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THE SUX. SUNDAY. DECK.MUKIJ 1 0 1 S
BOOKS AND THE BOOK WORLD
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1918.
phrase ami one rferogalor, phrase, which giws a
nicely liiihiijcri! n tin out' ham! . . . on
tin" other lii.nd" effect. He as thin tin. lumk is at
tractively bound lint barfly priiiH'rf; well written,
but deficient it; emotional intensity; full of action,
but weak in characterization ; has a good plot, but
is devoid of style.
lie reads all the books he reviews. Every little
while be pounces upon a misquotation on page -4:58,
or a misprint on page 279. Reviewers who do not
read the books they review may chance upon such
details, while idly turning the uncut leaves or while
looking at the back cover, but they never bring in
three runs on the other side's error. They spot the
fact that the heroine's mother, who was killed in a
train accident in the fourth chapter, buys a re
frigerator in the twenty-third chapter, and they
indulge in an unpardonable witticism as to the
heroine's mother's whereabouts after her demise.
But the wrong accent on the Greek word in Chap
ter XVJI. gets by them; and as for .the psycholog
ical impulse which led the hero to jump from the
Brooklyn Bridge on the Fourth of July, they miss
it entirely and betray their neglect of their duty
by alluding to him as a poor devil crazed with the
heat. The fact is, of course, that he did a Steve
Broilic because he found something 'obscurely hate
ful in the Manhattan skyline. Day after day, while
walking to his work on the Brooklyn Rapid Transit,
he gazed at the sawtoothed outline of the buildings
limned against the sky. Day by day his soul kept
asking: "Why don't they get a gold filling for that
cavity between the Singer and Woolwortli towers!"
And he would ask hi-nself despondently: "Ts
this what I. live for!" And gradually he felt tliat
it Was not. He felt that it might be something to
die about, however. And so, with the rashness of
youth, he leaped. The George Meredith-Thomas
Hardy irony came into the story when he was
pulled out of the river by his rival in Dohinda's
affections, Gregory Anthracyte. owner of the
magnificent steam yacht Chuggermugger.
So much for the anatomy of a book review. Put
backbone into it. Bead before you write. Look
before you leap. Be just, be fair, be impartial; and
when you damn damn with faint praise, and when
you praise praise with faint damns. Be all things
to all books. Kemember the author. Review as you
would be reviewed by. If a book is nothing in your
life it may be the fault of your life. And it is al
ways less expensive to revise your life than to re-
Any one can review a book and every one should vise the book, i our life is not printed from plates
be encouraged to do it. It is unskilled labor. Good -that cost a fortune to make and another fortune to
book reviewers earn from $150 to $230 a week, throw away. "Life is toostiort to read inferior
"working only in their spare time,, like the good books," eh? Books arc too good to be guillotined
looking voung men and women who sell-the Sat- by inferior lives or inferior livers. Balo.v said
.some books were to be digested, but he neglected to
mention a cure for dyspeptics.
Books as Accretions.
But when we say so much we have only touched
the surface of a profound matter. The truth of
that matter, the full depth of it, may as well ho
plufnbed at once.
It is impossible to deal with a book as you
would factor n number or a play. You can't be ''
sure of the factors that make up the eolleetive im
pact of the book upon you. There's no. way of get
ting at them. They are summed up in the book it-,
self, and no book can' be split into mullipliable
parts. A book is not' flic author times an idea times
the views of the. publisher. A book is unfavorable,
often undecipherable. It is a growth. It is a series
of accretions about a central thought. The central
ON the subject of Book " Ucviciving" we feel
we can speak freely, knowing all about the
business, as we do, though by no means a practi
tioner, and having no convictions on the score of it.
For we point with pride to the fact that though
many times indicted a conviction has never been
secured against us. However, it isn't considered
good form (whatever that is) to talk about your
own crimes. For instance, after exhausting the
weather you should say pleasantly to your neigh
bor: ""What an interesting bnrglarj you com
mitted last night! We were all quite stirred up!"
It is almost improper (much worse than merely
immoral) to exhibit your natural egoism by re
marking: "If 1 do say it, that murder 1 did on
Tuesday was a particularly good job!"
For this reason, if for no other, we would refrain,
ordinarily, from talking about, book "reviewing";
but since RoiustT Cortls Holliday has mentioned
the subject in his Walking-Stick Tapers and thus
introduced the indelicate topic once and for all,
there really seems no course open but to pick up the
theme and treat it in a verious, thoughtful way.
How to Review a Book.
Book reviewing is so called because the books
are not reviewed, or viewed (some say not even
read). They arc described with more or less ac
curacy and at a variable length. They arc praised,
condemned, weighed and solved by the use of
logarithms. They are read, digested, quoted and
tested for butter fat. They are examined, evalued,
enjoyed and assessed: criticised, and frequently
found fault with (not the same thing, of course) ;
chronicled and even orchestrated by the few who
never write words without writing both words and
music. James Hcneker could make Invix Cobb
.sound like a performance by the Boston Symphony.
Others, like Benjamin dk Casseres,. have a dra
matic gift. Mr. m: Casseres writes book revues.
urday Evening Post, the Ladies' Rome. Journal
and the Country Gentleman, but who seldom earn
over $100 a week. Book reviewing is pne of the
very few subjects not taught by the correspond
ence schools, simply because there is- nothing to
teach. It is so simple a child can operate it with
perfect safety. Write for circular giving 'full par
ticulars and our handy phrascbook listing 2,567
standard phrases indispensable to any reviewer
In reviewing a lrook there is no method to be fol
lowed. Like one "of the player pianos, you shut the
doors (i. e., close the covers) and play (or write)
iy instiryt! Although no directions arc necessary
Ave will suggest a few things to overcome'' the begin
ner's utterly irrational sense of helplessness.
One of the most nsefjil comments in "dealing with v.
very scholarly volumes, such as A History of the
Statistical Process i)i fndern 1'hilanthropical En
terprises, by Jacob Jonus. is as follows: "Mr.
Jones's work shows signs of haste.". The peculiar
advantage of this is that you do not libel Mr.
Jones; tlur haste may have been the printer's or
the publisher's or almost anybody's but the post
office's. In the case of a piece of light fiction the
best way to stact your review is 'by saying: "A
new book from the pen of Alice Ai'OSTHOrE is al
ways welcome." lint .suppose the book is a first
book!. One of the finest opening sentences for the
review of a fir. book Vims: "For a first novel
Georui Lajii'Mt's (Jood Gracious! is" a tale of dis
tinct promise." Be careful to say "distinct" it
is an adjective that fits perfectly over the shoulders
of any au'rage chested noun. It gives the noun
that upright, swagger carriage a careful writer
likes his hoims to have.
The Anatomy of a Book Review.
But clothes do not make the man, and words do
not make the book review. A book review must,
have a Structure, a Skeleton, if it lie no more than
the .skeleton in the book ekiset. It must liave a back
bone and a bite. It must be able to stands erect and'
thought is like the grain of sand wWhjthe oyster,
has pearled over. The central thought ntay even be
a diseased thought and the pearl may be a very
lovely and brilliant pearl, superficially at least, for
all that. There is nothing to do with a book but to
take it as it is or go at it hammer and tongs, sealpel
iand curette, chisel and auger smashing it to
pieces, scraping and cutting, boring and cleaving
through the layers of words-and subsidiary ideas
and getting down eventually to the heart of it, to
the grain of sand, the irritant thought that was
the earliest foundation.
Such surgery may be highly skilful or highly
. and wickedly destructive; it may urn-over some
thing worth while and it. may not; naturally you
don't go in for much of it, if you are wise, and
as a general thing you take a book as it is and not
as it once was or as the author may, in the inno
cence of his heart or the subtlety of his experience,
have intended it to be.
Surgery on a hook is like surgery on a human
being, for a hook is alive; ordinarily the only justi
fication for it is the cjianee of saving life. If the'
operator ean save the author's life (as an author)
by culling he ought to go ahead, of course. The
look the author in the face and tell him to go to thi, fate of one book is nothing as against the lives of
IIoj:e for Indigent Authors which the Authors-
League will build one of these daystflr'$ has iiiet
Our favorite book reviewer reviews the ordinary
hook in four lines and a semicolon. Unusual books
books yet unwritten; the feelings of the author are
not necessarily of more account than the screams
of the sick child's parent. There have been such
literary operations for which, in lieu of the $1,000
fee of medical practice, the surgeon has been re-
Irain his vital enfnry to the extent of a paragraph warded and more than repaid by a private letter
aim a nan, mree anjecuves to me square men. ot acKnowicngmcnt and liearttelt thanks. No mat-
ne makes it a jioint to have oim commendatory ; ter howJiardnp the recipient of such a letter may
lie the missiw elilom turn-, up in those ;i nt-T xm
rooms where the A. L. S. (or Autograph Letter
with Signature j sometimes bring.-, an unexpected
and astonishingly large price.
A MEMOIR OF JOYCE KILMER.
THERE is no doubt in the minds of the friends
of Jov e Kilmer that Robert Corti-s Hol
i.idav, his intimate friend and literary executor,
exquisite master of words and values, as he has
shown himself so often (last of all in Walking-Stick
Papers), is the person of all others to have written
his memoir. It will lie found in the memorial edi
tion of the poems, essays and letters of Joyce Kil
mer, which George II. Doran is about to publish.
The essays and most of the pocmshavebeen included
in previous volumes, some out of print, but his few
poems and prose selections from France will ho
found here, with many of his letters, and those who
have not known his letters have not known the man.
"Joyce Kilmer did not talk poetry," Mr. Hoi.li
day writes, "but he did tallr.cxactly like his essays,
which admirably present'the brave, humorous wis
dom of the man as his intimate friends knew him."
And so it was with his letters.
It was the pleasantest war he had ever attended,
Kilmer wrote back from France. "Nice, war, nice
people, nice country, nice everything," and he says
in a letter to the Reverend James J. Daly, "When
I next visit Campion I'll teach you (in addition to
The Boston Burglar) an admirable song called
Down in the Heart of the. Gas House District."
And to use Mr. Holliday's words, "with that in
imitable, irrepressible and incomparable Kilmerian
pleasure" he contemplated his "senility."
"I picture myself at sixty, with a loug white
mustache, a pale gray tweed suit, a large panama
hut, I can see my gnarled but beautifully groomed
hands as they tremblingly pour out the glass of dry
sherry which belongs to evcr3" old man's breakfast.
I cannot think of myself at seventy or eighty I
grow hysterical with applause I am lost in a
delirium of massive ebony canes, golden snuff boxes
and dainty silk hats."
No Perfunctory Writing, This.
" It is the felicity of these pages that he- cannot
be dull. It is their merit, peculiar in such a memoir,
that they cannot be sad," Mr. Holi.iday modestly
announces at the beginning of his excellent work,
but we know that in unskilled hands the memoir of
the most brilliantly starred life can be deprived of
its rightful due. He gracefully acknowledges in
debtedness to the many persons who have con
tributed to this appreciation, but those familiar
with his literary quality will recognize the flavor
One of the best things about these pages is that
they arc frank. He docs not dehumanize his friend
as many another would have done. From the very
earliest pages it is his policy to tell us not so much
the things that are of good report as the things
which will most interest us. In writing of the days
when they were both clerks at Scribnt.r's, he docs
not deny us the pleasure of knowing that Kilmer
was a very poor one. v
"There followed a brief sojourn" (after the dis
astrous occasion with the editor of the Horse Jour
nal, gf which .Mr. Holliday has told us), "at a
salary of (1 think) $8 a week, as retail salesman in
the hook store of Charles Scribner's Sons, a dignity
which the young litterateur wore with humorous,
dignity for exactly two weeks. As a retail salesman,
however, this exceedingly interesting young man
did not make a high mark. One's general impres
sion 'of him 'on the floor' is a picture of a happy
student, standing entranced, frequently with, his
back to the door (which theoretically he should
have been watching for incoming customers), day '
after day engrossed in perusing a two volume edi
tion of Madame Horary."
The Intensive Life.
Joyce Kilmer would have been thirty-two in
December, but at one score and ten, as Lacrence
Gomme has said, he was, in the amount that he had
lived, about seventy years old. At, twenty-five he
was already a bit of a celebrity, having arrived in
the pages of Who's Who, and it was shortly after
this that he began lecturing, which in combination
with many of his poems, most conspicuous among
them Trees, and his interviews, made his name dis
tinguished to an exceptional extent. Mr. Holi.iday
has very wisely reprinted the earlier poems which
Kilmer has described as "worthless, all of them."
lie writes :
"No man can by decree or otherwise obliterate
his past; both the good and the bad that he has
done continue to pursue him. Ten limes thrice
happy is he, rarest of men, who, like Kilmer, never
penned a line, said a word or did a deed that can
arise to bring confusion to those who love him." -
All that a biographer can do is to give an im
pression of a personality, which Mr. Holliday has
done admirably, making this somewhat unique in
the way of a memoir by the fact that there exists
a certain intellectual similarity between Uoludat
and Joyce Kilmer.