IN her latest book Fannie Hurst undertakes a pretentious task and fails somewhat of doing it justice. "A President is Born", is an effort to portray the early life and development of a man who was to become President of the United States. David Schuyler, the character in question, is followed from birth to early manhood, and occasion is found to indicate how his ability and qualifications for his later position in life worked themselves out, giving a forecast of the line of his subsequent achievements. To overcome the difficulty of interpreting the early life of her hero in the light of his hypothetical fame as subsequently reached, the author hits upon the novel expedient of citing references from an imaginary biography of David Schuyler for her data. This has its drawbacks, inasmuch as David is represented as a young man in 1928 not to become prominent for some years to come. So the biography is thrown indefinitely into the future. It is an interesting procedure, but has obvious shortcomings.
The chief difficulty that occurs in trying to pass judgement on "A President is Born", is that it is an unusual attempt and that it is carried out in a very unique fashion. With an objective such as it has, it is difficult to see how any book could be made really compelling and not appear forced; certainly this attempt falls short. As a story it is interesting, vivid and effective, but one feels that it should be infinitely more so. Its chief fault is that it is unnatural.
Under Fannie Hurst's pen, David Schuyler is born great, that is, he is endowed with extremely unnatural characteristics from the earliest days. He is a little too square and solid, a little oppressive. This aspect is not helped by the other characterizations. They are all a little overdone, and being too cut and dried, they do not wear well. The style contributes to this end, for in her obvious desire to be forceful, Fannie Hurst is led into grotesqueries, of which one example should suffice, though it does not explain. When the author refers to the Thanksgiving turkey as a "Mucilaginous miscellany of stuffed gobbler" one feels slightly out of one's depth. Which is about the way one feels about the whole book.