It’s been a quiet week without the Stewart family. I’ve read to the point where I think I’m going to have to stop reading for pleasure before it becomes a chore. I set a lofty goal over the weekend to read 5 books. As of tonight I am within 54 pages of reaching said lofty goal. I’m sticking with my summer theme of classic literatue from the early 20th Century. I read Edna Ferber’s Buttered Side Down, Eudora Welty’s Why I Live at the P.O. , Jack London’s The Unparalleled Invasion and his The Iron Heel, and put a healthy dent in Upton Sinclair’s The Metropolis.
I wish I had time tonight to write at length about all of them, but I don’t. Next month, though, I will. In the meantime, here is a taste of one of the stories from Edna Ferber’s Buttered Side Down. I chose it because I think so many of us who are writers can relate to these few paragraphs. There is more to the story, of course, and you can pick it up from Project Gutenberg if you want to read the rest.
There come those times in the life of every woman when she feels that she must wash her hair at once. And then she does it. The feeling may come upon her suddenly, without warning, at any hour of the day or night; or its approach may be slow and insidious, so that the victim does not at first realize what it is that fills her with that sensation of unrest. But once in the clutches of the idea she knows no happiness, no peace, until she has donned a kimono, gathered up two bath towels, a spray, and the green soap, and she breathes again only when, head dripping, she makes for the back yard, the sitting-room radiator, or the side porch (depending on her place of residence, and the time of year).
Mary Louise was seized with the feeling at ten o’clock on a joyous June morning. She tried to fight it off because she had got to that stage in the construction of her story where her hero was beginning to talk and act a little more like a real live man, and a little less like a clothing store dummy. (By the way, they don’t seem to be using those pink-and-white, black-mustachioed figures any more. Another good simile gone.)
Mary Louise had been battling with that hero for a week. He wouldn’t make love to the heroine. In vain had Mary Louise striven to instill red blood into his watery veins. He and the beauteous heroine were as far apart as they had been on Page One of the typewritten manuscript. Mary Louise was developing nerves over him. She had bitten her finger nails, and twisted her hair into corkscrews over him. She had risen every morning at the chaste hour of seven, breakfasted hurriedly, tidied the tiny two-room apartment, and sat down in the unromantic morning light to wrestle with her stick of a hero. She had made her heroine a creature of grace, wit, and loveliness, but thus far the hero had not once clasped her to him fiercely, or pressed his lips to her hair, her eyes, her cheeks. Nay (as the story-writers would put it), he hadn’t even devoured her with his gaze.
This morning, however, he had begun to show some signs of life. He was developing possibilities. Whereupon, at this critical stage in the story-writing game, the hair-washing mania seized Mary Louise. She tried to dismiss the idea. She pushed it out of her mind, and slammed the door. It only popped in again. Her fingers wandered to her hair. Her eyes wandered to the June sunshine outside. The hero was left poised, arms outstretched, and unquenchable love-light burning in his eyes, while Mary Louise mused, thus:
“It certainly feels sticky. It’s been six weeks, at least. And I could sit here-by the window—in the sun—and dry it——”
With a jerk she brought her straying fingers away from her hair, and her wandering eyes away from the sunshine, and her runaway thoughts back to the typewritten page. For three minutes the snap of the little disks crackled through the stillness of the tiny apartment. Then, suddenly, as though succumbing to an irresistible force, Mary Louise rose, walked across the room (a matter of six steps), removing hairpins as she went, and shoved aside the screen which hid the stationary wash-bowl by day.