The glory of Glorious Apollo has dulled

Glorious Apollo is a fictional biography of the 18th century Romantic poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Byron comes from a family noted for philandering and profligacy. He achieves notoriety in those areas before he achieves fame as a poet.

Glorious Apollo by E. Barrington*

Dodd, Mead and Company, 1925, 371 pages.  1925 bestseller #4. My grade: C+.

portrait of Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron

Byron is,  as one of his lovers says, “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”

When his poems become valuable, Byron refuses to accept money for them (It wouldn’t be gentlemanly), but he’ll gladly marry for money.

Byron selects a unimpeachable young woman, Anne Milbanke, scorning her almost from the moment of the marriage.

When tales of her husband’s relationships become common knowledge — including one with his half sister – Anne secures a separation.

Byron goes into exile in Europe. He is such a celebrity that a telescope is set up in Geneva so British tourists can watch his home.

Aided by booze, drugs, and the poet Shelley, Byron sinks further into degradation. He’s dead at age 33.

An encyclopedia entry is more explicit and titilating than the portrait produced by author E. Barrington*. Through generalizations and circumlocutions, she manages to make her novel bland almost to the point of boredom.

Today’s readers will find little to applaud in Glorious Apollo other than fragments of history.

*E. Barrington is a pseudonym used by Elizabeth Louisa Moresby Adams Beck

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Tante succeeds where tabloids seek to tread

Tante is a fictional, behind-the-scenes account of an international celebrity of the late Victorian-era whose drug of choice is popular adulation.

Mercedez von Marwitz, 48, stage name Madame Osraska, is a still-beautiful and famous pianist with a tabloid past and a strange entourage.

When a good looking barrister Gregory Jardine shows more interest in Karen Woodruff, her 24-year-old “niece”  than in herself, Madame is insulted.

When Gregory proposes to Karen, Karen’s beloved Tante sees a way to get rid of an unnecessary expense and revenge herself on Gregory.

Karen is bland and almost pathologically self-effacing, but Gregory sees her as a Hans Christian Anderson heroine with braids and basket.

Gregory casts Tante as the wicked witch.

The woodcutter role falls to Mrs. Talcott, the homely American chicken farmer who has cared for Tante since birth.

At 70, “Tallie” can still sit on Tante, and literally does to rescue Karen and save the Jardine’s marriage.

Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s novel is long and uneven, the plot overly contrived, the atmosphere as murky as a Norwegian forest.

Those faults scarcely matter.  The characters are riveting: I read Tante in one 10-hour block, unable to put it down even for meals.

by Anne Douglas Sedgwick  (Mrs. Basil De Sélincourt )
1912 bestseller #9
Project Gutenberg ebook #30115
My grade: B+
©2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Disenchanted Shows Nothing Destroys Like Success

Shep Stearns  is thrilled when studio mogul Victor Milgrim pairs him with his hero to turn Shep’s movie concept into a Hollywood blockbuster.

Pulitzer-winning novelist Manley Halliday hasn’t produced a book in years. He is over his eyebrows in debt, diabetic, and hanging on to sobriety by his fingernails.

Shep doesn’t know any of that. To him, Manley is the epitome of youthful success, an embodiment of the beautiful life Shep wants for himself.

Unwittingly, Shep provides an audience for Manley’s recollections of his life as a  ’20s celebrity and gives him enough booze to ruin both their screenwriting careers.

Manley is a fictional amalgum of the big name writers of the 1920s when the cult of celebrity —idolizing the famous for being famous — began. Budd Schulberg’s allusions to writers, actors, politicians who were household words in the years between the great wars make The Disenchanted feel more like creative nonfiction than novel.

The novel suggests dozens of reasons why promising writers don’t fulfill their promise, but concludes “there is never a simple reason for not writing a book or not writing your best.”

Schulberg’s plot is packed with Hollywoodish implausabilities, but Schulberg’s depictions of the would-be writer and the has-been writer make the book can’t-put-down reading.

The Disenchanted
by Budd Schulberg
Random House, 1950
Viking Compass Edition, 1975, with new introduction by the author
388 pages
1950 bestseller #10
My grade B+
© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni