Sample C05 from The Christian Science Monitor, April 20, 1961 P.C7"That Adorable Genius" by Robert Peel P.C7"Humor as a Thing..." by Ben Crisler "Not Quite the Same" by Saville R. Davis "Animals and Allegory..." by Earl W. Foell A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,066 words 442 (21.4%) quotes 2 symbolsC05

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The Christian Science Monitor, April 20, 1961

Arbitrary Hyphen: motion-picture [0830]

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The superb intellectual and spiritual vitality of William James was never more evident than in his letters . Here was a man with an enormous gift for living as well as thinking . To both persons and ideas he brought the same delighted interest , the same open-minded relish for what was unique in each , the same discriminating sensibility and quicksilver intelligence , the same gallantry of judgment .

For this latest addition to the Great Letters Series , under the general editorship of Louis Kronenberger , Miss Hardwick has made a selection which admirably displays the variety of James's genius , not to mention the felicities of his style . And how he could write ! ! His famous criticism of brother Henry's `` third style '' is surely as subtly , even elegantly , worded an analysis of the latter's intricate air castles as Henry himself could ever have produced . His letter to his daughter on the pains of growing up is surely as trenchant , forthright , and warmly understanding a piece of advice as ever a grown-up penned to a sensitive child , and with just the right tone of unpatronizing good humor .

Most of all , his letters to his philosophic colleagues show a magnanimity as well as an honesty which help to explain Whitehead's reference to James as `` that adorable genius '' . Miss Hardwick speaks of his `` superb gift for intellectual friendship '' , and it is certainly a joy to see the intellectual life lived so free from either academic aridity or passionate dogmatism .

This is a virtue of which we have great need in a society where there seems to be an increasing lack of communication -- or even desire for communication -- between differing schools of thought . It holds an equally valuable lesson for a society where the word `` intellectual '' has become a term of opprobrium to millions of well-meaning people who somehow imagine that it must be destructive of the simpler human virtues .

To his Harvard colleague , Josiah Royce , whose philosophic position differed radically from his own , James could write , `` Different as our minds are , yours has nourished mine , as no other social influence ever has , and in converse with you I have always felt that my life was being lived importantly '' .

Of another colleague , George Santayana , he could write : `` The great event in my life recently has been the reading of Santayana's book . Although I absolutely reject the Platonism of it , I have literally squealed with delight at the imperturbable perfection with which the position is laid down on page after page '' .

Writing to his colleague George Herbert Palmer -- `` Glorious old Palmer '' , as he addresses him -- James says that if only the students at Harvard could really understand Royce , Santayana , Palmer , and himself and see that their varying systems are `` so many religions , ways of fronting life , and worth fighting for '' , then Harvard would have a genuine philosophic universe . `` The best condition of it would be an open conflict and rivalry of the diverse systems . The world might ring with the struggle , if we devoted ourselves exclusively to belaboring each other '' .

The `` belaboring '' is of course jocular , yet James was not lacking in fundamental seriousness -- unless we measure him by that ultimate seriousness of the great religious leader or thinker who stakes all on his vision of God . To James this vision never quite came , despite his appreciation of it in others .

But there is a dignity and even a hint of the inspired prophet in his words to one correspondent : `` You ask what I am going to ' reply ' to Bradley . But why need one reply to everything and everybody ? ? I think that readers generally hate minute polemics and recriminations . All polemic of ours should , I believe , be either very broad statements of contrast , or fine points treated singly , and as far as possible impersonally . As far as the rising generation goes , why not simply express ourselves positively , and trust that the truer view quietly will displace the other . Here again ' God will know his own ' '' .

The collected works of James Thurber , now numbering 25 volumes ( including the present exhibit ) represent a high standard of literary excellence , as every schoolboy knows . The primitive-eclogue quality of his drawings , akin to that of graffiti scratched on a cave wall , is equally well known . About all that remains to be said is that the present selection , most of which appeared first in The New Yorker , comprises ( as usual ) a slightly unstrung necklace , held together by little more than a slender thread cunningly inserted in the spine of the book .

The one unifying note , if any , is sounded in the initial article entitled : `` How To Get Through The Day '' . It is repeated at intervals in some rather sadly desperate word-games for insomniacs , the hospitalized , and others forced to rely on inner resources , including ( in the P's alone ) `` palindromes '' , `` paraphrases '' , and `` parodies '' .

`` The Tyranny Of Trivia '' suggests arbitrary alphabetical associations to induce slumber . And new vistas of hairshirt asceticism are opened by scholarly monographs entitled : `` Friends , Romans , Countrymen , Lend Me Your Ear-Muffs '' , `` Such a Phrase as Drifts Through Dream '' , and `` The New Vocabularianism '' . Some of Thurber's curative methods involve strong potions of mixed metaphor , malapropism , and gobbledygook and are recommended for use only in extreme cases .

A burlesque paean entitled : `` Hark The Herald Tribune , Times , And All The Other Angels Sing '' brilliantly succeeds in exaggerating even motion-picture ballyhooey . `` How The Kooks Crumble '' features an amusingly accurate take-off on sneaky announcers who attempt to homogenize radio-TV commercials , and `` The Watchers Of The Night '' is a veritable waking nightmare .

A semi-serious literary document entitled `` The Wings Of Henry James '' is noteworthy , if only for a keenly trenchant though little-known comment on the master's difficult later period by modest Owen Wister , author of `` The Virginian '' . James , he remarks in a letter to a friend , `` is attempting the impossible namely , to produce upon the reader , as a painting produces upon the gazer , a number of superimposed , simultaneous impressions . He would like to put several sentences on top of each other so that you could read them all at once , and get all at once , the various shadings and complexities '' .

Equally penetrating in its fashion is the following remark by a lady in the course of a literary conversation : `` So much has already been written about everything that you can't find out anything about it '' . Or the mildly epigrammatic utterance ( also a quotation ) : `` Woman's place is in the wrong '' . Who but Thurber can be counted on to glean such nectareous essences ? ?

A tribute to midsummer `` bang-sashes '' seems terribly funny , though it would be hard to explain why . `` One of them banged the sash of the window nearest my bed around midnight in July and I leaped out of sleep and out of bed . ' It's just a bat ' , said my wife reassuringly , and I sighed with relief . ' Thank God for that ' , I said ; ; ' I thought it was a human being ' '' .

In a sense , perhaps , Thurber is indebted artistically to the surrealist painter ( was it Salvador Dali ? ? ) who first conceived the startling fancy of a picture window in the abdomen . That is , it is literally a picture window : you don't see into the viscera ; ; you see a picture -- trees , or flowers . This is something like what Thurber's best effects are like , if I am not mistaken .

Though no longer able to turn out his protoplasmic pen-and-ink sketches ( several old favorites are scattered through the present volume ) Thurber has retained unimpaired his vision of humor as a thing of simple , unaffected humanness . In his concluding paragraph he writes : `` The devoted writer of humor will continue to try to come as close to truth as he can '' . For many readers Thurber comes closer than anyone else in sight .

The latest Low is a puzzler . The master's hand has lost none of its craft . He is at his usual best in exposing the shams and self-deceptions of political and diplomatic life in the fifties . The reader meets a few old friends like Blimp and the TUC horse , and becomes better acquainted with new members of the cast of characters like the bomb itself , and civilization in her classic robe watching the nuclear arms race , her hair standing straight out .

But there is a difference between the present volume and the early Low . There is fear in the fifties as his title suggests and as his competent drawings show . But there was terror in the thirties when the Nazis were on the loose and in those days Low struck like lightning .

Anyone can draw his own conclusions from this difference . It might be argued that the Communists are less inhuman than the Nazis and furnish the artist with drama in a lower key . But this argument cannot be pushed very far because the Communist system makes up for any shortcomings of its leaders in respect to corrosion . The Communists wield a power unknown to Hitler . And the leading issue , that of piecemeal aggression , remains the same . This is drama enough .

Do we ourselves offer Mr. Low less of a crusade ? ? In the thirties we would not face our enemy ; ; that was a nightmarish situation and Low was in his element . Now we have stood up to the Communists ; ; we are stronger and more self-confident -- and Low cannot so easily put us to rights .

Or does the reason for less Jovian drawings lie elsewhere ? ? It might be that Low has seen too many stupidities and that they do not outrage him now . He writes , `` Confucius held that in times of stress one should take short views -- only up to lunchtime '' .

Whatever the cause , his mood in the fifties rarely rises above the level of the capably sardonic . Dulles ? ? He does not seem to have caught the subtleties of the man . McCarthy ? ? The skies turn dark but the clouds do not loose their wrath . Suez ? ? Low seems to have supported Eden at first and then relented because things worked out differently , so there is no fire in his eye .

Stalin's death , Churchill's farewell to public life , Hillary and Tensing on Everest , Quemoy and Matsu -- all subjects for a noble anger or an accolade . Instead the cartoons seem to deal with foibles . Their Eisenhower is insubstantial . Did Low decide to let well enough alone when he made his selections ? ?

He often drew the bomb . He showed puny men attacked by splendidly tyrannical machines . And Khrushchev turned out to be prime copy for the most witty caricaturist of them all . But , but and but .

Look in this book for weak mortals and only on occasion for virtues and vices on the heroic scale . Read the moderately brief text , not for captions , sometimes for tart epigrams , once in a while for an explosion in the middle of your fixed ideas .

A gray fox with a patch on one eye -- confidence man , city slicker , lebensraum specialist -- tries to take over Catfish Bend in this third relaxed allegory from Mr. Burman's refreshing Louisiana animal community .

The fox is all ingratiating smiles when he arrives from New Orleans , accompanied by one wharf rat . But like all despots , as he builds his following from among the gullible , he grows more threatening toward those who won't follow -- such solid citizens as Doc Raccoon ; ; Judge Black , the vegetarian black snake ; ; and the eagle , who leads the bird community when he is not too busy in Washington posing for fifty-cent pieces .

As soon as the fox has taken hold on most of the populace he imports more wharf rats , who , of course , say they are the aggrieved victims of an extermination campaign in the city . ( The followers of bullies invariably are aggrieved about the very things they plan to do to others . ) They train the mink and other animals to fight . And pretty soon gray fox is announcing that he won't have anyone around that's against him , and setting out to break his second territorial treaty with the birds .

Robert Hillyer , the poet , writes in his introduction to this brief animal fable that Mr. Burman ought to win a Nobel Prize for the Catfish Bend series . He may have a point in urging that decadent themes be given fewer prizes . But it's hard to imagine Mr. Burman as a Nobel laureate on the basis of these charming but not really momentous fables .

In substance they lie somewhere between the Southern dialect animal stories of Joel Chandler Harris ( Uncle Remus ) and the polished , witty fables of James Thurber .