We are going to tell the truth. It has been on our mind for some time. We are going to tell it exactly, without any balancing or trimming or crimped edges. We are weary of talking about trivialities and are going to come plump and plain to the adventures of our own mind. These are real adventures, just as real as the things we see. The green frog that took refuge on our porch last night was no more real. Perhaps frogs don’t care so much for wet as they are supposed to, for when that excellent thunderstorm came along and the ceiling of the night was sheeted with lilac brightness, through which ran quivering threads of naked fire (not just the soft, tame, flabby fire of the domestic hearth, but the real core and marrow of flame, its hungry, terrible, destroying self), our friend the frog came hopping up on the porch where we stood, apparently to take shelter. How brilliant was his black and silver eye when we picked him up! His direct and honourable regard somehow made us feel ashamed, we know not why. And yet we have plenty to be ashamed about–but how did he know? He was still on the porch this morning. Equally real was the catbird on the hedge as we came down toward the station. She–we call her so, for there was unmistakable ladyhood in her delicately tailored trimness–she bickered at us in a cheerful way, on top of those bushes which were so loaded with the night’s rainfall that they shone a blurred cobweb gray in the lifting light. Her eye was also dark and polished and lucid, like a bead of ink. It also had the same effect of tribulation on our spirit. Neither the catbird nor the frog, we said to ourself, would have tormented their souls trying to “invent” something to write about. They would have told what happened to them, and let it go at that. So, as we walked along under an arcade of maple trees, admiring the little green seed-biplanes brought down by the thrash of the rain–they look rather as though they would make good coathangers for fairies–we asked ourself why we could not be as straightforward as the bird and the frog, and talk about what was in our mind.
The most exciting thing that happened to us when we got to New York last February was finding a book in a yellow wrapper. Its title was “Old Junk,” which appealed to us. The name of the author was H. M. Tomlinson, which immediately became to us a name of honour and great meaning. All day and every day intelligent men find themselves surrounded by oceans of what is quaintly called “reading matter.” Most of it is turgid, lumpy, fuzzy in texture, squalid in intellect. The rewards of the literary world–that is, the tangible, potable, spendable rewards–go mostly to the cheapjack and the mountebank. And yet here was a man who in every paragraph spoke to the keenest intellectual sense–who, ten times a page, enchanted the reader with the surprising and delicious pang given by the critically chosen word. We sat up late at night reading that book, marvelling at our good fortune. We wanted to cry aloud (to such as cared to understand), “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for here is born a man who knows how to write!” In our exuberance we seized a pen and wrote in the stern of our copy: “Here speaks the Lord God of prose; here is the clear eye, the ironic mind, the compassionate heart; the thrilling honesty and (apparent) simplicity of great work.” Then we set about making the book known to our friends. We propelled them into bookshops and made them buy it. We took our own copy down to William McFee on S.S. Turrialba and a glad heart was ours when he, too, said it was “the real thing.” This is a small matter, you say? When the discovery of an honest pen becomes a small matter life will lose something of its savour. Those who understand will understand; let the others spend their time in the smoker playing pinochle. Those who care about these things can get the book for themselves.