Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Susan Glaspell

I rushed out to a bookstore, difficult because of having to skirt roads which are being repaved after the flood, and bought a copy of David Copperfield for my book club. My Riverside is falling apart (heavy underlining on p. 199 of words like 'umble and whole sentences that God-knows-why: did I intend to write a paper or was I idly and hopefully underlining?). Our book club, the usual group of nice, bored women, was founded by the hairdresser we all go to. So when is Karen Joy Fowler going to write "The Hairdresser's Book Group"?

Anyway, there were no Penguins or Oxford classics. (There seems to be a ban at Barnes & Noble.) So I bought a B&N classic because, let's face it, I don't have time to wait around for Amazon. It's $7.15 with a discount and has an intro and footnotes and endnotes so it seems perfectly all right. I HAVE TO FINISH BY MONDAY.

I also began Susan Glaspell’s FIDELITY--a regional novel, long out of print, now reissued by Peresphone Books. It seems ironic to have to purchase an American novel from a British publisher, but that’s the way it is. if you haven’t read Glaspell, you can read her most famous short story, “A Jury of Her Peers,”which also appeared in THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, at:

Glaspell, like jazz icon Bix Beiderbecke, was born in Davenport, Iowa. She graduated from Drake University and then worked as a reporter for The Des Moines Daily News. After she began to publish short stories, she moved to NY and eventually to Cape Cod, where she founded the Provincetown Players. Best known as a playwright, she won the Pulitzer i;n 1931 for the play “Alison’s House." She also wrote novels, two of which are published by Persephone.

In FIDELITY, insiders (some sympathetic, some hypocritical), newcomers, and exiles converge in the drawing rooms to drink tea and spread calumny about their old friend, a woman who lives in sin. It’s a bit Edith Whartonish, a bit Sinclair Lewisish and the small town of Newport resembles Davenport. The fallen woman is a nice small-town girl who gains a wicked rep as an infamous woman when she runs off with a married man (similar to Glaspell’s life and her escape from Davenport). Glaspell’s style is very simple: very short sentences, few subordinate clauses, and certainly not as powerful as Winifred Holtby's in THE CROWDED STREET, but it reflects American society and the simple Midwestern views and mores of 1915.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've yet to buy any Glaspell but keep meaning to. You make her sound potentially explosive. I've not gotten any further with _Frost in May_ because of projects, teaching, and tiredness.

Are you reading _David Copperfield_ for a book club group? Sometimes I wonder how people join these? The only one I was ever part of (briefly) was a Jane Austen one.
I think it'd be a nice thing to do.