I must confess that for some time I had been eagerly planning to chew up the Advocate into little bite-sized pieces. I find, however, that, upon reading the magazine, my ardor in pursuing this sadistic task has been rather dampened by the quality of some of the material under consideration. Two stories, one poem, and one picture in the current issue are, I think, admirable, a fact which makes the magazine frustrating to the professional curmudgeon but rewarding to the reader.
The drawing may be noted briefly. It is a portrait, on page 21, of two obese rodents of an unidentifiable species. One lies flat on its stomach and look despondently downward; the other sits upright, its lifeless paws hanging limply over an expanse of white paunch, looking at the reader with a stony gaze of rather appalling fixity. I don't know exactly what they are, lemmings, perhaps, meditating the future, or maybe some sort of crazed marsupials planning to take over the world and not very pleased at the propects.
Of the three stories in the issue, the best is definitely Denis Fodor's "Herr Zipfl's Revolt," a tale of the Bemelmans type but infinitely less genial: Herr Zipfl is the Burgermeister of a Russian-controlled Austrian town. Behind a mask of craven geniality, he is rather resentful of the fact that the Russian military is more interested (justifiably, I think) in his dog, than in him. The plot, the ideas, and the characters of "Herr Zipfl's Revolt" emerge quite naturally and aimply from the relentless simplicity of Mr. Fodor's style.
Exactly the opposite is true of George Bluestone's "The Funeral." Here we have a deal of skimble-skamble stuff poured out with absolutely no result. The simplest thing to be said about its author is that he has no talent. The contrast between the two stories is the contrast between Mr. Fodor's realism and Mr. Bluestone's realisticness. Thus in the latter we have an endless cast of characters who speak in a hodgepodge of scrupulously correct and scrupulously incorrect English which is characterized as "Jewish." These characters collect together at the funeral of an old lady and make dull remarks to each other; needless to say, nothing happens.
Somewhere between these two poles is Francis O'Hara's "The Unquiet Grave," which the Advocate's editors have placed in the unsavory category of "controversial" literature. It is good, but not especially so, and certainly not controversial. The idea of the story, which seems to me exaggeratedly picturesque, is generally hidden behind a style which is floridly poetic. Perhaps this concealment is a good thing, for the style is definitely the strong point of the piece.
The Advocate of this month is, unfortunately, built around a completely uninteresting mess, "The Harvard Political Scene," by Mr. Bluestone and Maurice Charney. A poll of undergraduate opinion of the presidential candidates serves as the jumping-off point for a series of little essays about various politically-minded organizations around the University. This seems to be the kind of material that someone interested in any one group could easily have found out for himself, and it is presented with a minimum of readibility. What prompted this expose in a literary magazine is not too clear. Perhaps it shouldn't be dwelt on.