Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Newly Discovered Cline Poem

It's a rare event when I find a Cline publication that is entirely new to me. I think the last one was nearly ten years ago. But here is a new one, a poem entitled "Pizzicato" from The Gargoyle, April 1921, a humor magazine of the University of Michigan. Cline attended the University of Michigan from 1910 through 1913, as part of the Class of 1914, though he never graduated. A "pizzicato" is a musical term, referring to a passage played by plucking strings rather than by the drawing of a bow over the strings. This presumably refers to the rhythm of the poem.

The poem is oddly positioned on the page. Three stanzas are followed by a paragraph of "Dramatis Personae," which is in turn followed by a concluding stanza. Apparently the nine people described in the "Dramatis Personae" are to be equated with the "Nine gray ghosts" of the poem. Some of the figures are (or were) well-known, like the anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, who had died in 1915, and Jimmy Huneker, i.e., James Gibbons Huneker, a famous literary figure, a critic of art and books who died on 9 February 1921, barely two months before this poem appeared in print. One of the other figures is "My great uncle, Jake"-- and I can confirm that Cline did indeed have a great uncle Jacob Cline (1811-1899), the oldest brother of Cline's grandfather, David Hiram Cline (1827-1921), who was still alive when Leonard's poem was published (David Hiram Cline died on 21 July 1921).  

Enough background.  Here is the poem. Make of it what you will! 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

GOD HEAD newly translated into Finnish

A quick note here to call attention to a new edition of God Head, translated into Finnish by Juri Nummelin, and recently published  (as Jumalan pää) by Oppian of Finland.  I can't say I understand by their cover who they think the audience for this book is, but it appears that they are presenting this book as something appreciated by readers of zombie novels. (Not I think an appropriate decision.) In any case it is the first translation of God Head into any language.

Translator Juri Nummelin has posted about it, including the text of his introduction (in Finnish), at his website here.

God Head was first noticed in Finland soon after it's original  publication, when Y.E.N. -- Yrjö Emil Niiniluoto (1900-1961), a prominent man in Finnish journalism -- published a long review in the 18 January 1926 issue of the Helsingin Sanomat. Here are some extracts from the review, translated for me many years ago by Mikael Ahlström.

A Novel about Michigan Finns 

During recent months, bits of news have arrived from across the ocean, making allusion to the birth of a fiction genre with Finns as heroes. This is a new phenomenon which arouses contradictory feelings in a Finn: some sort of self-satisfaction and at the same time undefined fears that it is all the kind of rubbish as American cultural phenomena are usually considered here as well as in the continental Europe to be, counterfeit money marked with the seal of our country, proper to degrade us. We are yet rather unaccustomed to this kind of internationa­lity that, however, is sought after with might and main by our foreign propaganda. We feel strange like a man who sees his name first time in newspaper columns.

And if one is reasonable, one cannot ask a Finn to take up without perplexity and suspicion a book titled God Head, dedicated to “Katariina of Kukkulatie (Hill Road)” and the titles of the three parts of which are - Kullervo, Lemminkainen and Vainamoinen. And the fantastically excited and hysterical opening at which one glances with curiosity does not promise well. The more pleasant it is, at further reading, to find that the book is interesting in many respects and that it yet does not put our nationality in too bad a light.

Paul Kempf, the “I” of the novel, is a restless and somewhat eccentric seeker-soul who has worked as a barber surgeon, a sculptor and last as a communist agitator. As he is speaking in the Imatra Hall of Ironwood to Finnish miners, urging them to go out on strike . . .

Except for the “I” of the novel, all its characters are Finnish, and albeit this “I” is hysterically and eccentrically subjective and steals a correspondingly great deal of the scope of description, the remaining quantity of actual description of the Finns is nevertheless comprehensive to such a degree that it deserves special attention particularly here in Finland where so little is known about the Finns living in America. The author has spent long periods among the Finnish population living in the Michigan woodlands and met cultivated Finns in New York. And he has spent his apprenticeship well, made count­less, detailed observations, and thus managed to create himself a picture of the Finns that comes amazingly close to the truth. Of course he speaks about the Mongoloid origins of the Finns, the prominent cheekbones, and often disparagingly about their “brutality”. Exaggeration is likewise his talk about the Finns’ superstition and savagery - though this character may have devel­oped greater in American forests than in homeland. Equally mis­leading is his mention of some revolt in the latter part of 1870’s, and of certain customs, e.g. making the sign of the cross. But in spite of these slight lapses his observations are - from small detail, like picking superstitiously a needle from the floor, up to general Finnish characteristics - amazingly accurate and correct. His knowledge of the Kalevala and folk songs is excellent and his explanations for them often ingenious and opening new perspectives. It is typical of the author’s scrupulo­sity that he even gives the music for a couple of our most beau­tiful folk songs. Courageously he has introduced into the most mixed of world’s languages dozens of Finnish words, from sauna and puukko (knife) to linnunrata (galaxy) and sydänkäpy (sweet­heart). But this Finnishness is not just superficial, it has put its imprint on the description as well. Many landscapes and scenes are so genuinely Finnish that they could immediately be transferred to Finnish countryside. The author has in them managed to penetrate deep into the soul of Finnish nature and national character. As a sample of a small, truthful observation, let us give his description of a Finnish pirtti (log cabin):

“The scrubbing-brush had worn notches in the floor made of bare, unpainted bellows, and bright-colored rustic rag rugs had been spread on it. Some color pictures cut out of pictorials had been attached on the walls. In one corner, on a dresser, there was an accordion; and there was a painted book-shelf there, the shelves of which had a few books leaning against each other. Curtains made of flowery linen were hanging on one window.”

An excellent sample of the author’s insight is his ability to understand the psychology of such a strange object as a puukko:

“I hold it in my hand, grasp the small hook in my bel t, and hang it by the thin silver mounts, feel its sharpness against my thumb, clasp the haft and fling long strokes towards flicker­ing shadows. It makes me strong, it excites me with a wild sense of power.”

All in all, it can be said that the author’s observations are authentic, and the picture he creates of Finns is very sympa­thetic.  

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Cline's Review of "Tales of Intrigue and Revenge" by Stephen McKenna

Here is Cline's review of Tales of Intrigue and Revenge (1925), by Stephen McKenna, as published in the Books section of The New York Herald Tribune for 27 September 1925.  It is an artfully backhanded review, wherein Cline basically says that only six of the sixteen stories published in this collection are worth reading.
“A Brilliant Residuum”

Tales of Intrigue and Revenge.
By Stephen McKenna.
Boston: Little, Brown and Company. $2.50

Here is the first collection of short stories by the deft Mr. McKenna, who, after “Sonia” and some others, is now flowing dulcifluently on toward his twentieth volume.
Mr. McKenna is a virtuoso of exceeding brilliance. What a delight it is to follow him through his deftly turned sentences! I like the language, I like a man who can use it, just as I like to listen to a nimble pianist playing aimlessly with the keys; that is, of course, for not too long at a time. The first story is “The Acid Test.” Here is a burlesque in the form of a monologue by a very silly woman of the smart type. It is done with glitter and will stand reading aloud. Entirely amusing.
One is now at page 23: “Local Rules.” Get out your paste pot and brush all around the edge, and then press page 23 against page 22 until they firmly adhere. Page 25 is then likewise welded to page 24; and so on. . . .
At page 89 one may lay aside the brush. “Poetic Justice,” the story of a hectored rhymester who enjoys free lodging for weeks at the expense of the shrewd business men who chuckle between themselves over his helplessness, is pleasant. Leonard Merrick did the thing more divertingly.
Paste . . . to page 127.
“The Payton Tradition.” A husband and four boys did Mrs. Payton lose in Flanders, the last of them reported killed only after the jubilation of Armistice Day. Yet, choking down her tears, she wishes better luck to her housemaid. . . . It is really a moving story of wartime, with an impressive picture of the madness in London when the firing ceased. One wipes one’s eyes.
And “Barnzo”? “Barnzo” is excellent humor. The poor old fellow got run down by an automobile, and when they ran to his rescue they found him all hunched up. They tried desperately to straighten him out, and finally they did it, thereby killing him. For he was indeed “barn zo,” as he had been trying to tell them all through, but it was by parturition and not by baptism. He was a hunchback.
Paste . . . to page 181.
“Myrtle” is, I am prone to maintain, a thoughtful and well realized story. Desmond, Irish rebel, is captured and sentenced to be shot. Through a night of grisly expectancy he waits, musing on his love, his cause, his every dear thing; and he sees in the passion of that revery how inconsequently all desires and aspirations can be. When word of reprieve comes in the morning he . . . yawns.
And then, “A Mister Blenkinsop, a Diarist”! Ah, but what a title! Here is satire that one who likes Max Beerbohm will enjoy, and written no less sensitively than Beerbohm would have written it.
Paste . . . to the end.
The paste pot may now be covered for the night and the book put by the bedside for occasional rereading. Much mawkishness, much snappy story triviality and much John Bull snobbishness will have been pasted out. What is left is worth reading. And Mr. McKenna is a most brilliant writer.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Cline's Review of "The Red Cord"

When Cline visited his sister in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the autumn of 1925, he gave to his twelve year old nephew a book, The Red Cord: A Romance of China (1925), by Thomas Grant Springer,  Cline inscribed it as follows:  "Nov. 3, 1925. For Jack Wierengo . . . not because it is a perfect book; but because, reading it, you may learn something about a beautiful people; and wishing to know more, may buy and read and keep the two books of poems by Arthur Waley. Then you will have more to talk about, when next we go walking in the country, with Leonard."

Cline's review of the book was published in the 1 November 1925 issue of Books section of The New York Herald Tribune. It is not one of Cline's better reviews, as one can sense him struggling to find nice things to say. The Red Cord is an odd production. It was the first novel by Thomas Grant Springer (1873-1943), a hugely prolific contributor in the 1910s and 1920s to magazines like Snappy Stories and Telling Tales, among many others. It is the second book illustrated by the Chinese American artist Sun Yow Pang (the first being The Chinese Book of Etiquette and Conduct for Women and Girls, published in 1900). Perhaps its most distinguishing feature is the publisher's marketing idea of binding in a red cord tied to a Chinese coin as a bookmark. The Chinese-American community did not react favorably to the book. In a review headed "A Noose for the Author!" The Chinese Students' Monthly for April 1926 descried the book as "spreading chaos of misinterpretations": "To anyone that is familiar with China at all, it carries with it no Chinese atmosphere whatsoever. Of course, it has a few Chinese names labelled upon its characters; but these anybody can plagiarize if he cares to, from windows of laundry shops. . . . there is in the book naught, absolutely naught, that may be remotely called Chinese." 

Cline's review is reprinted below. I sent a copy of it to Jack Wierengo sixty-eight years after his uncle had given him the book.
“Drouth Flower”

The Red Cord.
By Thomas Grant Springer.
New York: Brentano. $2.

“An oriental romance should not be read on the run,” counsels John Luther Long in his preface to Mr. Springer’s tale of a coolie girl and the lovers who struggle for possession of her in a village in the interior of China. As who should say, one should not start walking from Fifty-ninth Street at 6:30 and get to the Brevoort for an early dinner. It is a cluttered ave­nue, that down which Mr. Springer masquerades in mandarin finery. It has taken me a fortnight of earnest plodding to follow him through at the pace he sets. But he wears his costume with an air, his gestures are convincingly authentic, and it is pleasurable in a degree to accompany him.
So Wo Loie, prettily dubbed Drouth Flower by Ho Fah Lee, captain of a Formosan junk, when he first sees her by her father’s rice paddy, lovely in spite of her privation in time of famine, is the coolie. So Wo Loie has tea rose checks, she wears lotus buds shamelessly in her hair, she has turbulent blood that provokes her to vivid coquetries. Her father and parents-in-law are continually, and with reason, chiding her for con­duct becoming only a sing-song girl. With many a pitfall Mr. Springer besets the path of his creature, and he leads her, eager and not at all deceived, many a time to the very brink. But, with a sense of obligation on his part that most creators do not seem to feel, he saves her every time. Thanks to his dependable miracles, she is delivered at the last intact into the sturdy arms of Ho Fah Lee.
Not in So Wo Loie and her non-­intoxicating amours does the book’s appeal lie. It is rather in the color of a provincial Chinese hamlet, not yet penetrated by our missionaries. It is in the affairs of So Ling Gee’s prosperous hong, and the temple of Kwan Yam, goddess of an austere sort of mercy, and the stall where Wang Ho, amiable charlatan, sits be­neath his tattered umbrella hung with devil charms and squints at the stars. Quite real does Mr. Springer make the village: the pro­cessional of the chanting populace, flogging the squat effigy of the Rain God to make him more attentive to their parched prayers; the clustering of the crowd in front of the temple where So Wo Loie prepares to join her dead husband by voluntary stran­gulation with the ritualistic red cord; the amusing struggle of the celestials to gratify their lush desires and nevertheless preserve their “face.”
Mr. Springer handles the town bet­ter than the individual, now and then with a touch of true lyric elan. His difficulty is his manner of explaining what So Ling Gee, or Wo Fat, or Ho Fah Lee is going to say, and then making him say it. The book in consequence is approximately twice as long as it should be. It is, indeed, a twice-told tale—once in the first person and once in the third. One should skip every other paragraph.
Thus in the end one will remember of it many lovely passages and no little entertainment. The book itself is decoratively bound, with real Chinese coin on a real red cord for bookmark.
The front flap of the dust-wrapper tells very little about the book itself, playing up the sillier aspects of the coin bookmark. The review in The Chinese Students' Monthly attacked this as complete nonsense: "And this coin, according to advertisement, is one that has been placed upon the altar of the Chinese Goddess of Mercy and is thus for ever an emblem of bliss and a talisman of everything that is happy and desirable. Of course, every Chinese reader knows that this is mere rubbish and has not a shred of truth in it. And what is more, every intelligent reader knows that the book is not worth even the copper coin that the red cord carries, be it true or false."

 And here is Sun Yow Pang's illustration of the Goddess of Mercy.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Viking Press Advertisement for The Dark Chamber

The Viking Press paid for this full page advertisement for The Dark Chamber in Publishers' Weekly for the July 30th 1927 issue, about two weeks before the book was to be published.  It shows their special support for both Cline and his novel.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Gretchen Mount Reviews The Dark Chamber

Gretchen Mount
I have so far been unable to source this review to its original appearance.  What I have is a four-page typed transcript, made by Cline, and headed "Gretchen Mount: for Detroit Free Press." It probably dates from around September 1927, for The Dark Chamber was published on August 15th, 1927. It is possible that the review was sent in advance to Cline by his old Detroit friend Gretchen Mount (1882-1931), who reviewed regularly for the Detroit Free Press [see here for a previous blog entry about her and her husband, Dick Mount]. Perhaps this review was never published, but it's worth resurrecting here for its insights into Cline's novel by an old friend. In making his transcription, Cline omitted a quotation and a synopsis of the novel, the former marked by [quote], the later by ellipses. I present the review here as Cline recorded it.

Here again (The Dark Chamber) speaks the author of God Head, who, in the opinion of some of us who genuinely admire his gifts, strayed a bit in his second novel. Of course, he is still speaking to a specialized audience—he is not likely ever to be a best seller—but this time his audience is a bit more diverse.

For instance, those who enjoy the Poe of “The Fall of the House of Usher” will find here the same terror and fascination; those who enjoy Huysmans will find here the same so-called decadent cataloguing of emotions translated into sound, odor and sight; those who enjoy Garnet’s Lady into Fox will find here the same fantasy, the same weird intermingling of animal and physical, beast and spirit; those who enjoy Conan Doyle (with especial reference to “The Hound of the Baskervilles”) will find here the same suspense and uncanniness; those who have delved into psychoanalysis, or self-hypnosis, or any other of those cults and beliefs which deal with the subconscious, will find here much material, both intentional and unintentional, upon which to exercise their favorite philosophy.

But above all, those who love a beautiful prose style; those who love phrases and words for their own loveliness, will find here a sensitiveness and a poetical verbal facility which rise above the macabre content of the novel to sing themselves to music and to the natural elements. For music and that thing we vaguely call “nature” have always been mingled in Leonard Cline's personal enthusiasms. The music of the spheres is continuously intelligible to him, and in this book the stars and the trees and the wind are no less important factors than the human characters. Even the opening paragraph bows to the powers of darkness:


And at the end the dead body of Richard Pride, lying in defeat beside that dog whose name was death, is no more grisly than the “nest of ferns, crawling, vermiform,” upon which they lay in that “closet of damp shadow.”

Inasmuch as the relator of this grim tale is one Oscar Fitz­alan, a musician whose magnum opus is to be a ballet of the worlds, music is also present on every page—in every tree and hill and rivulet, in every wind that blows and every star that shines.

I am afraid that so far as this book is concerned, I shall have to confess that my vision of the town is a bit obscured by the houses. The haunting beauty of the individual paragraphs and phrases dwarfs for me the importance of the tale. Leonard Cline's prose, in this instance, as in God Head, makes me feel that I do not care what he says so long as he says it the way he does. But, briefly, the story is this:
In the end Richard Pride is dead with a gaping rent in his throat where the great tusk of the dog Death had ripped in. Miriam Pride is in her grave, and into the soft new loam above her a violet and a broken rock have been crushed carelessly by the spades of the diggers. Wilfred Hough has been found swinging from his chandelier, a black moth fluttering in circles about his dead face. Mordance Hall is looted, empty and leaking; its walls are dank with fungus and mildew; scurrying rats and looping snakes play about its broken floors. And the door of Richard Pride’s secret study is open—“open on those stacks where shelf on shelf were stored the moments of his life—the wind harrying them and sowing amidst them the seeds of mustiness and rot.”

Only Fitzalan and Janet escaped the virulence of this madness. And as I write that I have the feeling that Janet died, too, in those moments after her return and that her supposed depart­ure with her lover under the wings of Helion was only the wish-­fulfillment of a dream in his disordered brain. But that really does not matter.

What does matter is that Leonard Cline has done beautiful work in this tale of terror and death. He has succeeded in implant­ing in his reader’s mind with the first paragraph a sinister apprehension of evil which is never lifted until the end. The whole book feels like a stinking sinkhole with white slimy worms crawling in and out; and if that is, as I take it, the in­tention of horror stories, the goal is certainly achieved. And it is achieved with sentences so beautiful you want to read them aloud to someone; in images and similes so apt that you resolve to remember them forever, and with a sensitivity to scene and sound which arrest your progress in order that you may look once more with the author's eyes or hear once more with his ears.

No one in America today is writing more beautiful prose than Leonard Cline, and if his audience is limited it is because unhappily appreciators of beautiful prose are not so numerous as lovers of sentimentality.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Three Cline Poems from Newspapers

From one of Cline's scrapbooks, here are three poems.  The contents of this particular scrapbook dates from around 1915 to 1921, when Cline lived and worked in Detroit.  Two of the clippings are of short poems.  Here is "Wounded" from The Detroit News, 4 June 1920.

And here is "Memorial" from The Detroit News, 13 June 1920.

And finally, here is an undated clipping of one of my favorites of Cline's poetry, "Mass in the Valley." This poem is known to have appeared in The Midland for June-August 1924 (and later in After-Walker), but this clipping, presumably from The Detroit News, would date it probably to some time in 1921. Click on the image to make it larger.