NV • j• IGOE BY LOVE POSSESSED by James Gould Cozzens (Longmans, lgs.).
"BY Love Possessed " is the most interesting, thorough ly bad book I have read in two decades of reviewing fiction. Thrice I have rushed, marched,
and plodded through its pages, each time feeling more and more like a famished carnivore in a maze of marzipan.
Closing it, it occurs to me that this, magnificently, is the Yankee Folly. in the architectural sense, of all time: a copy, embroidered with hand -painted forget me nots. should he displayed in the balmy fore-courts of Forest Lawn (see "The Laved One").
If the immortal Amanda McKittriok Ross. sweet whimsy. had gone to Harvard, she might have written thus. But Amanda-as Mr. Wyndham Lewis well knows-was a clean-limbed gal. With breath ostentatiously bated, we await Mr. Thurber on Cozzens.
IN America, Mr. Coz.cens is
accused of being anti-Semitic, anti-Negro and anti-Catholic. a sort of Phi Beta Klu-Klux-Klansman; there is evidence in his book that he does not cherish his separated brethren. But, in effect. I find it anti-Protestant. Many a decent New England Episcopalian must feel that if these faded relics of the Yankee bourgeoisie arc all his church can breed, the sooner he submits to the Knights of Columbus the better.
The story purports to be all about love, the theme explored in a Northern town over a period of two days and four hours. It filters through the mind and memories of Arthur Winner, an ambiguously named lawyer who dispenses justice (with favour towards none but his closest friends) to a variety of spirits, alien and native born, and tries to straighten out his affairs; and muses surrounded by a mass of bric-a-brac symbolising the good life (gracious, you know) assembled by his well-integrated and deceased father.
Be deals with cases of rape, suicide, and embezzlement, and has a busy time. He dwells on love, vikkh his creator apjiarently confuses with adolescent lust.
111-1E book thus is based upon a vacuum i for love, if not always many-splendoed, is far ranging and subtle in its manifestations. Even De. Kinsey did not indentify it with copulation.
Winner is a classical suburban prig; his helplessness before the onslaught of a neurotic female suggests a broody Girl Guide reluctantly struggling with a drunken lumberjack. He succumbs.
His subsequent meditations, on the page arc a comic (unwittingly so), mildly repellent mixture of lumps from a Nonesuch anthology and the Kinsey Report. Very daring, so help me; at least, not to be given-to little boys. Cozzens Minor is the naughtiest boy in the class.
THE echoes are heavy, and recall better writers and one or two nondescript films. The perspiring "charitable" Catholic woman evokes a figure from one of Mr. Aldous Huxley's young books. Winner's senior partner, the latterday screen impersonations of Mr. Lionel Bairymore, and another
partner seems to be a middle-aged, if witless. version of one of Mr. Osborne's amusing "angry young men"-it must. by the way, be something in the air these days"that makes Liberals ("thinkers," not politicos) such tame, whining fellows.
The Protestant "heroes" are womanisers, in a piffling way, embezzlers (from Church funds), sturdy defenders of such embezzlements, and "democrats" who go in for wife-sharing in a friendly way. Winner is a very democratic chap, a truly wonderful guy.
The charming thing about Mr. C,ozzens is that he offers Winner as the embodiment of an old American faith which he displays in action as a squabble about hellringing between a nice, harmless homosexual and a parson whose girl friend does not use facepowder. The parson wins. Thc church militant?
Supremely. this is what G.K.e meant when he wrote of good, bad books. But, 1 repeat, it is not recommended to young COZZ0135. chums in the fourth form. The boy, doomed to a bad end, is chosen by the U.S. Book of the Month Club. R., as they say, I.P.