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Books: Recent & Readable: Jan. 15, 1940

4 minute read

THE IDEA OF A CHRISTIAN SOCIETY—T. S. Eliot—Harcourt, Brace ($1.50).

Poet Eliot writes after due meditation. He took a critical interest in Fascism and Soviet Communism ten years before they became fascinating to many other U. S. and English poets and “intellectuals.” His starting point: “The current terms in which we describe our society, the contrasts with other societies by which we—of the ‘Western Democracies’—eulogize it, only operate to deceive and stupefy us.” His argument: that the choice before the next several generations is “between the formation of a new Christian culture, and the acceptance of a pagan one.” Eliot’s idea of a Christian culture is not as unrealistic as his High Anglican tone may make it seem; nor as simple as revivalist Christians might think.

BUT You ARE YOUNG—Josephine Lawrence—Little, Brown ($2.50). The Newark, N. J. newspaperwoman who wrote If I Have Four Apples (TIME, Dec. 30, 1935) reels off another post-Depression problem story, this time concerning the plight of a manicurist who supports a jobless father and brother, needs love, finds it only among young men who regard her family as too much of liability. In Josephine Lawrence’s appealing fiction the rules of composition are observed (“he said” and “she said” correctly varied) and the plot goes merrily as the wedding bell her heroine would like to hear. If the writing were as sensitive as it is honest, this novel would do more than suggest the miasmal human pathos and selfishness inherent in its material.

LET THE PEOPLE SING—J. B. Priestley —Harper ($2.50).An old-time music hall comic, an exiled Czech professor, a somewhat sickening heroine (who does not sicken her author) become the storm centre of a three-sided feud in small Dunbury. The argument is of industrialists v. landed snobs v. common people—over which class shall have the use of the Market Hall. Abetted by a lot of old-fashioned plotting and comic incident and by a drunken representative of Old England At Its Best, the workers win, and every good person gets what he was after. Thus combined, Author Priestley’s warm social anger and his famed, rather beefy affability make Let the People Sing a novel easy to disregard but hard to dislike.

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE—Robert Nathan —Knopf ($2). A starved artist, his talent frozen, meets a mysterious child in Manhattan’s Central Park who is a ghost of both past and future, grows years older with every few months’ gap between meetings. Through drawings and portraits of her the artist attains fame & fortune; he loses her, at last, to the great New England Hurricane. Readers who can willingly succumb to Robert Nathan’s stealthy, gifted, perfumed-Mickey Finn prose will be rewarded with chills from the time-tricks, gently idealized sexual suspense, occasionally a gentle, specialized Nathan sob.

THE EAGLES GATHER—Taylor Caldwell —Scribner ($2.50).After World War I the Bouchards, most powerful of U. S.

munitions families (Dynasty of Death introduced them in 1938), are much interested in plotting further profitable trouble for the world. A pack of triple-chilled villains, they like still better to plot agains” each other, for power, for hatred, for pure love of plotting. Loaded with enough plot, counterplot and countercounter-plot to make Victorien Sardou turn green in his grave, the book has this not inconsiderable saving virtue: that its creatures are so intensely presented as to make credible even the most baroque of their actions.

TURN EVER NORTHWARD — Margaret Barrington—Knopf ($2.50).Anne-Louise Thorauld and her moody cousin Justin grow up as gentry in North Ireland, learn their Latin from a benign grandfather, play together on the cliffs and moors.

Parted by the years of the War and the Trouble, tangled in bitter marriages and danger, they are drawn together again and drift bleakly back to their grandfather’s house. Turn Ever Northward is notable as: 1) a woman’s treatment of a period made classic by Irish literary men; 2) a readable romance. It is small potatoes compared to the works of the writer’s husband, Liam O’Flaherty.

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