The Advocate, timid and hesitating when it came back last Spring has grown bolder now that it has re-established its old, though questionable, spot in the undergraduates hearts. In a word, it's getting more "aesthetic." The long, serious story smacks self-consciously of Jayvee, the short, light one of Virginia Woolf and what is really unfortunate, the medium-sized, straight forward story is loaded with cliches of technique and language. Some excellent art and drama criticism helps the magazine out of what many may consider the esoteric doldrums, but the real regret of the impartial follower of the Advocate's fortunes will be that the excellent poetry of last Spring has disappeared.
In "Young Man, Follow the Sea," a difficult and talky story by Bynum Green Jr., the young man says, "Anyway, Joyce still forces his critics to perform their proper function. He demands that they understand completely his process of creation before they can understand his works." Well, although Green explains in a footnote that he composed his story in seven nights, and also gives thanks to various helpers, (e.g., "Merei Maria"), this critic professes to understand neither the process of creation nor the work. The story is well-written; there are constant allusions to Joyce, Eliot and others; the stream of consciousness device is made much use of; the piece concerns two characters working out their artistic and creative problems in the Fogg Art Museum. "Young Man" is undoubtedly the most interesting and mature work in the magazine, but with only this capsule guide, the reader will have to decide for himself.
John Ashbery, no stranger to the Advocate's pages, has turned his ever-competent hand to prose this month. The result is a dream-like story of innuendo, that flits from the amusing to the near-terrifying. "Fete Galante" has as its scene a ball given by an old man on his birthday. "At midnight everyone unmasks!" announces the old man's trusty retainer, but no one is wearing a mask. The true "meaning" of that incident, or of the whole piece, is elusive, but the story is certainly one of aimlessness and frustration; it is objective, succeeding largely because none of the machinery shows through the delicate and expertly woven surface.
The third story, "fadeout," does not approach the standard of competence of the rest of the fiction. The author utilizes flashbacks in a most depressing and trite manner, to show a man's supposed thoughts while he is dying of a war wound. Perhaps the last few words will give a clue to the category to which this short story belongs: "But the whirlpool began to suck him down again. It was so comfortable. So easy. Sinking back, fading...fading..."
Except for one poem, the verse is neither excellent nor bad, though below that of recent issues. The exception, "Song of a Young Girl," by Alan H. Friedman, is a quite detestable piece of banality. between lines like "I want to die" and "Mother will want carrots" repeated each three or four times with slight variations, comes "slashed wrists under the bedcovers." This bit of unexplained neuroticism is not worthy of the generally mature Advocate, and can hardly be considered seriously as a poem.
As usual, the outward appearance of the magazine is a delight. Stuart Cary Welch has created another interesting and well-executed cover; the absence of his incidental drawings from the inside pages is to be regretted, but the general make-up remains as fine as ever. There is no point in criticizing criticism, but it is enough to say that what appears here is convincing and judicious. Despite its flaws, the magazine is still an expert job, containing provocative and at many times delightful reading.