Posts Tagged ‘1930s’

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Jane of Lantern Hill

June 17, 2013

General consensus seemed to be that, after The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill was the best L.M. Montgomery book. So, when I detached myself from the internet yesterday and had a mini reading spree, it was the first thing I read. I mean, after I finished the Nero Wolfe book I was in the middle of.

I’m sorry I’m late to the L.M. Montgomery party, but I’m not sorry I’m getting to read these books for the first time now. There are children’s books that I’ve read as an adult and wished I had read as a kid, but Jane of Lantern Hill isn’t one of them. Yes, reading it at the appropriate age would have been a very different experience, but I don’t think it would have necessarily been a better one; I have so much more context for things now. This is just me trying to rationalize, though. Mostly I can’t imagine enjoying Jane of Lantern Hill more when I was a kid than I did yesterday. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Short Story Series #1: The super obvious

June 14, 2012

Of all the English classes I ever had, my 7th grade one was the best. And part of it was that my teacher was great, and part of it was that I realized that grammar is equal parts fun and fascinating — although I realize I may be alone on that one — but probably the single biggest factor was that we had to write an essay on a short story each week. And I could talk a lot about how helpful it was to have to churn out essays and learn to construct an argument and stuff, but what I’m here to talk about today is how much I hated the short stories.

Middle School and High School English classes do a lot to instill in kids the idea that serious literature is super depressing, and short stories, which tend to be sort of single-minded in pursuit of an idea, make it worse — at least with novels, there’s usually time and space to put in a few scenes that will make you laugh, or, you know, offer sidelights on a character that give you hope that they have inner resources to draw on and won’t spend the rest of their lives completely miserable. If they live to the end of the story, that is.

I mean, there were bright spots: “The Speckled Band.” Dorothy Parker. Vocabulary lessons. But I came out of Middle School English with the conviction that all short stories were terrible and that I would hate them forever, with a grudging exception for detective stories.

Anyway, the point of this is that for a long time I really believed I hated short stories — until a couple of years ago when I realized that I was reading short stories all the time, and loving them. It was just that they were short story series, character-driven and funny instead of literary and depressing. These days I get really excited when an author I’ve been enjoying turns out to have a series of short stories or two. So this is the first in what I expect to be a extremely rambling series of posts about those, and how much fun they are — starting with the super obvious. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Girl Alone

November 14, 2011

I started by really liking Anne Austin’s Girl Alone, but as it went on, I found myself getting more and more creeped out, and I didn’t really realize why until I got to the ads at the back of the book. The storyline is a straightforward, predictable one, mostly. It goes like this: Orphan (Sally Ford) is sent to work as a hired girl on a farm for the summer. There she meets a cute boy (David Nash). They end up running away and joining up with a circus for a while. Then the mother Sally’s never known shows up and adopts her. This would be an extremely unsurprising children’s book, right? Only it’s not. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Wheel Spins

May 4, 2011

I was doubly predisposed to like The Wheel Spins, by Ethel Lina White: first because it’s a train mystery and train mysteries are delightful, and second because it’s the basis for my favorite Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes. But I think I would have liked it anyway.

Iris Carr is an heiress who has been vacationing in an off-the-beaten-track town somewhere in Eastern Europe with her rowdy and obnoxious group of friends. She has a falling out with one of them right at the end of their trip, and opts to stay on for another couple of days so that she can travel alone and further indulge her tiresome fondess for thinking in cliches. Just before her train comes, she faints from sunstroke, and although she manages to make it onboard, she ends up in a car that’s already full. The other occupants are a pretty dour Baroness and a number of her hangers-on, plus Winifred Froy, an English spinster traveling home after a couple of years governessing.

Iris is feeling sort of hostile towards the world in general, so it’s somewhat unwillingly that she allows Miss Froy to drag her off to tea and tell her all about her octegenarian parents and their sheepdog that’s really a mutt. Afterwards Iris naps in the compartment, and when she wakes up Miss Froy is gone. At first Iris is glad not to have to listen to her anymore, and dreads Miss Froy’s return, but Miss Froy doesn’t return, and when Iris finally questions the other passengers, they deny that any such person was ever there at all. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Murder at Bridge

January 19, 2011

I sort of don’t like how odd and ends of more-recent-than-1923 fiction pop up on Project Gutenberg, although I recognize that’s just me being silly, or a tiny bit annoyed by the fact that lots of things with interesting titles turn out to be short stories from SF magazines, which really aren’t my kind of thing. But you also get the odd mystery novel from the ’30s, ’40s, or ’50s, and those can be pretty entertaining. Murder at Bridge, for example. It’s from 1931 and it’s by Anne Austin, who apparently wrote several mystery novels between the late twenties and mid thirties, although Google Books is choosing not to make them available. Or, I don’t know, they could all be under copyright. But Murder at Bridge seems not to be, and Google hasn’t made their text of that available either. Whatever. Let’s just say that Google Books is, as ever, a mystery to me.

Anyway. Murder at Bridge. The setting is a moderately sized city called Hamilton, the detective is an investigator attached to the DA’s office who has been saddled with the name “Bonnie Dundee,” and, thankfully, you don’t have to know much about bridge to figure out what’s going on. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Snobbery with Violence

October 26, 2010

I ordered Snobbery with Violence, by Colin Watson, on the recommendation of Cristiane, and on the whole I liked it, but I do have some reservations. Well, a  lot.

Snobbery with Violence is a discussion of some of the most popular authors of crime fiction between, approximately, World War I and the 1960s, when the book was written. Watson’s premise is that an era’s most popular fiction tells you the most about its reading public, and obviously that’s a thesis I can get behind. What bothered me was that most of the snobbery involved seemed to come from the author. Colin Watson may think he likes mystery novels, but my impression is that he hates them and the people that read them. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Next Post

January 17, 2010

I’ve just returned from a vacation, which should explain the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks, but right now I’m looking to excuse what I expect will be a lack of posts over the next couple of weeks. I don’t seem to be able to read anything but Nero Wolfe.

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The Galloping Ghost

January 31, 2009

The Galloping Ghost is the second book I’ve read by Roy Judson Snell. The first was The Blue Envelope, which was an adventure for girls set in Alaska. I thought it was okay, but I questioned Snell’s choice of title: the blue envelope is largely irrelevant.

Can I say he’s got a problem with irrelevant titles after only two books? Because the ghost of the title is just a deus ex machina that occasionally drops by to give the detectives a clue to the mystery, and he’s not even as helpful as the detectives’ boy assistant Johnny, who basically provides the solution to the mystery by accidentally stumbling on clues near the local florist at every opportunity. His luck is so good that the book would only be half as long as it is now if he didn’t keep withholding information for no apparent reason. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The G-Men Smash the “Professor’s” Gang

June 28, 2007

I feel like The G-Men Smash the “Professor’s” Gang(by William Engle), while an utterly fantastic title, shouldn’t be a hard one to live up to. I mean, as long as there are, you know, FBI agents, and someone called the Professor, and the former smash the latter’s gang, you can’t really go wrong.
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The Dana Girls #3: In the Shadow of the Tower

June 25, 2007

We next meet Jean and Louise Dana two books later, in In the Shadow of the Tower, an evocative title that has very little to do with the story.
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The Dana Girls #1: By the Light of the Study Lamp

June 25, 2007

So, The Dana Girls books are nothing special, really, but they are kind of interesting. Apparently they were meant to be a sort of cross between Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

On the Hardy Boys side:

They’re siblings, and one has dark hair and the other has light hair.

On the Nancy Drew side:

They’re girls

Hmmm. That seems to be about it. The fact that they’re amateur detectives could count towards either side, and the fact that they’re in school and actually, you know, go to class sometimes couldn’t count towards either.
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The Glad Books, Part 2

June 6, 2007

Pollyanna’s Jewels, by Harriet Lummis Smith, is the fourth Glad Book. It follows Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms, which is also by Smith. Either book three covers at least five years, which I kind of doubt, or Pollyanna’s Jewels skips ahead a few years. It starts with Pollyanna and Jimmy moving to a suburb of Boston with their three kids: Jimmy Junior, who is five or six, Judy, who is probably three, and the baby, who is only ever referred to as “Baby”.
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Class of ’29

March 27, 2007

Class of ’29, by Orrie Lashin and Milo Hastings, is the most depressing play I’ve ever read. Not that I’ve read a huge number of depressing plays, but I think it’s fair to say that this one is pretty miserable. It certainly ends miserably, with even the one funny character sharing in the general bad luck.
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