BJ. William Plomer: Secondary Materials

29. Reviews of Paper Houses (3), 1929.


In addition to reviews noted here see comments about the work by Blunden (BD29) and Quennell (30b).

a. Sheean, Vincent. New York Herald Tribune, Books section, 2 June 1929, p. 14. Sheean believes that Plomer ‘has an artist’s attitude toward . . . those strange stylized Japanese landscapes’ that he ‘describes so well’. His work ‘is not the familiar mixture of cherry blossoms and Yoshiwara’, but instead ‘a strongly felt response to the quality of Japanese life’.

b. Bookman (London) 76 (1929): 88. The stories ‘indicate a real knowledge of Japanese character—perhaps as good a knowledge as can be attained by any European’.

c. Unsigned. Life and Letters 2 (1929): 481. Finds that the work is ‘a rather ramshackle collection of Japanese stories and impressions’, but Plomer’s ‘sympathetic but severely unsentimental portrait of modern Japan . . . makes [it] worth reading’.

d. New Statesman 32 (1929): 742. The reviewer believes that Plomer writes better of Africa than of Japan, for the former is ‘in his blood’, the latter ‘only on his dissecting bench’.

e. New York Times, 28 July 1929, p. 6. Plomer’s work is ‘different’ than most writing on Japan because of its ‘unsensational beauty’ and ‘attempt through the guise of fiction to adumbrate certain peculiar spiritual and mental attitudes of the Japanese’.

f. Saturday Review of Literature, 9 November 1929, p. 372. The reviewer advances the odd thesis that Plomer’s evocation of Japan is compromised because it does not treat the subject as earlier Western writing had done. Plomer ‘makes the mistake of not writing as a Westerner interpreting the East’, and his book ‘resolutely excludes not only all glamour, but all sense of exoticism and novelty as well’. As a result ‘we fail to learn as much about Japan from [the work] as [Plomer] expects us to’.

g. Spectator 142 (1929): 603. Finds that each of the stories ‘portrays, in subtly amusing manner, some aspect of Japanese life’, but that ‘it is difficult to see the real purpose that underlies [Plomer’s] chaff of cynicism’.





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