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Tripe--though I have never taken a course in the subject and hence have no valid right to an opinion--tripe is not fish. Yet the mere fact that it is not fish affects me but little. I guess I must belong in Anatole France's category of those who "fool themselves to live". For I see no particular reason to be absolutely clear about the what and why of a thing like tripe. Be it fish, fowl, beast or bug it smells the same--cooking.
In this respect I must differ from most people, at least most people around Cambridge. They know the whys and whats or everything, at least almost everything. I don't suppose many of them could tell me just why "Bozo" Snyder and "Sliding" Billy Watson are the leaders in that sacred and ancient art--burlesque, or why those two brethren of the buskin bow to Boston audiences at the same time. These whats and whys are not sufficiently esoteric. One can find them without entering all those mills which are not of God and grind even more slowly. Yet to some people and occasionally even to Gilbert Seldes these whats and whys are rather important.
The trouble with them is--I still mean the whys and whats--that they have the wrong labels. In a generation with the greatest regard for labels what chance has any art which bears the tag of buffoonery--honest buffoonery?. Last week I went over to town to find what claim to greatness beside the tag of R.A., Sir John Lavery possessed. And there at the Vose galleries I saw people thrilling over, at best mediocre work--merely out of respect for the R.A.--that and the fact he had married a lady from Chicago. While next door at the Casson galleries were the excellent oils of the Zubiaurre brothers, whose failure at attractions for Boston art lovers lies in their not having an--R.A. So much for labels.
Harvard occasionally produces a courageous soul who dares to be exotic--I can no longer use "original" honestly--and such a soul is Dos Passos. Having shocked America with "The Three Soldiers", helped the Dramatic Club with lunar and spectacular fantasy in three acts and Battle Hall, now puts all of New York in a single novel. Anybody--anybody who would dare to put all of New York into anything but a telephone book is a hero and a genius. To do it takes courage,--but not necessarily a sense of humor. If you think so, read the book.
Yet there have been books written as late as 1925 which have had some humor tucked beneath their sheets. "The Polyglots" had a whole lot--not the Lardner-Witwer-Sherwood-Benchley type, nor even the gentle-professorial-high-and-mighty type--but some real humor. And now someone asks, "What is real humor?" I suppose the best answer, aside from Dr. Cadman's who is now making Brooklyn the Delphi of America--the best answer is silence, since this is not a question and answer column nor is it inspired by the deft delightfulness of syndication. But I have lost "The Polyglots". It may be too much like "Men Prefer Blondes" to appeal to those who say that be tripe fish or few! the "New Yorker" is tripe, but I insist that it is worth reading, especially at mid-years when life is not half so gay and careless as the last lectures of most Perfervid Professors might lead one to believe.
They can lead though. I found this little contribution upon the sunny pavement of a cool afternoon and was warmed by it. It is as the old fellow who still remembers when there was a Greenwich Village so often says "quite different." Yes, Quite.
Thou art my antithesis.,
1, a black beo
Drawn by the scented Iris
To sip in her nectary,
I am a crawling tendril
And thou art the earth
Whose food by craft I steal
As I hug her warmth--
But why continue? You have just as much chance of understanding those lines as you would have the whole Verse. I swear to that. But if you do make any sense out of these, please notify and I shall be glad to send you my last copy of the "American Mercury", provided you can find something in it worth reading. I expect to keep the "Mercury".
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