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KENNETH PAYSON KEMPTON, who has long been recognized as a writer of stories about Maine folks, turns his hand now to the life history of a Harvard instructor. Oliver Richmond was Maine-born, however, and the combination of Kempton's familiarity with Harvard and his knowledge of Maine is a happy one. As a result, "So Dream All Night" is a forceful yet unforced description of an English teacher and his difficulties.
Like many another Harvard instructor, Oliver Richmond was faced with the tenure problem. Its imminence was graphically brought home to him when his friend Whit lost his position. But Oliver refused to engage in apple-polishing in order to keep his own job, and he could only hope that his teaching and book-reviewing would prevent the axe from falling on him. Oliver had domestic as well as academic problems, moreover, for his daughter Carol revolted against the conventional manner in which Oliver and his wife had been bringing her up.
If Kempton is trying to write a blazing indictment of the tenure situation, he is not successful. But it is likely that he is only trying to set forth the problem as it affects the individual teacher. In that aim he achieves the desired result. It is fortunate that the plot of the book is not of vital importance, for it is not handled as well as are the setting and characters. But one cannot deny that Kempton's picture of Harvard life is thoroughly realistic and well-written. Oliver's students, his wife, his daughter, his mother-in-law, and, above all, Oliver himself, are unquestionably genuine. You can't help feeling a common bond with a fellow who dislikes the Widener steps because they are too insignificant to take one at a time yet too broad to take two at a time.
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