Sometimes this century is just too much and we seek out popcorn from the past. Not, you know, classics, exactly, but good stuff that is enjoyable to read and gives a nice snapshot of popular literature of the time.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes— technically this one might be considered a classic, I mean, it was sort of made into a Marilyn Monroe movie (though not really– the book is soooo much racier, despite the lack of a strip-tease). (Also the main character is a bit racist, but she’s a bit a lot of other things too, and it’s portrayed in a way that the actual author seems to be condemning the casual racism, but still, FYI.) Don’t know why it isn’t available on kindle anymore, but your library is pretty likely to have a copy.
Dinny Gordon, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. These are good. On the surface they’re silly YA fiction from the 1960s, but there’s a subversiveness to them. Junior year is especially enthralling. (Hat Tip to Girl Historian for recommending them!) Worth checking to see if your university library still has them.
We Shook the Family Tree. A comic memoir, similar to those by Jean Kerr, though not quite the same. I used to read these kinds of books by the pile back when I was a kid after I discovered the non-fiction comedy section at the library (after running out of children’s books and being too young for a lot of the SF/Fantasy/Mystery adult books). I have no idea where I got this paperback… I wonder if it once belonged to my mother (unlikely because she doesn’t tend to keep paperbacks) or if I actually picked it up myself at a used bookstore (also unlikely because I don’t tend to buy things that aren’t SF/Fantasy unless it’s an author I already know). Maybe it was nestled between Richard Armour and Jean Kerr and I impulse-bought it. It’s a mystery. In any case, it was a fun light romp (and kind of funny how the heroine complained about having a thigh gap– only they called it being bow-legged back then!)
While reading We shook the family tree, I decided I was curious about Hildegarde Dolson, and the Wikipedia article made her seem even more interesting. I’m always a sucker for long-lasting, late-in-life romances. Anyway, her husband was a mystery writer (a widower) who wrote mystery novels with his wife before she died. Well, I had to try some of those. Annoyingly, our uni library has ALL of them and all of the Dolson books, BUT it won’t check them out. If I didn’t have work or a family I would so park myself in that reading room and just read. They also have a complete collection of SF/Fantasy paperbacks that doesn’t circulate. Forget the museum. I want to be locked into that room overnight! (I may have to ILL One Lady, Two Cats… you know, for research purposes– or just buy it off amazon). They did have a few random circulating copies of things though, so I ordered neither the first in the series nor the reputed best in the series … and I liked them.
The Lockridges have two main series, one about a couple named Mr. and Mrs. North who are pretty similar to Gracie Allen and a less sarcastic George Burns, if Gracie and George solved crimes, and the other about a police inspector named Heimrich. The two books I got out, Murder is Served and Spin Your Web, Lady, were both pretty good. Though definitely products of their time (1947 and 1948)– in Spin Your Web I cringed a bit at the pregnant lady getting drunk and even more at the treatment of a mentally disabled character, and some other stuff that would give too much away if I stated it here. Both open with really entertaining slices of life– the former gives us a scene at a high class restaurant, the latter puts us in the mind of a somewhat sketchy university extension professor. I think I’m going to grab more by these authors. And One Lady, Two Cats is definitely on my amazon wishlist. I also wish I had some Perry Masons, which are easy and fun popcorn novels though not quite as wholesome as the tv show.
#2 is reading lots of frontlist right now (especially from the library), but on the backlist I’ve recently quite enjoyed Fay Weldon’s Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen.
Come at us with some throwback-reading love, readers!