Roderick L(angmere) Haig-Brown

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Joseph Henry Jackson

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To say that ["Timber"] is never dull is the sheerest understatement. "Timber" is as exciting as a shrewdly carpentered play. But it is much more, too. Here, set in a natural frame of overwhelming beauty, is a tale of natural men and how they react to natural stresses and strains. Mr. Haig-Brown doesn't go all Rousseau about what he is doing, no. He simply takes pains to discover the thoughts and emotions, the mechanics, so to put it, of the direct, simple man who works not merely with his hands but with all of himself, including his imagination. Having found out something of what makes such men tick, he lets them work out their own stories in a novel in which the physical setting of the forests is important to the author and the reader because it is the most important thing of all to the characters….

Through the friendship of [Johnny and Slim] Mr. Haig-Brown gives his readers an extraordinarily vivid picture of the life of the logger, of how a logging camp is run, of the week-long sprees when the logger in town is expertly separated from six months' wages by men selling women and liquor, of the shifts in strain and emphasis when a logger marries, of the union organizings, the blacklist, the whole inner life of a trade about which the layman knows very little.

Along with this, Mr. Haig-Brown does something you might easily expect of him if you had read his "Return to the River." A naturalist of uncommon gifts for clear, strong and beautiful prose, he writes here of nature, of fishing, hunting, mountain-climbing and of a dozen associated matters, better than any one I can think of in that field today.

"Timber," however, is neither a nature novel nor a propaganda story about labor. Nor is it, in the ordinary sense, a romantic novel, though Johnny's and Julie's love story is no small part of its strength. Mr. Haig-Brown has made it all of these things and at the same time a novel of a trade so closely bound up with the earth that things happening within its scope partake of the earth's own violence and strength.

As for its regional significance, "Timber" has significance in this direction, too. In recent years the Pacific Northwest has been the setting for a dozen or two novels whose authors have taken pains to interpret its various aspects as well as they could and with varying success. Mr. Haig-Brown belongs high on any list of such interpreters, if not all the way at the top.

Joseph Henry Jackson, "Novel of the Logger's Hazardous Trade," in New York Herald Tribune Books, February 22, 1942, p. 2.

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