Seventeen (Booth Tarkington, 1915)

William Sylvanus Baxter has attained the great age of seventeen and now considers himself quite an adult. He takes it as a major affront when his family, friends, or strangers don’t — never mind how passing or imaginary the slight against his adulthood may be. He is very, very self-conscious and like as not to assume everything anyone says or does is about him.

Baxter, as he would like to be called now that he’s put Silly Bill behind him, has found true and everlasting love. Young Miss Lola Pratt is visiting the Prachers and she is simply the noblest creature on the earth. She carries a tiny perfumed and often barely conscious dog with her called Flopit that she continually speaks in baby talk to. Indeed, she continually speaks in baby talk in general to everybody. Baxter builds castles in the sky for when they marry, which will be right away, of course — why, did you hear of the boy in Iowa who started shaving at 13 and in three years had a full beard and he married and they said it was the best thing that could have happened.

Trouble is, every other boy around Baxter’s age has also fallen head over heals for Miss Pratt. Baxter is only barely cognizant of them, given how true and everlasting his love is compared to their boyish infatuations. Mr. Pracher knows. Mr. Pracher knows and is being driven slowly insane by Miss Pratt’s baby prattle and the gaggle of boys that fill his house from early morning to late at night.

The book is really a series on incidents too numerous to recite in which Baxter continually defeats himself through his own self-consciousness. Cringe humor, which I don’t normally go in for, but I had fun with this one. Worried that the ending was going to turn out trite, but no, it veered hard into creepy territory instead. Hurray?

Inscription: “To George, from his friends in 214” on the front flyleaf. Don’t know what that is. The hand looks male and decidedly adult.

The Landloper (Holman Day, 1915)

A man calling himself Walker Farr walks far and wide. He’s evidently from the west somewhere, but he winds up in Lewiston a large mill town in Maine this state. The town’s public water supply — as is every town’s water supply in the state — is controlled by the Consolidated Water Company. To maximize profits, they draw from the polluted Androscoggin the river rather than run pipes several miles north to the clean water of Lake Auburn the lake. Farr arrives to see one of the Quebecois mill workers pulled out of the canal, where she’s drowned herself. He takes care of her orphaned daughter, but the child soon contracts typhoid and dies. Farr makes it his mission to clean up the water situation.

This will mean a complete political overhaul. It’s not enough to just elect in the other party — the lip service varies, but both parties are ultimately in the pocket of big business. It will mean packing the legislature with those in sympathy to the cause and electing an honest man governor that won’t simply veto any progressive legislation. They find him in Archer Converse. Farr’s grandstanding at the convention gets Converse nominated, much to his surprise, as he had no will or notion of getting into politics. But the tide had turned and even the Consolidated sees the writing on the wall.

Inscriptions: “H.E. Knapf”, on the front flyleaf. In another hand and ink, “Mar. 10, ’25” on the facing endpaper.

(104 books this year? It seems like so many, considering I’ve not even bothered to summarize two thirds of the Perry Mason novellas I’ve read.)

War Brides (Marian Craig Wentworth, 1915)

A one-act play set in a farming community in an unnamed country. It quickly becomes obvious that there are no men present — only women and children. The reason is war. The war has lasted so long and depleted the army to such an extent that now no sooner does a boy come of age than he is called to the front. The emperor, the generals, and the priests collude to bring about an emergency measure where young men, in their few days before being drafted, are married to whatever single women are at hand in mass wedding ceremonies. It’s an act of patriotism. It’s for love of the fatherland.

Hedwig is the first war bride, or so she’s called, and carries a child conceived by her husband, now at the front. She acts strangely. All throughout the play, she says she has a message for the emperor, but it can’t be sent until she hears news of her husband. At last, that news comes: he and all his brothers are dead. Hedwig knows that the war has no goal and can have no end. She and the other women are merely being used to breed new generations to be killed at the front. If the emperor won’t stop the war, then the women will. And so she sends her message by sweeping up a pistol and shooting herself to death.

Inscription: signed by the author, Marian Craig Wentworth, and inscribed with a quote from the text, “January 1917, New York City, ‘To remind men — of peace.'”

The Fortunes of Garin (Mary Johnston, 1915)

In medieval France, a squire named Garin rescues a shepherdess from Jaufre, a knight who, one might say, was threatening her maiden virtue. Montmaure, Jaufre’s father, is a great overlord and Garin is forced to flee to escape reprisal. He joins the crusade and spends eight years at war in Syria, where he becomes a troubadour-knight and wins renown for his valor and poetry. Meanwhile, Jaufre desires to marry Audiart, the Princess of Roche-à-Frêne, but she refuses him because, unknown to him, she was that shepherdess he attacked. He lays siege to the town, assisted greatly by Richard, the Duke of Aquitaine.

When Garin returns, the lands around Roche-à-Frêne have been laid to waste, and while the town itself remains strongly defended, Jaufre’s blockade threatens to starve them into capitulation. Garin joins Audiart, who recognizes him as the squire who once rescued her. She devises a plan wherein she will again become a shepherdess, Garin will become her jongleur brother, and the two will sneak across the enemy lines to meet with Richard and convince him to withdraw his troops. He does. Without Aquitaine’s help, Montmaure is unable to maintain the siege and Roche-à-Frêne is saved. Audiart asks Garin to marry her.

The Passionate Crime (E. Temple Thurston, 1915)

Anthony Sorel is a poet who lives in a remote cabin in the mountains of southern Ireland. He traveled there some years ago in an attempt to purify himself — to make his soul as simple as those of the native inhabitants. He has a theory that the faeries of Irish folklore are real — not in a literal sense, but rather the faeries one sees are a manifestation of one’s own emotion.

Anna Quartermaine is one of the natives, but not of the simple peasant class Anthony idolizes. She’s wealthy, well traveled, and anglicized. She’s loved by all men and she enjoys all men’s attention, but it’s not until Anthony arrives that she finds herself in love. Malachi, Anthony closest friend, warns him of the dangers women pose to poets. Anthony is at once smitten by Anna, but he tries to break away, at last deciding to leave the village and seek a new hermitage elsewhere.

The night before his departure, Anthony is visited by what he takes to be a faery in the guise of Anna, who beckons him to stay and love her. His resistance spent, he gives in. In the morning, Anthony discovers that the spirit actually was Anna. Disgusted at the loss of his ideal, he stabs her to death with a kitchen knife.