Ashby was dead and is alive. In the book named for him, his author bustled him off the stage, in the conviction, apparently, that a force of nature is a bore after two hundred pages. But Maurice Valency has profited by his mistake. Ashby lives again in this novel as befits a man of the world, without apology or explanation. Yet an air of late-summer sadness hovers over the sallies, highjinks, and impromptu legends that are the essence of this hero. Is it because the beautiful Julie is just such another natural force, with her own subversive sense of humor, her inventive talent, and her answering flair for predicament? In any case, an old book affirms that to love and be wise is not given to the race of man. And the novel is charged with the common complaints of the species, like the end of youth, of beauty, of all promise. It is on Julie's account that Ashby and his narrator lose the best part of what the Germans call Lebensmut: the courage to meet the terms that life proposes-for which we have no single word in our language, but whose passing we feel no less keenly.
Maurice Valency is Professor Emeritus of Columbia University, where he held the Brander Matthews Chair of Drama. For some fifteen years he was head of the Academic Department of the Julliard School, where he presided over the feast of reason and the flow of soul. A practical man of the theater-playwright for the stage (he translated, adapted, and collaborated in the production of two great Broadway successes, Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot and Durrenmatt's The Visit) and for television, and the author of operas, he is also a most distinguished historian and critic of modern drama, having published remarkable studies of Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw, and a magnum opus on the entire range of symbolism in the theater, entitled The End of the World.