Monday, July 31, 2006

Mystery of the Day


I've been steadily going through my bookshelves, reading many books I've been promising myself I'd get around to "some day." The latest was Elinor Lipman's THE DEARLY DEPARTED. Maybe it was the Art Deco-inspired jacket, but after I finished the Lipman I suddenly had a yen to read something by Thorne Smith. I have three long out-of-print volumes by him; apart from an I. D. bracelet and a tietack, they're all the possessions of my father's that my mother retained after they divorced.

One of the Thorne Smith books had a piece of folded paper sticking out of it. I pulled it out and flattened it. To my immense surprise, it was a sheet of notepaper printed with the name and Fifth Avenue address of Mrs. Laurance Rockefeller.*

For the life me, I can't figure out how that notepaper got there. The only Rockefellers I ever knew were poor relations (maybe) who attended my public high school.

I started reading THE GLORIOUS POOL in the THORNE SMITH 3 BAGGER (Doubleday Doran, 1943), which I'd last read at age 13, lured by the line drawings of topless women in scanties. (In my youthful enthusiasm, I'd thought that signified there'd be hot passages. There weren't; all the sex was totally cloaked in allusion.) It has a good premise--magical pool restores an aging man and his over-the-hill mistress to their glorious, dissolute youth--and some good descriptions, but waaaaay too much "clever" repartee impeding the action. And oh, all the cocktails! You can tell this was written during Prohibition, and that Thorne Smith was a major lush. (According to Wikipedia: "Smith drank as steadily as his characters; his appearance in James Thurber's The Years With Ross involves an unexplained week-long disappearance.")

I gave up around Chapter 3, and made it through maybe three grafs of the next novel in the collection, SKIN AND BONES. But then I hit TOPPER and stayed. Is there any better description of the stultefying suburban commuter life than this? (Note reference to child labor.)
On Monday morning, after exchanging pennies with a small Italian child for a stillborn edition of a New York paper, he greeted his friends with his habitual placidity. No, he had not heard the new one about Bill's furnace. He was sorry that Mrs. Thompson was having servant trouble. Too bad. Was that so? Jennings had made a killing again. Great stuff. Surely, he'd bring the Missus over first thing. Wednesday evenng? Good! Good! His tulips? Doing splendidly! A whole bed of them--all blooming. No, not brewing, just smousing about. Is that so! How about your own cellar? None of that stuff, Jack! The whole town knows about you. The farmer's daughter and the tramp? Sure, he'd like to hear about it. Wait till they got aboard.

And off went Topper with his boon companions, all of whom he decided were perfect strangers to him.


Another mystery:
What do Topper and Kramer of "Seinfeld" have in common?
(See answer in comments section.)

*Motto: "My husband is so rich, he doesn't have to spell his first name right."

3 comments:

Richard said...

I'm dying to know what Topper and Kramer have in common!!! (Did I miss the answer somewhere in here?)

Bella Stander said...

Oops! I accidentally deleted the answer. They have the same first name: Cosmo.

nynynyny said...

Thorne Smith lived in New Jersey, in a colony frequented by artists and writers.

Take a trip to http://www.freeacres.org where you'll find a few private photos of Smith, and browse through our extensive pdf archives.

Drop us a note when you visit.