Bernstein, Leonard. (1918–1990)

Archive of Childhood Book Reports

A superb and unusual group, being four book reports comprising 16pp. total, penned on 8vo. lined sheets by the 16-year-old future composer with revealing content about his thinking, poetic philosophy and striking linguistic style. Each report is signed at top right "L. Bernstein" and each bears numerous corrections and comments by Bernstein's often-exasperated teacher. In the first, 3pp. Oct. 15, 1934, Bernstein tackles John Galsworthy's short story "Loyalties": "Had John Galsworthy done anything else but have his Captain Dancy, D.S.O. kill himself, his tendencies toward his audience would be certainly sadistic. He had, to that point, built up a story of a man, beloved and respected by all, suddenly accused of theft‚ ¨He was faced by the bleak, degrading farce of a trial from which he could never emerge free‚ ¨¶It has been said that a stunning denouement is sufficient to cause certain audiences to rave with delight about a play, while for others a reasonable plot is demanded." Bernstein gives a quick plot summary, concluding: "Thus we find 'Loyalties' a pleasing combination of satisfaction and inevitability." The second report, 4pp., Nov. 13, 1934 regards Elmer Rice's popular play Street Scene: "‚ ¨Here is a so-called play which is not very far from not being a play; it is virtually a tableau. It might be‚ a quick succession of still pictures depicting life in that certain poor quarter of New York‚ ¨¶Let us first discuss the background. With this innovation in dramatic realism came a long cycle of play reflecting similar reality‚ ¨¶Previous to a decade or two ago, these every-day settings were not as common‚ ¨¶now we have Dreiser's 'Hand of the Porter'‚ ¨¶Mr. Rice obviously had the intention to show these people in many moods‚ ¨¶So we have brought together the warp of background and the woof of social study‚ ¨¶". The third, 3pp. in pencil, Nov. 19, 1934, discusses J. M. Barrie's theatrical war commentary, The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, in small part: "‚ ¨¶It is rather a subtle combination of social ideas and character that the author is concerned with‚ ¨¶Each of these women is continually being forcibly raised or lowered a peg, meeting with success or reverses, but never ceasing the execution of their excuse for living‚ ¨¶Though this act of 'Keeping up with the Joneses' is by no means one restricted to the servant classes, let us take the four women as the exponents of the principle‚ ¨¶From this small, apparently light one-act play, we may easily draw upon the principle herein involves‚ ¨¶Is not the fact that men never tire of outdoing each other responsible for wars?...". Report number four from Dec. 3, 1934 encompasses four pages of Bernstein's thoughts upon Hardy's Jude the Obscure, with typically-opinionated commentary, such as noting that the author's theme is "‚ ¨¶quite ordinary, quite like the run of realists' chatter, the case of the flitting bride..." and concluding: "I think Hardy is commonplace. I grant that he is unusually well-read and can tell a story convincingly; else he would never hold the rank he does‚ ¨¶Yet I cannot discover anything in this book that might not appeal to me in simpler language‚ ¨¶The story is reminiscent of the gay-nineties melodrama!...". Bernstein's teacher has marked-up each essay considerably, with reproving notes throughout such as: "Try to talk more directly and simply. Your expression complicates rather than clarifies at times", "Too much embroidery; too much indirection. Clear, hard thinking should produce exact, direct, virile expression", and "Prune your style‚ ¨¶You are too much concerned with the embroidery and too little with the substance of your material"!

File holes at left, overall very good condition. (5333)

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Classical Music