Forgotten Book: Norman Rockwell – 332 Magazine Covers

Norman Rockwell – 332 Magazine Covers edited and text by Christopher Finch, Abbeville Press/Random House 1979 oversized hardcover (12 x 15.5 inches, over 2 inches thick), 455 pages

Blame it on George Kelley. His post last week made me go to my oversize shelves to find this book, which I then spent a couple of days reading and studying.

This 1979 edition (11 7/8″ X 15 1/4″ X 2″) is a larger book than the later 2013 edition and 455 pages vs. 400 pages. It is the cover art from the 332 Saturday Evening Post covers, not the Post covers themselves, i.e. no Post banner, no words across the art saying what was inside that particular magazine, and so on. The format has a section of thumbnails of the covers in each section, with a commentary on each, followed by the full-size, color paintings, one to a very large page. The commentaries are accurate and insightful.

The book is divided into eleven sections:

  • Overview: Norman Rockwell Portrayed Americans as Americans Chose to See Themselves
  • From the Very Beginning Norman Rockwell Had An Uncanny Knack of Knowing What the Public Wanted – Saturday Evening Post Covers May 20, 1916–June 28 1919
  • Although Still Under Thirty, Rockwell Was Rapidly Becoming The Post’s Premier Cover Artist – Saturday Evening Post Covers August 9, 1919–September 9, 1922
  • Things Were Changing Too Fast and Rockwell Gave People Nostalgic Glimpses of the World They Had Left Behind – Saturday Evening Post Covers November 4, 1922–December 5, 1925
  • Again and Again Rockwell Fell Back on Tried and Tested Themes – Saturday Evening Post Covers January 9, 1926–February 16, 1929
  • Rockwell Was One of the Lucky Few Who Was Not Much Affected by the Depression – Saturday Evening Post Covers March 9, 1929–June 17, 1933
  • Rockwell’s Work Was Becoming More Personal – Saturday Evening Post Covers August 5, 1933–February 19, 1938
  • Rockwell Was Now on the Verge of a Major Breakthrough – Saturday Evening Post Covers April 23, 1938–July 25, 1942
  • Rockwell’s Authority Was Based on the Trust of the American Public – Saturday Evening Post Covers September 5, 1942–November 16, 1946
  • During the Postwar Years Rockwell Could Hardly Pick Up a Brush Without Producing a Memorable Image – Saturday Evening Post Covers December 7, 1946–January 3, 1953
  • Rockwell’s Style Puts It’s Distinctive Mark on Everything – Saturday Evening Post Covers April 4, 1953–May 25, 1963

What the book does not include are the well known covers he painted for Look magazine, including the one of the Federal Marshalls escorting the small black girl to school. Neither does it include the Rockwell series of the Four Freedoms. But what it does include is well worth your time. Well conceived and executed, this is a must for the fan of periodical covers, the Saturday Evening Post and fans of Rockwell’s art.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 6 Comments

Red Canoe puzzle

This is one of the reasons I haven’t gotten a lot of reading done recently. This 1,000 piece puzzle was extremely difficult, and, while we usually finish a 500 piece puzzle in a week and a 1,000 in two, this one took us almost three weeks!

Posted in Books & Reading | 7 Comments

Current Reading: Still not much

I’m still not reading much. Gloomy, rainy, windy weather may be part of that, but it’s mostly my distractions with football (a lot of college games on Friday and Saturday, and the pros on Thursday, Sunday and Monday) and an extremely difficult jigsaw puzzle which eats up much time.

I started a library book and only got through 35 pages before quitting. I started another library book and, though I like it, I’m inching forward at a snail’s pace. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m going to have to bear down and just set aside a day to do nothing but read.

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading | 13 Comments

Forgotten Book: City of Corpses by Norvell Page

City of Corpses, the Collected Weird Mysteries of Ken Carter by Norvell Page, Black Dog Books, February 2009 trade paper, 206 pages, pulp fiction. note: the scene on the cover does not occur in the book.

Here are six pulp “novels” from 1933, and a short story 1935, all from Ten Detective Aces magazine. I put the word novels in quotes because pulp length novels are short, really novella length. Though the title names them as weird mystery, only three really have a weird element to them, and then not much. However, the novels are quite entertaining, and Statues of Horror and Gallows Ghost are especially enjoyable. The short story, “Satan’s Sideshow” is both mercifully short and forgettable.

I bought this from Black Dog Books a decade ago, but have just now gotten it off the shelf to read, and I’m glad I did. This is a lot of fun, and it’s still available from Black Dog Books.

In addition to the novels, there’s a 1935 article by Norvell Page detailing his approach to writing, which I found very interesting.

CONTENTS

  • Introduction by Robert Weinberg
  • Hell’s Music
  • City of Corpses
  • Statues of Horror
  • Gallows Ghost
  • The Devil’s Hoof
  • The Sinister Embrace
  • Satan’s Sideshow

APPENDIX

  • “How I Write” by Norvell Page
  • About the Author by Tom Roberts
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 15 Comments

Current Reading: not much

I’m still not reading much. Gloomy, rainy, windy weather may be part of that, but it’s mostly my distractions with football (a lot of college games on Friday and Saturday, and the pros on Thursday, Sunday and Monday) and the Ken Burns  film (Sunday through Wednesday last week and this week).

About the best I’ve done is some short stories and short pulp “novels”, really novelettes. One of those collections will show up as a forgotten book(s) soon. I did recently read a coffee table book, Covering the New Yorker: Cutting-Edge Covers from a Literary Institution, Hardcover – October, 2000 by Francoise Mouly Lawrence Weschler, if that counts, which had some interesting text and a lot of covers. Enjoyable, but light.

As far as the short stories go, I’m still plodding along in The Best of Manhunt edited by Jeff Vorzimmer. I’m finding many of the stories rough, in the sense of subject matter, not writing quality, which is pretty good for pulp stuff. So I’ve set it aside.

I now have a couple of SF novels just coming in to the library, which I’ll pick up in a day or two, and perhaps one or both of them will give me a positive reading jolt. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading | 13 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Man In My Grave

 The Man in My Grave by Wilson Tucker, © 1956, Rinehart & Co. [Detective Book Club edition] hardcover mystery (other edition pictured)

man in graveWilson Tucker is known mostly for his science fiction writing. However Tucker did write a few mystery novels, and this is probably the best known of them. Perhaps because it was reprinted by the Detective Book Club in an edition with Victor Canning’s Burden of Proofand Helen Nielsen’s Borrow the Night, it had a wider audience than the paperback printing.

The first thing one notices is the catchy title, which leads right into the beginning chapter of the book. A man on a train, reflecting on the view out the window, and then on a small book of epitaphs culled from graveyards across the country. One of them is his own:

HERE LIES BURIED
B. G. BROOKS
DEAD AS A DOORNAIL-
of course

Since B. G. Brooks knows he’s alive and well, he’s gone to investigate, but the epitaph isn’t the only reason. Brooks, who goes by the nickname Beejee, is a field agent for The Association of American Memorial Parks, or so his business card says. In reality, he is a government official tasked to investigate “burking”, the practice of diverting bodies from mortuaries to sell them to medical schools and other “customers”; the illegal sale of the dead. Coffins are loaded with sand or graves are left just empty.

Brooks is investigating such an operation in the area of rural Illinois where he was raised. A network of mortuaries is funneling bodies to large medical schools in Chicago.

The novel has a light tone and Tucker displays a sense of humor, especially when Brooks and the town Marshall’s girlfriend follow clues while at the same time the Marshall tries to keep up with town doings. The residents of Rocky Knoll haven’t seen such excitement in years, and they don’t want to miss a thing. In their enthusiasm they overrun the local graveyard, clog roads with their cars, overwhelm the newspaper office in hopes of hearing he latest rumor. The poor Marshal is overwhelmed and it makes for some pretty funny scenes.

This isn’t a long book at 126 pages in the DBC edition, and was a fast read. I enjoyed it.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 11 Comments

Current Reading: short stories

Novel reading ennui has struck me. Nothing seems to strike my fancy, and though I have some things coming from the library, and a house full of books, it seems there’s not a novel I feel like reading just now.

So the obvious solution is to read short stories. I have many collections and anthologies on hand, and I’m dipping into some of those.

However, since I haven’t finished any of them, I have nothing specific to say other than to list some titles:

The Best of Manhunt edited by Jeff Vorzimmer – 39 stories which appeared in the magazine between 1953 and 1957. Update: about half way through, good so far.

Deep Waters edited by Martin Edwards – a variety of older stories all set on oceans or lakes. British Classic Crime Library. Update: have only read one story so far.

City of Weird edited by Gigi Little – 30 stories set in and around Portland, Oregon. I started this one more than a year ago, then it got set aside for other things. Time to read more of it. Update: finished it, and found it disappointing. It went in the donate box.

See the Updates above.

Also: I read The Curse of Capistrano in the last few days, the first Zorro novel, and two short stories in that volume.

So, what are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction, Mystery | 10 Comments

Forgotten Book: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)

Reading When Books Went to War, about the armed forces editions during WWII, I discovered this was one of the most popular books among troops. I’d heard of it, of course, but never had read it, so I found a copy at the library.

Not really forgotten, instead this is a well-known and enduring classic story of poverty in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn. The story of Francie Nolan, her parents, and her brother Neeley begins in 1912.

Mary Frances “Francie” Nolan is the protagonist. The novel begins when Francie is 11 years old. The rest of the novel tells of Francie’s life until she goes to college at 17. Francie grows up in Brooklyn in the early twentieth century; her family is in constant poverty throughout most of the novel. Francie shares a great admiration for her father, Johnny Nolan, and wishes for an improved relationship with her mother, hardworking Katie Nolan, recognizing similar traits in her mother and herself that she believes are a barrier to true understanding. The story of Francie traces her individual desires, affections, and hostilities while growing up in an aggressive, individualistic, romantic, and ethnic family and neighborhood, though it also represents the hopes of immigrants in the early twentieth century to rise above poverty through their children, whom they hope will receive an education and take their place among “true” Americans. The book’s title, symbolizing Francie, is the “Tree of Heaven” that flourishes under the most unlikely urban circumstances.

I had no idea what to expect of this, not having read it or seen the movie, but I found it well worth reading and got very involved with the characters. It deserves to be considered a classic.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 14 Comments

Current Reading: Born To Be Posthumous – the Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey

Born To Be Posthumous – the Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery, Little, Brown, 2018 hardcover, biography

I like the artwork of Edward Gorey a lot, so I thought this would be an interesting, even fascinating book. I was wrong.

The author seemed to have his own agenda, and was obsessed with the fact that Gorey was gay, more than any other aspect of his life or work. Yes, finally about halfway through (after I’d done a goodly bit of skimming) there comes discussion of his books and their publication, but the reader will have had to wade through all the other biographical this-and-that before getting there, and while some of the discussion is interesting, the dearth of illustrations makes the discussion hard to follow at times.

For me, as a fan of the artwork this was a letdown in every way. I gave up at the two-third point. I’m glad I got this from the library instead of buying it. Unless this kind of thing is your cup of tea, save yourself the time and don’t bother.

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction | 13 Comments

Forgotten Book: Chicken Every Sunday

Chicken Every Sunday by Rosemary Taylor, with Donald Mackay, illustrator. Blakiston, 1944. Hardcover.

Reading When Books Went to War, about the armed forces editions during WWII, I discovered this was one of the most popular books among troops. I’m not sure I’d ever heard of it, let alone read it, so I found a copy at the library.

It’s a memoir of a family living in Tucson in the Thirties and early Forties. The father is a wheeler-dealer, often quite successful, always looking for his next business venture. The mother, always remembering her hardscrabble early years as the daughter of plantation owners ruined by the Civil War, makes her own money by taking in boarders and catering, often with what was then considered Mexican food for various parties, groups and charities. Their three children, including the author, contribute to the various family enterprises with varying degrees of enthusiasm and skill.

The tone of the book is lighthearted, the contrast between the big-dreamer father and the penny-pinching mother is funny, rarely bitter. The various boarders and their peculiarities are described with amused affection. There were school teachers, people connected with the mining business, Easterners sent to Arizona for the healthy climate. The author’s family took them in and made them part of the family for a couple of weeks or months, in a strange mixture of hospitality and commercial acumen. There are some really funny episodes, such as the time when Mother and the maid suspect that one of their boarders might be a German spy, or when a retired Easterner decides to go on a mine-prospecting trip with Father.

It’s important to remember that in the early 20th century, Tucson was still a brand-new city, and that many people had personal memories of the Civil War. People were still trying to get gold out of abandoned mines, and the city was developing and growing. So although there is a lot of hustle and bustle in the book, there are moments where the sense of connection with the past is marked.

Some modern readers may find common expressions of the time offensive, such as referring to a black cook as Mammy, but enlightened readers should be able to accept such. Sure, the book is dated, but that’s part of the fun. I’m glad I read this one.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 11 Comments