Just two years ago the Advocate, in an attempt to abandon a stereotyped "artiness," printed a flurry of expository articles like "The Jew at Harvard." The articles were interesting, but they ducked the problem. Instead of improving its content, the magazine simply changed it. The latest Advocate takes on a bigger job; it sticks largely to fiction, which means that content alone cannot put it over. This is a much more limited and therefore a much more difficult job. The new Advocate does it well.
Best of its stories is "The Rain-Crows," by Billy Joyner. Joyner writes with smooth skill and acute perception of the black earth of the South, and the people and their passions which grow in it. His description is simple yet detailed--Joyner writes with care of the smoke rising from the burning brush of a pasture, of a dead crow hanging stiff from the wire of a fence--at the same time, his words move with an easy rhythm that carries along the detail in a nice balance of sound.
Occasionally Joyner's smooth prose breaks down; his sentences become awkward and his writing intrudes into the description.
The turned earth behind his plow was gray and cool, but he couldn't take off his shoes for he was afraid he would cut his foot accidentally. . .
The story could also stand some simple blue-pencil tightening. But it is still the best short story this reviewer has read in the Advocate in a long time.
Quite as good are two poenis by Adrienne Rich, "The Prisoners" and "Night." Miss Rich writes powerfully but again, simply; her images are cold and fragile and fresh. Donald Hall's "The Wedding Party" strains a little for the images and loses some of its own simplicity in the straining, but it, too, comes over clearly to its reader. George Kelly's untitled poem plays pleasingly with its words.
Except for some excellent art work and a fine bright cover, the rest of the Advocate shades off into mediocrity. There is another long anecdote about Europe by Hona Karmel called "The Old Ignacy." Her material is rich, but she has a nasty habit of letting her writing smother it; when Miss Karmel talks about coffee, she calls it a "black fragrant fluid." Andrew Zimmer's introspective and involved story of a boy who has lost his father, "Sideways to the Sun," topples of its own length. A section of Hall's introduction to the new Advocate Anthology is straight and not always readable reporting, and its abrupt end smells of quick cutting work on the printer's stone. This reviewer found the rest of the poetry surpassing understanding or enjoyment. But there is a lot of good reading in the new Advocate.