The Spike or Victoria College Review 1942
Looking through six numbers of Salient together, from March 26 to July 31, I must confess to being much more impressed than on any occasion when I read a single copy, hot from the press. The paper is certainly much better than it was last year, though it ought to be better still.
Two protests I make for a start. One is against the increasing amount of jargon that has appeared in the paper—very often left-wing jargon, but by no means exclusively so. 'Dynamism" is a great word, isn't it?—but half the time it doesn't seem to stand for anything. The complete cultural and moral degradation of those who accept such rubbish tends to be accompanied by political cretinism useful to the enemies of society": the only possible answer seems to be "You've said it, brother." Surely in a university institution it ought to be possible to write with more freshness and precision than this— even if writing with freshness and precision also involves thinking with freshness and precision? Really, I suggest, if the controversialists who figure so largely, and so rightly, in the columns of Salient, must have a model for their prose style, they would do much better to read Swift (the original author of Gulliver's Travels) or the editorials in the New Zealand Listener, rather than so much of the exegetical pamphleteering of the C.P. of the U.S.S.R. I don't object to the reading of such exegesis in itself, of course—it's highly necessary, useful, and sometimes salutary; but I do like precision, I do like clarity, I do like pungency and I don't object to wit.
My second protest is against the insidious miasma of Christian names that seems to be creeping over the College, in common with the rest of our unfortunate country. Can't we have a little more dignity in our less informal appearances before the public? Must everyone be Jim and Dick and Betty and Ron and Les? It's bad enough on College notice-boards, but in Salient it stabs me to the heart. I may be wrong over the matter; perhaps one gets this way as the arteries harden. On the other hand it may be another aspect of style.
That finishes with protests, and I come to the good things, and to what may be described simply as significant phenomena. The paper has really shown some life, and has seen the life of students as part of the life of the world. It has thrown its weight around with a fair amount of enthusiasm, and its articles on army education were really worth doing. You might say that Salient is on the side of the future—if you were quite sure that the future were not bound up for Salient with this unfortunate jargon. On the whole, perhaps there has been a bit too much second-hand politics; vituperation against the fascist aggressors might have been varied by more analysis of our own defects at home. But that sort of thing, of course, if it is not to be simply libellous, cannot be written with the same effortless aplomb as broad generalities about all the -isms we are afflicted with.
I was hoping, after the first number, that "culture" might be taking a new lease of life at the College. The onslaught on Housman and the boosting of Rilke seemed to argue that somebody was reading serious books; but the impulse died out. Do students lead an independent intellectual life? On the evidence of Salient, I frankly don't know, though I would suppose not. But wait on, the film reviews were always worth reading. Maybe our culture, our intellectual living, will in the end stem from the film. There is G.M. in the Listener: and there is the gentleman in Salient.