The Advocate

On The Shelf

It isn't completely fair to condemn the Advocate as a magazine because of Frederick Amory's article in its current issue. The Advocate has certainly printed good stories and good poems from time to time. But it is often obscure and more often pompous, and since Mr. Amory's article called a "fine critical estimate of Delmore Schwartz" by the editors--is almost incredibly pompous and more than incredibly obscure, it stands as a sound if exaggerated example of the magazine's bad aspects.

I said that Mr. Amory's article is more than incredibly obscure. It is. Here is an example. "He could be called versatile (by his critics) because he knew such a virtue to be incapable of doing well two things at once." Here is another example. "Schwartz, however, in the preface to Genesis, allies himself with the '"morbid pedestrianism" of Wordsworth and Hardy', and a reactionary romanticism we think of as typical of the genre. He has, moreover, rehearsed a certain formalism just as Coleridge corrected Wordsworth's mistaken nations about diction: besides the 'heavy accent and the slowness' he prefers, he has elsewhere explained that it is easier to write poetry than prose which must be created since certain formulae, such as rhythm, rhyme, etc., are not made available, a priori, to the prose stylist."

I said that Mr. Amory's article is almost incredibly pompous. It is. If the above examples don't do double duty and convince you of the article's pompousness, pick out a paragraph at random and start to read.

This sense of self-importance, this humorlessness, is characteristic of an approach to criticism--and to fiction--that has no vitality and that is typical of the Advocate. A magazine recently said that there are "images of linear discreteness" in William Faulkner's fiction. That magazine was a literary quarterly but it might just as well have been the Advocate. So the Advocate's editors should think about Faulkner's answer when the New York Times asked him what he thought of that piece of criticism. "Look," he said, "I'm just a writer. Not a literary man."

If there were less literary men and more writers on the Advocate, it would be a better magazine. Too much of its fiction, even when it has form and style, completely lacks character and emotion, which ordinarily are among the chief concerns of writers. A story in the current issue called "Love Me, Love My Novel" is just this sort of fiction. So is one called "One Less Vote For Wallace." It is about a young male reader of Thrilling Love Stories who tries to make time, on a Thrilling Love Stories basis, with a young female Wallaceite. Even if you are not so sensitive as I am and don't mind lines such as "He kissed her squarely on the lips. Not enough. He gave her the tongue . . ." you will probably find it hard to get a picture in your mind of either one of the principal characters, because neither of them is written with consistency or fullness. And there is no feeling at all in the story. This is a serious thing to lack, even when a story is humorous, which is supposed to be the case with "One Less Vote For Wallace."


The most interesting items in this month's Advocate are eight poems T. S. Eliot wrote for the magazine when he was at Harvard, which are reprinted in honor of his sixtieth birthday. In at least one of them--"Spleen"--there are traces of the point of view and the language that he developed later. And in all of them it is clear that T. S. Eliot was a writer and not a literary man. --Joel Raphaelson