The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

a man-size box--you un'erstan'?--A man-size box--I been--six--feet--fo'--Uncle--six feet fo'!"

Yes, April is "man-size," and so is the book. It is powerful, serene, good-humored, tempestuous by turns, with all the varying primitive passions kept for so many years in their undisturbed original state. The folklorist may read this book, if he wishes, for its infinite store of superstitions and sayings; the sociologist may read it for its account of a definite social group which has maintained itself practically untouched by civilization; everybody else may read the hook for what it is, perhaps the first genuine novel in English of the Negro as a human being.

Conrad Aiken


Spyglass August 14, 1927

For he saw everything, and, in the centre
Of corrupt change, one guileless rose; and laughed
For puzzlement and sorrow.

These lines from a poem of Conrad Aiken's will pass as the insufficient yet significant epitome of a good deal of his writing. Aside from some exceptionally beautiful earlier lyrics, he has seldom spoken with an affirmative voice. Disaster and a sort of sweet despair are his fundamental tone--the disaster and despair of the modern who has looked, Actaeon-like, upon a knowledge forbidden, perhaps because it is too terrible to endure. But at all times his complete mastery of the art of language, his power of

-23-

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