Flor-Ala Review of "The Store"
New York; Doubleday, Doran and Co. $2.50.
Review by Wills Hollingsworth
Supporting the theory that Europe discovers our literary talent, and then nonchalantly tosses the remains back for our gaping appreciation, T. S. Stribling's The Forge was chosen as the Book of the Month by one of London's book clubs, after raising hardly a literary ripple in the U. S. American reviewers thought that it was so psychologically unbelievable that they could not look underneath the character motives for any literary beauty or charm. But The Forge was the first book in a trilogy, and the second, The Store, has gained much more favor in the eyes of America's ultra fastidious book choosers. It was made the July choice of that Sears-Roebuck of Literature, the Literary Guild.
But for one incident in Tuscumbia, the entire story is laid in Florence and Lauderdale county. It is the history of Milt Vaiden; the last incidents of his mad climb from the estate of poor white before the Civil war to the position of moneyed landowner during Grover Cleveland's first administration. The story is of interest because of its characters: Milt, Ponny, his fat wife, the half-way aristocratic Crowninsheilds, Sandusby, the jack-leg lawyer, Jerry Catlin (which seems to suggest a touch of autobiographical color) and especially the Negroes. But the greatest charm of the book lies in the vividness of his picture of Florence.
There is a great deal of talk among Florentines concerning the accuracy of Mr. Stribling's picture of Florence in the '80's. As far as action goes, Mr. Stribling is, I fear, a bit-flattering. Instead of having his Florentines sit on their porches and sip liquers, as most of our literary immortalizers are doing, he has them pay frequent visits to their former slaves in East Florence, sometimes for no other reason than to chat about their business affairs. Then there are frequent political rallies and an occasional lynching. Almost every character in the book, except three of the Negroes, speaks in a dialect that only suggests English. It is written, obviously, about a class of people that came into money and notoriety right after the Civil war concerning whom the author seems to know a great deal. However, he seems to give the impression, by his detailed account, that he is painting a complete picture of Florence. Maybe he is, but we rather hate to believe it.
However, considered in a purely literary light, as we feel sure that Mt. Stribling meant his book to be taken, the whole work is well-conceived and executed with that degree of skill that has led us to hope for much from our distinguished alumnus. As a book of realistic fiction, it is excellent, though not a complete picture. We can but wish that he had added a part of that better element which was surely present in Florence at that time.