sent out for a fresh shirt, necktie, handkerchief, and had a bowl of chicken broth. Before I left for the auditorium I cashed in my return ticket.
I didn’t fly again until I crossed the Atlantic in 1943, and in that big seaplane I never fell a qualm. Oh, yes, I have felt my stomach tighten in a small plane over the Bay of Fundy, and I can’t say I enjoy the sensation of stacking when a big plane flies round and round a winter-shrouded airport waiting for its call to come down; but flying has become so much a part of my editorial life, and such an enjoyable part, that my initial apprehensions have long disappeared and with them any 1 bought of feeling sick.
Seen from above, the country takes on a wholly different aspect. When you travel in a small plane at 2500 feel, as I did a month ago on my way to Manchester, Vermont, you are amazed by the vastness of the forests and by the multitude of hidden water pockets, the ponds, small lakes, and mountain tarns beyond reach of road. You notice the remote tueked-away homesteads and imagine the Eugene O’Neill characters within; you spot the hunting lodges and the trail like a green crease leading to them; and then as you come in over the pass and dip down toward Mount Equinox, you almost feel the upthrust of the white steeple as you make the jouncy turn that swings you over the golf course for your run in,
The cabin of one of the big air liners has become for me a place of repose and exhilaration. Here as nowhere else I am alone with my thoughts, and they seem to be stimulated by the flight. I find it easy to write on a plane, and reminders of some of the more imaginative things I have been intending to do are jotted down on my yellow pad.
The hostesses have the Navy habit of serving Java at all times. This adds to the zest; so do the meals which invite rather than surfeit the appetite. The air-line trays are as ingenious as they are appetizing, and when they are served you talk. Then after the cigarette one again becomes reflective. Below you may be the golden fields and red barns of Pennsylvania valleys, or the towering white peak of Mount Shasta; or the huge waterways of the TVA with the shoreline melting at the edges like a chocolate bar: below you may be the brilliantly lit gridiron of Chicago or New York with the incredible neon colors and the firefly cars pursuing each other on the highways.
The full glory of flight is the sunrise and sunset. Flying home from Chicago this June at 19,000 feet, I saw the massing of the huge white cloud banks like explosions of frozen snow. Seeing these cloud mountains and crevasses as they rise above the brown haze of summer heat, so poised and outlined against the blue empyrean, with the setting sun lighting and shadowing their slopes, is to come closer than a boy could have imagined to the majesty and beauty of the heavens.

H. M. Tomlinson

To H. M. Tomlinson it was given to see the clipper ships and the great docks of London as they were in the full tide of the 1880s before steam and the Blitz had altered the scene forever. He was born in Poplar in the East End. His father was a clerk who worked on the West Indian docks, and his life his son has compressed in this exquisite sentence: “He was a small and delicate man, easily moved to laughter, with an inclination to studies he was unable to pursue as he desired; and, as he was excessively conscientious, his work did not take long to kill him.” Tommy’s mother was of stronger metal; the daughter of a master gunner, who as a child had sailed with him in a threedecker, her heritage reached back almost lo Nelson’s day, and the courage with which she fended for the three children, the integrity and discipline of mind which she inculcated after their father’s death (and he died penniless), shine forth in Mr. Tomlinson’s autobiographical sketches, .1 Mingled Yarn (Bobbs-Merrill, $3.50).
Tommy was born for the sea, and though he was apprenticed in trade at the age of thirteen, it was journalism which liberated him and which put him aboard ship. He began his travels while he was still working in the City of London for Scottish traders at wages of six shillings a week. Their trading was then with Bangkok, Brisbane, Shanghai, Antananarivo, and these pin points on the map became realities which beckoned. He knew every inch of the London docks from St. Katherine’s to ‘Tilbury; he memorized the ships that came and went; he talked to the great skippers like Captain Simpson of the clipper Samuel Plimsoll, and had from them a veneration of seamanship which was to inform his finest writing. The love of the sea and the love of London are the two brightest strands which he has woven together in these autobiographical essays of Elizabethan beauty.
Historian and lover of the stars, seafarer and Cockney whose lion-hearted prose was never better than when London seemed doomed, H. M. Tomlinson is endearing as writer, guide, and friend. I shall never forget the walks which he and James Bone took me on or the picture he gave me of London docks when the clippers were in, or the stories of the sea dogs, some of which arc preserved in this affectionate volume. The measure of the man is found in his descriptive passages, as this when he was called suddenly to the bridge: “I went up hurriedly, in pyjamas and oilskins. Day had not come, but it was not night; night was lifted slightly in the east on a wedge of rose, though the wind was still bleak out of darkness. We were somewhere near the Burlings. What was this? My friend the chief officer pointed astern without a word. We were passing a ghost ship, under all canvas. The barque was so close that I could see the length of her deck. She was silent, and more pale than the twilight. She was tall, and tinctured faintly with rose.”
And the measure of the man is found in his philosophy. “If only,” he writes, “we knew what progress is! Doesn’t it depend on the way we are going, and what wo want to do? I am all for sentiment while our destiny is uncertain; the earth would be as dead as the moon without memory and affection.” To see what he means by affection, read the last and best essay of the lot, an offering to his wife entitled “After Fifty Years.”

The young Marines

Leon Uris has done a big job and a hard job in his novel Battle Cry (Putnam, $3.75), which follows the fortunes of a battalion of Marines, “Huxley’s Whores,”from boot training to New Zealand and thence to the desperate assaults on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan. Huxley’s men formed part of the Sixth Regiment, 2nd Division: they came to camp an assorted, typical group fresh from high school, few older than twenty, and under the leatherneck training of sergeants “Mac" and Burnside they were converted into part, of the most formidable fighting force of its day. This is the story of the almost unbearable discipline which toughened them; of the gripes, the drinking, and the fights which welded them; of the malaria, dengue fever, and wounds that cut them down; and of the women who were their solace or dream. The reporting in it is sweeping and graphic, the talk coarse and yet not dirty; the indomitable spirit under fire, that of the real gyrene.
By the time boot training is finished, the novel has been focused on a radio squad who are being given the special treatment by Sergeant Mac. Mac is the camera’s eye which keeps the story in range, and under his scrutiny the men are well differentiated: there is Danny Forrester, the halfback from Baltimore, a clean bright kid and his worshiper; the little Pole, Ski Zvonski, so light that they called him “the feathermerchant" Hodgkiss, rochristened “Sister Mary,” who liked reading and listening to records, who didn’t smoke or drink but could always be relied on to salvage Spanish Joe Gomez, their troublemaker; Andy, the big Swede, and L. Q. Jones, the drawling humorous Confederate— they paired up as men have in all wars and their unit loyalty, under stress, is as sentimental as it is true. Only the Indian, Shining Lightower, seems to me a phony.
The novel is one of primary colors, black and white, red and yellow, and in many episodes the violence of the action almost precludes the inner feelings. The blusterer O’llearne is disposed of too swiftly; the leadership from the heroic Sam Huxley down the line to Shapiro, Mac, and Danny is undeviating and therefore little troubled by selfdoubt or by shirkers like Lieutenant Bryce; the reflex of these men is one of fierce dedication and that the reader accepts, but their physical suffering and their anguish of mind come through only rarely. Yet as I say this I think of Danny’s loss of control when he freezes on the net, and later of his humility as he sits watching the dying Jap; 1 think of Mac’s rough consolation of Andy when the big Swede lost his leg; I think of how Levin, the replacement, the cocky Brooklyn Jew, finally endears himself to the outfit; and I realize what a sensitive range of experiences the author has to contend with. There is no touch of the neurotic in Baffle Cry, nor is the book a tract either for the Marine Corps or against the agonies of war. It is the story of fighting men and of the esprit they live by.

The spell of Somerset Maugham

Although one can assume from the copyright lines that the six essays W. Somerset Maugham has gathered together in his new collection, The ) a grunt Moot! (Doubleday, $3.00), art’ reprinted from magazines, they are nevertheless so fresh, so shrewd, so illuminating, so witty, as to pul any reader under the full spell of Maugham and his incomparable gifts as a sloryfeller. A minor recollection, flowing through his accomplished pen, is almost a sufficient objective for the essay itself; yet there are scores of them lavished through the pages of The Vagrant Mood, each deft and pointed.
Beginning with a memoir of Augustus Hare, a stuffy and highly idiosyncratic country gentleman, Maugham next supplies a perceptive study of Zurbaran and his work. His evaluation of Hammett and Chandler in an essay on the passing of the oldfashioned detective story is expert testimony, not to be missed, and so is his concluding chapter, “Some Novelists I Have Known" —surely an irresistible subject for any admirer of .Maugham. The essays on Burke and Kant are perhaps iess picturesque, but they lit comfortably into an assortment which, in its easygoing persuasiveness, many a pundit would envy.