The Charlotte News
Sunday, September 26, 1937
Site Ed. Note: Just why it is that, eight and a half years ago, back in early 1999, when we were setting to type all of the old musty book reviews and editorials got up by Cash for the Sunday book-page, this one escaped our notice, baffles us. Perhaps it was that it was so unassumingly short and without much fanfare in its header’s typeface, or that Cash’s name unusually appeared at the bottom of the piece rather than in its usual vaunted spot, or that we were simply tired at the end of an evening’s labors at the Charlotte Library, breathlessly enmeshed as one with the microfilm reader, and worrying that any moment, nay, now, the car might be towed for having run over the meter’s allotted time.
Whatever the cause, we missed it.
It gives us pause, therefore, to wonder whether there might be a couple of other missing orphans out there begging for daylight still, hidden somewhere in those silent reels inside the little darkened drawers. We shall therefore have to double check our missing dates, though we thought we had already; but maybe not.
The find also leaves us doubly perplexed as to how we found it at all; or rather how it found us. For we were not looking for any missing pieces when we simply happened to cull this Sunday’s book-page for want of anything better to do of the moment when in Chapel Hill back in February, 2006. In point of fact, we didn’t even realize it contained a missing Cash piece until just today, yet another year and eight months hence.
Ah well, to everything there is a season.
Perhaps, it was some spirit connected with "Purlie" which gave it to us just now; perhaps Josh White. We don’t know. But there it is, and starkly so.
As a bonus, we also provide the entire book-page of the date, including the review of a new book by H. L. Mencken, amid some other things.
As to one of those other things, Colbert and "The Good Society", there ought to be a punch line there somewhere within the rapport of ideas being thus conveyed. When we think of it, we shall let you know.For Cash's own critical take on that which Cam Shipp was commenting, the Mayflower Literary Society Prize, see "The Professor's Prize", December 19, 1937. (--Maybe therein lies the punch line.)
As to what precisely Ms. Stein was going on about in the published excerpt from the beginning of her new book on America, we haven't the foggiest--something about Americans being slow, French soldiers being solemn, Berkeley nightingales in the square and the Phi Beta Kappa, photographers and lay-outs, her hat and coat, drinking a glass of water, and how Ms. Toklas does the rest for her; how she admired Charles Chaplin, who explained that the rhythm enabled by the silents was taken down by the talkies--anyway, a sort of anabatic-katabatic pot-pourri of dangling phrases strung together for whatever reason. (Virginia Woolf, in our estimate, did the thing far more poetically and interestingly than either Ms. Stein or Mr. Joyce.)
And, incidentally, the upcoming book from Rene Belbenoit was titled Dry Guillotine, rather than "My Ruined Years", as another of the little things indicates; the book was the forerunner of Papillon, written by yet another escapee from Devil’s Island, Henri Charriere.
So, that said, we shall simply say, then, that, your wishful thinking to the contrary notwithstanding, we’re still here, you… (they know who, and what, they are; and should they finally put our heads 'neath old Mr. Sharptooth, then please at least try to bury us high, to keep the water out).
...Even Elmore James 's got nothing on this, baby.
These Writers Would Mourn
It's A Good Thing The Old Gingoists Aren't Here Today To See The Flag Scorned.
It is an excellent thing, I guess, that Harold MacGrath, George Barr McCutcheon, and Richard Harding Davis have already gone on to whatever reward is vouchsafed to the practitioners of their kind of literature in the world beyond the sky. For if they were still in the flesh, I'm afraid they'd be suffering excruciating tortures in their honest souls. And worse, that they'd find themselves in the most lamentable of human plights--deprived of their accustomed way of making a living.
In the books which they wrote by the carload, there was nearly always a passage which everybody who ever read them--and nearly all normal Americans have, to the great neglect of Messrs. Lewis, Dreiser, and company--will recall distinctly. In this passage a heroic young Americano, with golden locks and steel-blue eyes, was held prisoner by a foreign devil for having contumaciously necked the cutie whom the foreign devil craved. Sometimes this foreign devil took the form of a wickedly mustached prince dwelling in some vague and romantic realm of Europe. Sometimes, again, he appeared in the seeming of a South American insurrecio or dictator, villainously bent on stealing back from the gentle North American entrepreneur the mines or the banana plantations or what-have-you that the gentle entrepreneur had stolen in the first place--and acquiring in the bargain the person of the entrepreneur's daughter, who of course was the little apple-pie in the case.
THE FOREIGN DEVIL
But whatever shape he assumed, you never had any troubles in recognizing him for the foreign devil he was. And always you hated his guts. And always when you had got to hating him sufficiently that you yearned to fry him on a slow grid, a conversation took place between himself and the heroic young prisoner. The manner of that conversation varied of course with the particular scene and the particular guise in which the foreign devil was got up. But invariably it was pitched to about this tune:
"Canst give me reason, varlet, why I should not hang thee from yonder battlement?"
"Why this, sire, that I am a citizen of the mightiest land of the earth, and that, didst thou harm but a single hair on this head, the Great White Father in Washington would send his ships, as numerous, I assure thee, as the leaves on these trees, to batter thy tinpot realm about thy ears, and hang thyself from an aln as a warning and example."
That tremendous retort always set the reader into an ecstasy. Myself, I could never contain myself. I had to get up in the floor and act the thing out, and I had the utmost difficulty in stifling the yells when I knew might gravely disconcert a family already none too sure of my sanity. Nothing was ever so fine and gratifying save only the Ku Klux Klan scenes in the Rev. Tom Dixon. --W. J. Cash.
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