Books: Success Story

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THIS IS ON ME—Katharine Brush—Farrar & Rlnehart ($2.75).

In January 1930 Katharine Brush (Young Man of Manhattan, Red-Headed Woman) and her second husband, Broker Hubert Charles Winans, moved into a fabulous Manhattan duplex apartment, with a 30-by-40-ft., two-story-high living room (which lacked nothing, said Caricaturist Covarrubias, except six or seven Cadillacs), a nine-foot painting of Author Brush. As his swan song, Architect Joseph Urban added an even more fabulous workroom—a round, soundproof, redwood-paneled tour de force resembling a swanky silo. There Katharine Brush settled down at a 15-foot semicircular desk to turn out more novels, short stories, scenarios of the sort that had made her one of the highest-paid U. S. female novelists and the glamor girl of U. S. letters.

But a strange thing happened. Fluent Katharine Brush discovered she could not write. She thought it must be the room. She tried other rooms, moved to a hotel. Somehow she ground out a few stories and articles, but for three years it was tough going. In 1936, she suddenly revived, reeled off 50 pages of a novel. Just as inexplicably she stalled again—this time really brain-dry.

Two years ago Katharine Brush decided to start afresh, "not my old way, but the free-style way, where you just let 'er rip." She wrote anything and everything, semiautomatically, filed it away in eight big cabinets labeled "Ideas," "Characters F," "Characters M," etc. Soon she felt better. But she now badly reeded cash. So she suggested to her publishers, Farrar & Rinehart, that they bring cut a volume of her short stories.

The result is this 436-page "scrapbook-diary-letter-what's it-autobiography," containing 22 reprinted short stories and sketches dating from 1924. The stories might well have been left out. The autobiography makes lively reading, a free-&-easy, self-quizzical account of Author Brush's rise from a boarding-school tomboy and diarist to Boston movie critic, to East Liverpool, Ohio housewife, to sports reporter, to best-sellerette. It is a welcome change from the usual preening of popular authors on How-I-Learned-to-Write. Katharine Brush really contributes something new (as well as humorous) in her account of how she went to pieces in the Depression—her Silly Season, she calls it. Hers is the best account of why many a high-paid, popular writer cracked up in the Depression almost as fast as brokers jumped out of windows.

The fatal effect of the Depression was to make her start analyzing her own work. "When you start saying 'Why?,' " says Katharine Brush, "it throws you."