The Peripatetic Reviewer
BY EDWARD WEEKS
JACK RUSSELL, whose life was snuffed out so swiftly by an automobile in Nogales last January, was a Canadian who had done more to make the Atlantic salmon respected and protected than any other angler I can name. Jack was ruddy, chunky, and fiery; he set high standards and fought to preserve them; he was courteous, and he had that sense of civility, a heritage from England, which is found in the best of the Dominion. He nicknamed me “Simon Legree” because on one memorable visit to his camp on the Southwest Miramichi I compelled and cajoled him to talk out his book Jill and I and the Salmon at the rate, very nearly, of a chapter a day. Of course, it took filling in afterward, but we recaptured the whole zestful panorama in those eleven days.
Jack had two lives. His parents were Canadians, born in New Brunswick, but as a boy he was reared in Utah; he witnessed the San Francisco earthquake and enjoyed one week’s exposure at Leland Stanford before moving on into a more congenial element. He was a born salesman, and, coming of age when motors were fresh on the market, he devoted his eager, attractive, sometimes irascible energies to selling Fords (the model F), Studebakers, the Maxwell, and the Chrysler; in his selling he roved from Scotland to the Continent to Saint Petersburg; and at the age of forty and still a bachelor, he was brought to the point of exhaustion by hypertension. The doctor gave him an ultimatum. “My advice is to get out of business and live,” he told Jack. Jack’s assets were a few thousand in the bank and a tiny fishing camp in Maine. But he had one other, of incalculable value: he had fallen in love with Jill, a beautiful and intelligent ballet dancer considerably his junior, and when she married him they embarked upon Jack’s second career, in which he actually seemed to grow younger. He was eighty when he died.
You must read his book to see by what fortuitous and amusing turns they came at last to Ludlow,
New Brunswick, where Jack had leased a series of magnificent salmon pools, and where, in the depths of the Depression, with labor at a dollar a day, he built the best appointed, least expensive salmon camp open to the public in North America. Food, cabin with hot water and shower, boat and guide, all for $12 a day. The word got around; and the fine anglers – Anne Morgan, the cartoonist H. T. Webster, Ray Bergman, Ben Ames Williams, Richmond Fearing, Dr. “Chub” Newell, John Hutton, and Richard E. Danielson–came as eagerly as did the colonel from Georgia who had never handled a fly rod. Jack attracted good guides, and Jill, good cooks; here their two sons were born and brought up; and just as Jack took good care of “the sports,” so he took good care of the river, the great, broad Southwest Miramichi.
In the provincial legislature and at Ottawa, Jack strove to regulate the catch of the steam trawlers at the river’s mouth, just as he struggled to reach a reasonable compromise with the owners of the set nets, which prey on the entering salmon for miles upstream. It is one of the hardest things in the world to keep a river clean and alive.
Other times, other men. Jack Russell is gone. Today the men most listened to in Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick, are the industrialists and mining magnates of Toronto who have been seeking for the East Coast Smelting and Chemical Company, Ltd., powers of water use, water diversion, and land expropriation, which, if they are granted without the customary legal safeguards, could result in the industrial pollution of the Miramichi river system.
The Maritime Provinces for generations have lived frugally on lumber and fishing; then, when the great deposits of lead and zinc were recently discovered and the mines were opened close to the spawning grounds of the salmon, a conflict of interest developed which can be ominous if not fatal. After the mines come the smelters, and smelters need a huge volume of water. The Canadians have a reputation for preserving their rivers and the sea-run fish in them as we have not, but money talks, and when it talks of a “fifty-milliondollar combine” of mining, smelting, and chemical works which will “reshape the whole future of New Brunswick,” what chance has the salmon?
The Tobique, the finest of the rivers flowing into the St. John, has been strangled by the new power dam at Beechwood; today only a trickle of fish make their way up the elevator and through the miles of warm dead water, and tomorrow there will be none. It is sad to see the beautiful St. John so denuded, for salmon will not return indefinitely if they cannot get to their spawning grounds, but will this same process of extermination be extended to other river systems? One sympathizes with the provincial officials who must decide this case, for the welfare of the entire community must be considered. One has a grudging sympathy for the mining and smelting interests, for the depollution of industrial waste is costly, but surely it is not too costly for the long future. We must hope that the nerve for conservation is still as responsive as the pocket nerve in the Dominion.
RECREATION IN THE FUTURE
Last year eighty million Americans visited our national forests, and this incentive to drive the family to the Rocky Mountain National Park or to Yellowstone or Alaska or the Presidential Range or Cape Cod will increase as the workweek shortens. In 1958 a commission, under the chairmanship of Laurance S. Rockefeller, was established by Congress and the President to look into the recreational resources of the nation now available and to determine how much more we will need in the next four decades. Their report, OUTDOOR RECREATION FOR AMERICA (.Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C., $2.00), is an allembracing compilation. The text and statistics are pointed up by a fine selection of photographs, and, what is best, they arc aimed at the future. They show that we have no shortage of recreation areas, whether for those who want to pack and portage, those who want to tow their own outboards, or those who simply want to get out and look. They also show that there are at present in the federal government “some 20 agencies which have a direct or indirect interest in outdoor recreation.” This lack of coordination has gone unchecked year after year; it has deprived us of any central, forward-looking policy.
The way out of this maze, says the report, is for Congress to set up some new ground rules by establishing a Bureau of Outdoor Recreation inthe federal government. The most valuable part of the text recommends what this bureau should do against the dangerous encroachments; how it should stimulate the private donations which have supplied such a generous part of the National Park System; how the funds to finance the essential new areas can be found; and, above all, how we are to preserve and make the fullest use of our most valuable resource, our water. The chapter on water alone is worth the price of admission.
MAN IN SEARCH OF HIS PAST
The English novelist R. C. HUTCHINSON takes a long and reflective preparation for each new book. In the writing of it, he makes very little concession to popular taste, and when it is done, the narrative demands close attention, yet in my judgment this attention is generously rewarded. THE INHERITOR (Harper, $4.95) is the intricate, absorbing story of a man’s search for his own parents. Vincent Levesque was born in Belgium and raised as a foundling. With his quality of mind and irrepressible vitality he makes a place for himself at Louvain as a teacher of history, and at this point, the invading Nazis impress him into a labor battalion in which he suffers a hard battering on the Russian front. He learns through the underground that his young wife Germaine has been unfaithful to him, and when, gaunt and bearded, he returns at the war’s end, it is with no taste for his former existence and little desire to live.
What arouses Vincent from his lethargy is a mysterious will emanating from an English benefactor, a merchant of Bristol whom he suspects of being his father. To learn the truth he makes his foreign but observant way to Bristol, and as a paying guest takes up residence in the very rooms of his benefactor, attempting to live in discreet familiarity with the cousins who are seeking to deny his existence and to break the will. Mr. Hutchinson succeeds in making this delicate situation of intense and plausible concern; in his novel about the Dreyfus case, Shining Scabbard, he wrote with a singular knowledge of the French temperament, and now, in his new book, he seems equally sure of the Belgian. The Continental reserve and the mannerisms of the inheritor are in sharp contrast to the amiability of his English cousins: the charming Lucille Selborne. the widowhostess who early begins to suspect Vincent; her decorative and indolent soldier son John; and Ruth, the tall, lonely librarian whose pity and devotion the foreigner awakens. In the foreground we see the Belgian’s effort to equate himself with this trio – shall he press for the property or let them have it? – and introspeclively we follow his painstaking, often obstructed endeavor to discover the true nature of his father and the whereabouts of his mother, who is still living.
The theater of this novel is Vincent’s heart. Shall he surrender to Ruth, who has followed him to the Lowlands, or shall he seek with Germaine a reconciliation from which all love has fled? The crisis is built up with subtlety, and it is the skill of the narrator to leave us at the end still wondering whether Vincent’s decision was the right one.
HOW DO YOU REACH THE POOR?
BARBARA WARD is a highly trained economist with an extraordinary capacity for throwing fresh light on history in the making. She is also a believer, and the faith which she places in the resourcefulness of the West to maintain its strength and freedom in a threatening world has made her books a beacon. Her trenchant new one, THE RICH NATIONS AND THE POOR NATIONS (Norton, $3.75), is a realistic and inspiriting assessment of our complex and divided world.
She speaks of the four revolutions – “of equality, of this-worldliness, of rising birth-rates, and of driving scientific change” – all of which started in the North Atlantic community and all of which have spread. She shows how economic growth and the growth in population have come forward in balance in the West over a period of two hundred years, but elsewhere in a rush, and she shows how, in the speed and size of our wealth, we have outstripped all others, not least our colonies, leaving a gap between the rich and the poor which is “the most tragic and urgent problem of our day.” She compares the great sharing of wealth with the workers in the West, which Marx never foresaw, with what happened in the emerging Communist system. “The revolution,” as she says, “which was to have liberated the workers and peasants submitted them to a discipline of forced saving more rugged than anything imposed in the unplanned West.” She is grimly aware of the mood of psychological frustration to which Communism can speak in the new nations, and in her chapters “The Economics of Development” and “The Politics of Development” she makes a clarifying analysis of what we must do if we are to reach the undeveloped countries in their present predicament, matching the Communists “policy for policy, vision for vision, ideal for ideal.”
Miss Ward’s interpretation of the historical process which has plunged us into this dilemma is ever fresh and concise. I wish I did not have to add that she occasionally slumps into the economist’s shorthand. When she uses “massive” three times in one paragraph, one cries aloud for better editing, for this “massive” use of Madison Avenue English has no place in her vocabulary.