Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Going Steady (1950)

Going Steady
Anne Emery

Sally Burnaby's a 17-year-old whose long summer after high school graduation is a mixture of the delights of having a steady boyfriend and the frustrations of being almost but not quite an adult. Despite the dated nature of the material - did that world ever exist, even in 1950? - and the way the author's evasion of certain topics makes her heroine look a bit dim at times, it's a more honest examination of being female, young and (inescapably) naive than most of the current crop of cutting-edge problem novels.

At the book's start, Sally appears to be just a cute teenager. She's completely absorbed with her boyfriend, Scotty, and restless with being more than a child and less than an adult in a busy family. She's set to attend college in the fall, but she grows increasingly aggravated by her own sense of inadequacy as the summer progresses. Scotty, for all his good qualities, possesses that typically male trait of overweening confidence, and Sally grows anxious to gain his approval. She's indifferent to tennis and diving, but struggles to get better at both because he excels at them and simply expects her to want to improve. She can drive a modern reader insane with this, and with the way she hesitates to even share a difference of opinion. But has this really changed? Don't many girls still fall into line with male opinion, become caught up in trying to 'live up' to male expectations even in subjects and fields that don't interest them? A more frustrating anarchronism is the way Sally's parents agonize over how the relationship will impact Scotty. I do not like this behavior, having had a similar conversation once with a brother who implored me not to 'hurt' a boyfriend. Boy-boy loyalty apparently trumps blood ties.

Apart from her romance, Sally's other major concern in this summer is her position in her family, and how that's changing. Aware suddenly that all her friends have summer jobs, she realizes belatedly that maybe she's expected to work too. When she does get a job, she hates it, does it poorly, and realizes belatedly that she was wrong to approach it with such slipshod indifference. And she spends her first paycheck on a frivolous item instead of contributing to the family finances or buying a needed coat. These are somewhat old-fashioned ideas; I wonder how many middle-class kids really feel pressured to help support themselves at 17 today - but one thing is timeless. Sally feels that all her bad decisions are irrevocable, that she just keeps digging herself in deeper without remedy. She's haunted by a steadily worsening sense of having repeatedly failed to understand or figure out the right thing, whether it be with Scotty or her job or her family. What she thought would be a beautiful summer with her steady boyfriend turns into a long, hard season of growing up, and by the end of it, both she and Scotty are panicking, so frustrated by their family woes and personal confusion that they agree to take a leap into a different life. But is marriage at 17 really what Sally wants?

The terms of 'going steady' are utterly outdated and adorable and largely alien to anyone born after 1940. Sally's observations of her coworker Carol, a 26-year-old who's desperate to find a husband and escape drudge work, are painfully realistic, even in the 21st century. Go to any library and choose 3 books with pastel covers, and they'll all be chick lit with Carol as the heroine. The only difference will be the modern format's fantasist insistence that most Carols are actually successful career women with expensive shoe collections. Sally's friend Millie, on the other hand, probably doesn't exist anymore. Sudden pregnancy usually derails modern youth engagements, it doesn't result in shotgun

Author Bio

Anne Eleanor McGuigan was the eldest of five children with a father who was a professor. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1928, spent a year travelling with her family, and then began teaching. She married John Emery in 1933, and had five children. The Illinois town of Evanston appears to be the model for Sherwood; she lived in Evanston most of her life.

Other Books
About the Burnabys
Senior Year - about Sally
Going Steady - about Sally
High Note, Low Note
Campus Melody

Dinny Gordon Series:
Dinny Gordon, Freshman
Dinny Gordon, Sophomore
Dinny Gordon, Junior
Dinny Gordon, Senior

Jane Ellison 4-H
County Fair
Hickory Hill
Sweet Sixteen

Pat Marlowe
First Love True Love
First Orchid for Pat
First Love Farewell

Sue Morgan
The Popular Crowd
The Losing Game

Other Books
Scarlet Royal
Vagabond Summer
That Archer Girl
Married on Wednesday
A Dream to Touch
Bright Horizons
Mountain Laurel
Jennie Lee, Patriot
American Friend: Herbert Hoover
Mystery of the Opal Ring
Danger in a Smiling Mask
Carey's Fortune
The Sky Is Falling
Free Not to Love

Spy books
A Spy in Old Philadelphia
A Spy in Old Detroit
A Spy in Old New Orleans
A Spy in Old West Point

Image Cascade Publishing

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meet The Malones


Lenora Mattingly Weber
1943, Thomas Y. Crowell Company

Mary Fred had just bought a horse. He was black and his name was Mr. Chips and Mary Fred was riding him home. The January wind had the moist breath of snow as it rippled the bridle reins, flapped the green scarf over Mary Fred's unruly dark hair, tugged at the end knotted under her tanned, squarish chin. She thought, "I've bought a horse." The thought could still startle her. For certainly she had not had the slightest intention of buying a horse with the money which had been sent her to buy a formal for the spring prom at school.

With this impulsive beginning we are introduced to 16-year-old Mary Fred Malone, the eldest daughter currently in residence at the ramshackle Malone house in Denver. Her widower father, Martie, is a columnist more involved in the war news than his family, leaving Mary Fred to organize the affairs of 15-year-old Johnny and 13-year-old Beany. When Martie trots off to cover the war news from Hawaii, Mary Fred decides to forgo the services of a housekeeper and split the salary between the siblings, who each have expenses: Mary Fred's upkeep of Mr. Chips, Johnny's new typewriter and Beany's remodeled bedroom. Things don't go smoothly, especially when their 19-year-old eldest sister, Elizabeth, returns home unexpectedly and sickly from a troubled pregnancy. But the two biggest cogs in the wheel of domestic harmony are Mary Fred's romance with high school hero Dike Williams (yes, I know) and the interfering kindness of their chic Philadelphia aunt.

A well-written, warm book which hits all the normal marks for books of this kind. A dead mother, a distracted father who has an intellectual yet underpaid job, a heroine who yearns to break free from drudgery but never will because she's so mentally enslaved, and a moral which rewards her slavish devotion to everyone but herself. All the males in her life spend their free time (which is plentiful, despite the fact they are forever held up as paragons of useful work) staring disapprovingly at anything she does which might be interpreted as, you know, selfish, and endlessly droning on about duty and how she'd be much happier supervising an impromptu Christmas play with pox-stricken 7-year-olds than skiing with a football hero.

I don't feel too bad for Mary Fred, though - she participates in other unsavory traditions of this breed of book. With the rest of her family, she casually scorns her neighbor, Mrs. Adams, who doesn't share the Malones's lively, warm, messy sense of what's important; Mary Fred loves to help Martie cater to a drunken old colleague, but she's indifferent and rude to the poor woman, who clearly hates living next door to a pack of obnoxious kids and their vicious dog.

It is a WWII book: Father said, looking around the table, "The fight's getting tougher. That means tougher on all of us." He wouldn't say more than that. But they knew he meant that they must give more of themselves, their work, their money. "Yes, we know," each one nodded soberly.

Yes, all right, it's war. And not just war, but THE war, the war against pure evil. But - I suspect that Martie Malone would have been like this anyway; he strikes me as a pain in the ass. He doesn't give up much. He clearly adores going off to Hawaii for work, he follows up this little lecture by lighting up his pipe, and he never seems to take a sabbatical from hectoring his womenfolk. Elizabeth, earlier, had dragged herself in off the prairie after giving birth in a shack, having been quelled by the menfolk into thinking:

"In times like these, we agreed, everyone has his own burden, and no one should add his. Don has his; Father has his; and this was mine."

I am agog to find out how this works out in divorce court; does he get custody of his war experiences while she retains full control of the children?

Other Editions

Other Books
Beany Malone
Leave It To Beany
Beany And the Beckoning Road
Beany Has A Secret Life
Make A Wish For Me
Happy Birthday, Dear Beany
The More The Merrier
A Bright Star Falls
Welcome, Stranger
Pick A New Dream
Tarry Awhile
Come Back, Wherever You Are
Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Don't Call Me Katie Rose
The Winds Of March
A New And Different Summer

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Season Of Love (short stories)

Season Of Love

Sylvie Schuman, il. William K. Plummer (jacket)

1961, Franklin Watts, Inc.

A short story collection divided into seasons. Very readable and likable, with a generally positive tone and upbeat resolution.


In "Second Love," Linda yearns after the girl-blind boy next door for years, only to see his first love be a glamorous newcomer.

In "A Living Doll," the crusading Marianna is impatient with her mother, who prefers to donate her hand-crafted dolls to a charity auction rather than show up at a fundraiser, but gains a glimmer of understanding when her boyfriend grows impatient with the stand she's taken on a malicious rumor.

In "Sister Act," Joan is terrified that her natural born flirt sister will snatch away a boy she's fallen for.

In "Won't Somebody Notice Me," Barbara discovers her little sister's value through the eyes of a boy she wants to impress.


In "End Of A Season" Margaret's happy security is threatened when her father grows ill and decides to sell their large family home; at the same time, she becomes aware that her heart doesn't belong to her boyfriend, now in college, but to herself.

In "The Shy One," Janey runs off to her uncle's for comfort when she simply can't stand being around her confident sister Joan one more moment.


In "Her Name In Lights," Linda chases stardom after seeing an old friend end up a movie star. But does she really want to put in the time and effort?

In "A Different Sort Of Girl," Jenny's first real relationship monopolizes her life, including the hobby she shares with her father - refinishing old furniture.

In "People Don't Live On Lakes," Terry is frustrated with her own dislike of her first real job - and tired of explaining to people that she does want to work, it's just that...


In "Sweet Lorraine," Lorraine is estatic that her summer romance with the enigmatic, older Mike isn't over - then a little tired of dating an older guy.

In "A Time To Love," Joan's sudden popularity make her neglect an old friend and her family.

In "A Girl Of Spirit," Trudy visits her big brother at college and, away from their middle-class suburban hometown, is torn between the expectations of her parents and her own desires to be a doctor.

In "One You Love," Jennifer loses her summer romance and takes comfort in the experience of a friend, who recently became engaged after being desolate over another boy.

Vanished Worlds

The author was the editor for the teen magazines where these were originally published: Ingenue Magazine, Deb, and Co-Ed. Three words that have largely passed from use.

Other Books

For Girls Only

The Ingenue Date Book