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Robert Orham on Books in the News, a quick look at newly published material and books of current interest. Your host, Robert Orham, Director for Public Services at the University of Illinois Library. In these days of social novels, I am not just sure what impact a first novel had by a very young Negro writer, Henry Van Dyke. This novel was a witty, perceptively handled and beautifully written book called Ladies of the Rock Man Enough Eyes. Mr. Van Dyke's second novel is also poetically titled, This Time, The Blood of Strawberries. His first novel was written while still close to adolescence and reflected adolescence, and he used it vigorously as a viewpoint. Blood of Strawberries represents a lighter stage of growing up and here again Mr. Van Dyke uses his experience as well as his wit, imagination and sense of fires to bolster his story. The second novel has this same narrator, Oliver, a young Negro who had lived with his aunt, Harriet, who was companion friend to Oliver's benefactor, Ms. Eta Klein. He had to did with them in a Michigan town until their farcical deaths, which ended ladies
of the Rock Man Enough Eyes. When the light of the new novel, the sudden sense of hindsight is not impossible that he intended a parody of the relationship of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Tockless, redone in a black and white version, certainly Oliver admits in the early page of his novel, which takes place four years later, that he had a patient on the subject of Gertrude Stein. I cannot say, when the first seeds of patient for Stein sprung to life, but I suspect it was the end of my junior year, what began as an esoteric joke developed into a serious affair. We find that he's come to New York City after his last year at Cornell, to live with the sister of his benefactor, enter husband Max Road, novelist playwright and collector of celebrities on three continents, and an old friend of Gertrude Stein. Oliver intends to pump Max for what he knows of Stein. It turns out that Max Road is a combination of Gordon Craig, Bernard Baronson, and Max Beardblum, and almost as elderly. Van Dyke uses this age factor to his advantage, just as he uses the adolescence and college age of his narrator. Max, for example, is always falling down, is also medically, untimely in continent.
Both disabilities are used farcically to present the character and to promote the plot and be well, and would be spoiling Van Dyke's comedy to tell you how. But Max Road is a splendid creation, one of many in this book. He first meet him in his duvet of field study, his voice Mr Van Dyke tells us, as usual creaked with the pain of someone molesting a wicker chair. He dominates weird parties, manipulates weird people, and gums things up even at the point of killing off his wife by suddenly scaring her to death. But even though his plans grow awry, he cannot stop manipulating until that fatal day when he redeems himself by falling down a light switch in order to save the whole cast of characters in the book. This falling down, as I've said, dominates the novel. It starts out with a letter to Oliver from Max's wife, which reads, Max falls down. Max falls down with theatrical premeditation, of late he falls down often, and I don't know what to do about it. His elaboration that hardly seems funny, yet it is used with such cleverness, that it becomes all of the piece of the vagaries of the characters in this almost over clever
book. Van Dyke even dares to use two black women's servants as a part of his fars. One of them even wears dark glasses like the Tonton McCute, and chauffeurs around in a big limousine, one of the other characters who dresses up like Richard Stein. As any fool can plainly see, there's little soul writing here in this book, which is fine since I suppose a young Negro brought up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, doesn't need much soul. The last page is after the big death scene, he goes into a bar with Willa, one of the black servants. He notes always with the eye to the right effect, that she sat on the bars to her besiding with big helpings of buttocks hung over all around. Then he gets serious and asks her, what's it like? How do you become Negro? Willa says, honey, you just worry first about life. That's enough of the time being, and she reaches over in Patsyman and says, I'm here to tell you it's real tough life. It's hard to get through a life, which is the important thing, despite the dust jacket and our natural tendency to emphasize the black aspect of Oliver's question. Further, it seems to me even more important is Oliver's or is Mr. Van Dyke's preoccupation
with death. Usually death comes farsically, ironically and strangely, but the theme is there, a persistent toying with death. Well, I don't propose to make an issue of it, but there it is, spread over all these pages, death larger than life and twice as funny, blood of strawberries by Henry Van Dyke. Books in the News is prepared and presented by Robert Orham and sponsored by the Illinois State Library. This is the University of Illinois Radio Service. This program was distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
Books in the news
Books in the news #388
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National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Illinois State Library
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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A quick look at newly published material and books of current interest.
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Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Producing Organization: Illinois State Library
Speaker: Orem, Robert
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-35d-388 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:04:37
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Chicago: “Books in the news; Books in the news #388,” 1969-05-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Books in the news; Books in the news #388.” 1969-05-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Books in the news; Books in the news #388. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from