Instead of visiting the scene of the crime, as I did when the Republicans assembled in Philadelphia, I convened with the Democrats over my receiving sets. Sometimes I used radio and television simultaneously. You get mighty queer effects when you shut off the voice channel on your television set and let the radio commentator supply the background to the scene appearing on the “screen.” Or, you can just turn off all the noise and see how foolish the man on television looks as he throws himself into his act.
I began Arthur Hopkins’ little series of papers on the theatre, Reference Point (Samuel French; $2.50), with a slight impulse to quarrel with him. I ended with a great measure of admiration. The admiration transcends my pleasure in the excellent things Hopkins has to say about the theatre, though the book is replete with memorable aphorisms. It is an admiration for the spirit of the man—a spirit now all but extinct, not only on Broadway but generally in American life. The producer today is, all too frequently, not even an honest dilettante.
The Invisible Island, by Irwin Stark (The Viking Press; $3). This first novel by Irwin Stark, a young New York school teacher, is an encouraging performance. Decidedly it has its faults.
Chaplin: Last of the Clowns, byParker Tyler. Illustrated with Photographs (Vanguard Press; $3). Parker Tyler’s Chaplin, Last of the Clowns, has all the virtues and weaknesses of his earlier books. It is an inextricable blend of real depth and false glamor. Reading this book is like riding on a seesaw: at one moment you are fascinated by the author and at the next exceedingly irritated. Tyler conceives Chaplin as a clown with an alter ego.
The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh (Little, Brown and Co.; $2.50) This cold-blooded little novel made its first appearance five months ago in Cyril Connolly’s Horizon, and almost immediately aroused clashing comment. Waugh himself has anticipated this reaction in a nervous prefatory note to the American edition, called “A Warning,” in which he says, in part; “This is a purely fanciful tale, a little nightmare produced by the unaccustomed high living of a brief visit to Hollywood…. this is a nightmare and in parts, perhaps, somewhat gruesome.
Lenin: A Biography, by David Shub (Doubleday and Company; $5). I’ll Never Go Back: A Red Army Officer Talks Back, by Mikhail Koriakov (E. P. Dutton; $3). Tell the West, by Jerzy Gliksman (The Gresham Press; $3.75). Of these three books, only one, David Shub’s biography of Lenin, is a useful contribution to an understanding of Russia and the Russians. The other two are not unfamiliar specimens. Each is an undocumented, uncorroborated narrative of harrowing personal experiences in the Soviet Union. Neither has any particular literary, autobiographical or historical merit.
Vienna Vienna is celebrating the centennial of 1848, and a magnificent exhibit at the Rathaus vividly portrays the last time the city rose in revolt. The exhibit makes hunger an equal partner with the desire for liberty, as the inspiration of the revolution. The same reasons are behind Vienna’s present growing revolt against continued occupation. This year’s occupation costs are fixed at $60 million, 10 percent of the entire state budget.
Like the older Republicans and Democrats, the young third party is more than mass meetings and platform speeches. It also has top strategists and potent local leaders whose differences must be reconciled off-stage: C. B. “Beanie” Baldwin, with one important difference, stands in the same relationship to Henry Wallace as Jim Farley did to FDR at the beginning of their political alliance. The difference is important in explaining much about the Wallace campaign. Farley came to his task ripe in political experience and rather disinterested in the ideas his candidate was to stand for.
Third parties are one test of the vitality of the American people. They test the capacity of Americans to restore to life our two-party system when one of the major parties ceases to function as a vital force. The origin of the New Party lay in the recent failure of the Democratic Party to lead. In wartime, party government was abandoned in favor of national government by President Roosevelt. After the war, the Democratic Party lacked the vitality to reassert its liberal leadership.
The reports of the Democratic Party’s death, prevalent before the Philadelphia convention, appear now to have been somewhat exaggerated. A party in which the rank-and-file majority get their way on such a risky issue as civil rights against the opposition of their masters, is obviously not yet ready for embalming. The Democrats came to Philadelphia as low in their minds as the Republicans were when they assembled for the Landon convention in 1936. There was not a hopeful delegate in a carload. They were licked, most of them thought, probably for eight years.