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ON THE SHELF

By Lawrence Lader

Instead of a Freshman issue that savors of lazy Pacific beaches, the Advocate has passed out at registration a magazine of short stories for the most part, but with three poems and a useful bit of prose, that is averagely high quality, yet lacks anything top-notch.

Nelson Gidding's "Act With The Stars" and John Bonner's "The Boy-Girl Relationship" attract because they have a charm and lack of pretension that is missing from some of the other stories. Most of Mother Advocate's sons know better, but some of them seem unable to resist looking back over their shoulder at the devil of pseudo-sophistication. Two of the other three short stories, by William Abrahams and Martin Collins Johnson, slip at different moments into this fault. The third, Edward Pols' "Porphyro and the Beadsman," is a tedious attempt at a difficult mental portrait which hardly deserves the lead spot in the magazine.

"Act With The Stars" is not Gidding's best story, but his understanding of a character, in this case Crystal Lodus, was never keener. Somehow Crystal, with all her cheap beauty and her intense longing for the far-away love of a Tyrone Power or Alfred Gwymne Vanderbilt, is a part of many men and women much bigger than herself.

A newcomer, John Bonner, handles almost no story at all with a novel treatment and style, crisp and accurate enough to hold a lot of attention. "The Boy-Girl Relationship" naturally concerns just that. Only the boy never meets, or tries to get, or loses girl. His love, which is completely accidental, is a pleasant variation of an old Bella Spewack theme.

Despite its affectation, you are apt to like Abraham's "Flow Gently, As In A Mourning Moonlight"--that is, like it up to the last few paragraphs, where it almost goes off the track. Abrahams has failed to clinch a story that has been well built up to an empty conclusion. Along with Bonner, Martin Collins Johnson was scarching for a new twist to the Boy-girl formula. "A Prevue With Angels" is good but too much absorbed with the twist, which in this case is the glorification of an intelligent mistress who knows and fears that marriage will mean the end of real love. Johnson has an interesting story to tell, but again, it is a little too "surfacey," too hypnotized by the lure of depicting the "smart life."

Edward Pols has set out a huge canvas for himself in "Porphyro and the Beadsman," but it reads as clumsily as the title itself. Pols, naturally enough for a Harvard student, lacks the maturity to put in black and white the mental conflict between a priest, grown dubious of his calling, and his former pupil who struggles to save him and "fill him with his own exulting strength."

Perhaps the most straight-forward of all the Advocate's offerings, "The Little Sins," may prove the most useful, especially to Freshmen. It is a rambling but well written and enjoyable description of the paths that may take the newcomer in Cambridge from Puritanism to Pub. Many of the suggestions are well worth following--by anyone.

Advocate poetry needs to be read, not criticized. But I do think that worthy of note is Harry Brown's return in a very comprehensible poem, all of which may be due to the "New Yorker" influence. William Abrahams lacks it. His "Laughing Sonatinc" has a superb feel for rhythm, and I really like it without trying to pin it down to actual meaning. But how can one reconcile "The daft witch tittered a tattered prophecy" with a poem about Marguerite Lewis? I don't know her, but certainly should like to now. I. A. Richards has a career cut out for him at the Advocate House.

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