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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

On The Rack

By Walter E. Houghton jr.

The most impressive thing about the November number of the Advocate is the wide range of topics all the way from Harvard debating through the Boston Symphony Orchestra to the War at Shanghai, and even to the solution of the whole economic-political problem of our time. The editors may justly be proud of such a breadth of vision in comparison with the narrowness of college literary magazines; and the business board must be pleased by a bill of fare certain to appeal to a wide audience.

The outstanding contribution, I think, is Mr. Laughlin's story, "The River." The backnoyed theme of the Middle-Western boys with the vision of "a better, richer life far, far away" from Springfield, Wisconsin, is handled with maturity of perception and of style. The single incident of the story, where Carson and Craig pick up two girls in Paris, is deftly made the turning point in the action. The sense of drifting is given reality both by an expert use of detail, and by long idiomatic sentences, winding into patterns of thought, half speech, marked by the use of participles and repeated phrases. Here, however, one is aware of Hemingway and Proust. Mr. Laughlin's style is sometimes mannered because it is initiative: "Walking and sometimes talking, walking slowly, talking lightly, not hurrying and not delaying, hardly thinking what we are saying; so walking and so lightly quietly talking . . ." Or again, "'What does it mean, Craig, where are they going, where are we going?' 'You tell me, why don't you!'" Mr. Laughlin is still in the process of finding his own style, of finding complete artistic sincerity: his story poses his own problem.

Brown's Poem Successful

In poetry, Mr. Brown's "Hey of the Last Sheperd" is an ambitious and, on the whole, successful job. Rhythmically it moves with sureness (as his other poem in the issue does not); the texture is close, and while the poem is long, it builds up solidly. Under the primary influence of the later Yeats--in particular, I think, of "The Second Coming"--Mr. Brown has tried for the compression and suggestiveness of symbolist poetry. The difficulties of such a technique are great. In stanza 4 the strained Apollo-Daphne pattern of symbols sticks out like a bad metaphysical conceit; while in stanza 5, the symbols are blurred, which in turn gives the lines an affected air of forced subtlety. But at once Mr. Brown returns to the simpler strain in which he is at his best.

Two Pieces of Journalism

The issue contains two pieces of journalism. Mr. Roosevelt's "Vacation at Shanghai" is a airsight piece of reporting, filled with exciting material, but marred by flabby writing: "Blood and arms and legs were everywhere." The other piece of journalism is disguised as a serious essay on education for the masses. Mr. Bradshaw would substitute for the impractical curriculum of the High Schools--in which, by a silly trick, he leaves out American History and Civics, and includes necking a practical education in mortgages, insurance, and birth control. Then, he says, the masses will live "decently, sanely and cleanly on $27.50." And he triumphantly concludes: "It is easier, less expensive, and less apt to throw economic wheals off their course to educate the masses into their present economic standard of living than to raise that standard by artificial means." This is the language of a Herald-Tribune editorial. Mr. Bradshaw is disturbed to find the masses squalling. He wants them to grin--and bear it on $27.50 a week.

The critical reviews which conclude the issue are timely and well done--especially the excellent essay of Mr. Dow on two recent films, the "Life of Zola" and "Baltic Deputy."

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