On the Shelf
"Curiouser and curiouser," said Alice, throwing the copy of the new Advocate down to the floor. The March Hare muttered angrily, "Philistine, philistine." "I know," Alice said sadly, "but I just don't understand it."
"The trouble with you people," said the March Hare, "is that you never expect to understand the Advocate, so you never try." Alice looked annoyed. "Don't be silly," she said, "I always give it a sporting chance. But take that story 'Cleveland, Ohio, for instance." The March Hare interrupted, "Okay, I'll admit that parts of it were sort of childishly written, and that the flashback was confusing, but . . ." "But nothing," Alice said, "I didn't understand the ending."
"Don't you see," said the March Hare, "that Hoagland was trying to get at something bigger? Didn't you understand the subtle relationship between Vince and Charlie and the dogs. Didn't you get the implications of Vince's simple mind and complex personality?" Alice look disturbed. "I'll admit that I felt something under the surface," she said, "but what? Was it between the men or between the men and the animals or the men and the girls? Who was what--can you tell me that? Can you tell me how one of the characters might act in any given situation? Does he make them alive and clear enough so you can take them outside his plot and make them plausible and understandable?" The March Hare nodded slowly. "Well, not exactly," he said, "but he tries." "Maybe he isn't sure himself what he's trying to say," suggested Alice. "Could be," said the March Hare, "but I doubt it. He might be trying to say too much in too few words. Still, he's trying. You've got to give him credit for that." "I will," said Alice.
Playing on Words
"And that other story, that 'Benny Cox'," Alice continued. "Just a minute," said the March Hare, "you've got to realize that that's part of a novel." "That isn't my fault," said Alice. "If they print them as excerpts they should be able to stand by themselves. If they can't stand by themselves, why bother printing them? In a chase, you've got to feel something about the person being hunted. You've got to want him to escape or be captured. In this story, though, you don't know enough to care one way or the other. And that ending--nature's quiet disturbed by man's destructiveness. . ." "That may have been trite," admitted the March Hare, "but what about 'the sun firing the puddles by the side of the bridge'?" "That was very good," said Alice. "There are some good touches." "Indeed there are," said the March Hare, "and they keep trying."
"But the poetry . . ." Alice said indignantly. "Full of sound and alliteration, signifying nothing. Just like those Kafka-Poe horror bits by Sweeney. Playing with words, and getting some slight effect once in a while, as in Sweeney's third and fourth pieces. But so what?" The March Hare signed, "You're complaining because they aren't yet the Eliots they're trying to be. Give them a little time. They know the forms and the words pretty well, but they don't have much to write about. They don't know much, haven't met much. They're just marking time. Maybe they try to write about big things they don't know instead of little things that they do, but still they're trying."
"I suppose so," said Alice, and she picked up the magazine again.