The first issue of this year's Advocate shows the well-known faults, and also the well-known virtues of Harvard's aesthetic menagerie and citadel of the arts. Its cleverness leans towards the inconsequential, and its seriousness towards the pompous. Its two best pieces are written by men who have left their undergraduate days far behind them. But it is still good reading, and, except for one item, can hardly be accused of dullness.
Harry Brown's delightful "The Brief, Unfinished History of John Cudlow" stands out as a fantasy of the professional magazines to which its author regularly contributes. The account of what happens to hen-pecked Mr. Cudlow when he begins to lay a large golden egg every morning lives up to its highest potentialities. The legendary goose had nothing on our John Cudlow.
Worst prize for the issue, however, goes to Langdon P. Marvin, Jr. for his stodgy, humorless praises of Harvard in "An Appreciation of Four Years." One almost prefers the Progressive's vituperations to the smooth phrases flowing from the pen of Life's "typical Harvard man."
Curtis Thomas, though not even a typical Harvard man, has turned in a fine job on his long short story, "Duration." His writing suffers a little from overly blunt sarcasm, but he conveys to his readers a sharp and biting picture of American upper-class attitudes towards the war, as seen through the eyes of an English child refugee, Although his idea of British morale may be partly a product of wishful thinking, the contrast he brings out between the British who fight without hating, and the Americans who hate without fighting is a powerful one.
The two other short stories in the issue, Howard Nemerov's "Gerhart Otto" and Bowden Broadwater's "The Family Round" are both competent, craftsmanlike, and seem to say a great deal more than they actually do. It might almost be worthwhile if the Advocate were to require its authors to attach a short explanatory work to each contribution. This might be illuminating for the authors themselves and for the Advocate staff, as well as for the general public.
There are only two verse offerings scattered among this month's prose: a somewhat diffuse, and so far as meaning is concerned, opaque sonnet by marvin Barrett, and a very clever parody of Eliot's "A Cooking Egg" by Dunstan Thompson, entitled "A Baked Apple." It is, in fact, something more than clever, but how much more is a matter for debate.
No opening issue of the Advocate is complete without a piece on high living in Boston, and this intriguing topic is quite adequately treated in the anonymous "A Word to the Wise." Illustrations by John Crockett, who inclines to the baroque, and Roland Thompson, whose virtue is simplicity, complete the usually attractive appearance and makeup of the magazine.