Halfway through The Mystery, by Samuel Hopkins Adams and Stewart Edward White, I decided that I definitely was not going to review it. But now that I’m done, I kind of feel like I have to. It’s just so weird. At least, it seemed weird do me, but I’m not really in the habit of reading slightly sci-fi pirate-y horror stories, so. Read the rest of this entry »
Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley, is probably everything it should be, but I’m still a little bit more delighted by the premise than by the book itself. The premise is this: Helen and Andrew McGill are siblings who combined their resources to buy a farm. Andrew learned to farm, Helen learned to cook and housekeep, and they did pretty well for themselves until Andrew wrote a bestselling book and began to take his own hype too seriously. He started going off on walking tours and things, leaving Helen to run the farm on her own, and she, not unreasonably, got increasingly frustrated with him. That’s where things stand when Roger Mifflin, itinerant bookseller, shows up in his gypsy caravan/bookstore, wanting to sell it to Andrew. Read the rest of this entry »
Predictably, The Flagrant Years left me wanting to read more Samuel Hopkins Adams. Less predictably, it mostly made me want to reread books of his I’d already read. So I thought I’d take advantage of the impulse and finally review Average Jones, which I’ve now read three times.
WANTED—Ten thousand loathly black beetles, by A leaseholder who contracted to leave a house in the same condition as he found it. Ackroyd, 100 W. Sixteenth St. New York
The Flagrant Years is Samuel Hopkins Adams’ novel of the cosmetics industry. I say “of” rather than “about” because while most of it takes place in a Fifth Avenue beauty parlor, mostly it’s about people. You get the impression that if Consuelo Barrett’s job search had led her to a different industry, the novel would have followed her there. It would be a wrong impression, because Adams clearly knew what he meant to write about, but this is exactly the kind of sleight of hand he’s best at — his ridiculously engaging characters are there to mask the lump of information he’s forcing down your throat and it actually works. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday I took a day off from work and spent the afternoon at the library. It’s been a while since I did that, but last time I was unemployed I used to go once a week. I don’t remember whether I’ve described this before, but it’s great. I go to the main branch of the New York Public Library — the building with the lions out front and rotating exhibitions inside — and go up to the third floor, where the Rose Main Reading Room is. The Rose Main Reading Room is really two big, long rooms with rows of wooden tables and bookshelves all along the walls. The way they have it set up right now, you go into one of these rooms, consult one of the catalog computers, and fill out little paper slips indicating which books you want. You can hand in three of these slips every fifteen minutes.
When you hand in your slips, you get a number. Then you go to the other room and wait while people go find your book and send it up to the reading room in what’s basically a big dumbwaiter. There’s an LCD screen there showing all of the numbers that have books waiting. When your number comes up, you go up to the desk, show them your library card and get to take your books to a table, where you can read and gaze raptly at the ceiling every once in a while. The ceiling looks like this.
This is how you get access to all of the popular fiction that’s no longer in circulation. You used to be able to get pretty much anything on no notice, but now they store a lot of the books off-site. Look things up in the online catalog before you show up. What you’re looking for is things that say “In-library use only” and specify the item’s location as “Schwarzman Building – Main Reading Room 315″. The ones stored off-site are labeled “Available by request”. They only started moving stuff off-site recently, so I haven’t tried requesting yet.
I meant to start this post with something more along the lines of, “Yesterday I want to the library and read kind of a delightful book by Samuel Hopkins Adams,” but I guess I got a little carried away. Perhaps Adams’ venture into the world of 1920s beauty parlors is a subject for another post.
I know I’ve said before that no one ever should have let Alice Williamson publish without Charlie, but I think I’ve changed my mind. I’m still not a fan of To M.L.G., and Shay says that The Adventure of Princess Sylvia isn’t so good either, but I just finished The Girl Who Had Nothing and I’m really glad it exists. (For what it’s worth, while this book is credited solely to Mrs. C.N.Williamson, it was published while he was alive.) This book, though. It’s like a cross between Miss Cayley’s Adventures and The Career of Katherine Bush, and it’s not as good as either of those, but that just means that it’s not as good as the beginning of Miss Cayley or everything but the end of Katherine Bush. It’s better than the less good parts of both of those. Read the rest of this entry »
The Madness of May, by Meredith Nicholson, is very, very silly. But maybe not quite silly enough. Coincidence piles on coincidence, and most of the characters have given themselves up to the profession of ridiculousness, and Nicholson manages to have it all hang together pretty well, but…I don’t know. I’m going to tell you about it and you’re going to think it sounds awesome, but there’s something lacking. The nonsense isn’t infectious. The Madness of May should be magic, and it’s just not. Read the rest of this entry »