The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, JULY 19, 1936
BOOK-PAGE MAGAZINE REVIEW
It's The Name Of A
Magazine, One Of Peculiar Interest
To The South; Consider Mr. Allen, Mrs. Mitchell,
And The Case Of Mr. Caldwell.
By W. J. Cash
Site ed. note: Pseudopodia later became The North Georgia Review (because its editors, Lillian Smith and Paula Snelling, got letters asking whether the magazine, under its original name, had something to do with either protoplasmic phenomena or 100-legged creatures). Cash would eventually befriend Ms. Smith and Ms. Snelling and contribute a book review in 1940. (See Book Review of Sea Island Lady - North Georgia Review - Spring, 1940 at this site.) Cash also afforded The Review an advance peak at an excerpt from The Mind of the South in late 1940. Ms. Smith and Ms. Snelling invited him and wife Mary as their guests, along with Karl Menninger, on a Sunday in early March, 1941 to their home in Clayton, Georgia on Old Screamer Mountain. The stop-over was part of Wilbur's and Mary's trip to Atlanta as the guests of Margaret Mitchell and her husband, John Marsh. Cash told Mary that the day of discussion with Smith, Snelling and Menninger was the "best" of his life. For his earlier comments on her book and the "sentimental novel" called it in The Mind of the South, he feared meeting Ms. Mitchell; his fears were unfounded, however,as the two hit it off well, according to Mary.
Cash in latter July, 1936, and for the next several weeks, had begun increasingly to buckle back down to laboring away on the manuscript for the book, and, as a probable consequence, his book-page columns noticeably become less thorough and thoughtful for a bit during this period, being comprised largely of either rehashed thoughts of earlier columns or large amounts of quoted material. Indeed, his July 5 article, "Criticism Of Criticism", appears to be a sui-spur in the side, a public self-admonition that he must return to the work on the book, as he admits that his grappling with the frustrations of earlier criticism for the Mercury article "The Mind of the South" from 1929 had resulted in his having gotten very little accomplished "for years afterward". Too, it was at this time that he finally got a contract from the Knopfs for the book, though they had an informal arrangement with him on it since 1929. By now, however, he had put forth enough acceptable manuscript to gain their confidence for a binding agreement on publication, in turn giving him greater incentive to push for completion, nevertheless still four years away.
A TINY magazine of which I have had not heard before turns up on my desk this week. It is called Pseudopodia, measures 8x5, sells for 25 cents a copy or one dollar a year, is published quarterly at Clayton, Georgia, under the editorship of Paula Snelling and Lillian E. Smith, and has only now got to the second number of the first volume--which is probably why I have not heard of it before. I trust the infant lives and thrives, for if the present number is a fair sample, it promises to be pleasant and sensible reading.
One of the capital things I find in it is a review, by John D. Allen, formerly of the Columbus Enquirer-Sun and now a candidate for a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt, of the latest manifesto of the people (mainly Vanderbilt men) who used to call themselves the Fugitives and who nowadays have taken to calling themselves the Agrarians--a manifesto yclept "Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence," published by Houghton Mifflin at $3, and edited by the redoubtable Allen Tate and a new convert to the Agrarian faith, Herbert Agar, of The Louisville Courier-Journal. In about twelve hundred words, Mr. Allen, who writes exceedingly well, presents the best analysis of the curious mixture of sense and nonsense, of Neo-Confederate and Neo-Medieval sentimentality and of sound reason, which figures in the ideology of these people--the best analysis I have yet seen. Anybody who has any interest in the matter--and every Southerner should have--can do no better than to sit down at once and mail two bits to the editors at Clayton for a copy of Mr. Allen's remarks.
There is a verse by Lola Pergament, who has appeared in The American Mercury and Poetry, which is so pleasing to me that I venture, with apologies to the editors, to reproduce it here:
"When of the fierce incorrigible pleasure
in the quick days of youth there is a tiring,
age shall weigh all rapture by its measure
and put an end to all desiring.
of the sweet and fragile, the maddening allegory
of youth and his gradient steps to a frigid moon.
shall write his pension down as an old story
told over again and forgotten too soon.
Then shall it seem that the dread siege is ended,
the demon tracked and grief enduring lost;
then comes the moment when all things are blended--
youth gives his body over to the frost
and waits uncertainly, seeing the grass thinned,
seeing the sun weakened by a long year, knowing
his love absolved of its struggle with the wind,
his harvest reaped by the bright seed's sowing."
There is an interview with Margaret Mitchell, the Atlanta woman who authored "Gone With the Wind"--an interview which confirms the impression that La Mitchell is either that astonishing thing, an actually modest author, or one of the most talented actresses ever heard of on earth since Fanny Kemble went to her grave.
But the best thing in the little magazine is an examination of Erskine Caldwell by Paula Snelling. She says in part:
"It remains to consider how much the artist he has revealed himself to be in his published works. For long pages he is only a shrewd and glib barker luring a gaping public to exchange its pennies for a glimpse of civilization's freaks... then occur sections in which one is reminded of Lewis and of Lardner; but Caldwell has not that hatred of the stupidity of his characters which is the driving force lifting much of their writings above mediocrity. Comparisons with Faulkner inevitably arise; but Caldwell does not have Faulkner's power to evoke in the reader a mood of terror at the concept that a human being can exist at a level so far removed from that of his own daily experience... At times one thinks of Gogol; but Caldwell lacks that understanding pity of mankind as a whole and of his own characters in particular which raises the plane of Gogol's humor...
"Caldwell so far has got into his books just about as good a picture of the South as the old-fashioned returned missionary gave us of China. It may be that the Chinese coolie does eat dogs, does dispose rather informally of superfluous infants, buys opium when on rare occasions he has something to buy it with, scratches lice, hates baths, burns a stick or two of incense to be on the safe side, dies of cholera and dysentery; but the occidental mind has not comprehended the Oriental mind when it has merely been told, however graphically, of these occurrences."
That covers the Caldwell case exactly, I think.
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