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review 2018-09-01 22:07
The De-fanging of Menfolk: "The Woodlanders" by Thomas Hardy
The Woodlanders - Patricia Ingham,Thomas Hardy


Another Hardy character to rival Sue Bridehead in emotional complexity is, I feel, Grace Melbury in The Woodlanders. Grace is the young country girl sent away by her vain and ambitious father to be educated and refined and when she returns we see how the natural order of a small rural community is irrevocably turned upside down as a result. Hardy explores the impact of education and money on Grace and the way these influences affect those around her. Grace is forced by her control-freak of a father to marry the middle-class philanderer Edred Fitzpiers, and thus reject the young local man whom she had expected to marry - the taciturn woodlander, Giles Winterbourne, who 'looked and smelt like Autumn's very brother'. Grace's marriage to Fitzpiers is a disaster which leads to the normal order being drastically altered. 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-07-16 02:17
What Happened at Midnight, Hardy Boys #10 by Franklin W. Dixon
What Happened at Midnight (Hardy Boys, #10) - Franklin W. Dixon,Walter S. Rogers

Bayport has entered the modern age: the automat has come to town! The boys are excited to have their good chum Chet Morton show them how to operate the automat, put a coin in the slot next to the desired food and presto you can open the cubbie and feast. The gang is having a great time and even start playing shovin' buddies, when Joe is pushed into a blonde man and jostles him. The man has an overblown reaction, but the boys don't think too much of it. Later, Joe is shoved into the same man, making him drop a package this time. The man, perhaps justifiably, is even more pissed off and thinks they're out to get him. Again, the situation is laughed off and the gang agrees to meet up later at Chet's for a party.

Then...at midnight...it happened.

'Midnight' has a dramatically different opening here then in the revised edition, which has the Hardy Boys breaking into a scientists house at the behest of their father to safeguard an invention. Were automats not cool anymore by the 1960s?

I'm given to understand the rest of the plot is similar with electronic gizmos replacing some of the loot being kicked around. I never read the revised edition of this, but the leisurely pace the narrative takes while Frank and Joe travel to New York City to follow a clue and then are forced to hitch-hike back home to Bayport over a couple days doesn't seem like something that would have been allowed.

I cannot stress enough how cool these early editions of the Hardy Boys are. Also, Aunt Gertrude was delightful in a crisis. Other than some basic safety concerns for two teens spending several nights out of doors and hitch-hiking, I didn't see any reason to butcher this work for 'modern' audiences. 1920s slang has more appeal to me than that of the 1950s.

Next: 'While the Clock Ticked'

Previous: 'The Great Airport Mystery'

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review 2018-07-15 23:40
The (Original) Tower Treasure by Franklin W. Dixon
The Tower Treasure - Franklin W. Dixon,Leslie McFarlane

Almost a year to the day I read the 1959 'The Tower Treasure' I came across this facsimile edition of the original 1927 novel. What makes the difference? In a word:

Bowdlerize: To remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective. - Oxford Living Dictionary

The Strathmeyer Syndicate under Harriet Strathmeyer Adams revised the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series in the late 1950s. This was intended to update language and address some legitimate complaints about racist characterizations and, less legitimate, behavioral issues with the young detectives. The Hardy Boys, all-American and daring, became toadies to American institutions and any youthful impertinence of theirs towards authority and each other was scrubbed away. Nancy Drew fared worse, her yachtish, upper crust background was toned down, but so was much of her independent spirit.

'The Tower Treasure' as it appeared in 1927 is a very different novel. There was a loss of some 40-odd pages and many aspects of the plot were completely rewritten. The Hardy Boys are still the two sons of famed detective Fenton Hardy and on an errand for him, they witness a reckless driver who turns out to have stolen a car from their friend Chet. Later, a robbery is reported at the Tower Mansion and a friend's father is implicated. They get involved in the case, track down the thief and discover where the treasure is hidden. The 1959 version shortens the direct involvement of the boys in some more dangerous elements of the case and demonstrates almost a mania for wigs. Wigs are important to the case, but the 1927 version understandably doesn't have the boys going immediately to one of Bayport's three male wig shops. That's a leap that should occur later in a case.

Along with plot elements being condensed, descriptive language was cut. The 1959 story begins with the boys being chased down on their motorcycles by a speeding car. The original takes some time to introduce the boys and their hometown. Mealtimes are important, and 'Redwall'-worthy descriptions of tables groaning with food. Characterization was different, too. The wealthy Adelia Applegate is played for laughs because of her eccentric fashion, but it seems kinder in 1927, even if she is more sympathetic, providing an 'honorable alibi', in the revised version. Women don't play a significant role at all in either of them, mostly being providers of food.

There was one objectionable piece in the original book. This was, at the suggestion of their friend Tony Prito, to use the fears of an Italian immigrant to provide cover for a distraction to keep the Chief of Police out of the case. Threatened by 'the Black Hand', Rocco is too-ready to believe a ticking box on his farm stand is a bomb. The revised version has the boys kindly offer to watch a grocer's store and pretended a fire in the backyard incinerator was out of control and thus kept a buffoon private eye (can't have the police look ridiculous) away from the case.

I have no argument for the value of that particular scene, but the overall effect of the change to the books was a reduction of quality. There is no rich language left in the Hardy Boys series after the changes were made, and Frank and Joe themselves became indistinguishable from each other apart from their hair and ages. This was such a revelation that I've begun actively collecting the early books with their original text.

Next: The House on the Cliff

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review 2018-07-15 11:48
How are the Mighty Fallen...
The Mayor of Casterbridge - Thomas Hardy

I haven’t tackled Thomas Hardy since my high school syllabus, but what a treat I had been denying myself. Various maxims spring to mind from this book (‘you reap what you sow’; ‘no man is an island’; ‘what goes up…’) emerging from the chronicled life of Michael Henchard. From very humble beginnings as a twenty one year-old hay-trusser, the main character is hard to like. He is deeply flawed on a number of levels and yet it is surprisingly fascinating to bear witness to the harsh fate which inexorably catches up with him.


As early as the first chapter, Hardy deliberately seeks to discomfort the reader, when a drunken Henchard sells his wife (Susan) and newborn child (Elizabeth-Jane) for five guineas. Notwithstanding his subsequent sense of shame and self-imposed repentance in the sober light of day, this repugnant act haunts his private life and has the attendant potential to also scupper his subsequently crafted image as the first citizen of Casterbridge.


Fast forward eighteen years and the reappearance of Susan with their now adult daughter offers the chance to make amends, but the intervening years have generated an inevitable trail of complications and though circumstances have changed, Henchard’s tempestuous nature has not. Yet, it is the tension between the social norms of English society at the time and Henchard’s earthy country perspective which is a constant source of friction. The mayor has risen to the gentrified classes a ‘self-made’ man, to be partially shackled by upper class expectations. In some ways Henchard is courageous, proud and willing to withstand public opprobrium, but he is also ruthless, manipulative and selfish, a powerful man used to getting his way (undoubtedly another key adage of the story is that ‘with power comes responsibility’).


In any event, this book is a beautifully written, unsentimental fiction, which transports the reader to a pre-industrial Wessex, by no means a bucolic idyll, but rather a class-ridden, male-dominated site of incessant struggle. Nevertheless, the characters are masterfully constructed and Hardy manages to marshal the reader’s emotions from outrage and anger through to triumph and pity, as the label of ‘victim’ seems to alight, at different times, across the cast of characters. A thoroughly absorbing read.

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review 2018-07-12 03:45
The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys by Carole Kismaric
The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys - Carole Kismaric,Marvin Heiferman

I picked this up because of my recent re-attachment to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels. I've been curious about what the original books would have been like ever since I discovered they were re-written starting in the late 1950s. I recently had re-read the revised first volume of each series and was under-whelmed enough to do a combo review, and then I began finding early editions. They are sooo much better you guys! Problematic, but not dull!

I haven't reviewed them yet, because I've got stuff going on all the time like no one else on the planet. When I do, you can check my totes-sleuthy shelf....If I don't change that shelf's name. Jeepers. Anyway this book:

This was a fan-letter about Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys with good layouts and illustrations. The content was often repetitive and a trifle biased towards boy detectives. There were musings on other product lines inspired by the series, successful and not-so adaptations for film and TV (this is 1998 so that aughts film didn't get consideration...which is a good thing). The book does provide a nice pocket history of the development of the juvenile series market though the Strathmeyer Syndicate, and how they invented the ghostwriter as we know it today. There are better and much more comprehensive books on the subject: for Nancy Drew there is "Girl Sleuth" by Melanie Rehak, and for the Hardy Boys try "The Secret of the Hardy Boys" by Marilyn S. Greenwald, which focuses on the first ghostwriter for the series.

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