CAAF darting through, in her orange muumuu and some superhero underoos. Lately I’ve been reading and relishing The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand. It seems appropriate to post that here as I picked up the book after reading Ed’s (and Terry’s) many effusions on the topic of all things Marquand.
In a short but interesting May 2004 Atlantic Monthly appreciation, Martha Spaulding reports that Upton Sinclair (Jungle Love) received the proofs for Apley in 1936. (It went on to win the Pulitzer in 1938.) Sinclair wrote the publisher:
I started to read it and it appeared to me to be an exact and very detailed picture of a Boston aristocrat, and as I am not especially interested in this type, I began to wonder why you had sent it to me. But finally I began to catch what I thought was a twinkle in the author’s eye … One can never be sure about Boston, and I hope I am not mistaken in my idea that the author is kidding the Boston idea. It is very subtle and clever, and I am not sure that Boston will get it.
Not everyone saw the twinkle in the eye (though I can tell you it’s winking away by page 7). Spaulding quotes editor Edward Weeks as saying that there were people in the Back Bay who “appeared at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on Sunday afternoons asking to be shown the ‘Apley Bronzes.’”
Here’s our handsome host’s, Mr. Champion’s, take on Marquand, pulled from a recent email:
Likewise, there’s the sullied status of John P. Marquand, whom I discovered completely by accident (spurned on by Yardley a few years ago). The man made the covers of both Time and Newsweek and was, to my knowledge, one of the most astute observers of manners between the two wars. Also (and this is the part that floors me), he was able to convey his satire in a way that attracted readers — not an easy thing to do in a nation ripe with great satirists often misunderstood by a highly literal public. Now the man’s getting something of a modest revival (much as John O’Hara did a few years ago). I’d recommend starting with The Late George Apley, which was just recently reissued by Back Bay Books. Also in print are H.M. Pulham, Esq., Wickford Point and Point of No Return. But my favorite Marquands would have to be Apley, Sincerely Willis Wayde and So Little Time. I managed to obtain every Marquand novel printed by making a run of every used book store in San Francisco and Berkeley (converting a few helpful bookstore clerks along the way), and supplementing these efforts with the easy and decidedly non-Arthurian search through Alibris. (Yes, I’m pathological that way.)
Having started Apley, I expect to be trolling Asheville’s used bookstores soon.