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The Advocate

By Stephen O. Saxe

Two of the three stories in the current Advocate, which to me are murky and impenetrable, are to others successful and well-written. Such persons, I suspect, are either deluding themselves, or are equipped with refined sensibilities which are especially attuned to this note in writing. It is a note, at any rate, which arouses only a puzzled and slightly annoyed response from a person of more ordinary tastes, which this reviewer freely admits himself to be.

Take, for instance, Frederick English's story called "Tied With Trembling." It contains a vast number of sensory images and descriptions, some of them good, and most of them undistinguished. Evidently these are meant to produce a mosaic pattern on the reader's mind, a blurred after-image. My mosaic turns out to be about a girl who goes through one or more traumatic experiences, grows up, and returns to her childhood home in the country. The story, however, is too fragmentary for more than a superficial understanding, and that, it would seem to me, is a distinct drawback to the mosaic theory of writing.

Howard Leondar's "Mrs. Benson" is described as a "section of a novel." Perhaps, in the context of the entire work, this "section" has meaning; as an excerpt it does not. Mrs. Benson and the other inhabitants of Whitefield are bloodless, unfathomable creatures. Leondar's dialogue fails to give reality to his characters, and is seldom incisive in itself; occasionally a line like this appears: "What is three nights when we think of eternity? A mere ... how shall I put it ... drop in the bucket?"

In direct contrast to these two stories, Illona Karmel's "The Bracelet" is almost self-consciously denotative. It is the story of a bracelet that symbolizes the fortunes of a Russian-Jewish family. Each possessor of the bracelet is deftly and clearly depicted in a series of brief character sketches, "The Bracelet" is consistently interesting, but the story's structure precludes much emotional reaction. The most arresting character, a young woman named Barbara Bogucka, is passed over just as the reader becomes interested in her.

The five poems in the Advocate are generally superior to the prose contributions. Donald Hall's "Epithalamion" is a haunting treatment of an old theme--the marriage of opposites. "Saint-Germain-des-Pres," by Lyon Phelps, is entirely an evocation of atmosphere, and it succeeds admirably within this limited intention. Lee Austin's "Truro; 1854" and Will Morgan's "The Golden Legend" are both musical and cryptically romantic, "Cryptic" would be too mild, however, to describe Douglas Freelander's "Almyra." As far as this reader is concerned, it is 16 lines of downright obscurantism.

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