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The New York Times, September 9, 1917

[Book Review Section, p. 336]



JAP HERRON. A Novel Written from the Ouija Board. With an Introduction on the Coming of 'Jap Herron.' Frontispiece portrait: New York: Mitchell Kennerley. $1.50.

The ouija board seems to have come to stay as a competitor of the typewriter in the production of fiction. For this is the third novel in the last few months that has claimed the authorship of some dead and gone being who, unwilling to give up human activities, has appeared to find in the ouija board a material means of expression. This last story is unequivocal in its claim of origin. For those who are responsible for it appear to be convinced beyond doubt that no less a spirit than that of Mark Twain guided their hands as the story was spelled out on the board. Emily Grant Hutchings and Lola V. Hays are the sponsors of the tale. Mrs. Hays being the passive recipient whose hands upon the pointer were especially necessary. St. Louis is the scene of the exploit, as it is also of the literary labors of that ouija board that writes the "Patience Worth" stories. Emily Grant Hutchings, who writes the introductory account of how it all happened is from Hannibal, Mo., the home of Mark Twain's boyhood, and in her the alleged spirit of the author seems to have put much confidence. Her long description of how the story was written and of the many conversations they had with Mark Twain through the ouija board contains many quotations of his remarks that sometimes have a reminiscent flavor of the humorist's characteristic conversation.

The story itself, a long novelette, is scened in a Missouri town and tells how a lad born to poverty and shiftlessness, by the help of a fine-souled and high-minded man and woman, grew into a noble and useful manhood and helped to regenerate his town. There is evident a rather striking knowledge of the conditions of life and the peculiarities of character in a Missouri town, the dialect is true, and the picture has, in general, many features that will seem familiar to those who know their "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn." A country paper fills an important place in the tale, and there is constant proof of familiarity with the life and work of the editor of such a sheet. The humor impresses as a feeble attempt at imitation and, while there is now and then a strong sure touch of pathos or a swift and true revelation of human nature, the "sob stuff" that oozes through many of the scenes, and the overdrawn emotions are too much for credulity. If this is the best that "Mark Twain" can do by reaching across the barrier, the army of admirers that his works have won for him will all hope that he will hereafter respect that boundary.

Related articles:
February 12, 1918 - [Editorial] Annoying, but Not Dangerous.
June 9, 1918 - SUE FOR "SPIRIT" STORY.

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