For all their gray earnestness and self-importance, Harvard people want to laugh. Their critical broadsides are reserved for those works of art or literature which inspire awe, love, shame, or any other of the serious emotions. When something makes them chuckle, they are strangely uncritical and wildly appreciative. Harvard dissects the guts out of Dickens and Wagner; it eulogizes Gilbert and Sullivan.
This is not to say that Harvard students laugh at anything at all. They do not, for instance, laugh at the Lampoon, and the 'Poonies have taken the hint and gone off to exploit the more responsive (and more lucrative) markets of women's magazines and rock and roll records. With these new imperialistic ventures, their weekly dinners, their memories of a Golden Age, and their ingenious persecutions of the well-bred young men who compete for editorial positions, Lampoon editors maintain a state of good humor beyond the wildest imaginings of their Harvard readership (if it still exists). Yes, the Lampoon has a funny building, but there still remains a need for a Harvard humor magazine.
Now we have the Harvard-Radcliffe Gargoyle to attempt the job. Its first issue, as one might expect of a first issue, has false starts. Hank Schwarz's "Don Juan in Nebraska" is one such, and few will hold the editors to their pledge to continue the narrative in future numbers. "Who's on Third?" by Jim Parry is another regrettable venture, as is Tom Houston's cluttered little "Ballad of Nat Sci 9."
The list could be extended. I single out Mssrs. Schwarz, Parry, and Houston because they redeem themselves with other entries: Schwarz with some of his cartoons, Parry with a parody of Hemingway, Houston with a parody of Salinger. These contributions, some elegant drawings by Sam Little, a game called "The Riots of Spring," and a tract by Dave Hirschfeld are the presentable things in the first issue. To call them more than presentable would be overstating the case.
But this is only a first try, and one hopes for better ones to come. The Gargoyle at least has the good intention of writing Harvard humor and wisely opens its pages to everyone interested in writing for them. If it manages to entertain the Harvard community without being too narrowly topical, it will be a happy addition to the growing number of undergraduate publications.
So here's a welcome to the Gargoyle: may it improve.