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Picture Show. By Siegfried Sassoon. (E. P. Dutton & Company.)
This book gives us our first glimpse of Sassoon as anything but a war-time poet; and so in a sense our first opportunity to appraise him without prejudice. For, although known in England, he did not appear before the American public until during the war; and even now we like him or dislike him as we like or dislike his attitude upon the war. I wish we could get over this. For I know that the author of "Slumber Song" or "Ancient History" has enough poetry in him to survive any war, and therefore it seems quite absurd to rant about him just because we-who may have been safe enough in America-find the implications of "Atrocities" or "Glory of Women" distasteful. Sassoon himself has said that he considers his war experience merely as "evidence." Let us so consider it, too. And above all let us forget to condemn his poetry, which is high even in its most sordid moments, merely because we disapprove of what it "teaches."
T. C. C.
This Side of Paradise. By F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Charles Scribner's Sons.)
With the publication of his first novel, "This Side of Paradise," F. Scott Fitzgerald has attained very near to greatness. This book comes closer than any we have read recently to being that much-sought literary will-o'-the-wisp-The Great American Novel. That it is not this phantom may be attributed more to the fact that the author has not even attempted to write a truly great novel for all time, than to any failure on his part to succeed in his undertaking. He has, in fact, been altogether successful in what he attempted.
This initial novel from the pen of a new author seems meant to appeal exclusively to the present generation-we might almost say, to that element of the present generation that is still in its teens and its twenties. Because of the rapid changes in men's ways from decade to decade, it is probable that most people over thirty years of age will fail to recognize Mr. Fitzgerald's book for the astoundingly accurate, and burningly realistic picture of present-day customs and manners of youth that it is. But the
generation for whom it was written, will see that it is as real and as unexaggerated as "Vanity Fair" or "The Canterbury Tales."
As a writer, Mr. Fitzgerald is, of course, subject to some of the defects of youth-defects that time will doubtless temper and change to virtues. But such defects as he displays are amply compensated for by his unusual ability in putting emotions upon the printed page, and in making the reader sense, with him, the feelings of his characters. "This Side of Paradise" is the work of a man whose faculties are acutely sensitive to every sort of stimulus, whether emotional or physical; what is still more rare in this day of pseudo-realism, it is the work of one who is able to say what he feels, and say it clearly.
The plan of this book-the idea of taking a boy through youth, and abandoning him rather inconclusively some time early in his twenties-is frankly Wellsian. Perhaps too, the trick of bringing an arrogant college youth into sudden contact with the hard facts of life, is borrowed from "The Magnificent Ambersons." But Mr. Fitzgerald has used his models-if models they are indeed-with fine discretion. They are only the framework of his book, and what is built upon this frame-work is as original as it is worthy of the models themselves. For, this book is so true and so vivid that we-especially those of us who are still in college-are startled into an admiring admission that we are actually reading fragments of ourselves and our friends.
But beyond these larger virtues, the book has a charm and a sincerity that can come only from the heart of the author, when he lays bare to the reader all his ideas and emotions, and every detail of his personality.
It was make-up night and there was no one there. The Purple Bird, his feathers ruffled, and even the carefully guarded muffler disarranged, hovered dismally around the green light. The sight of five empty chairs depressed him. "I wonder if anything could have happened to them," he mused unhappily.
Presently there came the patter of feet, followed by a fumbling of the knob. It was obviously Little Nemo, who was always completely baffled by machinery of any kind. "I trust I am not late," he said, furling an enormous umbrella which he had used to protect his pajamas from the rain. "You see I wanted to say-"
"That's all right," said the Purple Bird, who was always very paternal where Little Nemo was concerned, "the rest are not here yet."
Little Nemo gazed at the empty chairs. "The Diplomat won't be here,' he announced triumphantly. “I saw him starting for the city. I know he won't be here. Now what I wanted to say was
"Never mind," said the Purple Bird kindly, "we can manage without him. Now what we need is a good story.'
"Yes-a good story," repeated Little Nemo. He stood wriggling his bare toes in the carpet. "The Black Orchid," he began.
"Yes-the Black Orchid?" said the Purple Bird, who believed in the Montessori method of dealing with children. "What did he say?”
"He was here early and left," confessed Little Nemo. "And what I wanted to say was
"Never mind," said the Purple Bird in his most consoling way. "We can make the LIT. up together. Won't that be fun? You can sit on all three chairs and I will use the other two. Now," he said, returning to business, "what we need is a good story.”
Little Nemo pushed the pile of manuscripts away from him. "No one ever listens to what I want to say," he wailed piteously.
"What is it?" replied the Purple Bird patiently.
“I have got to go; I have an engagement too," insisted Little Nemo.
“An engagement-you?" said the Purple Bird incredulously.
"An engagement is a sacred thing," said Little Nemo, self-sacrificing as he was.
"What we need is a good story," murmured the Purple Bird in reply, but he said it to the four walls, for Little Nemo was already scurrying away through the rain.