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.


Writing and Heredity

I wonder sometimes about writing and heredity. Is it a genetic trait? If so, is it specific to writing? Or does DNA just have a general creative gene that expresses itself differently in every member of a family?

Mother's Tree - This one goes all the way back to 1783.

Mother’s Tree – This one goes all the way back to 1783.

I never got to meet my maternal grandmother. She had an awesome name – Cora Leona – but all I really know about her is that she was a pretty, round-faced woman with dark eyes (like most of my family has – we get them from her side of the family). She played the piano for her church, and she died when my mother was four. My mother was then raised mostly by her grandmother, Jennie Louisa.

We have a set of very cool old photographs with four generations in each. The boys have my mom’s older brother (my Uncle Merle) as a baby, then the three generations of men. The women have my mom’s older sister Dorothy as a baby, and then the mothers. I never knew any of these women–even Aunt Dorothy died before I was born. From what I can tell from that picture, Great-Grandma Jennie looked like a stern, no-nonsense, tall, very sturdy sort of woman. My mother has stories of how much she loved to stay with her, and how Great-Grandma taught her to crochet on tiny little needles and make lace.

So that was all I ever really knew of her. However, my sister has recently started getting into genealogy–she’s especially interested in the women because she saw a “Mother’s Tree” done in cross-stitch. (My sisters and mom are very into cross-stitch. Picture my obsession with knitting. That’s them with cross-stitch.) She decided it looked very cool and thought her daughter might like to have one.

Only nobody knows about the women.


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…