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Left End Edwards

March 27, 2007

Since I was pretty pleased with The New Boy at Hilltop, I decided to read another Ralph Henry Barbour, Left End Edwards. Now, either Barbour is better at short stories than novels, “Barbour” is a pseudonym for multiple people, some of whom could write better than others, or this book has no excuse for being stupid. I did try to figure out whether Barbour was a pseudonym — I got suspicious when the advertisements at the end of the book were all for Stratemeyer series — and I couldn’t find anything specific, but on the whole I think it wasn’t. Some of the other titles credited to Barbour seem to be romances, which makes it look like he was one guy with a couple of niches. There were certainly Stratemeyer pseudonyms that were credited with multiple series, but they tend to be in the same vein — Laura Lee Hope with “The Bobbsey Twins” and “Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue”, or Alice Emerson with “Ruth Fielding” and “Betty Gordon” — and they were all children’s books.

I’m quite willing to accept the excuse that he was better with short stories, but the fact remains that this book requires an excuse. See, there’s this idiot named Steve — a fifteen year old boy who’s supposed to be pretty good at football. And there’s his best friend, an idiot named Tom who’s only supposed to be okay at football but who does have an incredibly small amount of common sense, which is more than I can say for Steve.

So Tom and Steve get sent off to boarding school for the first time at the age of fifteen. They get to make the trip from their hometown in western Pennsylvania to the school in upstate New York by themselves, which is probably a bad idea, since they’re both unbelievably green and they get as much wrong as they possibly can without causing any major disasters. But Steve gets to watch a building burn down or something, so I guess the trip isn’t entirely wasted. I find it hard to convey sarcasm in writing. Everyone knows that last bit was sarcasm, right?

During their journey, Tom and Steve discuss what boarding school is going to be like. It won’t be the way it is in stories, they decide. In stories, the hero is always wrongfully accused of something, saves someone from drowning, and wins the big football game at the end of the season.

Well, that lets me off recapping the rest of the book, I guess. Steve is wrongfully accused of cheating, Tom saves Steve from drowning, and both of them make the varsity football team just in time for the last game of the year, in which Steve scores the winning touchdown. I’m trying to use as little football terminology as possible, but if I still manage to get things wrong, it’s because football is a strange and complicated game that confuses the hell out of me. That said, I did find one of the many descriptions of football games interesting and exciting. It must have been a fluke, because the rest were totally incomprehensible. I ended up skimming most of the final game.

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