Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 30, 1972 · Page 100
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 100

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 30, 1972
Page 100
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SPEAKING OF BOOKS Cool look at the dark side The lusty infant stage "THE CROWDING SYNDROME" by Caroline Bird, David McKay Co. $8.95. Books predicting the i m p e n d i n g d o o m o f humankind are on all the best seller lists this season. This book, by an experienced w r i t e r a n d r e s e a r c h e r provides almost the only ray of faint, flickering light in the on-coming darkness we apparently love to afright ourselves with. Ms. Bird admits, and documents with precision and thorough research, that our civilization, our technological way of life is in deep trouble. She begins her book with the Great Power Blackout of 1965, which plunged much of the Atlantic seaboard into darkness, and stopped every electrical convenience from elevators to dishwashers. This is no Pollyanna, looking the world over without seeing its disasters, actual or impending. Up to this point, the book is essentially like the ecological Ti-criers, such as Paul r l i c h . There is one c .deal difference: where the pessimists have ap- . proached their subject with morbid fascination and emotional over-kill. Ms. Bird takes the trouble to examine the factual bases for the problems, all the way from population to pollution. Where many of the c o n v e r t s t o t h e n e w "religion" of ecology look at a narrow facet sufficient to support their terror, Ms. Bird takes a cool, rational over-view. Then, she targets specific crises and shows they are often more phantom than real. While Ehrlich .Co. are decrying the coming day when we will all have to stand on one another's shoulders in an overcrowded land, she cites U. S. Census figures which show our birth-rate at the lowest point' in our history, and the density of our population actually less than in 1900. Is it all imagination, then, the problems of population, pollution, civil disorder? No, says Ms. Bird, but the problem lies not within our environment but within us, We are not, as writers like Root. Ardrey and Desmond Morris contend, prisoners of a n i n s t i n c t i v e a n i m a l "nature," which condemns us to squabble like geese or apes over "living space." We are, she says, capable of r e l e a s i n g t r e m e n d o u s resources of flexibility, as man has done in times of crisis throughout his history. In short, we can solve our problems, if we want to. The will to solve those problems, which would involve changing many, if not all, of our accepted ways of thinking, is difficult to s u m m o n - u p w h i l e makeshifts can make the existing systems and institutions stagger on a bit longer before the inevitable collapse. As Thomas Jefferson put it, in the Declaration of Independence, "Mankind are more disposed to suffer evils, while evils are sufferable," than to break'with tradition and remove them. Ms. Bird describes the "conservative" forces (many of them on the "liberal" end of the political spectrum,), who would put a blowout patch on systems which she regards as utterly incapable of. meeting pre- sent needs. It might be better to allow the institutions, such as transportation, to collapse, compelling people to devise new ones which will answer those needs. One of her chapters is titled "How to Think New," a n d s h e a c c e p t s t h e challenge that the world's population is going to continue growing -and urbanizing, and we must use our imagination to reach w o r l d - w i d e , b r o a d - v i e w solutions, rather than con- n i e n t l y forgetting or ing to run from the challenge the situation involves. Basic to Ms. Bird's t h e s i s i s t h e u s e o f technology to solve the problems of technology, not by romantic flight into the Stone Age, but by creating a world-wide institution or complex of them, to meet needs which have · brought the old institutions to the edge of total breakdown. Ms. Bird's final faith is in the imagination and adap- tiveness of mankind. We do not have to perish, or revert to primitive lifestyles. Ms. Bird's alternative is not an easy resignation to "instinct," or the conservative "do-gooder" programs which worsen what they purport to aid, but a hard rethinking on what we want and what we are willing to do to get it. This is by far the best-documented and most positive book yet published on the social catastrophe of our time. --Thomas J. Cummins Mr. Cummings, a freelance writer of Rialto, Calif., is editor of The Dial, a Unitarian newsletter.) Search for tender sex "SHOCKPROOF SYDNEY SKATE," By Marijane Meeker, Little, Brown and Co., $5.95 "Shockproof Sydney Skate'-' by Marijane Meeker is a genuinely comic,satiric book about youth, sex and literature in our time. This lady who has written more than 20 suspense novels under the.pseudonym of Vin Packer is a real professional and her work shows it. This is one of her first forays into the troubled youth genre, but I for one hope she does more. Sydney Skate is 17, a recent high school graudate who has nicknamed himself onocKproof. Growing up the way he did, one had -to be that way. His mother M. E. Shepley Skate, a New York advertising executive, is a lesbian who divorced her husband, Harold E., a swimming pool salesman from Daylestown, Pa., when Stanley was a baby. Despite all of this Stanley has made a remarkable adjustment. A genius with animals, he works part time in- Zappy Zoo Land, a pet shop. He would like to be a lover of the Casanova type, but he also is desperately searching for sex with tenderness--ah almost impossible quest in the circles in which he travels. Estelle Kelly, his current lady love, is a teen age nymphomaniac who after consumation rejects him brutally. Loretta Willensky his first love can't give him the affection he wants because-she has her own problems--namely her father, Mr. Boris, a hairdresser. Sydney finds a likely candidate in a Bryn Mawr freshman,. Alison Arnstein Grey, but his mother soon becomes a rival for her affection, and this only leads to more trouble for him. The sexual scenes in this book are explicit but not seamy. Instead they are so exaggereated that they are funny. Stanley in his desire to be a great lover has merrrorized scenes from such well known novels as "The Love Machine," "The Story Of 0" and John Updike's "Couples." At appropriate and inappropriate times he recites these passages to his adolescent mistresses. Reading these quotes in italics and out of context gives them a comic dimension which their authors never intended. These scenes add a further lunatic quality to his book which is already humorous in its own right. Ms. Meeker satirizes a great many of the topics of today: from literature to parental neglect in chic New York penthouses. Yet through it all while laughing at the characters one feels sorry for them. I enjoyed meeting Sydney Skate and would like to see more of him in print. --Robert E. DiBartolomeo Mr. DiBar.tolomeo is director of museums for Oglebay Institute, Wheeling, "OFF BROADWAY: The Prophetic Theater," by Stuart W. Little, Coward, McCann Geoghegan, Inc., $7.95. Off-Broadway is a state of mind, a set of production conditions, a whole way of looking at theater comp l e t e l y o p p o s e d to Broadway's patterns. It is difined by the variety of its uses. It is a showcase for -new actors and directors, a place where new talent can be discovered. It is a piece to revive Broadway failures and restore the reputations of playwrights who may have been ill served in the regular theater. Off Broadway provides the means of encouraging the growth of theaters that exist in time and so engage the loyalties of talented professionals that they can develop continuity of production and a consistent artistic policy. "Off Broadway," by Stuart Little, is an exciting chronicle of this vital part of theater. It begins on the evening of April 24, 1952, when "Summer and Smoke" with Geraldine Page opened at the Circle in the Square and became the first major theatrical success below 42nd street in 30 years. To reconstruct that evening, we could go next door to Louie's Bar, where Jose Quintero, the director, had decided to sit out the performance and detach himself from the play. Quintero anticipated nothing special from the . of "Summer and fj/noke." Off Broadway openings were not .galas crowded with downtown critics. They merely marked the end of long hours of work in preparation for the play. The audiences were receptive, but not overhwelmingly demonstrative. After few beers at Louie's, Quintero sauntered back to the theater just as the play was ending. He was not ready for what met him. The play was over and the applause began. In that moment, Quintero was awakened to a whole new experience in theater. From all sides rang out ·"Bravos'' for Miss Page. From now on, everything would be different. They were no longer outcasts or disowned children free to work out their own destinies as they chose--away from c r i t i c s , . c u r i o u s professionals and expectant audiences. Off Broadway was born, and was to change the whole concept of theater in the next decades. . Stuart Little has the gift of being able to spellbind you with his narrative of the theater world. He so adeptly takes you into the lives of the people who worked to make Off Broadway that they become almost a part of you. He tells many amusing yarns as well as some pretty moving ones. Players more often than n o t h a d t o f i n d a c - commodations in whatever type of theater housing that was available and cheap. These theaters were not very often plush and luxurious and companies had to improvise to make houses u s a b l e . One s u m m e r , because of the heat, one company was forced to improvise a Rube-Goldberg- like air conditioning system. At the rear of the house in a small cubicle above the box office, they affixed a tray .to hold large cakes of ice. Beneath, a frame held excelsior and behind electric fans were positioned. In theory, the ice would drip cold water into the excelsior and the fans behind the tray would send cool air wafting over the audience. In practice, the audience got liberally s p r a y e d ' w i t h water. There are scores of other incidents which season the already intriguing saga of the Off Broadway theater and Little is a master of incorporating all these into a fantastic book of modern theater. Recommended. "NinaGadd Paperbacks "DEPUTY SHERIFF," by Hay Gaulden, $.75. "TROUm,KlS*MY BUSINESS," by Raymond Chandler, $.95. "THE S1MPLE*.ART OF MURDER,"* by Raymond Chandler, S.93. UEvTi BRITANNICA JUNIOR ENCYCLOPAEDIA COMPLETE COVERAGE WITH SIMPLIFIED VOCABULARY. EASY-TO-READ TYPE. /JlU$r»ATfD WITH HUHtHttDf OF eat OK PHO rof, MAP? AHD XAW/NGS. THE YOUNG CHILDREN'S ENCYCLOPEDIA BEAUTIFUL GRiSSY TINKERBELL 0 BUBBLE AND SPRAY SET fOR YOUNG G/RLS ORIGINAL .- TURES.POEMf. WOW-TO-BO-lr fHOJECTSAND l5 E v$* WALT JlfN£Y'f BEDKNOBS AMP BROOMSTICKS air-. PROPELIEP ACTION BED MASK MQVt*£ CUfHSCS SI't 7HAT /S TH/S -DETECT/ V£ ,, DOW/V? our U P/MT, UMDEG EACH LETTEQ BE/LOW, THE LETTE/? THAT FOLLOWS/r AiPHABET/CA* /10NTEST (S ENTRY ENTQ B Q H B J D M S 6 H D U D R L *J VJ II JS S/ A-' I "^^^ 7-3077,8 ALSO COLOR THIS .DRAW ING. STATE MAGAZINE, July 30,1972 CHARLESTON, W. VA. 21m

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