Archive for October, 2021

A New Literary Broom

This 1921 article predicted potentially great things for the new literary magazine Broom. Its final issue was published less than two and a half years later, in January 1924.

There can be no doubt of the potentialities of Broom, the international magazine of the arts whose first issue, dated November, has just reached this side of the Atlantic Ocean from its headquarters [in Rome].

The future of Broom will be watched with interest. Its first number sharpens the appetite for more of the same kind. Its editors have much to learn, but, at the same time, it must be admitted that there is much that they have learned.

The title was chosen because the two co-founders wanted a one-syllable name. At 50 cents per copy or five dollars for a yearly subscription, the publication limped along for a few years. It was already facing financial trouble when the U.S. Postal Service refused to mail copies of their January 1924 issue because it contained the word “breasts” (seriously), and the publication was forced to shut down.

If interested, here’s the text of the short story Prince Llan: An Ethical Masque in Seven Parts, including a Prologue and a Coda by Kenneth Burke, which ruined the publication financially:

https://bluemountain.princeton.edu/bluemtn/?a=d&d=bmtnaap192401-01.2.6&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——-

 

A New Literary Broom (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 30, 2021

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

October 30th, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Literature

From Flapper to Girl Scout

After its 1912 founding, the Girl Scouts of the United States (as it was then known) had amassed almost 70,000 members by 1920. This 1921 New York Times Magazine article profiled the surging organization, which would more than triple its membership that decade to 200,000+ members by 1930.

“Camping” to the girls has meant a canoe and a proposal. To man it has meant getting off from the woman and roughing it with his fishing tackle or his gun.

Now the Girl Scout program throws tradition into the discard, for it operates on the theory that a girl can practice woodcraft as well as a man can — can build a fire and construct an incinerator, can pitch a tent and police up barracks, do the Australian crawl and climb a mountain. This new feminist movement is rapidly infringing on man’s preserves.

The article makes no mention of Girl Scout cookies, which began in 1917 with a troop in in Muskogee, Oklahoma, though it’s unclear how widespread that was by 1921. It was the next year, 1922, when their official magazine American Girl (not to be confused with the unrelated current magazine of the same name) published their first cookie recipe.

Today, the Girl Scouts of the USA counts 1.7 million members.

 

From Flapper to Girl Scout (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 23, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

October 24th, 2021 at 10:01 am

Posted in Life

One Soldier on “Three Soldiers”

Even the most popular cultural phenomena can fade away. A 1921 New York Times Magazine article begins: “Every one now seems to have taken part in the discussion of John Dos Passos’s brilliantly written novel” Three Soldiers.

Today, the novel’s Wikipedia article barely contains any information, while its Goodreads page has 1,131 user ratings. For comparison, the most famous fellow World War I-set novels include 378,971 user ratings for All Quiet on the Western Front and 281,251 for A Farewell to Arms.

This 1921 analysis by Harold Norman Denny criticized Three Soldiers for an excessive focus on the negative in its tale of combat soldiers, particularly galling when the novel’s author himself did not serve in combat but rather was an ambulance driver.

Mr. Dos Passos has combed the army for every rotten incident that happened, could have happened, or could be imagined as having happened, and welded it into a compelling narrative. He pictures this conglomeration as the army. This was not the army, of course, any more [sic] than a graphic description of Jefferson Market Police Court would do for a picture of New York.

“Three Soldiers” purports to be a description of the actions and reactions of men in the combat forces; even to describe them on the battlefield, and in so doing it makes them out abject or malignant. The offense of the book is that Mr. Dos Passos does not know what he is talking about. He was a non-combatant.

Then again, when Bruce Springsteen began writing his iconic songs about cars and the open road, he didn’t know how to drive.

 

One Soldier on “Three Soldiers” (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 16, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

October 16th, 2021 at 12:28 pm

Renaissance of the Masher and Swashbuckler

As life tamped down in 1921 under Prohibition, people sought to live vicariously through the uninhibited characters of stage and screen, characters this New York Times Magazine article called “the masher and swashbuckler.”

“The leaden lid of ‘Thou Shalt Not’ has been hammered down on us so tightly that the explosion of our suppressed healthy animality may become a classic example of Dr. Freud’s dictum: the way to revitalize an instinct is to suppress it.

Don Juan, d’Artagnan, and Bluebeard have invaded New York from beyond the artistic three-mile limit. [Those first two are references to the 1921 Broadway productions of Don Juan and The Three Musketeers, though I couldn’t ascertain the Bluebeard reference with certainty.] In film circles… there is talk of screening the life of that philanthropic highwayman, Robin Hood. [1922’s Robin Hood would star Douglas Fairbanks.]

The columnist Benjamin de Casseres then added this kicker:

If there is anybody missing, I haven’t heard of him. Satan?

One wonders if something of the opposite has happened these days. Part of the reason The Jerry Springer Show was cancelled in 2018 after 27 years was because audiences no longer felt the same need to turn towards the entertainment world to see deubachery like cheating on your spouse with an adult film star or vile language, when the president was doing the same. As Springer himself said, Donald Trump “took my show and brought it to the White House.”

And one of the most popular television shows to emerge in 2020 was the wholesome Ted Lasso.

 

Renaissance of the Masher and Swashbuckler (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 9, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

October 10th, 2021 at 8:01 am

‘Heroes by Any Other Name’

This 1921 article was already calling Babe Ruth a “legend,” even though he hadn’t even won his first MVP award yet.

I think most people are hero worshippers, don’t you? Only nowadays they do not pick their heroes from the ranks of soldiers and senators. Five years of war gave us no outstanding figure, but one year of peace gave us Babe Ruth! Foch merely saved the world. The Babe has founded a legend. His is the fame of Ulysses and Charlemagne and Chaplin. His deeds will be told from father to son. His place in history is secure. He’s a hero.

That prediction came true, as Ruth remains one of the most famous athletes ever, even today. Similarly, the one other contemporary reference in that excerpt, Charlie Chaplin, remains one of the most famous movie stars ever.

But 1921 was before Ruth won his lone Most Valuable Player award in 1923before Ruth’s famous called shot home run in 1932, before his iconic (though possibly apocryphal) line about how he justified earning more money than President Hoover during the Great Depression because “I had a better year.”

Reminds me of when Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf in 1993 called Michael Jordan “the greatest athlete to ever play a team sport”… and then MJ went on to win another three championships and two more MVP awards after that.

Also, the idea that World War I produced “no outstanding figure” is sad but perhaps true. Arguably the most famous such figure may have been Alvin York, the Medal of Honor-winning soldier whose life story was turned into the movie Sergeant York, which won Gary Cooper the 1942 Academy Award for Best Actor. Still, if you ask the average 12-year-old (let’s say), they’ve probably heard of Ruth but probably not York.

 

‘Heroes by Any Other Name’ (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 2, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

October 3rd, 2021 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Life,Sports