The Harvard Advocate

On the Shelf

Spring is in the air, but not for the Advocate. The weather seems to have clouded over for the magazine since its splendid December issue. There is one excellent story and the usual competent verse, but the uniformly high standard of the writing is decidedly lacking in the February number, and most of the material leaves the unsatisfactorily impression that one has read it somewhere before. And the appearance of the magazine, heretofore so pleasant, has been largely spoiled by the change to a smaller type size. That may be a minor criticism, but the new look makes the pages seem gray and almost formidable.

Most of the writing is by those whose efforts have appeared in past numbers of the Advocate, and with one salient exception, they have all published better work. The exception is A. K. Lewis' powerful and consummate story, "Willie Ibid," which explores a veteran's mind and still remains objective and crisp. Lewis is at his best when characterizing the standard of American morality, seen in dirty side show of an amusement park. "A group of people filed out of the concession--...a man with a woman clinging to his arm and giggling covertly, and an old man grinning with an empty mouth, bubbles of saliva at the corner of his lips." But aside from the sheer lustiness of his description, Lewis is tremendously skillful in combining two parallel plots, one in the past and one in the present, without succumbing to the banality that is usually found in the use of flashbacks.

Little fault can be found with the rest of the magazine on the grounds of maturity or competence, but there is nothing original, compelling, or satisfying. James McGovern's "Forty Cents" is an unambitious sketch whose type can be found almost any week in the New Yorker, and Bradley Phillips' "The Glass Wall" can hardly claim to be more than a somewhat symbolic atmosphere piece. Sensitivity and good writing do not save these stories from a slightness in which the Advocate makes a mistake to indulge to such an extent.

Except for the smaller print, the rest of the magazine is standard in appearance and content. "The Child Is a Mirror," by Ruth Stone, is a small poem that is nevertheless rich in imagery. John Ashbery has turned up with another delicate poem; perhaps it is a little less comprehensible than usual. The same people are doing the art work again, but the cover in not Corey Weleh's best work. In general, the entire issue is not the Advocate's best, but then Spring does not come officially until March 21st.