The Peripatetic Reviewer

Etched in Sunlight is the happy title for a remarkably beautiful book. In it Samuel Chamberlain has told the story of how a boy from the state of Washington transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture, and how suddenly he woke up in a life class (where the casual nudeness of the model made him blush) at the sound of magic words quietly spoken by Professor W. Felton Brown, as in a sweeping gesture from the model’s shoulder he pointed out the “line of light and shade.” Those words were an open sesame for Sam Chamberlain, who was to break away from architecture and commercial art to free-lance in pencil drawings, etchings, drypoint, and lithographs. His artistry has covered half a century, at a time when the new medium of photography would have driven a lesser man out of business. With his zest for food and wine and his gift for friendship, Chamberlain has become, and I do not exaggerate, the most welcome and appreciative American in France and the adjoining gastronomic provinces of Italy and Britain.
Etched in Sunlight by Samuel Chamberlain, N.A. (Boston Public Library, $20.00)
The Hurricane Years by Cameron Hawley (Little, Brown, $7.50)
The Occupying Power by Gwyn Griffin (Putnam’s, $6.95)
Time and his teachers favored Chamberlain. The traveling fellowship in Europe which he hungered for in 1916 came to him a year later as an ambulance driver in the American Field Service; he went to war with a box of watercolors and a pad of Whatman’s paper in his duffel bag, fell in love with France at first sight of the villages of the Médoc, ‘’low white houses capped with rosecolored tile roofs radiant in the summer sun,”and more important than his Croix de Guerre were the drawings and paintings which he made on leave in Paris, Dinard, Aix-les-Bains, and Biarritz. When he returned from war, William Emerson, the great-nephew of Ralph Waldo, had succeeded Ralph Adams Cram as dean of the Architectural School. Emerson had graduated from Harvard the year Chamberlain was born, but their lifelong friendship was based on a mutual love for France and for sketching, and the dean did not demur when Chamberlain quit architecture.
In the early twenties Sam acquired the economy and discipline which were to make his drawings so desirable; he went to France on a shoestring, sought out the old houses, the châteaus, the old towers, city gates, and bridges where the line of light and shade could be most beautifully depicted. He learned as he traveled, studying lithography in the studio of Gaston Dorfinant, and etching in the atelier of Edouard Leon on the Left Bank; and when he was joined by his attractive wife, Narcissa, who had just as fine a palate and a better memory for recipes, his mastery of black and white and his knowledge of good cooking and good wine began to approach perfection. The portfolios which he brought back from their annual sojourns in Europe held source material for magazine editors and for the more than seventy books which he has written or illustrated.
Wherever they went the Chamberlains made friends, and their friendships, whether with the artists on the Left Bank or with Steve and Rosemary Benét, the Donald Moffats, and the Karl Cates at Senlis, arc bright and restful episodes in his peregrinations. William Emerson was always his mentor, they grew in each other’s affection, and the dean must have approved when Sam added photography as another string to his bow. In this medium, as in his lithography, he is drawn to what is old, to the covered bridge at Sturbridge and to the saltbox houses in Plymouth and Topsfield and the wharves at Nantucket and Rockport. Of the drawings and lithographs my favorites are the Salamanca Cathedral, Senlis From a Crow’s Nest, the exquisite facade of Beauvais (drawn while serving as a retread in the Air Corps), Reflected Light, Sidi-Bou-Saïd, and, it I had to settle for one, Quimper, for its superb symmetry and contrast. My complaint, and it is a minor one, is that Chamberlain does not usually pause long enough to hint, much less to tell us, of the history associated with so many of his romantic subjects. The Boston Public Library, which sponsored the publication, and the author, who laid out the format and decided so rightly on the size and choice of the more than 400 illustrations, are to be congratulated.
Are Americans more vulnerable than other people to heart attacks? Has the climate or our compulsion for success made us so? The question has become more pressing in recent years with the realization that many American executives thought to be in their prime are suddenly bowled over in their mid-forties. This is the inquiry which led Cameron Hawley to the writing of The Hurricane Years (after he himself had suffered a heart attack), and he is as deeply concerned with the causes which prompt a man to knock himself out for a corporation as he is with the aftermath.

The Writers

Stanley Kauffmann, formerly drama critic for the New York Times, is Associate Literary Editor for the New Republic and author of A World on Film.
Justin Kaplan received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his book Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain.
Charles Nicol teaches English at Indiana State University.
Stephen Schlesinger graduated from the Harvard Law School last June.
Carter Harman is a free-lance writer and reviewer. He is the author of A Popular History of Music.
Phoebe Adams, Herbert Kupferberg, and Edward Weeks contribute regularly to the magazine.
The Hurricane Tears opens in a hospital on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where the hero, Judd Wilder, a brilliant promoter, who has ignored all the danger signals in his drive for success, comes to after a coronary occlusion, in its telling, this is a duel between two men, Judd, the executive, frightened but determined to get back into the pitch as soon as possible, and his doctor, Aaron Kharr, a heart specialist, who has been writing papers and planning a book about men under stress, and who has come to believe in an unorthodox treatment for their cure. Under Dr. Kharr’s probing, Judd relives and, grudgingly, revalues his career: his marriage to Kay, a wife turned cold, his abandonment of the theater for advertising, his obsessive dedication to the Crouch Carpet Company. Judd feels that he is being used as a guinea pig, and at times he rebels. But the light filters in, and the truth he is learning is a truth which many executives could well heed. This story may be regarded by some as too didactic and too long; I think it is saved from both charges by its humane and compassionate qualities, and by its characterization.
For some years now I have been relishing the short stories and the novels of Gwyn Griffin. He has a pictorial power which stems from his familiarity with the Mediterranean countries and the Near East; he has a sublime sense of the ridiculous; and he is unafraid to be romantic when the occasion warrants. His performance marked him as one of the most promising of the current crop of English novelists, and in his last book, The Occupying Power, now published posthumously, he chose a theme and a setting well adapted to his versatility.
The island of Baressa, ninetyfive miles long by fifty miles broad, was, the author says, “one of Italy’s earliest and most disappointing colonial acquisitions.” Palm-fringed and tropical, it sat “in shark-infested waters six hundred miles off the northeast coast of Italian Somaliland.” Arabian, Indian, and African pirates had used it as a stronghold, and later, exiles from Abyssinia and the Balkans had compounded an exotic population before Mussolini look it over.
The story begins on a hot August afternoon in 1940 when the small Italian colony was roused from its dripping siesta to discover that a British warship was at the entrance to the harbor of San Pietro, and that a new phase of life was beginning in their corrupt and overheated paradise. The story ridicules the conquest by the English authorities, the subtle ways in which they are seduced or opposed by their Italian captives, and how they are finally ejected; in short, this is a comic opera book about the war, and a good one.
The Senior Civil Affairs Officer — in effect, the English governor — is Major Euan Lemonfield. Short, fastidious, coolly articulate, and well endowed with English arrogance, a London lawyer of acumen, he means to clean up the place, rule it with an iron hand, and live well in the bargain. Incidentally he loathes the British Army. His immediate assistants are Christopher Kellermann, an overdecorated infantry officer who was wounded by his own men and who sees in Baressa a heaven-sent chance of avoiding any further combat; Captain James Naughton-Muirhead, a fop from St. James, full of grace and sarcasm and presumably the playboy of the governor; and last but not least, Sergeant Brinsmead, who has all the canniness of a superior noncom. The Italians whom they encounter are a motley crew, including Mrs. Tamminetto, a virago, who was in charge of the Italian police force when the British arrived and was not easily dislodged. Her secretary, Silvana, is quite the most attractive young girl on the island, and those of the invading party who are so inclined vie for her favors. Major Lemonfield works wonders with the place without detracting from its operatic features and is deservedly promoted. He has a hard time with the English renegades on the island, the one a Puritan priest, the other a fascist decadent; and his hardest, when transports periodically land elements from the army, especially a British general who has been relieved of his command for incompetence in Libya, and who descends on Baressa with the idea of fortifying the place against an improbable German invasion. Bizarre and unpredictable, I find this story clear sailing all the way, and good fun.