The Human Touch

The last time I met ##, about a year ago, he was having a book published, a book in which rested his hopes for economic security for a little time, at least. It was a good book, a book of deep psychological interest, rich with little known historical lore, and although it was good, it wasn’t good enough — or bad enough–to lift him out of debt, or out of the dumps. I’ve known men to be in the dumps who were not in debt, and men to be in debt who were not in the dumps. This man seems always to have been in both. This aforementioned book almost became a best seller, which can be irritating, more irritating than an out-and-out failure.

I met him on the street the other day after this lapse, while on my way to the store to get a new pair of shoes. I had been wearing down my old pair pretty much, going to and from work, and to and from concerts, and to and from art exhibitions and so forth. We exchanged greetings and then I heard that he was having another book published, soon, but published under the most extraordinary circumstances of which I, at least, had ever heard.

We imagine that publishers publish the books they want to publish. Well, we’re both wrong. Publishers publish many books they would rather not. That’s a fact. This acquaintance told me his sad story. A publisher, whose name shall not here be revealed, had given him an advance of a thousand dollars, in monthly installments, to enable him to write a book requiring considerable research, and on a basic idea which he approved. The thousand dollars was paid, and the manuscript finished and turned over. What could be sweeter? But the publisher doesn’t like the book and would rather not publish it. Has he given him back his script? Not by a long shot. He’d like to get his money back, maybe from another publisher.

“Or else?” I asked in great excitement.

Or else he’ll publish it himself–without any particular faith or enthusiasm, but publish it he will, in the hope that by spending a little more money, he’ll get his thousand, or most of it, back.

The other day I read an announcement to the fact that that publisher — the dissatisfied one — is going to bring out that book by that author. Won’t he be just too mad if it becomes a best seller. But if it does, it won’t be the first time a publisher has been pleasantly surprised.

A PROVOCATIVE TITLE

I am enabled to inform Lewis Browne, author, and The Macmillan Company, publishers, that they have an extremely provocative title in “How Odd of God,” by the aforementioned Lewis Browne. I do a good deal of my reading on subway and “L” and I am aware whenever a book I read attracts attention or no. Invariably the sight of that title has provoked attention. I am reading “How Odd of God” in an almost deserted local when a pallid blond youth sitting beside me approached and asked: “Are you a Christian?” and, smilingly, I said “No” At a lunch counter, where I had put the book aside for a moment for coffee, a woman asked; “What’s it about?” and I told her, without prolonging the opportunity for conversation. Elsewhere people have looked at me as if they’d like to ask me what it’s about, but haven’t. I believe this is Mr. Brown’s best title, but the titles of other works have also been felicitous, if not equally so. There were “Stranger Than Fiction,” “This Believing World,” “That Man Heine,” “The Graphic Bible,” etcetera.

MRS. EDITH HALPERT, the efficient mistress of the Downtown Gallery, and the woman who organized the First Municipal Art Exhibition and who helped put over the No-Jury Salons of America Exhibition, was wandering around the Rockefeller Center galleries the other afternoon. “I’ve got some money to spend” –a startling enough statement in itself–”and I’m looking for some pictures to spend it on.” She explained she wasn’t looking merely for good pictures, but for good pictures by new and unknown painters, for unrecognized genius, in short. She told me that after she had actually bought a picture, by someone of whom I had never before heard, the artist, a well-to-do amateur, decided he’d rather not sell, at least not to Mrs. Halpert. There are still artists who have a deep-seated prejudice against people who deal in pictures.

DIVORCE FOR A PICTURE

A PAINTER who wishes to be A divorced, and has no money, is looking for a lawyer who collects paintings and will accept a canvas in lieu of a fee. I have heard of many curious barters in this world, and perhaps you know of barters more curious than this, but, so far, this is the farthest North in the barter system in these United States since Old Man Depression camped on our national doorstep. I have heard of artists paying in pictures for medical services and even of a bartender taking pictures for drinks. If this artist ever finds a picture-loving lawyer he will be making History, but, so far, contact has not been made. We shall keep our readers posted.

UNPLEASANT EPISODE

That young Nazis are to be found north of Brooklyn is evidenced in the following unpleasant account, which comes to me from a relative of the person affected. One evening, about a week ago, a Jewess walking along on Dyckman street, was pursued by a group of Nazis who yelled “Dirty Jew” at her. She finally eluded her pursuers by running for shelter into an apartment house. The woman concerned was too shaken and frightened to lodge a complaint at the police station.

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