Saturday, January 24, 2015
Hold Fast The Dream
Harcourt, Brace, 1955
It was noontime in Paris. The medley of sound from bell-tower and boulevard fell faintly on Blithe Moreland's ears, but her hands did not stop work. She continued to press little pellets of clay onto the yard-high figure of a striding man on the stand before her, entirely absorbed in the construction of the human shoulder.
Blithe Moreland is in Paris for the summer, working in the highly sought-after sculpting class of Monsieur Pierre, hoping to impress the master and convince her family back home that art, not college, is her future. A weekend trip to Salzburg derails her plans, introduces her to the kind Lang family and gives her the artistic inspiration she's been seeking.
Quiet fell upon the crowd and, at the flourish of a trumpet, the famous Lippizan horses with their handsome riders filed through the gate in a slow line, eight white horses stepping proudly in unison like lovely, perfect creatures from another world. This was the world-famous Spanische Reitschule of Vienna, the Spanish Riding School; Blithe had often heard of it.
Moving to Salzburg to study the horses, Blithe is crushed to discover they've now gone on tour. She contents herself studying other horses, throwing herself into sketching and investigating the anatomy of the horse in preparation for someday creating a sculpture.
Apart from Blithe's artistic ambitions, two sub-plots involve a romance (of course) and the slow-developing relationship between the young American and the Austrians she comes to know. It's a relationship marked by humiliating mistakes and mutual confusion, but with goodwill on both sides.
Both the romance and the international harmony plots take a back seat to Blithe as an artist, a choice that pleases me. The slow pace of her progress is also likeable, and the resolution is believable. My only real quibble is with the "where'd that come from?" nature of the romance - it pops up at the end of the book as an accomplished feature of her life, but until about 5 pages before, she wasn't even aware she liked the guy.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Gay Head, editor; John Fernie, il (cover)
1963, Scholastic Magazines, Inc.
14 warm and glowing stories selected by Gay Head.
Stardust by Virginia Laughlin (originally Boys Don’t Understand)
16-year-old Wendy Warren dreams about the older brother of the boy next door. 23-year-old Brian complimented her and she fell head over heels, much to the annoyance of his younger brother Tod.
A Girl Called Charlie by William Kehoe
Quiet, thoughtful Charlotte Hollister finds a meeting of the minds with Ridge Evans when he protests the “going steady” fad in their high school.
Blue Valentine by Mary Gibbons (orig in Woman's Day, Feb. 1954, shown to left)
16-year-old Angelo Colucci, oldest and only son in a family of girls, chooses what he thinks is the ultimate feminine gift for his adored girlfriend, Ethel-Irene Simons, daughter of a local professor. His instincts are perfect – except he doesn’t realize how her parents will react.
The Walnut Trees by Virginia Akin (originally in Woman's Day Magazine)
Jenny Lee’s crush on a handsome teacher is resolved in an unexpectedly gracious way when his engagement is announced.
Once Upon A Pullman by Florence Jane Soman
He raised on eyebrow. “Just fasten your seat belt and let me take care of the landing.”
19-year-old William Fowler tries to impress a girl he meets on a train by cribbing from a novel about a smooth seducer.
Epicac by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (originally in Collier's)
A machine helps a man woo his coworker, and falls in love with her itself.
Sixteen by Maureen Daly
The narrator tells of a night out of time, when she goes ice skating and meets a boy and waits for him to call and realizes he never will. A strange, dreamy story.
Eighteen by Charlie Brodie
The boy from Daly’s Sixteen tells his side of the skating night.
Prelude by Lucille Vaughan Payne (originally in Seventeen)
Nancy is popular, pretty and comfortably middle-class; her only “quirk” is an unusual affinity for classical music. Stephen in invisible, awkward and poor, but he also loves music and plays the piano. They fall in love, but Nancy has to decide if she can accept the change their dating will bring to her life of popularity.
Tomboy by Gertrude Schweitzer
Frances is uninterested in the social/romantic life at school, and resists growing up. Forced to attend a 16th birthday party for a cousin, she quickly plans with old friend Skeeter to slip out. To catch frogs in a nearby marsh. Then she meets a college boy…
Bittersweet by Arlene Hale (originally title "First Love")
Leslie and Claude were high school sweethearts. Then he went to college, and suddenly, stopped writing. When he comes home for winter break, they’re forced to confront the truth.
Who is Sylvia? By Laura Nelson Baker (originally in Seventeen, September 1959 issue, shown left)
Adam falls in love with quirky, aloof Sylvia, who recently moved to town and lives with her grandparents. When parental decisions suddenly end their relationship, Adam faces the ephemeral nature of love.
Theme Song by Dave Grubb
Edith, a dreamy girl working in her father’s small restaurant, finds romance in the love life of a young man, a soldier posted at the local base, who comes in and talks about the girl he left behind.
Tough Guy by Peter Brackett
Surly, angry Byron is always ready to fight but secretly is in love with Nina and even writes a poem about her. The verse falls into the wrong hands, and destroys his bad boy rep. But it also gets Nina’s attention.
Several of the authors were difficult to find online. This has to be one of the most unlikely places to encounter Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. His short, EPICAC, was first published in 1950, in Collier's Weekly, and the central figure (a computer) was based on the real-life ENIAC.
Hi There, High School! (1960)
Etiquette For Young Moderns (1954)
Dear Gay Head (1962)
Boy Dates Girl (1961)
Party Perfect (1963)
Florence Jane Soman
Love Is A Lonely Thing (1953)
A Break In The Weather (1959)
Picture Of Success (1966)
Seventeenth Summer (1942)
Sixteen and Other Stories (1961)
Acts of Love
First A Dream
a prolific writer of nurse romances.
Laura Nelson Baker
The Special Year