Light in the Clearing still glows

The Light in the Clearing begins with its narrator saying, “Once upon a time I owned a watermelon.” From that magical opening, Barton Baynes escorts readers through his Adirondacks childhood. The Light in the Clearing: A Tale of the North County in the Time of Silas Wright by Irving Bacheller.  Grosset & Dunlap, 1917. Illus. with […]

Dere Mable sees WWI recruit’s funny side

Dere Mable is what it’s fictional narrator would probably call an E. Pistol Larry novel. The American army is attempting to turn Bill Smith into a clog in its fighting machine in France. Bill had mastered the clog part before he reached training camp. Dere Mable: Letters of a Rookie by Edward Streeter G. William […]

The Amazing Interlude explores the meaning of America

It was fitting that I read The Amazing Interlude  on July 4, because the plot of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s novel grows out of a young girl’s developing sense of what being an American means. The Amazing Interlude by Mary Roberts Rinehart Illustrations by the Kinneys. 1918 bestseller #3. Project Gutenberg ebook #1590. My grade: A-. […]

Showboat, the novel, lacks liveliness of musical

A riverboat owner facing competition from the railroad in the waning years of the 19th century buys a successful touring company, the Cotton Blossom Floating Palace Theater. To secure the company of his adored daughter, Magnolia, Capt. Andy Hawkes convinces his wife, Parthenia, to sail with the company. Showboat by Edna Ferber Doubleday, Page. 1926. […]

The Harbor is an excursion into lived history

The Harbor is a fictional history of the major upheavals in American life between 1865 and 1915 as experienced by a family who lived and worked on New York City’s waterfront. [The New York Public Library’s digital book New York City Harbor puts the novel in its historical and visual setting.] The Harbor by Ernest […]

A Far Country is reached via expediency

A Far Country is presented as the autobiography of a corporate lawyer, a “typical American” disciple of the doctrine of enlightened self interest. Winston Churchill dealt the results of that doctrine in his 1913 bestseller. This time, however, he treats it from the perspective of the man who pursues expediency. A Far Country by Winston […]

The Turmoil packs industrial-size wallop

In The Turmoil Booth Tarkington has crafted a novel about human and national ambition that illuminates while it entertains. Sheridan — he’s called only by his last name — built his town into a city by hard work, business acumen, including some shady deals, and luck. The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington 1915 bestseller #1. Project […]