Archive for April, 2012

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Nobody’s Man

April 20, 2012

For some reason, I only feel like writing about E. Phillips Oppenheim when I dislike him. Which is to say that this was meant to be a post about Richard Lane’s creepy methods of courtship in Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo, but then I finished Nobody’s Man on the subway this morning and it was worse.

For one thing, Andrew Tallente’s political career didn’t interest me, and that’s what the book is about. Tallente is an MP, the token leftist in a coalition government. Except that Oppenheim’s notion of socialism contains a generous helping of conservatism, and his fictional Democratic party sounds kind of awful. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Diane of the Green Van

April 19, 2012

In 1913, a Chicago publishing house called Reilly & Britton offered a $10,000 prize for the best manuscript submitted to them. About five hundred manuscripts were submitted, and eventually it was announced that Leona Dalrymple (later the author of Jimsy: the Christmas Kid) had won the prize for her novel Diane of the Green Van. She had also submitted another manuscript to the competition, and they were going to publish that, too.

So, is Diane of the Green Van worthy of the prize? Not having seen the other manuscripts, I obviously can’t judge, but this one? Is insane. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Letters of the Motor Girl

April 18, 2012

So, uh, Letters of the Motor Girl, by Ethellyn Gardner. Short version: it’s terrible. Kind of like Bab: a sub-deb, but far, far worse.

I don’t even know what else to say about it.

So, there’s this girl, Elsie. The letters of the title are her diary, and she’s super obnoxious and she’s got a car. Everything’s kind of coy in that way where the author uses a first-person narrator’s apparent innocence to reveal all their terrible character traits and it’s supposed to be cute. Think The Letters of her Mother to Elizabeth.

Elsie’s father, besides living off the income he married Elsie’s mother for, is a sort of inventor, and the book takes a weird turn into the vaguely sci-fi when he invents an airship and they fly to Europe in it. But it’s all pretty sketchy by that point, because Elsie’s father has picked up a newsboy from New York to adopt or educate or something, and from that point on, most of Elsie’s diary is retellings of his stories, complete with slang and phonetic spelling of his terrible accent.

Seriously, it’s so, so bad.

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The Green Door

April 17, 2012

The Green Door is short and admonitory and — before I forget — by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman. It’s also a timeslip book, which is the reason you’re hearing about it; books in which exciting adventures make young girls decide to be more boring in the future have very little appeal for me.

Letitia Hopkins is, from the start, a bit of a drip. Her Aunt Peggy seems like a pretty nice adoptive parent, and she provides Letitia with a nice home, but, as Letitia doesn’t actually like to do anything but sit still and daydream, she’s dissatisfied. She’s also really curious about the green door in the cheese-room, which doesn’t seem to exist on the other side of the wall — curious enough that one day while Aunt Peggy is out, she steals the key and opens it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Brewster’s Millions

April 16, 2012

George Barr McCutcheon’s name comes up a lot when I’m looking up information about early 20th century adventure novels, or when I’m looking through advertisements in magazines like The Bookman. Sometimes the books his name appears in conjunction with sound interesting. But I hated Graustark. I hated Graustark so much.

Still, I’ve felt for a while now that I ought to give McCutcheon a second chance. And Brewster’s Millions, his other most famous book, seemed like the obvious thing to try.

You may know the story from one of the ten different film adaptations: Monty Brewster inherits a million dollars from his grandfather, and then a week later he finds out that his long-lost uncle has also died, leaving him over six million dollars. The catch is that he can’t have the six million unless he manages to spend the one million from his grandfather within a year. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Cap’n Eri

April 15, 2012

Joseph Crosby Lincoln was a recommendation from Mel, and from the long list of his books at Project Gutenberg I picked Cap’n Eri.

It’s the story of three retired sea captains keeping house together who advertise for a wife — not to be shared between them, but to be married by whichever of them draws the short straw. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Long Live the King!

April 14, 2012

These days I mostly come home from work and sort of collapse. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading — just that I haven’t taken the time to write down anything about the books. I’m trying to knock out my backlog this week, though. If you don’t see a post from me every day from now until Friday, that means I’ve failed. First up is Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Long Live the King!

Even knowing all the other things that Mary Roberts Rinehart can do — the funny short stories, the romantic ones, the adventurish novels, the suspenseful ones, the “had-I-but-known” mysteries, the novels that deal with social issues and modern society, the screwball comedies, etc. — I honestly never thought I’d see her try Ruritanian romance. But Long Live the King! exists, and is set in a vaguely Germanic country called Livonia, where our nine year-old main character, Ferdinand William Otto, is the Crown Prince. Read the rest of this entry ?