Posts Tagged ‘alicebemerson’

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Ruth Fielding Down East

December 10, 2016

It’s been a while since I read a Ruth Fielding book. PG has added a bunch of them over the last few years, and now seemed like a good time to catch up. Yes, I ought to be reading Christmas stories instead, but when the universe tells me to read Ruth Fielding, I read Ruth Fielding.

Ruth Fielding Down East is the first post-WWI one, sort of. The war is still happening, but Ruth and Helen and Tom are back in the US. Tom will go back overseas again for a bit, but the girls won’t, and it’s time for Ruth to transition back into the world of moving pictures.

I’d forgotten how bad W. Bert Foster’s writing can be (this is one of his last few installments in the series) and it’s bad here, but the worst thing about this book is the plot, and that’s presumably Edward Stratemeyer’s fault.

Ruth is supposed to be smart, is the thing. But when her top secret screenplay is stolen, she continues to keep it top secret, even though she suspects the thief will try to sell it to a producer. The rational thing to do would be to get some description of the scenario on record, so that if it shows up she has some proof that it’s hers. Of course, if she did that there would be considerably less drama when the scenario does resurface.

Character-driven plots are nice. Plot-driven characters, less so, especially when the character in question has been pretty well established through fifteen books. There’s no reason for Ruth to act like this, other than to make the plot work.

So, yeah, I found that infuriating. But somehow, Foster won me over. I think it’s the bit where Ruth stays level-headed during an emergency, saving her friends and getting back her self-confidence. Or the way everything gets wrapped up exactly the way you think it will, and it’s so ridiculous that it’s sort of nice.Or that the random bit about someone lost in the woods turns out to be┬áthematically relevant. Or that Foster is going for something as complex as a theme at all. Mostly I think that Ruth Fielding, as a character, shines through the worst things her writers can do to her. She remains my favorite Stratemeyer product.

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One Year of Redeeming Qualities

March 10, 2008

Last week was the one-year anniversary of this blog. I still enjoy writing about weird old books. I’m a little bit impressed that I’ve managed to keep it going for so long. I don’t know that there’s much else to say about it, but I thought I should do something to celebrate, so here’s a list of my favorite finds since I began writing Redeeming Qualities, in order of discovery.

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Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest

March 25, 2007

So. Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest. This one was below average, but I think al the later ones in the series probably are. There’s also a distinct flavor of racism about the main story, which involves Ruth making a movie star out of an American Indian princess. The girl’s name is Wonota, and although everyone likes her and she’s beautiful and smart, there was an unspoken “even though she’s an Indian” at the end of almost every sentence describing her.

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Ruth Fielding at the War Front

March 24, 2007

Ruth Fielding at the War Front is a nice little piece of propaganda. Stratemeyer’s perfect American boys and girls all had to do their duty by their country when the U.S. entered WWI, of course, so in this book, Ruth is working for the Red Cross, Tom is a lieutenant in the army, and Helen is doing something or other in Paris. I would probably know what, specifically, if I’d read Ruth Fielding in the Red Cross, the book before this one. Anyway, Helen is out of the picture for most of this one.

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Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures

March 23, 2007

While I’ve enjoyed the Ruth Fielding books I’ve been reading, I haven’t been hugely enthusiastic about them. That changes with Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures. This is my favorite book in the series. I think it’s the one in which Ruth’s potential starts to be realized, and also, it’s a lot of fun.

This is the story of Ruth’s last year at her boarding school, Brierwood Hall, and Ruth and her friends are convincingly nostalgic and sad to leave. Also, they’re not guaranteed diplomas unless they get very good grades, so they all work hard. It’s a more realistic portrayal of school life than you see in most of these series.

But the really special thing about this book is that it’s all about the moving pictures of the title. One day soon before school starts, Ruth and the Cameron twins come across a film crew as they’re out berry-picking. A pretty young actress is posing on a tree branch overhanging a river. The director keeps telling her she doesn’t look scared enough, and finally she’s like, “You know, that’s really funny, because I am scared.” And then she falls into the river. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island

March 23, 2007

So, it looks like I’m going to keep working my way through the Ruth Fielding books at Project Gutenberg. Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island takes place a year after Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp. Ruth and her friends — more of them this time — spend Christmas vacation on Cliff Island, which has recently been purchased by Ruth’s friend Belle Tingley’s father. Coincidentally, Ruth is acquainted with a boy named Jerry Sheming, who was run off the island by real estate agent Rufus Blent after Jerry’s uncle, Pete Wilton, was committed to an insane asylum. Yeah, it’s a bit complicated. Pete always said he owned the island, but the deeds were in his treasure box, which was buried by a landslide.

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Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp + a question

March 22, 2007

Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp is more the sort of Ruth Fielding book I’m used to — lots of little adventures and one mystery that is a kind of background subplot. Ruth, Tom and Helen Cameron, and six of their friends spend a vacation at a big log cabin in upstate New York. The setting provides the adventures: a panther, a snowstorm, etc., and the mystery involves a local boy going by the name of someone who was recently murdered.

The scenes in which the kids are supposed to be having fun are the weakest part of the book. They don’t enjoy themselves as convincingly as the characters in a book by, say, Percy Keese Fitzhugh or Carolyn Wells. Also, one of the “funny” incidents parallels a scene in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl a little bit too closely. But then, Ruth herself is a lot like Polly Milton, and that’s one of the things that raises this series above a lot of the others. Ruth actually has a personality — she’s gentle and inclined to worry, but also patient and determined. This gives her a great advantage over, say, the Rover boys, who can each be described in a word(Dick: smart, Sam: amiable, Tom: sociopath).
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