BEFORE THE CURTAIN FALLS. Anonymous, Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis. 1932. $2.50.
AS the old order changeth, there are a few who look upon the metamorphosis not casually, not with a coldly historic eye, not in blissful ignorance, but with an interested appraisal of the change which allows them to evaluate the evolution, and to predict the outcome. Such is the unknown author of "Before the Curtain Falls." The book which he has produced is a combination of historical retrospection, such as "Only Yesterday," and modern novel as written by, perhaps, Sinclair Lewis. It is a novel about the generation which did not dream that a deluge would ever come, about the feverish madness of the war, the medieval cruelties and ignorance of the twenties, and it hints of an awakening.
The theme of the work is not new, it is a return to the old attack on the false ideals of modern life, a tract against the prostitution of all that is healthy and wholesome in civilization to selfishness and commercialization. Unlike the gall of Lewis, or the satiric sterility displayed by the editors of Americana, the author finds promise in the prospects for the historic tomorrow; he draws a hopeful contrast between the hectic stampede of America to a vacuous, sordid prosperity, and the Russians, earnestly blundering toward civilization. In the new generation of Americans, which has no need to be "lost," he sees the germs for a restoration of the ideals and the conscious efforts toward betterment which were destroyed by the war and the cynical disillusionment of the last decade.
In dealing with these problems, the writer uses a direct and journalistic style; strangely, he has another, a mellower and pleasanter way of treating all that is retrospective in the novel. It is by this method that he rises to respectable heights in description of historic events and persons; the best example of this is the picture drawn of the huddled, broken figure of Wilson beside the hale and hearty Harding as they rode down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol on March 4, 1921. Mr. Anonymous has made the mistake of including in his book too much that is purely personal, too much that sounds like the "Locomotive God." He is not an Austrian princess, and there is little in his experiences with sex which makes the large dosage of harlots in the book anything more than a cheap way to attract readers.
"Before the Curtain Falls" is a bludgeon, and as such will have little effect on hard-headed nabobs and the zanies whom it especially attacks. It is a book which throws light on many modern problems, and its value lies in the views which it expresses, in its quality of provoking thought on what will come--after the curtain falls.