Saturday, March 5, 2016

The American Richard Hannay

...The pages were yellowed, and the red cloth jackets were worn. But I knew the minute I began reading the Lanny Budd series that this was a significant gift, a sign that my mother considered me very grown-up. There were 11 volumes in all, covering the first half of the 20th century in 7,424 pages.

The heft wasn't merely physical. These historical novels engulfed me in the thrilling and terrible imperatives of history that had deeply affected my parents directly but seemed far removed from my time and place, a placid corner of Appalachia.

I assumed that out in the big world, everyone must know about Lanny Budd. But later, after I left Ohio and lived in Boston and then Manhattan, I found that no one I met, whether part of the literati or not, had ever heard of the books. The name of their author, Upton Sinclair, always evoked the same response: "Oh, yeah, I read 'The Jungle' in high school. "

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