It's been a while since I've geekily submerged myself in old magazines from the first half of the 20th century. Almost every time I do, I come across even more new writers for my Overwhelming List, so it's a perfectly justifiable pastime that can be dignified with the name "research," right? At least, that's my angle on it...
But one of the most entertaining parts of the process is that I come across all sorts of odds and ends that I find interesting or amusing (though whether you will too remains to be seen).
YOUR LITERARY I.Q.
Who doesn't love to test their book knowledge? And apparently Saturday Review readers liked to be tested every single week. But the quiz below either suggests that standard literary knowledge circa 1940 was rather different than it would be today or else it suggests that my literary I.Q. is low indeed. I got three of the literary works in which the characters appear, but couldn't recall any of the character's names, so I'm afraid I flunked. Perhaps senility is setting in a bit early. How about you? (I'll post the answers at the end of the post.)
THE POWERLESSNESS OF THE BLURB
Last time, I shared some ads and blurbs that seemed irresistible to me, so this time I thought I'd go the other route...
For example, there are numerous things about this ad that make me not want to read the book, from its determination that popularity is a "vital necessity" to its characterization of it as "normal and natural" (the whole concept of normal and natural tends to put me off) to the advice it apparently offers on how to "properly utilize group pressure." Ugh. So alas, I suppose I will be perennially unpopular!
This one, from 1924, for a novel by a writer only recently added to my list, actually didn't sound too bad...
...until further research showed that the novel is apparently set in immediate post-World War I Vienna, and follows American and British flappers as they party down amidst the Austrians' poverty and ruin.
And this ad didn't really leave me very curious at all:
I have a pretty good idea what the "CURIOSA and ESOTERICA" might include. (But perhaps I'm wrong? Perhaps Panurge Book Co. specialized in books on the care and feeding of duck-billed platypi or the history of little-known civilizations in New Guinea?)
But to end this section on a more positive note, wouldn't it be rather nice to travel back to a time (in this case 1931) when one could look forward to the brand new Dorothy Parker?
HUMOR WITH A SLIGHT SMELL OF MOTHBALLS
Last time, I shared some jokes that didn't quite work for me. But this time I came across a few that still amuse. Here's my favorite:
Okay, it's not a laugh riot, but at least I get it. And I rather like this one too:
I find it interesting that the man is pontificating to a group of women. Is this a Women's Institute meeting or something of the like? And the woman on the right, at least, seems to sense that the pontificator is a bit "full of it."
Finally, this one perhaps shows an increasing sophistication and awareness of new immigrants?
Hysterical? No. But they all made me smile. And made me feel that readers in the 1930s and 1940s weren't a totally different species.
And what would a Musings post be without a perusal of personal ads placed by long-dead readers of Saturday Review?
"Sensible ideas" about what, I wondered?:
I thought this one sounded like an ad I myself might have placed if I had fallen on hard times during the Depression (except alas, I am unable to offer "worldwide facilities," unless Google counts?):
I rather bet a lot of us would have enjoyed attending this event:
But in some cases, I admit I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be reading between the lines or not. How about this?
And did this one get lost in translation or is there a meaning I'm missing—I'm not even certain what this guy (??) is looking for:
Well, perhaps it's best not to know.
A PRETTY PICTURE
And finally, this painting was reproduced in the Saturday Review in 1940 and jumped out at me. Rather lovely in a haunting, Wuthering Heights-ish sort of way? You can read more about the artist here.
YOUR LITERARY I.Q.?
Now here are the answers to our quiz. How did you do?