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London: Sisley’s, 1909. Pp. viii + 144.

The Harvard Advocate, 87 (7 May 1909) [80]

We are glad of the opportunity to review a book by a former Advocateeditor–Mr. Van Wyck Brooks, of the board of 1908. 1 This is a book which probably will chiefly interest one class of Americans (a class, however, of some importance): the Americans retained to their native country by business relations or socialities or by a sense of duty–the last reason implying a real sacrifice–while their hearts are always in Europe. To these, double-dealers with themselves, people of divided allegiance except in times of emotional crisis, Mr. Brooks’s treatise will come as a definition of their discontent. But he should find a larger audience than this class alone. The reasons for the failure of American life (at present)–social, political, in education and in art–are surgically exposed; with an unusual acuteness of distinction and refinement of taste; and the more sensitive of us may find ourselves shivering under the operation. For the book is a confession of national weaknesses; if one take it rightly, a wholesome revelation. With wise restraint, the author has attempted but little constructive or prophetic criticism. He merely ends with the expressed hope, “I think that a day will come when the names of Denver and Sioux City will have a traditional and antique dignity like Damascus and Perugia–and when it will not seem to us grotesque that they have” [142].

One thing more. Mr. Brooks has handled successfully a difficult form– the dialogue; never allowing it to degenerate into soliloquy, and often rendering a slight difference in the point of view, a shift of personality; maintaining that shuttlecock action which is the virtue of conversation, but which is seldom perceptible in dialogue as a literary form. 2

t. s. e.

Published By:   Faber & Faber logo    Johns Hopkins University Press

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