THREE STEEPLES. By LeRoy Macleod. Covici, Friede. New York. 1931. Price $2.50.
To his first novel, "Three Steeples", LeRoy Macleod has brought a poet's imagery and style coupled with an inborn sympathy for people close to the land. Such a novel as this must be traditionally heralded as "typically American" or perhaps, "as American as the earth from which its characters wrest their living", leaving to the reviewer's imagination a picture of brawny sons of toil, that solid backbone of the agricultural West and Middle West, that along with the sombrero and the pathos of the vanishing Indian form a part of the great American Tradition. Yet, however incomplete may be this traditional Americanization of America, the fact remains that "Three Steeples" stands as a powerful picture of a small agricultural community, a picture always painstaking often inspiring and inspired.
In his own words Mr. Macleod has been "less concerned with ideas than with humanity." It was his intention to write the tragedy of a village life composed, like all life, of many inter flowing elements that find artistic expression in character, scene, and action. Modestly he wonders whether perhaps he has "only painted a landscape and some people--men and women reading the earth under the quandary of the sky." Out of the compromise that must always result between the intention to portray life and achieving that portrayal arises the village of Midland and its inhabitants. Ab Carver with his big laughter, the blind Wilbur Allen, and Bruce Durken who, true to melodramatic tradition died in the final burning of the church about which the story is woven and to which he had dedicated his life.
The defects of the book can be found only in the exaggeration of its virtues. Just as the vivid imagery of the style is apt to become too consciously poetic, so might the dramatic reality be said to tend toward the literary only, so can the painstaking dialogue become a trifle clotting. However, without caviling over critical straws, there is much in this book for those who believe that realism does not necessarily mean a lack of imagination, that humanity is only as barren as those who observe it. For these, and for any who like a good story, there is beauty and reality in "Three Steeples," and perhaps also a part answer to "Main Street" and the often shallow photography of Sinclair Lewis.