Reviews by C. Alan Loewen

Chains

by Elizabeth Baker

I must be honest as a reviewer and say I did not care for this play at all. If I was given free front row seats and all I had to do was cross the street, I wouldn’t bother, but after extensive research it appears I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t like the play. Therefore, I’ve given it three stars out of respect for what is clearly a majority opinion when personally I would only give it one.

Elizabeth Baker (1876 - 1962) was an English playwright and a proud member of the lower middle class intelligentsia. Her very first play was Chains and was produced in 1909 (not 1911 as is reported). It has been resurrected many times to rave reviews and has also been a TV production as well as performed multiple times on stage.

Charley and Lily Wilson are members of the lower middle class in Edwardian England. Charley works as a clerk six days a week and Lily is a homemaker. To make ends meet, they take in borders and as the play opens, their present tenant, Fred Tennant (Get it? Tenant? Tennant? Oh, never mind.) decides he has the itch to leave his boring life and go cast his luck in Australia.

Much angst ensues as Charley wrestles with going to Australia along with Fred and various members of the cast either encourage or castigate him for even thinking about it. At the end of the play, nothing is resolved and you had to wade through a lot to get to it.

There are several attempts at humor, one being the neighbor who doesn’t use the front door but repeatedly climbs over the garden wall (this all takes place off-stage) destroying the garden in the process. This was evidently a real knee-slapper in fin de siècle England.

Nonetheless, in spite of my own ambivalence about the production, people in England absolutely adore this play and treat it like Americans treat the National Anthem. If you think lower middle class ennui is your cup of tea, enjoy.

Alan Loewen
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K

Reviewed on 2014.07.22

The Lost Door

by Dorothy Quick

Dorothy Quick (1896–1962) (real name: Dorothy Gertrude Mayer) was known as a close friend of Mark Twain who encouraged her writing career when she was a young girl. They met aboard the S. S. Minnetonka in 1907. He was seventy-two years old, she almost eleven, and they remained close friends until Twain’s death in 1910.

The Lost Door contains every trope you could ever expect to see in a story about a vengeful ghost and aficionados of the genre are not going to be caught by surprise. The narrator inherits a French estate from his estranged father and he brings along his friend, Wrexler, to share in his unexpected windfall. There the narrator learns of a curse and the story is how the curse works itself out in the lives of the narrator and his friend. The ambiguous ending does lend a little bit of a The Lady or the Tiger-type ending, but for its length and Quick’s prose, the story is one worth reading.

Alan Loewen
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K

Reviewed on 2014.07.17

Through the Outlooking Glass

by Simeon Strunsky

Simeon Strunsky, A.B. (1879–1948) was an essayist who wrote for several magazines and newspapers throughout his career.

This manuscript is reprinted from the New York Evening Post and its full title is Through the Outlooking Glass With Theodore Roosevelt.

The essay is a satire based on the familiar Alice in Wonderland tropes and is a criticism of Theodore Roosevelt's decision to run for a third term under the auspices of The Bull Moose Party.

Unless the reader is aware of the political climate of 1912, the essay is of little value and its use of Alice in Wonderland will fall flat on today's modern readers.

Needless to say, for historians, especially of the fin de siècle era of the 20th century, there may be some insights on the vitriol that greeted the formation of a third party by a popular ex-President.

Alan Loewen
www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K

Reviewed on 2014.01.11

The Dark World

by Henry Kuttner

It's a pity that Kuttner died at the age of 42 as he probably had a lot more stories in him than just the gems he left us.

The Dark World is one of his best about an American WW II veteran who suddenly finds himself in another world as a pawn between the forces of good and evil.

Very fast paced, the story of conflict is only a backdrop to the bigger question as to who the protagonist really is and on what side he truly belongs.

A very good pulp-era book and in this reviewer's opinion, a good read.

Reviewed on 2013.09.07

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