Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 16, 1972 · Page 84
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 84

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 16, 1972
Page 84
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SPEAKING OF BOOKS Trite novel of the mountains "A HANDFUL OP STARS," by Roy House, Touchstone Publishing Co., $5.95. Roy House in his foreword to "A Handful of Stars" says this about his novel, "To put it tritely, it was a labor of love, because I love the Appalachian people." Unfortunately the word trite can be used to describe the book from its first to its last page. Others are .naive, overview, stereotype, and fanciful. It is, bluntly stated, a fairy tale about West Virginia in the 1960's, the type of book which some publishers mistakenly believe all West Virginians have come to know and love. The novel's hero, Jess Tolliver, a Hollywood screen writer, decides to write an "honest" movie script about West Virginia. This is the catalyst which is needed to set him off via flashbacks on a review of his life. Growing up underprivileged in West Virginia and making something of yourself seems to be this year's theme in literature about our state. This is the third Horatio Alger type book about fictional West Virginians I have reviewed in the last 12 months. I am slowly becoming convinced that these budding authors have come to believe all of those horror clippings which appeared in n a t i o n a l publications in the 60s. These books almost always contain lessons in West Virginia geography, history and sociology. However, they are about as simplistic as those which appear in elementary grade school texts. This author also writes things about poverty, unemployment, conservation and strip mining. No one doubts his concern and dedication, but the end product seems only like lip service to these popular causes, because if anything his arguments are stale, overused and not incisive. Minor characters in "A Handful of Stars" are stereotypes. Zack and Hugh are Jesse's "drinking and teaching Uncles." The fo- nner a free spirit likes "shine", plays the guitar, works "i Akron, and is a "devil" with the women. Hugh is morally virtuous and teaches in a one room school house containing grades one through twelve. I may be .wrong, but I didn't think there were any of these left here in 1963. There is, of course, a villain, Sam Sikes, and the Sikes and the Tollivers have been feuding since the 18th century. Introduce a feud into this type of novel and you set off a predictable chain of events: star crossed lovers, an illegitimate child, murder to avenge smirched honor, and finally a marriage to end the {eud. All of this in West Virginialhl963;-Cbmeiiow. Add to these, this un- forj'ettaDle character: Jonah R. Baron an old man whose father was a millionaire mine owner, an exploiter of the first order. When Mr. Jonah is not talking to trees, or visiting President Kennedy in Washington to halt coal stripping, he is attempting to atone for his father's sins. A very obvious point is cutely belabored when the author gives Mr. Jonah a speech in which he declares that the "R" in his name stands for robber. Jess takes an equivalency exam, and enters West Virginia University, working his way through college uttering such platitudes as, "I'm just ... an overgrown country boy with a dream and a dedication." While there, Jess meets Opal Nadine, the daughter of a Pennsylvania coal stripper. Beautiful and wealthy, Opal drives not only a Cadillac, but also a Jaguar. To denote wealth "the Jag" would have been enough. Jess loves her, but will have little to do with her unless she renounces her spoiled ways and her father. He tells her things like "Now Opal simmer down, I don't want to stomp you in public. Even mountain men don't do that! At home yes, but not in public."She turned scorn on ner pretty face." Dialogue such as this can only leave a reviewer shaking his head in disbelief. Someday, someone may read this book and think that this is how it was here during the Kennedy years and that would be unfortunate. Love for your state and its people while commendable is not enough to write a successful regional novel. A modicum of skill is required. Biographical material on the book's flyleaf lists sev-. eral quaint jobs which the author held ranging from hobo to legislative assistant to a congressman. Nowhere does it say anything about him being a successful novelist. Robert E. DiBartoIomeo Mr. DiBartoIomeo is the director of museums for Oglebay Institute, Wheeling. Musty theater closet "PEOPLE IN A DIARY: A MEMOIR" by S. N. Behrman; Little, Brown and Co.: $10.00. S. N. Behrman has been associated with the theater for most of his 80 years and has kept a diary, now reaching 60 volumes, for 60 of those years. In his time as playwright and dramatist he's known and worked with the principal figures of stage and letters and reminisces about them in this memoir, which he is careful to point out is not an autobiography--Siegfried Sassoon, Greta Garbo. Somerset Maugham, Laurence Olivier, to name a few, as well as writing about his own career. Unfortunately, while its many insights are interesting and written in a light, lucid, · readable style, this memoir lacks timeliness and relevance. Behrman dwells on early- and mid-century, and the result is almost parochial, petty, pedantic and even Victorian in spots. If you're interested in some shoe-dropping about pre-war (that's World War I and ~1I) arts and letters, you'll find this one interesting. If not, you'll find it a bore. As Behrman observes: "It is a strange experience "THE TIN LIZZIE TROOP," G l e n d o n Swarthout, Doubleday Co., Inc., |5.»5. Here is a delightfully funny novel with the 1916 Mexican Border campaign as its stage. That's the affair once described by John O'Hara as the nearest thing we ever had to a g e n t l e m a n ' s w a r -- a n d Swarthout plays that general idea to the hilt. In the author's own words, the story *is "cut out of Calvary Journal leather and the microfilm of faded newspapers, with the names of real persons and units of course carefully pruned to spare still-sturdy family trees." Wild cavalry charge Among 100,000 National Guardsmen m o b i l i z e d during the campaign were several blue-blood, fancy- dan detachments from the East. Included were our six heroes, members of the Philadelphia Light Horse--a men's military club to which offsprings of only the most well-born and wealthy were elected. The six arrive, in three spanking new Ford Model- Ts, at Glenn Springs, Texas, an outpost smack on the Rio Grande River .border with Mexico, for training under one Lt. Stanley Dinkle, a U.S. cavalryman from the old, old, school. That situation, alone, is BRITANNKA JUNIOR ENCYCLOPAEDIA COMPLETE COVERAGE WITH SIMPLIFIED VOCABiAARV. EASV-70-READ TVPE. /UUSr»ATft WITH HUHMttDf Of CCUCW fl/forof MAPS AND BEAUTIFUL IRiSSY * r/ffi HAIR [GROWSMD GROW.' THE YOUNG CHILDREN'S ENCYCLOPEDIA /NH 16 VOLUMES I TINKERBELL BUBBLE AND . SPRAY SET YOUMG G/RiS Knickerbocker ASTRO THEY RE MAKING ME RIDE' IN THE BAGGAGE CAR JUST BECAUSE I HAVE A TRUNK. A I PRIZE! HALT BEDKNOBS BROOMSTICKS air- PROPCUEP ACTION BED OLOR THIS CONTEST PICTURE JCOXnlll AND CQlOt until CUt CUt. MINT N«M|. Ad. «OMH MU 10 UHCU NUCtNI. CAM Or THIS July 16,1972 shattering enough for our young bluebloods, but nothing to compare with what follows when Mexican bandits raid the outpost and surrounding territory with terrifying results while Dinkle is away on an infrequent furlough. To complicate matters further, the raiders carry off Dinkle's girlfriend. D e s p i t e everything they've been told to the contrary, the six ford the Rio Grande and race into the arid Mexican state of Coachula, riding the tin liz- zies in frantic pursuit of the bandits. The mission eventually is accomplished, after a fashion, but only in the wake of chaos, confusion and breakdowns the likes of which the U.S. cavalry never had seen. Dinkle is flown back into the middle of the situation by one of our early and intrepid airman, and in the only serviceable U.S. aircraft on the border. After wining, dining and considerable other but, not particularly useful, help from the citizens in the town of Caballo del Dios, Dinkle is able to "organize" the climactic thrust in which, in fact, the bandits contribute more to their undoing than do the American pursuers, in the process, Dinkle also rescues his girl, although the shock of her experiences makes a long recuperation period necessary. As for the aircraft, the residents of Caballo del Dios first took all the fabric off it, and then restored it--in their own fashion--as a permanent exhibit in the town square. Writes a u t h o r Swarthout: "If the reader finds it(the story) incredible, as I do, he is advised to cross the border to the town of Caballo del Dios, as I did, and see for himself what is in the plaza. There he will gape at something which, on display today, 56 years later, is ever more incredible." Charles R. Lewis , . CHARLESTON, w. VA reading your own diary 40 or 50 years after you've written it." That time lag, and the changing world it implies, make the job even stranger for the reader. With all due respects, it smells just a bit too musty and its skeletons are j u s t a bit too long forgotten. Maybe the closet door is better left closed. --Joseph Meledin Jr. Meet Charleston's own Dr. James David Barber 2 o'clock Monday at Moore's across from the Library THE PRESIDENTIAL CHARACn-.R BARBf J R F R THE PRESIDENTIAL CHARACTER Predicting Performance in the White House ky James David Barber "Ccmei cUier I* the truth ·b«ut why pmidciiti 4* what iKtr 4« Ikon wy mllMr." Hu|h SUcy, lift "Preventive «nd timely." It's an incredible book that puts our Presidents under a microscope and dissects their habits, quirks, and idio- syncracies. A revolutionary book that demonstrates the technique of predicting Presidentia performance through engrossing analyses of past Presidents. A fascinating and unique book of "psychohistory" that puts that owe- some office into its proper perspective. Autographed copies $10.00 BOOK STORE hlFLOOl 23*23** oore/s THE S. SPENCER MOORE CO. US CAPITOL 3424115 M 21m

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