Queed’s ‘cosmos is all Ego,’ his story all pleasure

Sharlee Weyland tells Queed of his deficiencies
Sharlee Weyland tells Queed of his deficiencies

Queed is a witty, charming, romantic comedy about a brilliant but decidedly un-charming young man with the emotional intelligence of a newt.

Called “The Professor” by all but his two friends whose surname he bears, Queed moved to Richmond, VA., at the request of the father he has never met. When the book opens, Queed is writing the definitive text on evolutionary sociology while waiting for a further communication from his parent.

By accident, Queed meets Miss Sharlee Weyland. He strikes her as “the most frankly and grossly self-centred person she had ever seen in her life.”  Sharlee also finds him pitiable. She gets the city’s most eligible bachelor, Charles Gardiner West, to wrangle an editorial-writing job for Queed on the local paper.

Faced with dismissal for “crushing all the interest out of any subject he touches,” Queed sets out to master editorial writing. In the process, he grows to know his adopted city, finds a passion for the news business, and develops some self-awareness and empathy.

By contrast, the well-connected West flounders when his charm fails to conceal his lack of character.

Henry Sydnor Harrison sets his story against the background of South rising above the debilitating attitudes of Reconstruction. The novel ridicules the ridiculous aspects of Queed’s self-absorption without either attacking or excusing the man. Harrison shows Queed maturing without shaking off entirely the behaviors he learned as a child. That realism elevates Queed from a pleasant story to a serious study of emotional growth.

And Harrison throws in enough laugh-out-loud lines to make the study enormous fun to read.

Queed
by Henry Sydnor Harrison
Houghton Mifflin Co.
The Riverside Press
1911 bestseller # 4
Project Gutenberg EBook #14303
My grade: B+
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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