There’s a range of weirdness levels in books by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott. Molly-Make-Believe reads like it was written by someone who doesn’t not know what to do with a coordinating conjunction. The White Linen Nurse is full of mental breakdown-y things, but in context they sort of work. If you told me the only kinds of punctuation used in The Fairy Prince and Other Stories were periods and exclamation marks, I would want to double check before I told you you were wrong. And Old-Dad makes no discernible sense. I’m not really sure what else to say about it. Read the rest of this entry ?
Posts Tagged ‘1910s’
The Top of the Morning is the next Juliet Wilbor Tompkins book on the slate, mostly because I didn’t find the title that appealing, and I like to save the best for last. Yes, Joanna Builds a Nest and Open House are probably the two most appealing titles. No, I don’t know why I did that.
Anyway, the title isn’t great, but I like the book a lot. It’s episodic, just short of making me wonder whether it was originally published as short stories. And I haven’t tried to find out, but I’d guess it wasn’t.
The book follows a close-knit group of writers and artists who refer to themselves as “Us” and manage to stay just on the right side of the adorable/cloying divide. There’s Charlotte, an artist in her 30s with a teenage son. She’s very much the mother of the group, and not only because she is one. Paul is a sculptor, and he’s almost too perfect. He’s talented and wise and everyone loves him. Lanse and Evelyn are a pair, but it’s not clear whether they’re an item. They’re both from wealthy, upper class families. Lanse writes plays, and Evelyn is, I suppose, his muse. And then there’s Donna and Lorimer, who are sort of…Carolyn Wells, roughly, and maybe Oliver Herford or Gelett Burgess. Donna writes poems and humorous verse and children’s stories and stuff for magazines, and Lorrimer Ffloyd is a caricaturist. They’re best friends and they may or may not be in love with each other. Charlotte’s son Cameron, with his talent for being an appreciative audience, rounds out the group.
Different chapters cover their different struggles — Lanse’s fight with his father over his career, Donna and Lorrimer’s difficulties dealing with their respective moderate amounts of fame, Paul’s uncertainty about how to fulfill his potential. Most of the chapters left me wanting to stay with their central characters for a bit longer. Some of the chapters left me feeling kind of sad. The ending did both, partly because Tompkins wants to leave things open ended and provide closure at the same time. It doesn’t quite work, and in the last pages I got impatient with both the writer and the characters and decided that never mind, I don’t want to know.
Mostly I want to discount that last minute change of heart, though, because I enjoyed almost all of the book while I was reading it, and I do want to know more about stuff, especially Donna and Lorrimer and how the situation with Paul that I don’t want to spoil is going to pan out. And even in the context of Tompkins’ general focus on work, it’s fun to get these specifics of studio life and relationships between writers and magazines and things like that. Tompkins never names someone’s profession and leaves it at that; you get a pretty clear idea of how everyone’s income breaks down. I wonder if this book is a little more autobiographical than most of Tompkins’ work — it’s hard to find out much about her, but she seems to have been part of a clique that included Burgess, author Frank Norris, and artist Ernest Peixotto. And if it is autobiographical, then I want to hear a lot more about Donna. Or, who am I kidding? I want to know more about Donna either way.
I’m so resentful of Bettina von Hutten right now, and it’s ridiculous, because I knew what I was letting myself in for.
Tommy Kingsmead, though. All I wanted was for nice things to happen to him. But at this point, I’m surprised von Hutten even let Pam be happy.
Tommy, the Earl of Kingsmead, first appeared in The Halo as a precocious nine year old who is interested in everyone and everything. He’s absolutely recognizable as the same person when he reappears in Kingsmead as a young man of 23, benevolent, romantic, and honest. In the intervening years, Tommy’s mother has died, his sister Brigit has married, and Tommy has been forced to sell his ancestral home. He’s living fairly happily in a ruined castle in Italy, but he’s suddenly seized with a desire to see Kingsmead again, so he writes to the purchasers–his college friend Teddy Lansing’s family–and invites himself to stay. Read the rest of this entry ?
Sometimes looking through Project Gutenberg for good titles works out pretty well. The Professional Aunt is definitely a fun title, and the book comes close enough to living up to it that I can’t say for sure whether or not it does. The title character is Betty Lisle, who has:
- 1 Unmarried brother,
- 2 Married brothers,
- 2 Sisters-in-law,
- 7 Nieces and nephews, and
- A whole host of aunts and uncles and cousins.
The title page: so lovely. The book: so racist.
My top three most appallingly racist things about The Golden Silence — another travel adventure from A.M. and C.N. Williamson — not counting that thing where all the Arabs are kind of evil, are as follows:
- Liberal use of the n-word, always in reference to someone whose skin is “hardly darker than old ivory.”
- Referring to drums used by various North Africans as tom toms.
- The obsessive cataloging of everyone’s complexions.
Blog update: I’ve been pretty depressed, I guess? I’ve been having trouble finishing books since November, I think. And work is pretty stressful, and even though I can get pretty vehement about mental health problems being legitimate health problems, it’s really difficult to say, “hey, I spend much of my day wanting to cry, and sometimes I skip lunch because I don’t want to have to choose what to eat, so I’m going to take a sick day.” Especially if it’s unlikely a sick day will help.
Anyway. The Williamsons maybe sort of do help.
Williamsons update: It’s official. My favorite Williamsons book is Set in Silver. Sorry, Secret History Revealed by Lady Peggy O’Malley. You’re still the book that made me love the Williamsons, but Set in Silver is better.
The Imprudence of Prue is sort of proto-Georgette Heyer — all historical high society and everyone in debt — but set much earlier, at the beginning of the 18th century, and — I don’t know, I thought it felt pretty convincingly historical. It’s by Sophie Fisher, and I can’t find out anything about her, or any other books by her, and I’m kind of disappointed.
Read the rest of this entry ?