On the Shelf
The Advocate has got around again to offering cash money for stories. It is not a bad idea, for this time in an issue with four stories, five poems, a review, and a cover, there are three stories that deserve to be read.
The prize-winning ($25) story, Errand of Mercy by Raymond Medeiros, is a skillful and well-sustained account of a homosexual's encounter with a young Swedish sailor. Medeiros knows how to write: he tells a story without showing it, so that each sentence is more a discover than a lesson. Without going beyond the homosexual's own reactions, Medeiros gets a convincing sense of the Boston streets through which they are walking and shows how the man is fooling himself about the sailor.
Michael Wolfert's A Party of Prophets at Cambridge is not so finished as Errand of Mercy but more ambitious, it could be a much longer story. As the main character, George, is preparing a party, the story flashes back with his thoughts to his girl and to his own home; and then more flash-backs are set off against some really funny torrents of "intellectual conversation." Unlike most of The Advocate's selections for the year, this story has something to say that is as notable as its author's technical competence. The structure is sometimes confusing, but in separate parts--as George is preparing the party, and in his re-encounter with the girl after he has left it--the writing is as good as any the Advocate has printed in some time.
The shortest story of the issue, Catherine Dawson's Stefan is the sketch of a sewing plant worker. In its repetition and harsh conclusion, Stefan resembles the stories of Sherwood Anderson, sometimes enough so as to seem affected. Written with economy and a great care for words, however, Stefan is a good story because it seems to matter.
Besides these three stories the rest of the issue doesn't seem to matter so much. I think the best thing to say about Jonathan Kozol's little piece of satanism is that he has given his people wonderful names: Brubeck, Euclid, Castrato. The poetry in the issue is almost uniformly hard to remember. In the best of the lot, Epitaph for a Young Athlete, F. L. Seidel clothes his single small joke in pretentious language. While the only image of David Ferry's The Late Hour Poem is more ludicrous than striking, Nina Castelli's The Coquette concludes, with some truth for the poem, "What use to anyone is it,/My cutting virtue, and my wit?" The rest of the poetry consists of two poems by Robert Johnston. Though he shows he has a neat way with words, Johnston seems mostly to be fooling with the words, exercising them and posturing them around the absence of a feeling.
The last contribution to this Advocate is Ann Rand's review of Henry Miller's The Time of the Assassins. While no one will dispute her assertion that Miller's work "is not literary criticism as we usually understand it," she scarcely goes beyond it. Like most of the contributors to the issue, she seems, to lack, if not the capacity, the desire to say something. Since they do make the effort, the stories by Medeiros, Wolfert, and Miss Dawson are particularly welcome.