Saturday, March 5, 2016

Remember Ring Lardner

The Library of America does many wonderful things, not least of which is offering the public a free, weekly story by a great American writer. Today, it's one by Ring Lardner (1885-1933):
During the last century “The Golden Honeymoon” has been one of the most frequently anthologized of Lardner’s stories—perhaps second only to “Haircut.” (John Updike included it in his Best American Short Stories of the Century.) It is deceptively simple: an elderly couple, Charles and Lucy (“Mother”), head off for a fiftieth-anniversary vacation in Florida, but their enjoyment is unexpectedly interrupted by an encounter with Mother’s former fiancĂ© and his wife. “When this story was first published,” the young editor and critic Clifton Fadiman wrote ten years after its publication, “most readers thought it very touching, even a trifle sentimental.” Instead, he argued, “it is one of the most smashing indictments of a ‘happy marriage’ ever written, composed with a fury so gelid as to hide completely the bitter passion seething beneath every line.” Fadiman certainly overstated the case. More recently Jonathan Yardley has suggested that the truth is somewhere in the middle, some distance away from the “venomous vision” conjured by Fadiman: “Ring understood . . . the unwritten rules that permitted these people to have their minor spats and running arguments while maintaining a foundation of affection and mutual understanding.”

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