The Crimson Bookshelf
AND ON THE EIGHTH DAY by Abner Dean. Simon and Shuster, New York, 111 pp.
Anyone could have seen it coming. No man could stare so intently at the world and himself and his fellow-men for long and not be shattered by the experience.
For centuries artists and philosophers have been striving to look at the world steadily and see it whole. Abner Dean, being a bit of each, succeeded where others have failed. But by looking so steadily at the world he came to see it not whole at all, but all broken up into meaningless pieces.
He is like a man stripped of his skin and moving about with his nervous system all exposes; he reacts violently and directly by transmitting the ghastly vision down through his pen and onto the pages of such books as "It's a Long Way to Heaven" and "What Am I Doing Here?"
The naked men and women who raced, stumbled, or sleepwalked through the first collection were beyond analysis or classification. Yet people came, looked, gasped, and saw themselves revealed in all their confusion, caught in their petty vice, their self-delusions laid bare. Though they turned away white-faced and shaken they came back for some when a second ordeal "What Am I Doing Here?" thrust itself forward-for they had also laughed.
Out of the crowd of backbiters, miscreants, and dullards-who, it must be admitted, look pretty much like you and me without our clothes-a heavy lidded young man stood forth. He groped his way through the foils and foibles of mankind-occasionally being swept along in the mania of the moment, but more often standing back from the Crowd and muttering, "What am I doing here?" Clearly Dean had fallen ill with the dread "mal de siecle"-introspection.
But as the young man is nowhere to be found in the latest collection "And On the Eighth Day." Apparently Dean has had done with introspection and now contents himself with satiring man's stupidities and vanities. At any rate were seldom encounter ourselves in the cartoons. It seems that the trial of gazing on this chaos within and without has left him too weak to finish off his sketches, for they remain rough lines and only half grayed in. Abner Dean's world in all its nakedness is still good for a shutter if not so good for a laugh.