On the Shelf

Signature

Let me explain why I am mentioning George Rinehart's "Boy Meets Girl" first. It is not the best item in Signature, nor is it the worst. But for awhile it gave me a hard time. I started to read: "Behold! For this is that of Beowulf, of Ecgtheow the son. May his hair grow long in heaven."

May his hair grow long in hell, said I; here's another "think piece." But I continued to read with an open mind. It didn't make much sense--in fact, I had just decided to dismember it, and was tucking the napkin under my chin, when I happened to notice the title. "Boy Meets Girl." Then it occurred to me that in each of the story's four scenes a Boy had met a Girl, and I felt like Balboa. Which goes to show that one ought to read titles more carefully. "Boy Meets Girl" (From Beowulf to the Present) is clever, if weighty; whether the one attribute offsets the other will depend on the reader.

The most entertaining item in Signature is a story called "A Pinch in Time." An American riding in a Swiss railway carriage engages in conversation with the young lady seated opposite him. He hopes the stale cigar smoke left in the compartment by a previous passenger will not offend her. She mentions her disgust for men who try to pick her up; the American says nothing, but lights a discarded cigar butt and puffs furiously in her face. That's all there is to it; neat, and very effective.

The other stories are not outstanding. "Prima Donna," which concerns a bride's mother after her daughter's wedding, suffers from forced description and unconvincing characters, who appear not as persons but only names on a page. The meaning of Mrs. Laccy's rummaging through her daughter's packed wardrobe, apparently the crucial incident in the story, is not clear. If the mother is comparing her own marriage with that of her daughter, then the point should be made more forcefully.

"Two on the Sumire" is apparently a true account of an occupation officer in Japan. Here again, if the empty beer can, which the officer's Japanese cabin-mate takes as a souvenir, is supposed to symbolize thanks for peace, the point should not be buried in a body of otherwise acceptable straight narrative. Or was the Gook simply impressed with the officer's assertion that everything in America except babies comes from cans?

Finally, "Rudolf's Job," a tale about two German schoolboys, is pleasant enough. Perhaps Rudolf should have used that bucket of flour on Father Gerhart after all. As for the poems in Signature, they all seem to be well-written, particularly Anabel Handy's "The Hermitage," which contains one of the nicest similes I have ever seen. Signature must be commended for its policy of publishing this type poem and story.