Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 93

one could no more sympathize with them than with a dust storm, or
blame them either.
Tristram Bone, a fat man who owns a monkey named Simon; Eliza–
beth Poor, who has a son named Leander; Mrs. Poor's mother, who is
called Maroo; a novelist, George MotIey, who is as tiny as Tristram
Bone is large- these names in Frederick Buechner's novel,
A Long Day's
may suggest that we have to do with a comedy in the Waugh
manner. No doubt that is what the book might better have been; as it
is, the names do not signify satire, but only that the people are "char–
acters," to use the word in the Broadway sense. The tone is uncertain,
but certainly Jamesian:
"As soon as he saw them approaching him, down the broad foyer,
through groups of people and luggage, MotIey put aside all traces of
his impatience as unthinkingly and easily as if they had been old toys
that he now wished to exchange for new and arose to greet his friends
with the curiously shy, tight-lipped grin that seemed always to gild
with a kind of boyishness intensified rather than altogether contradicted
by the shrewdness of his small, florid countenance."
Not a witty book,
A Long Day's Dying
has a callow sophistication
and the documentary interest of a questionnaire about what Youth is
thinking. The latest thing, they tell us with a serene, idolatrous glance, is
Good and Evil. Whereas previously characters met friends in a bar or an
apartment, in
A Long Day's Dying
dramatic scenes take place at the
Cloisters, where, in addition to conversation, Bone can cut his hand on
the statue of a saint, and the prose can swell with the richness of the
tapestries. In another scene at the Cloisters, the intention is even more
blunt and trivial: Tristam Bone and a young man, Paul SteitIer, fore–
gather at the monastery to discuss the fact that Mrs. Poor, to cover up an
indiscretion with Steitler, has accused the young man of being her
son's homesexual lover.
The sophistication, the soft language ("In the garden about which
the cloisters ran, pigeons flickered, and they distracted themselves by
merely watching the birds scurry beside them, singly and in pairs, as a
kind of escort"), the effort at religiosity
nothing else, he knew at
least that, whoever the sinner, it was something like sin that had set
the damaged, damaging machinery of complication in action...."),
make the book morally and dramatically specious. Rather nice is about
all one can call the Good Maroo and Leander; the others are disagree–
able pygmies.
"More light!" the old lady, Maroo, calls on her deathbed, thereby
bringing Goethe into the cage with the monkey and the unicorn.
Elizabeth Hardwick
1...,83,84,85,86,87,88,89,90,91,92 94,95,96,97,98,99,100
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