Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pulitzer Project: Early Autumn

Okay. I'm up to 1927, and am noticing a pattern: one out of every 4 books has managed to stand the test of time and is still worth reading. Louis Bromfield's Early Autumn is not one of them.

I can, however, understand why it was a best seller back in the 1920s. The underlying theme is rich people (at least the ones with old money) are miserable, they lead lives of quiet desperation/ frustration, they're sexually repressed and suffer for it, their cherished family myths and values are built on fantasy and fraud, and they keep insane relatives in the attic.

Maybe I would have been more impressed if (spoiler alert!) the big reveal hadn't been that the insane relative in the attic wound up that way because her wedding night was so traumatic -- totally unprepared for what her Wifely Duty actually consisted of, her fumbling virginal husband's lovemaking caused the young, innocent bride to suffer a mental breakdown. Bromfield is, of course, making an argument that the repressive, puritanical attitudes of the past lead only to misery, broken lives, and mental hospitals, but it's pretty hard to take the melodrama seriously.

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