"Because she'd probably have to go home early!" he answered.
Brian Kent, the hero of Harold Bell Wright's new novel, _The Re-Creation of Brian Kent_, is first introduced to us as a defaulting bank clerk.
Later he is reformed by the influence of "dear old Auntie Sue" and becomes a novelist. His first book sells so well that in six months he is able to pay back all the money he stole and have something left over.
This would seem to prove that Brian was an unusually successful novelist. Or, again, it may merely indicate that he had no real gift for embezzlement.
It rather seems to us that the distinct failure of political radicalism in America may be explained in part by its devotion to the concrete as opposed to the abstract. "We are going to make the world over anew at 12:25 o'clock p. m. next Thursday," says the concrete radical. And then Thursday comes and it rains and nothing is done about fixing up the world, and all the followers of the young radical are disappointed, and they go home firmly convinced that the world never will be fixed up. The man who realizes the value of the abstract ideal is shrewder. He says: "The world ought to be scrubbed up a lot, and if we can make a start next Thursday some time after breakfast we will. But if we can't do it then we've just got to keep on plugging away, because the job must be done."
In other words, the man with abstract ideals makes the job the important thing. The concrete man is impressed more by the date of the doing.
A little abstraction is an excellent thing for the reformer or the revolutionist. It provides, we should say, a sort of reinforced concrete purpose.
At the worst, an abstract ideal is pemmican to carry the voyager through the long nights until the ice begins to break.
Some writers are hardly fair to women, but not so Julian Street. In his new novel, _After Thirty_, he describes marriage as a canoe trip beginning in the Rapids of Romance, and later he observes: "Presently they come to the first cataract--the birth of their first child--a long, hard portage, with the larger portion of the burden on the wife."
Generous, we call it.
"Mr. Seton's new book of the outdoors," says the jacket of _Woodland Tales_, "is meant for children of six years and upward. But in the belief that mother or father will be active as leader, those chapters which are devoted to woodcraft are addressed to the parent, who throughout is called 'The Guide.'"
So far we have found the business of being a father hard enough without assuming the responsibilities of "The Guide" as well. The only piece of woodcraft within our knowledge which we can pass on to H. 3rd comes from Harvey O'Higgins, who says that he can always find his way about in London by remembering that the moss grows on the north side of an Englishman.
"This history of Wells," said our friend Rollo, "seems to me to confirm the story of creation as told in Genesis. The impression which I gather is that the Creator attempted various life forms again and again, and each time wasn't satisfied and swept them all away. Apparently he was experimenting continually through the ages until finally he got to me and said, 'That's it,' and stopped."
"But you don't know that he's stopped," objected A. W. "What seems to you a pause is only a fraction of a second in infinity. It seems to me more likely that the Creator is just shaking his head and saying, 'Well, I suppose I'd better go back to the Neanderthal man and start all over again.'"
A magazine editor is a man who says "Sit down," then knits his brows for five minutes, and suddenly brightens as he exclaims, "Why don't you do us a series like Mr. Dooley?"
In his book _Average Americans_, Theodore Roosevelt comments on the fact that all classes and conditions of men were to be found in the ranks of the American army--waiters, chauffeurs, lawyers. He adds:
"A lieutenant once spoke to me after an action, saying that when he was leading his platoon back from the battle one of his privates asked him a question. The question was so intelligent and so well thought out that the lieutenant said to him: 'What were you before the war?' The reply was 'City editor of _The Cleveland Plain Dealer_.'"
The story does not surprise us. Years before the war we maintained that if ever a catastrophe great enough to shake the world came along a certain appearance of intelligence might be jarred loose even in city editors.
Henry Ford, so the story goes, called upon the editor of his magazine _The Dearborn Independent_ to ascertain how things were going.
"We're too statistical, I'm afraid," said the editor. "Of course we can try and get that sort of stuff over by putting it in the form of how many hours it takes to turn out enough end-to-end Fords to reach from here to Shanghai and back, but that sort of thing has been done before.
It doesn't take the curse off. What we need is some good, live fiction."
"All right," replied Mr. Ford, "let's have fiction."
"It's not as easy as all that," objected the young editor. "There's very keen competition among all the magazines for the fiction writers, and I'd need a pretty big appropriation to get any of them."
"Why not get some of the bright young men on the magazine to write us some fiction?" suggested Ford.
"That's not feasible," said the editor. "Fiction's a highly specialized product. Nobody on our magazine has the complete equipment to turn out successful fiction."
"Ah, but that's where efficiency comes in," interrupted Ford triumphantly. "Get one of the young men to think up an idea. Then let another outline the general structure. A third can do the descriptions and another one the dialogue. And then you--you're the editor--you assemble it."