Babbit Sinclair Lewis novel cover

Contemporary Times and the 1920s

Undoubtedly, the most fascinating aspect of the 1920s for me has been how similar contemporary times and the 1920s are.

“What did this man want?” – Tagline from the cover of Babbitt

From everything I’ve been reading, it feels like the 1920s is where “American” society came from. All the extremes, the attitudes, the swings of the pendulum, the craziness… (Granted, when you look at other countries and their dictatorships and cults of personality, it isn’t really that crazy. But it’s crazy for a bunch of upstart Protestants from the wilds of England… Right?)

I really feel like most of our attitudes, the way our society thinks, feels, and reacts–they’ve all honed themselves from this one significant decade. It all seems so familiar now. Not just right now, but in everything that’s happened since the 1920s.


Detail from Judith Mackrell's Flappers Courtesy of FSG Books

Insights Into the Twenties: Book Reviews

I am cocktailly. Very cocktailly.” – Eugen Boissevain

For more insights into the Twenties, I’ve started reading research books about flappers – which focus mainly on Zelda Fitzgerald, of course. As one of the reviews below points out, Zelda defined and encompassed the decade. Her escapades may have started in 1914 or 1915 in Alabama, but she came to New York in 1921 and made an impression on everyone she met, partied through Paris and the South of France, then crashed pretty much as soon as the market did.

I don’t know if I would have liked her very much, I can’t help but realize how important she was to both defining and being defined by the decade.


Jungle Red Writers – Why didn’t I know about this before?

How fun is this?

Some of my favorite authors (especially Hallie Ephron, who teaches and speaks at the Willamette Writers Conference) who get together and blog about books and Downton Abbey and food (lobster bisque recipe, anyone?) It’s super entertaining. They took their name from the nail polish in the play The Women by Clare Boothe Luce. Although maybe the nail polish was only in the movie? Not sure. Doesn’t matter. I like it that they get as distracted from writing as I do. It’s a comfort. Much like lobster bisque.

In other news, this is NOT one of the websites down today because of the SOPA – Protect IP Act protest. Nor is mine. But WordPress is. Tried to look up some information on a Plug-In and got sent to a scary black screen. I was about to panic and slam the screen closed all while busting out an exorcism chant, then realized all was well. Watched a little video, sent my letter to Congress… Basically feeling very proactive. Not that I’m against protection and internet safety and all, I’m just thinking that bills that haven’t been around very long and get the rushy-rushy treatment are a little dodgy. (And I’m really glad that I finally managed to work the word “dodgy” into a post. Also now have the Schoolhouse Rock song “I’m Just a Bill” stuck in my head.) Seems like something this important could get a bit more time spent on it and a little more input.

In the meantime, enjoy Jungle Red Writers. And, apparently, “I’m Just a Bill.” Ruminate a bit on how our government works…

Tillie Olsen…You would think with my Reed education…

…I would have heard of this woman.

Yet I never have. A friend (after reading one of my previous posts about writing and of course not commenting on the blog so that it looks good and gives me a higher count on my statistics…not that I’m bitter…) recommended this book to me.

Silences by Tillie Olsen 25th anniversary book cover

It was like the mothership was calling me home.

Almost as good as when I read Margaret Fuller for the first time. I had really been struggling to really get all of these thoughts and feelings into a comprehensive idea and she came along at just the right time and said, “Oh, is this what you mean?” And I said, “Yes! Yes, that’s exactly what I mean! How did you know? Can I take you out for a cup of coffee?” She’s the perfect mix of poetry and prose, feminine and masculine, and then has this sort of nineteenth-century snarkiness thrown in every once in a while. So much better than Emerson and Thoreau, who always takes themselves far too seriously.

But I digress. Tillie isn’t exactly snarky. She’s more like the street-smart Grandma I never had. Doesn’t seem like she would take much shit from anyone.