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The Bookshelf

LITERARY PIONEERS: EARLY AMERICAN EXPLORERS OF EUROPEAN CULTURE, by Orie W. Long. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935. $3.00.

By L. H. B.

EDWARD O'BRIEN'S 1935 collection of the best short stories is the twenty first in his series and includes as distinguished a selection of tales as he has ever edited. Notable this year more than in the past is a proportionate preponderance of young writers who have already made names for themselves. Sally Benson contributes a whimsical piece called "The Overcoat," and our friends Erskine Caldwell, Morley Callaghan, Paul Horgan, Allan Seager, William Saroyan and Thomas Wolfe all come in once apiece. None of this galaxy has written what this reviewer considers the piece de resistance of the collection, however, which is a story called "The Party Next Door" by Ernost Brace, first appearing in the magazine "Story."

In "The Party Next Door" the principal character is Anthony, a professor of Greek and Roman History, who has a wife named Mary, and a small house in a very nice real estate development. When Anthony and Mary come from their summer vacation they find a garish stucco house newly-erected on the lot next to theirs and the unfolding of Anthonys' late for its occupants begins with a noisy house-warming when Anthony summons the police to keep them quiet. The splondid psychological outlining of Anthony's defiant but helpless rage is contained in a piece of writing that makes the whole book worth buying. He grows more and more unbalanced in his broodings, while his wife in her "thin vagnoly quavoring voice" keeps complaining.

"Oh, Anthony, I wish you wouldn't let yourself get all worked up over something that can't be helped."

Eventually the climax arrives and the reader is left visibly shaken by its suddenness and power.

Edward O'Brien calls for a little less class-consciousness in literature as an autidote to the ugliness which he sees growing in it. He is, as most sound critics are, convinced that obtrusive and obvious class propaganda in the short story or in imaginative writing of any sort, is an ingredient quite foreign to the beauty and excellence of the product.

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