Page 3, 8th May 1953

8th May 1953
Page 3
Page 3, 8th May 1953 — Why 'The Robe' was a best-seller

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Why 'The Robe' was a best-seller

THE SHAPE OF SUNDAY, by Virginia Douglas Dawson and Betty Douglas Dawson (Peter Davies, 15s.).

WHEN a novel sells three million copies, it can't be spoken of in that superior and aloof air affected by the learned and the literary as just a "best-seller." A hundred thousand copies will make a best seller, three million is a phenomenon that owes little or nothing to the bally-hoo of advertising, and the snobbism of fashion.

If there were no other reason, then, for reading The Shape of Sunday, the biography of Lloyd C. Douglas by his daughters, than to get the story of how his novel of the time of Christ, The Robe. which was so fantastically successful, came to he written, it would suffice. There are of course many other excellent reasons for reading this account of the life of one of America's most successful writers, preachers, and lecturers. To note, for example. how from the slick young Modernist minister. who had all the answers and who had made his peace with the capitalist world and the devil of science, Lloyd Douglas evolved into the less sure, more spiritual, wiser author of The Robe and The Big Fisherman. Still the inner story of the writing of The Rohe is a wholly fascinating chapter. This tells how the idea came from a fan-mail letter from a certain Hazel McCann, "the little Ohio saleslady" as the author-daughters call her.

Lloyd Douglas did at once recognise the value of the idea; he thanked the lady, and after a reference to other "donations" wrote: "But not often have I had handed to me an idea which seemed to have large possibilities." Yet. even so. he first ol all thought; "It would make a very pretty magazine story for Easter." This is certainly a very readable account of a very remarkable personality. If it sometimes more than lives up to the dust-cover description, "an intimate biography," to become merely gossipy and chatty that will be reckoned blemish or virtue according to taste. IN SPITE OF, by John Cowper Powys (Macdonald, London, 15s.). TRANSPARENT sincerity apart,

it is difficult to sec how anyone forming a philosophy of life in spite of experts, orthodoxy, heresy, class, belief, and other people, could possibly imagine that that same philosophy of "In Spite Of" could be for export, as it were. Yet so it is. John Cowper Powys, in his 80th year, gives us "A Philosophy for Everyman" in his new book. An honest book, and an abundantly sincere book, restating as a personal existential truth Agnostic Humanism.

A novelist of distinction with poetry in his blood he cannot but strike from time to time bright gold in his delving, and hit off in memorable phrase a truth of life or living which our mechanical and inhuman age has forgotten or neglected.

RACE AND RELIGION, by G. C. Campbell (Peter Nevill, London, IF one can agree with the author of -11 Race and Religion (Peter Nevill, London, 15s.), that "the traditional account of the origins of the Christian religion is contradictory and therefore untenable"; or if one would like to see how an honest scientist who held such a view accounted for the rise of Christianity. and what future he saw for it; then this book can be heartily recommended.

It is a sincere and painstaking "study in applied anthropology: and it essays to deal with the interrelation of Race and Religion-two matters that are basic to the understanding of the human condition."

Starting off from the assumption against all the evidence "that the claim" that the religion of Jesus arose out of Judaism is based neither upon the precepts of the religion

which he taught nor upon the nature of his personality." The author attempts to show that Christianity ought to have been the heir of an immanent mystical cult alive in Galilee. It is all rather like standing on one's head then deciding that men walk upside down.

CHRISTIANITY, by Dr. S. C. Carpenter (Pelican Books, 2s.).

THE attempt to compress to the compass of a Pelican "an outline of the fundamentals and development of the Christian faith, its place in our civilisation, and its message to the modern world" may be described as valiant; but it can hardly he reckoned wise or successful. .Dr. S. C. Carpenter's Christianity (Pelican, 2s.) only avoids offence and false statement by the very Anglican expedient of saying nothing on nearly all the "questions." Another comparatively new Pelican (2s. 6d.) is Bertrand Russell's Mysticism and Logic a collection of essays by the grand old man of rationalism.

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