Monday, August 14, 2006


Continuing here with non-top 10-bestsellers from 1947:

Aurora Dawn, Herman Wouk, Simon and Schuster, 1947
I read this book back in 1995, I think because I liked the author and was going to read his books in the order he wrote them. This is his first book and was quite humorous. Andrew Reale is a young man in advertizing. He is so ambitious that he dumps the girl who loves him in pursuit of wealth, but in the end comes to his senses and they live happily ever after. But the enjoyment of the book came from Wouk's wry comments on advertizing and the social follies of man.

What I didn't know when I read this back in 1995, was that making fun of advertizing was a common topic in the late 40s and early 50s. For example, The Hucksters, by Frederic Wakeman in 1946 and In A Yellow Wood, by Gore Vidal in 1947. Compared to today, it all sounds so very innocent. These authors are actually chagrined that people have to make a living selling things like soap and washing machines. Ha. What would they think of the 21st century which pretty much runs on marketing?

Midaq Alley, Naguib Mahfouz, Doubleday, 1947 (trans. 1966), 286 pp
Mahfouz is an Egyptian writer credited with bringing fiction as a literary style to Egypt. He has won a Nobel Prize for Literature. Midaq Alley is one of his earliest novels and though it was not translated into English until 1966, it was first published in 1947, so I read it at this point in my project.

The novel is about the various characters living in an alley in the old part of Cairo, and they are truly great and eccentric characters, excellently portrayed. The theme of the novel is the erosion of religious faith and morality because of the influence of Western culture, particularly British culture. World War II is going on and the British still rule Egypt at this time, but also their military is very much a presence because of the war.

Yet it is also the timeless story of the way some people will fall to a low life, some will get destoyed by association and some will maintain integrity despite all.

Bend Sinister,
Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Holt & Company, 1947, 241 pp
Reading Nabokov is a hit and miss thing with me. Some of his books I like, some I don't. Reading this book was torture. I would force myself to read 50 pages and then go read something else for a while. I really hated it. Finally at the end, I realized the whole thing was a spoof, even the main character, Professor Krug.

In an imaginary Eastern European country, there has been a revolution and now there are oppression, arrests, shootings and control of the media. Interspersed are all kinds of jokes I didn't get about academic and intellectual matters. Even if I had been hip to the humor, he is just being too clever.

Presidential Mission, Upton Sinclair, The Viking Press, 1947, 641 pp
The eighth book in the Lanny Budd series finds Lanny going to North Africa for FDR to scope out the scene before the US invades. Laurel, his new wife, has their child while he is away. He crashes out of another plane (with a parachute this time) and finds himself in Germany once more. The US joins in the war and Hitler finally starts losing in Germany and in Russia.

It is still a case of the businessmen, the rich and the bankers hedging their bets to be sure they come out richer, whoever wins. Interesting data on DeGaulle and also the seeds of what will become the spread of communism and the Cold War. Once again, a great history lesson not found in school books.

Doppelgangers, H F Heard, The Vanguard Press, 1947, 253 pp
A sort of science fiction story about a utopia in 1997, created by scientists and psychologists, with a worldwide government run by one man who is revered almost as a god. A man from the "opposition" is altered physically until he looks and sounds exactly like the ruler, is then sent into the top level of government and eventually becomes the ruler. Then some higher being comes along, does away with the leader of the opposition, which is literally underground, and the new leader plans to lead mankind through an evolution to a higher state.

After reading the book, thinking about it for a few days and looking up info about the author, I started to figure out what he was doing with the story. Heard was a friend of both Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood and they were all into mysticism and archetypes. The writing is rather ponderous and wordy, which put me to sleep a few times at the beginning of the book. Also, I could never really tell if the utopia portrayed is meant to be a good thing or not, since the main character (the doppelganger) is originally a member of the underground.

But once he got the story going, I was pulled into it and seduced by the philosophy of it. It was actually a wonder to me that such a book was published in 1947. I stumbled on it at a used bookstore while looking for early sci fi novels. The adventure of books!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:58 PM

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