Friday, September 7, 2012

Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington (movie too)

3 stars - very good, recommend
1922 Pulitzer Prize

Yes, I am working my way through the list of Pulitzer Prize winning novels. Why not? 

Having recently finished The Mighty Ambersons (also by Booth Tarkington) I was a bit hesitant about picking Alice Adams up. As much as I enjoyed the rich style of his 1919 prize winner, a little Booth Tarkington goes a long way, or so I thought.

Alice Adams is a young woman (early 20's) in what I presume would be considered a decidedly middle class family in early 20th century New York. Mr. Tarkington had me from the start. Here was a woman so flummoxed by her inability to fit in with society that she made every effort to appear as something other than she was. 

Yeah, I remember doing similar charades and forced conversations as a youngster in the hopes of gaining some positive attention from my peers. As an adult, I can see how transparent all those efforts are. People can tell, even when they can't put a name to it. Poor Alice. The more she tried, the deeper a hole she dug. 

On top of that, you have her father, who feels happy and content to have established himself at a corporation as a middle income chap. An income which enables him to provide a modest home and some perks to his family.

Not good enough! Mrs. Adams could have been one of those hungry baby bird people I run into so often crying "Me, me, me, I, I, I" with a twisted entitlement mentality. Coward that she is, she hides behind her daughter in pressing her husband to take a huge risk with the hopes of a lavish income. 

Uh oh. 

Thus we learn the lesson, not just from Alice, but also from her father that it just doesn't pay to step too far away from your intrinsic nature. 

Train wreck! Again. Kind of Pulitzer theme, isn't it?

4 stars (but for old movie fans only)

I heartily recommend this movie but with the caution that some people will just find the black and white video, goofy glamour close-ups and weird sound quality too old fashioned to enjoy.

Not me! Come on, a 28 year old Katherine Hepburn and 29 year old Fred MacMurray? Delicious.

The movie is very true to the book (except for an unfortunate Hollywood treatment of the final scenes). Hattie McDaniel steals the show with a cameo as the inept maid during a painfully awkward dinner party. 

From the opening scene, Katherine Hepburn beautifully captures the excruciating awkwardness of a young girl trying desperately to appear as something other than who she really is (and I was mesmerized by her eerily small waist - sans corsets of any kind I am sure). Ms. Hepburn received an Oscar nomination for her performance, but lost out to Bette Davis. Rumor is that the only reason to pass over Ms. Hepburn was the notion that nobody should win two academy awards (a notion that has since been tossed aside and Ms. Hepburn went on to win 3 more Oscars in addition to her 1934 best actress award).


  1. Awesome review(s)!! Again! Going to be having too long a list of books to read, flicks to see - very much a fan Of oldie movies! Thanks again.

  2. I'm not crazy about old movies, and my dearly beloved positively abhors them, but I've already downloaded the book to my Kindle! I'm so glad Mango plugged this blog for you - generous dog - because now I have someone with a real brain to recommend books for me!

  3. Great reviews! I am afraid that this blog is going to get me in trouble. So many books, so little time!

  4. Sans corset? Are you sure? Anyhoo, I think I can pass on this book. But when you get to Heart of Darkness (and, of course, watching Apocalypse Now for your movie tie-in), you won't be able to shut me up. Not that you usually can anyway... Actually, when I'm into train-wreck-y people, I turn to Hemingway or Fitzgerald. But I've been avoiding train wrecks lately (when possible)....

    -Dr. Liz, who is trying to fill out an 'Enterprise Data Warehouse Access Request Form' - Oracle, here I come!