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THE BOOKSHELF

OPINIONS OF OLIVER ALLSTON, by Van Wyck Brooks, E. P. Dutton & Co., 304 pp., $3.00.

By E. G.

Using the transparent disguise for his odd notes on life and literature that he is merely editing the journal of an old friend, Van Wyck Brooks in his latest volume ranges from painting to nationalism in meandering around the dusty corners of a literary critic's mind. Brooks skips from meeting Theodore Roosevelt at a Harvard Advocate punch to the funeral of Mark Twain in the next paragraph. Many such incidents are interesting, but the clumsy devices of editorial comments and numerous long footnotes make any attempt at sustained reading very difficult.

The comments on communism and socialism are perhaps the poorest section of the volume; the discussion of purely literary topics is the best. Allston's (alias Brooks) belief that fascism is scarcely an important topic in surveying the American mind and that a sort of Arthurian joy of combat is much stronger than economic determinism in directing human activities seems somewhat dated at this time. In the literary sections Brooks preaches, as he has already done in several previous volumes that, "Literature has been out on a branch. We must return to the trunk." By which he means that modern writers in adopting Joycean techniques and concentrating on one "dirty little pocket" of the whole expanse of life have detached themselves not only from the masses but even from intellectual circles. And Allston predicts that in five years Eliot and Joyce will be forgotten.

This is a rich volume, one which is ideal for filling in an odd ten minutes. Like table talk with a learned and skillful raconteur, the book is both educational and entertaining.

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