Monday, February 20, 2006

Lapham Rising from the New York Times

From the New York Times review of Lapham Rising (free registration required):

Harry is old enough to be called "You old coot" by the local Realtor and "Señor Moment" by the carpenters working nearby. Why are the carpenters there? Because they are tormenting Harry with their noisy, annoying work on a house for Lapham, the show-off scion (with a nod to William Dean Howells's Silas Lapham) of an old Hamptons clan. "The family continued to reproduce like inbred collies until their heads became so pointed there was no room for brains, and yet fortunately, no need," Mr. Rosenblatt writes.

At moments like that, "Lapham Rising" achieves its optimum acerbic edge. And Mr. Rosenblatt, who has written his first novel after much success as a nonfiction writer, Time essayist, television commentator and playwright, certainly knows his way around a self-important Hamptons social soirée. "And may I pose a question for all the guests to respond to one by one at the dinner table?" he furiously asks Lapham's assistant, in the wake of a dinner party invitation. "Something about the future of the Democratic Party? I love it when they do that during meals."

Harry is at his most sardonic in sending daily notes that read "Mr Lapham, tear down that house!" As he explains it, "I thought that the Reaganesque echo might appeal to him."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

1905 novel depicting Maine's 'degeneracy' ruffled feathers

From the Bangor Daily News:

Everyone familiar with New England history knows that the Brahmins lived in Boston and the barbarians lived in Maine going way back to the 1600s. Sometimes the conflict between the two tribes resurfaced. Born in Massachusetts, Wasson associated with the Brahmin establishment even though he lived over the border in Kittery. He stepped forth in 1905 to tell the world just how low Maine had sunk.

"The Green Shay" described the results of the decline of the coastal shipping economy in the mythical town of Kentle's Harbor, where there had been "a most alarming exodus of the young and strong, and an equally alarming stay at home propensity on the part of the weak and worthless. It is natural selection the other end to - the survival of the unfittest." The result, Wasson discovered, was drunkenness, immorality, illiteracy and poverty. The population of fishermen who remained was sprinkled through with small-time crooks who robbed fishing gear and looted shipwrecks to pad their meager living.

. . .

Even though William Dean Howells, the famous author and editor and Wasson's neighbor at Kittery, had declared "The Green Shay" was right on target in its portrayal of "rural degeneracy," that didn't impress the editor of the Bangor Daily News, who seemed to be as upset with Hartt's appraisal in New England Magazine as with Wasson's book. "No man in his straight senses believes any such a thing," he declared vehemently. "As near as we can divine the motive for printing such a tale [Hartt's article], we think it was sent out in the hope of making a sale for a few copies of this libelous novel."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Howells Lecture

I'd like to pass along the word that Dr. Stan Marovitz will give a lecture on William Dean Howells in Cincinnati, OH on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 5:00 p.m. in the library's historic reading room in downtown Cincinnati (414 Walnut Street, 513.621.0717 for information or reservations.) Sherry and light refreshments are served at this event, and the cost is $20, $15 for Mercantile Library members.

As you know, Dr. Marovitz is an expert on Howells, and will have much of interest to impart. We cordially invite you to join us.

--Nancy Nolan

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rise of Silas Lapham and Lapham Rising

Rise of Silas Lapham and Lapham Rising Hi, I discovered William Dean Howells early last year--read A Modern Instance, The Rise of Silas Lapham, Indian Summer and A Hazard of New Fortunes in rapid succession--and, first, would like to thank you for this marvelous, informative site for an author who is now one of my favorites.

Second, I was just perusing the net and discovered a review for a novel (to be issued in February) by Roger Rosenblatt called "Lapham Rising"--the title an obvious reference to The Rise of Silas Lapham--and the main character's name is Harry March--another nod to Howells, with his March family in A Hazard of New Fortunes. Here's a link to the review:

Looks like a genial satire (the plot indeed sounds like a revisionist update of The Rise of Silas Lapham), and thought I would share it with you; anything to bring the great Howells to the attention of modern readers is a good thing, no?

Best regards,

Joseph Jones 2/2/06