Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23rd: Ring Lardner
A Month of Short Stories and Their Authors

now reading: Zola and His Time by Matthew Josephson
and 10 años con Mafalda by Quino

Ding ding ding ding ding we have a winner. Thank goodness, because some of the past week's stories have just been annoying, really. Like they aren't what they think they are. But this one is great!

Today's Story: "The Golden Honeymoon"
Author: Ring Lardner
My Rating: A

Fabulous, funny, fresh, funny, fabulous. Good job, Ring Lardner. I'm pretty sure this is the first thing I've read by him. (?) I couldn't even place why the name sounded familiar, but now that I've looked up about his baseball writing/columns/Chicago connection it seems familiar but I don't know if I'm telling myself some of it is more familiar than it is because I've been reading about him now. Do you ever do that? I hate when I do that.

Anyway, this story is great. A couple take a trip for their fiftieth anniversary and it just warms the cockles of my heart to consider that the parent characters in a story published in 1922 can be just as parentally out of touch and set in their ways as the parent characters in our lives today. Not that Lardner plays up the generational divide; he doesn't, really, but it's just in the way these parents are so used to doing what they do and certainly won't spend any extra money frivolously (eating at the more expensive diner where the meal costs $1.10 or $1.20 instead of $1.00 is duly noted; the son-in-law pays for the train compartment upgrade and you can just hear him shaking his head at the parents' refusal which was undoubtedly along the lines of not being able to afford such an extravagance, etc.)  We (who is "we"? Gen X? Baby Boomers and Gen X? Everyone alive today?) have a tendency to blame this thrifty stubbornness on "the Depression" and people are forever going on about their grandparents' or whoever's Depression life that shaped their Attitudes Toward Money and stuff, but this story was published years before that happened, so as usual, we tell ourselves our experience is unique but it rarely is, from a historical perspective.

The vernacular in which this story is written is genius. "Well, he come over to set here, and I set facin' the other ways, and we jest talked about this and that..."  It totally sounds like some of my small-town western Mass. relatives. That's not a direct quote; that's just me trying to imitate the character-narrator's speech. Ring Lardner is pitch-perfect -- and funny. By the way, how annoying is it that the husband calls the wife 'Mother'? What is that about? That has always annoyed me so hard, when old couples do that. Twentysomething and thirtysomething couples never do that, but it's always, like, an old farmer couple calling each other "Mother" and "Pa" or "Dad" or whatever. Why? And at what age do they start doing that? Ugh.

So, on "The Golden Honeymoon" good times are had in Florida, sure (not that the couple is going to readily admit this, of course) but also they run into an ex-flame of the wife from years before. Coincidence? Yeah, but hey - narrator did make it clear previously in the story that basically every old person in the country is vacationing in Florida, so it's not too surprising to find them there.

Here's the deal: this story is funny. It's enjoyable, it is sharp and observant, and it is the furthest thing in the world from overwrought.

Ring Lardner!

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