Friday, August 31, 2018

Portrait of the artist as a young girl (and as a woman): KITTY BARNE, She Shall Have Music (1938) & While the Music Lasted (1943)

Last month, I posted about two of Kitty Barne's children's titles, Family Footlights (1939), and its sequel, Visitors from London (1940). That was my first post about Barne since three years earlier, when I had written about Musical Honours (1947) during some obsessive reading of fiction from the immediate postwar years. I liked all three of those books, but none of them can hold a candle to these two gems.

From the first time I wrote about Barne, readers had been recommending She Shall Have Music, but other things kept getting in the way, and it's not the easiest book in the world to get one's hands on. The cheapest copy on Abe Books at the moment is $21 in "good" condition but minus dustjacket. Not so bad, but the price increases rapidly for better condition copies. This despite the fact that there have been multiple editions (according to my copy, it was reprinted eight times 1939-1962), so presumably a fair number of copies are out there. But if not many of them are for sale, that suggests that once people own and read this book, they decide they're never letting it go.

Fortunately, if rather inexplicably, I recently discovered that the book is available for downloading from (see here). I don't think it should be, as I can't see how it would be public domain anywhere, and the "Digital Library of India" that posted it have hundreds of other titles posted which can't be public domain either (though be warned a few have quality issues). When it comes to reading a hard-to-find Kitty Barne book which no publisher has been savvy enough to reprint in decades, however, I found my ethical quandaries not impossible to overcome...

As She Shall Have Music opens, the Forrest family is arriving back in England after having lived for an unspecified time in Ireland. The family is comprised of mother, eleven-year-old twins Ralph and Judy, ten-year-old Meg, and eight-year-old Karen, as well as their Irish housekeeper Biddy. They've taken a house for seven years in an unspecified urban area not far from London (can't be London, as trips are made to London, but I don't recall and couldn't find any further clues).

The book focuses primarily on young Karen, already teased by her family for often humming along to music in her head, inspired by things like the rhythm of the train or other noises no one else recognizes as music. An illness soon after the family's arrival in England results in Karen staying for a time with a previously unknown aunt, who begins to teach her the piano. She immediately discovers a passion for the piano, and is fortunate in coming across an array of other teachers who contribute to her growth as a musician.

If this sounds rather mundane, or rather like a career story, think again, because Barne is somehow able to lend her story the forward momentum of a thriller, all the while making Karen's education, complete with setbacks and triumphs, engrossing even to a reader with no musical ability and little specific interest in music. The book is no more only for musically inclined readers than detective novels are for those who encounter corpses everywhere they turn. It's a book about growing up, finding oneself, and learning from and appreciating whatever mentors come to help us on our way.

I mentioned previously Barne's tendency to be a bit vague in some of the details of her books. Some of that does come through here as well. For example, it's unclear, as far as I can recall, why the family has come to England in the first place, or for that matter where the heck their father is—if any reference is made to him at all, I can't recall it. The family is also randomly lent a vicarage in Somerset for the summer, complete with a garden and a tennis court, by "someone". If anyone knows this Someone person, please put me in touch with them!

But apart from these small details, which aren't likely to bother most readers very much, She Shall Have Music is actually by far the most realistic of the Barne children's books I've read so far, and perhaps not coincidentally it's also by far the best. Also not coincidental is the fact that it's based on Barne's own personal experiences. She studied piano at the Royal College of Music and expected to be a professional musician until a surgery on her ear went wrong and caused sufficient deafness to sabotage her plans. Thus, she was to some extent reliving her own experiences in writing about Karen, which may explain why the book is so impassioned and vivid and real. I felt that I was really feeling what Karen felt, and understood what it means to be a musician, even though I'm utterly tone deaf. I also particularly related to her experience of her family's bewilderment at her interests and abilities.

She Shall Have Music is a classic, and deserves to be reprinted for new generations of readers. But although at least a couple of generations of readers did know and love the book after it first appeared, and many of those readers have treasured the book and re-read it periodically ever since, almost no one knew what Shirley Neilson at Greyladies discovered a while back (in her recent review in The Scribbler, she described the discovery as "jawdropping"): that Barne had published a sequel.

While the Music Lasted appeared in 1943, and probably suffered, like so many other wartime titles, from short print runs on low quality paper, which may partly explain why it has remained more or less lost for so long, despite its obvious appeal for fans of the first book. Thank heavens that a rare copy made its way into the hands of someone who just happened to have the ability to bring it back into print herself!

So often, sequels tend to fall short of the stories they continue. I'm usually one of the people crying, "oh, no!" when I hear of a planned sequel to a favorite book or movie. And it's possible that some fans of She Shall Have Music will be disoriented by the darker tone of its follow-up (hard to avoid since it's set in the days immediately before the beginning of World War II), or by the fact that this novel is directed to adult readers. But I think most readers will probably react the way that I did, which was to wonder why on earth more authors haven't written grownup sequels to their children's titles. Perhaps because not all authors are capable of the necessary perspective and versatility?

In some cases I imagine it wouldn't work, and probably many great children's books are best left just as they are, but in this case I found the strategy absolutely brilliant. Barne manages to make Karen, just on the verge of adulthood when the novel begins (this is a superb example of what's been called the "widening world" story), completely believable as the young woman the childish heroine of the earlier book would surely have become, and she is just as likeable and fascinating to read about. I love when she exasperates her fellow music student, Topsy, who lives in the same Kennington house and is a delightful character, if a less patient and understanding one than Karen:

"Lord, what a fool!"

"But she's rather a good sort, isn't she?"

"There you go—liking people—" and Topsy flew off impatiently to her room from which the calm unimpassioned voice of her oboe presently emerged, the window being wide open.

Topsy is one of several other students in the house, which is the home of King's School of Music professor Dr. Claude Salet and his wife Leo, the latter of whom is exasperated by musicians but has a kind heart—which is just as well for Karen, considering that she immediately hits it off with the Salets' son Andy, who has been studying in Germany and composing modern music loathed by his traditional father ("Well, after all, the Doctor's an authority—" says another boarder, to which Topsy replies, "On what Mrs. Noah played on the harmonium in the Ark").

While Karen is diligent and measured in her approach to her art, Andy is the quintessential tormented soul—the type of artist for whom Art would always have a capital A. Some readers might be exasperated with him, and he wouldn't be my choice of a husband (though the name Andy certainly appeals), but I can quite believe that their contrasting personalities and approaches to music would be complementary, and we do see, importantly, that Andy comes out of his torment enough to place a high value of Karen's own career and growth as a musician, something few enough men did at the time with any woman's career.

And should we have any lingering doubts, there's Karen's reaction to Andy's own mother trying to warn her away from him:

"But, now, have I made myself at all clear that I think you would be wise to give up this engagement?"

"And what do you think Andy would say if l did?"

"I don't like to think," said Mrs. Salet, and one of her rare and charming smiles lit her face, "I'm not considering him, I'm considering you. You should hesitate. You should indeed."

"Oh, I will," cried Karen, heartily, "I promise you I will."

One can hesitate before one plunges into the sea on a day when rollers are breaking and one will have a particularly glorious, more than a little dangerous, bathe; plunging into the waves and through them, fighting them, riding them—one can hesitate before that and enjoy the hesitation.

You can't very well argue with that!

As romance grows, though, the approach of war is never out of mind for long:

The tornado had not passed them by as they prayed it would. It had struck them and swept them into its maelstrom of senseless animal hatreds, against which there was no use struggling.

One might find that Andy's own reaction to the political situation shows he's not as self-absorbed as he can sometimes seem, and Barne uses the darkness of the situation extremely effectively, and manages to also show how self-absorbed artists and non-artists alike can be in isolating themselves from harsh reality.

Both of these books are among my favorites of the year. If you're already a fan of She Shall Have Music, be sure to get a copy of the Greyladies reprint of While the Music Lasted while it's still available. And if you haven't read the former yet, what on earth are you waiting for?

Friday, August 24, 2018

AT LAST!: New Furrowed Middlebrow titles from Dean Street Press, coming soon

Well, it's been a bit longer coming than we originally anticipated, but I can finally announce (whew!) that a new batch of Furrowed Middlebrow books is in preparation from Dean Street Press. Nine new titles in all, due in January 2019!

And what an exciting batch of titles it is. I'm thrilled that we'll be publishing books by two of my absolute favorite authors:

One is an old favorite, the discovery of whom via Persephone Books nearly a decade ago helped to direct me to the focus of this blog. The other is a more recent discovery, the kind of glorious find that keeps me blogging and sifting and sneezing my way through dusty, mildewy old books to unearth more forgotten treasures.

The first author was a bestseller in her day, and her gradual rediscovery over the course of the past decade has been a bright spot in the often bleak landscape of contemporary publishing. The other is about as utterly forgotten as one could imagine—even her nearest heirs had no idea she had published novels!

But enough teasing.

The first author, as some of you may have guessed already, is none other than D. E. STEVENSON, whose marvelous Miss Buncle's Book is one of my 10 favorite books of all time. The Miss Buncle series has been reprinted by both Persephone in the UK and Sourcebooks in the US, with other DES titles available in various formats from several publishers.

But then there's that other series for which Stevenson is best known—the funny, sweet, and lightly autobiographical Mrs Tim series, comprised of Mrs Tim of the Regiment, Mrs Tim Carries On, Mrs Tim Gets a Job, and Mrs Tim Flies Home. These are books to have with you on a desert island. Or on vacation. Or perhaps on vacation to a desert island. They can be read time and again without any diminishing of their pleasure. My bias is in favor of the wartime Mrs Tim Carries On, but in truth I adore them all.

Some of you will know already that Bloomsbury reprinted the first volume, Mrs Tim of the Regiment, several years ago, and that title is still in print. But inexplicably they never proceeded with the other three books, which have become more and more difficult to find and are sometimes prohibitively expensive if you can find them. But no more! All three will be released by Dean Street Press in January of 2019.

But that's not all for the DESsies among you. We'll also be reprinting another profoundly underrated Stevenson novel from the World War II years. 1942's Spring Magic is a cheerful, funny, sweet romance set primarily in an idyllic coastal village in Scotland. I read it for the first time early this year, on the recommendation of resident DES expert Jerri Chase, and it now ranks just behind the Miss Buncle and Mrs Tim books among my all-time favorite Stevenson titles.

And finally, for DES collectors and purists, perhaps the most exciting news is that we'll be reprinting (for the first time in more than 80 years!) the complete first edition text of Smouldering Fire, the Stevenson novel that has probably been more abused and mistreated by publishers than any other. It was first published in the UK in 1935 and in the US in 1938. Until now, however, those were the only complete editions of the book. All later reprints, both hardcover and paperback, have been heavily abridged, with entire chapters as well as occasional passages throughout the novel cut from the text. Ugh, why do publishers do such things? DESsies have bemoaned this problem for decades, but for our new edition, we have followed the text of the first U.K. edition, so will attempt to put to rights the indignities the book has been submitted to!

And a big additional thanks to Jerri for actually lending her impossibly rare copy of the UK first edition of Smouldering Fire for us to work from (not to mention her copy of the US first edition of Spring Magic), as well as scanning some of the wonderful dustjackets from her copies, which I'm using in this post. I'm happy to say that both of Jerri's books have made their way safely home again after their vacation in San Francisco. Thank you again for your generosity, Jerri, and your infinite knowledge of DES, upon which I've relied a great deal in the past few months.

That makes five D. E. Stevenson titles in all. Which leaves four more coming attractions...

It's not surprising that many of the books I choose to reprint have appeared in my "Furrowed Middlebrow Dozen" posts from past years, but it's always satisfying to see a title move from being a favorite new read of the year to being back in print (most of my favorite reads being, as you well know, out of print). The brilliant ELIZABETH ELIOT ranked at #4 in 2016's year-end list with her final novel, Cecil. (As it happens, we've already reprinted #1 and #7 from that year…) I devoted two whole posts that year to my obsessive reading of Eliot (see here and here), and am now delighted that we're reprinting four of her inimitable novels—Alice (1949), Henry (1950), Mrs Martell (1953), and the aforementioned Cecil (1962).

I was recently looking back at all four of these delightful novels, and was nearly swept into re-reading them, despite all the other books (and a number of other things) awaiting my attention. Lady Eliot forms a sharp contrast with D. E. Stevenson, and perhaps has more in common with the gleeful morbidity of Barbara Comyns than the comforting wit and wisdom of DES. One of my tasks when we're preparing these books for publication is to draft the cover descriptions, and I always like to open with a short, attention-grabbing quotation from each novel. While attempting to decide on these from an array of funny, dark, and quirky possibilities, I came across this passage from Henry which seemed to capture the quintessentially off-balance nature of Eliot's heroines:

'The trouble with you, Anne, is that you're always imagining things.' Who had said that? Probably mother. Or the governess before she left to get married. How disagreeable, and it was all the fault of the sub-conscious. … Why didn't the sub-conscious ever turn up things like: 'Anne, how beautiful you are looking today.' Or even: 'That's a good girl finishing up all your dinner.'

There are shades of other authors in Eliot's work, but ultimately she is entirely her own unique and brilliant creation.

So there, those are our nine new titles. We're hard at work finalizing covers at the moment (with some lovely cover images, if I do say so myself), and I should be able to preview those for you in the next two or three weeks. I'm so happy to be able to finally announce these, and hope you'll be looking forward to reading them!

Friday, August 17, 2018

DIANA MARR-JOHNSON, Goodnight Pelican (1958)

It's beyond high time that I get round to writing again about some of the reading I've been doing. Quite a lot of it, in fact, and some interesting finds along the way, so the American list will have to go on hold for a time. And I'll start with one of the most befuddling books I've read in a while (which seems to have resulted in a rather befuddling review)...

I finished reading this book, about the romance of an 18-year-old girl studying music in Paris between the wars, a few days before I got round to gathering my thoughts for a review. This is not uncommon, and my feelings about a book are generally pretty clear when I finish it and don't change a great deal, though they do get fine-tuned, but this time the delay seems to have had an unusual effect. I did manage to make a few notes right after finishing the book, one of which reads as follows:

I was hoping for a glittering, sophisticated, humorous, clever novel along the lines of Guard Your Daughters or Elizabeth Eliot's Alice, but Goodnight Pelican can't quite live up to those standards. It's consistently entertaining, and cleverly plotted enough that one doesn't have any sense (or I didn't, anyway) of how it will end. But for the most part it doesn't take a humorous perspective on the situation, with the result that it comes across as a bit too earnest for the relatively shallow depths it plumbs, and the narrator is irritating at times with no real payoff (unlike, say, The Great Gatsby, where neurotic, pretentious, dishonest Nick Carroway sheds all sorts of light on the other characters because of his own weaknesses). Having just read Doris Langley Moore's A Game of Snakes and Ladders, I found myself imagining the epic complexity and intricate machinations Moore might have made from this situation, but Marr-Johnson opts to keep it simple.  With the result that Pelican is a quick, enjoyable read, but one with little depth or tendency to linger in the mind once the last page is turned.

Well, that's all well and good, though generally I try not to have expectations like those above. I usually think more along the lines of, if you want to read Guard Your Daughters, then read Guard Your Daughters, but don't try to force another book to live up to your urge for a specific thing. Even with books by a single author, I tend to think such expectations are faulty—heaven knows I've complained enough about people saying that other Stella Gibbons novels don't "live up to" Cold Comfort Farm, as if they were supposed to or as if Gibbons wanted them to. Ahem. And while it is certainly true that Doris Langley Moore would probably have tackled the themes of Goodnight Pelican with brilliant gusto, it would then have been a Doris Langley Moore novel and not a Diana Marr-Johnson novel, so that's hardly playing the game either.

I seem to have gone on a tangent. At any rate, when I returned to make more thorough notes about Goodnight, Pelican, the first thing I did was look back at it's very striking opening paragraph:

I was returning to Montpelier Square with some "petits suisses" for a dinner party when I let the memory break like an ancient bottle, drenching me with poisonous matter and a more disturbing pleasure. It was no time to lay a ghost, but the need for exorcism is seldom timely and I had seen it approaching for days; for no good reason unless life is a softening-up process and by middle age the returning seasons of the year dangerously evocative.

Now, having finished the book, I'm absolutely yearning to know more about that dinner party, and its guests, and about how Clara, the immature, self-absorbed, strong-willed "heroine" (or perhaps just main character?) has lived her life and is only finally thinking back on these events in middle age.

I had made a note of the opening paragraph the first time around, but on looking back I was also struck by the next two paragraphs:

I thought, I have mellowed in my private satisfactions, flourishing like the green bay tree, and cowardice is long out of place. If it is forced on me this icy afternoon, I can remember without fear that I was once eighteen and in Paris.

The tumult of excitement which ran through every hour cannot harm me how, it is merely inexplicable. Of course, I was in love, but that condition was chronic, starting at the age of six and continuing with brief remissions of sanity through my youth, and after.

And suddenly I thought there might be more to the novel than I had at first noticed. I'm still not completely sure what to make of it, in fact.

Clara has been at a finishing school in Paris, and is purportedly now spending one final year studying music and polishing her French, though in fact she is far more concerned with going out on the town. The novel's main plot is really little more than melodrama—a battle between strong-willed Clara, so shallowly certain of what's best for herself and everyone else, and her soon-to-be mother-in-law, a widow who has always been extraordinarily and perhaps unhealthily close to her son and expects to remain so when he's married. The two begin as friends, and Maria effectively hand selects Clara to be her daughter-in-law, throwing Clara and her son together regularly until the romance blossoms. But the tension of their underlying battles of wills builds all the way to what the jacket blurb tritely calls its shocking conclusion.

One thing that Marr-Johnson undoubtedly captures beautifully is the frantic joy of being young, full of energy, and rather stupid in the most glamorous of all cities. Here are the somewhat overprotected Clara's thoughts after after being surprised that a young man is allowed to bring her home in a taxi unchaperoned:

So much, I thought, for a mother's warning. I was not really surprised. For a long time I had suspected my parents to be out of touch with life, and this merely confirmed it. They had the most extraordinary ideas, as for instance in their attitude to work. They believed I should work hard at the piano because such an opportunity might never come my way again. I knew that an infinite vista of opportunities stretched before me, it was merely a question of selecting the most urgent. To sit at cafes, to ride in the Bois, to watch the children playing in the Tuileries, to gaze in shop windows and wander slowly through the streets to a lunch appointment, to see the lights of Montmartre and drive home through the empty grey city at dawn were matters of imperative necessity. Music could wait.

Now, I can completely relate to Clara's attitude here, and remember what it was like for me backpacking through Europe on my own during the summer before my final year at university, after a lifetime of overprotection and fret. And I wonder if part of what made me not love the novel at first was that a part of me was (as many readers would probably be) absolutely ready to identify with Clara, as a young, charming girl living a glamorous life of irresponsibility and rebellion. But then Marr-Johnson gradually challenges that identification—and any simple reminiscing it may have inspired about one's own joyful youthful stupidity—by showing Clara to being just a bit too carelessly swept up in it all, too selfishly manipulating to get what she wants, and too shallowly indifferent to other people's needs. It's not nearly so much fun to question just how shallow and selfish one was oneself at age 21 as it is to simply reminisce about what fun life was…

One source of tension between Clara and André, her fiancé, is his use of part of his spare time working with a charity helping the poor and the sick as well as alcoholics and other downtrodden residents of Paris. This is completely contrary to Clara's views of the glamour of the city and the pleasures of life, and she is rather like a dog with a bone asking him why he should want to do such things. When she accompanies him to visit a dying man, we get a clearer idea of what lies beneath her superficially cheerful exterior:

The room was no more to me than a dreary stage set, and I could have watched its occupant die with the composed attention which I accorded a play, so long as I remained safely in the audience. Reality was absent. But the thought of becoming involved, even to the smallest degree, terrified me. Supposing he had called out, while André was away, or had beckoned to me, needing something? I felt a shiver of repulsion, and with it an anger against André, who should have known better than to take me to such a place, exposing me to such a risk.

It was interesting, then, to look at the biographical information I have about Marr-Johnson and find this tidbit in her Contemporary Authors entry:

Marr-Johnson was well known for her charitable activities on behalf of the poor. During World War II she opened a meeting place in London called Beauchamp Lodge, where poor women could find respite from the grinding poverty and shocking living conditions that surrounded them. It wasn't long before the lodge became a sort of women's club, then added a nursery center, youth shelter, and the British equivalent of a soup kitchen. Marr-Johnson devoted much time and effort to keep the refuge open by raising funds, delivering public lectures, and working at the center itself. Eventually Beauchamp Lodge collected clothing and found housing for people displaced by wartime bombings during the Blitz; its founder's efforts were so successful that the lodge remains in operation today.

I forgot to mention that Marr-Johnson, who published either five or six novels (there's a bit of confusion that I haven't worked out yet) was actually a niece of W. Somerset Maugham, as well as the sister of novelist Robin Maugham. She apparently, like Clara, moved comfortably in high society, and counted among her friends such folks as the Churchills, Noel Coward, Rebecca West, and Muriel Spark.

I'm a bit all over the place in this review, because I'm still a bit all over the place with the novel. I suspect that the only viable solution will be to go back and read it all over again, and if I'm not unconflicted about it, surely feeling the desire to read it again to "get" it is a kind of recommendation in itself. And if I happen across one or two of the author's other novels along the way, then so be it.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Americans: C's (4 of 4)

A rather random selection of authors this time, who just didn't fit well into my other thematic groupings.

Probably the biggest name this time around ("big" being a highly relative term) is ELIZABETH CORBETT, the author of more than 50 novels often referred to as "family fiction" or "nice novels about nice people," many of them historical in setting and some featuring recurring characters. Corbett's name has come up on the D. E. Stevenson discussion list, as being potentially of interest to DES fans, particularly her seven novels focused on Mrs Meigs—The Young Mrs Meigs (1931), A Nice Long Evening (1933), Mrs Meigs and Mr Cunningham (1936), She Was Carrie Eaton (1938), Mr and Mrs Meigs (1940), Excuse Me, Mrs Meigs (1949), and Our Mrs Meigs (1954). Another series, beginning with Mount Royal (1936), focuses on inhabitants of a small town. Other titles include Cecily and the Wide World (1916), The Graper Girls (1931), The Graper Girls Go to College (1932), The House Across the River (1934), Early Summer (1942), Portrait of Isabelle (1951), Family Portrait (1955), Hamilton Terrace (1960), The Continuing City (1965), Hotel Belvedere (1970), and Sunday at Six (1971).

Corbett had a particular connection to the time period during and after the American Civil War, perhaps because she was raised at Milwaukee's National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, where her father was an administrator. Some of you might be interested in her memoir, Out at the Soldiers' Home (1941), deals with her childhood and her experiences with the veterans living there. Corbett also published two biographical works, Walt: The Good Gray Poet Speaks for Himself (1928), purportedly told by Walt Whitman himself, and "If It Takes All Summer": The Life Story of Ulysses S. Grant (1930).

Also more or less forgotten today is HARRIET COMSTOCK, who published more than 40 volumes of fiction, including several children's titles. Some of her earlier titles are historical in subject, while later novels appear to be romances. 

Comstock's titles include Molly, the Drummer Boy: A Story of the Revolution (1900), Tower or Throne: A Romance of the Girlhood of Elizabeth (1902), Joyce of the Northern Woods (1911), Camp Brave Pine: A Camp Fire Girl Story (1913), Mam'selle Jo (1918), The Tenth Woman (1923), made into a silent film the same year, Penelope's Web (1928), Strange Understanding (1933), Doctor Hargreave's Assistant (1940), and Windy Corners (1942). Some online sources give other death dates, but I believe she's the Harriet Comstock who died in 1949 in Brooklyn, where we know the author lived for many years.

MARGARET CAMERON was a playwright, children's author, and novelist. She published numerous one-act plays and monologues before graduating to two short stories published in individual volumes—The Bachelor and the Baby (1908) and The Cat and the Canary (1908). She seems to have published five novels—The Involuntary Chaperon (1909), The Pretender Person (1911), The Golden Rule Dollivers (1913), Johndover… (1924), and A Sporting Chance (1926)—as well as a story collection, Tangles: Tales of Some Droll Predicaments (1912). The Seven Purposes: An Experience in Psychic Phenomena (1918) is non-fiction about her own experiences of the paranormal, and was reprinted in 2004. She also published several non-fiction titles for children, mostly on nature themes.

Emily Holmes Coleman

Somewhat well known on the more literary side of things, EMILY HOLMES COLEMAN was a journalist, poet, and author of a single novel. The Shutter of Snow (1930) is a somewhat experimental work based on her own time in a mental hospital with post-partum depression following the birth of her son. Holmes had moved with her psychologist husband to Paris during the late 1920s, among the expatriate community and the vibrant and experimental literary scene, which no doubt impacted the form and style of her novel. Shutter was reprinted by Virago in the 1980s and by the esteemed Dalkey Archive Press in the 1990s. Among her other achievements, Coleman worked with famed anarchist Emma Goldman to edit Goldman's memoir Living My Life (1931). A few years later, Coleman was instrumental in arranging for the publication of Djuna BARNES's major novel, Nightwood. According to the University of Delaware Special Collections Department, which holds Coleman's papers, she completed a second novel, Tygon, which was never published, as well as numerous unpublished plays, stories, diaries, and poems. See their informative page about the papers here. The first volume of her edited diaries, Rough Draft: The Modernist Diaries of Emily Holmes Coleman, 1929-1937, appeared in 2012.

Press photo of Georgette Carneal "in her New York penthouse"

To counteract the numerous authors on this list who focused on rural, pioneer, or Western life, there are two "C" authors who focused particularly on urban life. GEORGETTE CARNEAL only published a single novel, but the jacket blurb makes it sound like a humdinger—The Great Day (1932) is a "brew of modern life. Those who lived the half life in this story operated behind the scenes of a sensational newspaper. Steve, the managing editor, kept telling himself: I'm young. I can squeeze this dirty thing dry and make my getaway. So did the bigger executives and the smaller stenographers; so did the ones on the outside, the kept women, the little love girls. In the dim half life, they made their money, they made their killings, but when they tried to find their way back, there was no place to go." Wow. Carneal's personal life must have been a tangle, as we seem to have found records of four different marriages, one to early film director Ira Genet (real name Rosenwasser).

Far better known is HORTENSE CALISHER, whose 16 novels, several story collections, and novellas often focused on Jewish life in New York City. Her earliest short stories appeared in The New Yorker in the 1940s, with her first collection, In the Absence of Angels, published in 1951. She won four O. Henry awards for her short fiction. Among her most famous novels are The New Yorkers (1969), an epic of a wealthy, intellectual Jewish family, In the Palace of the Movie King (1993), about a filmmaker in exile in the U.S., and Sunday Jews (2002), about an eccentric mixed-religion family facing the decline of their father. Others include False Entry (1961), Queenie (1971), Eagle Eye (1973), The Bobby-Soxer (1986), and Age (1987). Under the pseudonym Jack Fenno, Calisher published a single novel, The Small Bang (1992). Her memoirs include Herself: An Autobiographical Work (1972) and Kissing Cousins (1988).

And four of the "C" authors seem to have been particularly socially conscious. ANN CHIDESTER published six novels which received qualified praise from critics. Her listing in American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present says that her "novels show a concern for women and for the lower classes, but are frequently flawed by unnecessary dramatic and thematic complications, creating a lack of focus." Young Pandora (1942) is autobiographical in theme, about a young woman falling in love and becoming an author. Mama Maria's (1947) is set at a truck stop in the Midwest, dealing with a widow whose son has died in WWII and the veteran she hires and becomes close to. Her final novel, The Lost and the Found (1963), deals with the rape and murder of a migrant worker's child. The other titles are No Longer Fugitive (1943), The Long Year (1946), and Moon Gap (1950). Chidester died at the U.S. Consul in Dublin, suggesting her husband may have been Irish and she may have moved there with him.

Eleanor Chilton

The three novels by poet and novelist ELEANOR CHILTON also wrestle with serious themes. Shadows Waiting (1926) deals with an author's retreat from reality. The Burning Fountain (1929) is about about a couple determined to raise their children in a rational and orderly way, but find their third child beyond their comprehension. And Follow the Furies (1935), which was adapted as a play in 1940, is about a young woman who has killed her terminally ill mother and is then tormented by the implications. Chilton also published the non-fiction The Garment of Praise: The Necessity for Poetry (1929) and contributed to the poetry collection Fire and Sleet and Candlelight (1928). She was married for a time to Pulitzer Prize winning historian Herbert Agar.

Fannie Cook

FANNIE COOK hailed from St Louis, Missouri and was a teacher, journalist, activist, and author of five novels, which reflect her concern with social equality, particularly in regard to African-American rights and anti-Semitism. The Hill Grows Steeper (1938) is a presumably autobiographical portrait of a woman balancing marriage, motherhood, job, and political concerns. Boot-Heel Doctor (1941) is set among sharecroppers in the southeast "boot-heel" of Missouri during the Depression. Mrs Palmer's Honey (1946), according to Kirkus, focuses "on the transformation of 'Mrs. Palmer's Honey',—nameless, efficient, unobtrusive maid in a St. Louis household—into Honey Hoop, socially conscious war worker." Storm Against the Wall (1948) focuses more on anti-Semitism, dealing with a family of long-settled German-Jewish immigrants in St Louis and their entended family back in Germany facing the crisis of Nazism. And The Long Bridge (1949) focuses on the St Louis art scene, with which Cook was also involved. That work was published posthumously following Cook's sudden death of heart attack at age 56.

Florence Converse

And then there's FLORENCE CONVERSE, poet and author of at least six volumes of fiction, who has been described by a modern critic as a "Christian socialist" novelist and was on the staff of the Atlantic Monthly for many years. Diana Victrix (1897) is set in Converse's native New Orleans. Long Will (1903) is a historical novel based on the life of Piers Plowman author William Langland, of which Bookman said: "In spite of the fact that it is more than half a poem, a sort of prose epic full of a dignified and lofty symbolism, it is none the less saturated with genuine human nature." The House of Prayer (1908) seems to be a Christian-themed children's book. Into the Void (1926) is subtitled "A Bookshop Mystery," and was described by the Wisconsin Library Bulletin as: "A delightful story of the disappearance 'into the fourth dimension' of a book shop manager and a poet. The shop in question is supposedly the Hathaway Bookshop of Wellesley." Other fiction includes The Burden of Christopher (1900) and Sphinx (1931). Her Collected Poems appeared in 1937. She also published Wellesley College: A Chronicle of the Years 1875-1938 (1939), about her alma mater.

And finally, two random authors who haven't fit any of my other subdivisions. A longtime UCLA professor and scholar of Renaissance and Shakespeare studies, LILY BESS CAMPBELL was the author of a single novel, about which details are sparse. These Are My Jewels (1929) is described in one source as a satirical novel, and a bookseller says it's about "a mother of the 1890s who ruins her children." Her scholarly works include Scenes and Machines on the English Stage during the Renaissance (1923), Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes, Slaves of Passion (1930), and Shakespeare's "Histories": Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy (1947).

And MARY ELIZABETH COUNSELMAN was the author of periodical fiction and poetry from the 1930s to 1980s, particularly ghost stories and tales of the supernatural or of science-fiction. Some of her stories were collected in Half in Shadow (1964, reprinted with additional stories, 1978) and African Yesterdays: A Collection of Native Folktales (1975, enlarged edition 1977). Several of her stories were also adapted for television.

And that's it for the C's. Some day I shall get around to moving on to the D's!
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