The Plutocrat explores the power of money

The Plutocrat is a very good novel, but one that I suspect modern readers will find as alien as Jane Austen. The book is about a young playwright, Laurence Ogle. Flying high on the success of his first play, he books passage for North Africa. The Plutocrat by Booth Tarkington 1927 bestseller #2. 543 pp. […]

Sweet Seventeen captures summer romance

Booth Tarkington’s Seventeen is a frivolous, funny, and forgettable tale about awkward 17-year-old’s first romance. Gawky William Sylvanus Baxter, called Willie by his family and “Silly Billy” by his friends, is smitten with the charms of blue-eyed Miss Pratt, who is visiting the Parchers for the summer. Seventeen by Booth Tarkington Arthur William Brown, Illus. […]

Alice Adams seeks to rise above adolescence

Alice Adams lives with her bickering parents and slouching younger brother, Walter, in a begrimed house in an industrial American city at the end of World War I. Alice is unhappily unmarried. Alice’s attempts to set local fashions draws ridicule from girls with money and social standing. Mrs. Adams is constantly nagging her husband about […]

These two novels make American history breathe

My top picks from the 1915 bestseller list are each windows into America’s transformation from the horsepower age to the motor age: The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington and The Harbor by Earnest Poole. Tarkington and Poole were each Pulitzer Prize winners, though they didn’t win for their 1915 novels. The two novels have several common […]

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 […]

Funny novels for April Fool’s Day reading

We here in the Northeaster U.S. have had a long, hard winter. We’re ready to enjoy some sunshine. Even if the temperature doesn’t climb above 40 tomorrow, you can bask in the warmth of smiles with one of these funny vintage novels. The Reivers The Reivers is a folksy, rambling tale William Faulkner puts in […]

Penrod Still Is Good for Laughs

Before the Great War, before iPods and video games, boys invented their own fun. Penrod Schofield, age 11, is nothing if not inventive. Silent films give him outlines of stories. Penrod’s imagination transforms them into stunning productions in which he plays the lead. Booth Tarkington is justly famous for his word portraits of adolescents from […]