BOOKS JULY 7, 1926
Banzai, by John Paris, New York: Boni and Liveright. $2.50.
The author, at one time attached to the British embassy in Tokyo and writing under the name of John Paris, knows well certain phases of Japanese life. In Banzai he indicates his familiarity with geisha and yoshiwara problems, with student life and restaurants. But Banzai is much more trivial than the author’s previous novels of Japanese life, Kimono and Sayonara. The Japanese rogue who is the hero of this attenuated character study is not an entirely unpleasant chap, even though he robs his benefactors. The most interesting chapters describe Takao Ono’s mischievous childhood and his student days in Tokyo. His life in London is a mere thread on which to string his reminiscences. When Takao disappears finally like a shadow on the shoji, no one cares what becomes of him. The Japan Society need not be alarmed that this is sinister propaganda against Japan. Takao Ono, except that he happens to be born in Japan, might be any restless ronin of London or Paris or New York, bored with strait-laced conventions and completely demoralized by the War. —E.W.
Two or Three Graces, and Other Stories, by Aldous Huxley. New York: George H.Doran Company. $2.50.
There is really only one Grace in the title story, but Mr. Huxley applies his familiar method of turning the figure facet by facet and examining each polished surface, so that in the end a simple character seems complex and infinitely wearied by its surrounding complexity. The story concerns people who are bores, and Mr. Huxley has to some extent suited his method to his material. Once Grace herself enters, the story moves quickly enough and with that treacherous lightness which may well mislead one as to the weight of the cargo the author is carrying. In Two or Three Graces the problem is the essentially tragic one of the inability to achieve self-realization, but it is ostensibly told by a staid, if sympathetic, spokesman, and it is chiefly by implication that we see through to Mr. Huxley as one of “us, the bitter and gay.” A certain recklessness that characterized Antic Hay and some of the earlier short stories is missing here, and the work is less moving for it. The other three sketches in the volume are trifles, excursions into mood a la Katherine Mansfield, but not destined to add to Mr. Huxley’s fame. —R.M.F.
Odtaa, by John Masefield. New York: The Macmillan Company. $2.50.
In Odtaa, as previously in Sard Harker, Mr. Masefield celebrates a youth’s consecrated “struggle alone,” against hostile man and hostile nature. The first part of Odtaa builds up a background of intrigue in Santa Barbara, M r. Masefield’s own aromatic blend of Central American political legend, through which the life of the heroine is endangered; an English youth undertakes a solitary venture to save her. All Mr. Masefield’s fine gifts of imagination and his power of compelling excitement and terror make this pilgrimage great adventure. In it his interest centers to such an extent that the denouement of his plot is relegated to an appendix. With unaccountable detachment he makes the fate of Carlotta independent of the success of the hero, and we read, again in the appendix, that she has perished almost before he begins his journey. A plausible gloss of Odtaa is. One Damn Thing After Another. —H.G.
The Fourth Queen, by Isabel Paterson. New York: Boni and Liveright. $2.
Mrs. Patterson is a raconteur of ability, a stylist of charm, a historian surpassing both. The story moves with the swift grace of an English frigate; it has the vitality of its sturdy crew. Through the chicanery, love and color of her court moves Queen Elizabeth—a woman, not a royal android. With rare skill Mrs. Paterson reveals just enough of her to send the mind flying off to create a dozen novels and treatises on the result of loneliness, power, repressed love and heredity. The imagination lingers over the Queen, but deserts the hero, a young guardsman who kills seven Spaniards for a pair of earrings, and whose adventures and fidelity make him the paragon of young girls’ dreams, the hero of many Cosmopolitan stories. —E.L.B.
O Genteel Lady, by Esther L. Forbes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $2.
A colorful account of the emergence of a feminist from a chrysalis of small town repressions, crinoline dresses and Victorian inhibitions. Lanice’s ability to interpret in narrative her hitherto suppressed emotions and fantasies is awakened by Anthony Jones, a philanderer, with whom she falls in love. She follows him to Europe and while there perfects her vivid literary style. Lanice is realistic up to this point, but here Miss Forbes evidently forgets Victorian youth and recalls Victorian novels, for she marries off this increasingly interesting girl to a sentimentally conventional man who burns her manuscripts to insure her domesticity. Consistency of character is sacrificed to a trite romantic ending, and the whole idea of the book is hopelessly compromised. —M.E.U.
One Tree, by A.M. Allen. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. $2.50.
The prevailing tone of One Tree, a novel of English fundamentalists, is one of stability. During the three generations which Miss Allen treats so skillfully and so sympathetically, the little town gradually takes on a new tone of worldliness as the factories with their ugly smoking chimneys invade its streets. Extreme wealth and squalid poverty appear as the wedge of capitalism is thrust into their agrarian lives, and even their beautiful new tabernacle brings with it an invitation to worldliness. And yet through it all runs the love of peace—of home—which makes these people cling to their land even in the face of its hated new commercialism. Miss Allen treats of people and of situations that are homely—almost sordid—yet with such a balanced perspective that the high places of beauty in life are there too. —M.E.U.
Spring Running, by F.W. Bronson. New York: George H. Doran Company. $2.
Convent, university, a western ranch and Greenwich Village: each provides a setting for the youth of some one of the group introduced in the first few chapters as children. And finally Deborah, who just missed being lured into a nunnery by an “omen,” and Charles, whose extreme sensitiveness and inability for self-orientation have made his every attempt futile, rediscover each other and marry. Spring Running is a success as a picture of modern youth. It is conspicuous for Mr. Bronson’s casual treatment of the eccentricities of the younger generation—his willingness to grant that there still exist in life young people whose actions and reactions do not cal1 for psychopathic study. The characterization is excellent and the conversation always entertaining and occasionally provocative of understanding amusement. —M.E.U.
These reviews originally ran in the July 7, 1926 issue of the magazine.