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The Advocate

On the Shelf

By Christopher Jencks

There are two good short stories in the latest Advocate, one by graduating Bob Cumming, the other by ex-undergraduate Alan Broughton. There is also a story by Sallie Bingham which won the Advocate Prize, and five poems by assorted authors.

Broughton's piece is perhaps the best of recent months. He has succeeded at the dramatic, which is more than most undergraduate technicians do. While his effect is achieved partly by control of language and adept manipulation of detail, the primary reason for success is the invention of a fascinating hero.

Bob Cumming's story is also dramatically successful. He has created people who are interesting if not always imminent, and put them in a situation which is revealing if occasionally strained. Like Broughton he is always in control of his story, although his self-conscious narrator is perhaps an unsuccessful crutch.

The rest of the issue is at the usual level: proficiency tempered by ennui. This seems all too natural in a magazine which insists on emphasizing the womb-like quality of undergraduate literature by referring to itself as "Mother Advocate."

Sallie Bingham seems to be winning all kinds of prizes, including not only the Dana Reed Prize ("Winter Term") and the Radcliffe Phi Beta Kappa Prize ("The Riding Lesson"), but also the Advocate Prize. Unfortunately, her vision of "Luke" has been choked by the tedious semi-genteel mannerism of her situation. As a result, this new story has almost none of the lure of "Winter Term" or the intensity of "The Riding Lesson." Just why it was given a prize is hard to discern, since it is not Miss Bingham's best, nor the best in the Advocate.

The poetry is harder to characterize, except that like the fiction, there is a lot of it. (The Advocate has 36 pages this time.) Almost all of it seems to be monotonic, which is perhaps natural enough in Cambridge, Mass. All of it also seems to be without serious flaws, but like most poetry of the second order, it is quite dull unless you happen to be professionally interested in amateur poetry.

Walter Kaiser's seems better than the rest because there is less verbal ellipsis and it is easier to read. His short lines and simple words also give his work a pace which is pleasant.

Kier Nash's poem is exceptional only in that he is willing to make slight concessions to the grand old tradition of rhyme which has so long embellished English poetry. The other four poets are above this sort of thing.

Form does not characterize the careful lines of ex-Advocate president Allen Grossman, who writes about ruins.

Aging freshman David Breasted writes a poem which might have been superb, but wasn't. The absence of form accentuates the exhaustion which characterizes the poem as well as its subject matter. Unfortunately, the weary seldom write brilliantly.

Pegasus Robert Johnston's poem about corpses gives the reader a sense of evening calm over 21 South Street. Perhaps what the Advocate needs is a good exciting whodunit for next fall's registration issue.

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