Prohibition-era condemnable originator George Remus—unlike other 1920s organized crime kingpins like Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, or Charles “ Lucky ” Luciano—has been largely forgotten. The “ King of the Bootleggers, ” who led a raucous liveliness highlighted by forming a bourbon empire that accumulated billions of dollars in today ’ mho money, late murdered his wife Imogene in cold blood in Cincinnati ’ s Eden Park, which led to a sensational Jazz Age test and an renovation of criminal insanity laws .
In researching Remus for my new book, The Bourbon King, I found the connection to other things “ lost ” from history became more pronounce. so much fantastic literature was published in the 1920s, but has since been basically consigned to the ashcan. We all know the novels and works that are read and re-read, listed on high school and college course of study, but the literary landscape is littered with lost bestsellers and forget monograph. many books from the 1920s can provide deep penetration on current pressing issues, from extensive presidential corruption to clashes over alcohol and cannabis policies. race, our most permeant and agonizing challenge, ( then and nowadays ) was a chief concern .
Reading about forgotten books and authors closely 100 years subsequently is a haunting exercise. We know that the Great Depression is barely on the horizon and that many of the writers of that historic period will struggle and suffer. We besides feel the angst, awe, and crushing pull of the America they experienced. The nation has advanced in so many areas, yet the basic human condition seems all excessively familiar—similar social issues force us to confront our decay. In this spirit, here are ten books from the 1920s that are worth reading now.
Ole Edvart Rölvaag, Giants in the Earth (1927)
Traveling into the american heartland, Rölvaag ’ s Giants in the Earth focuses on a norwegian family ’ south struggles as they attempt to set up a homestead in the Dakota Territory. Rölvaag ’ south hero, Per Hansa, is based on some of his own experiences as a norwegian immigrant. Hansa retains an affirmative lookout, despite the austereness of his animation. His wife Beret is a austere personality, highly religious and less optimistic. Dealing with the challenges of assimilation, arriving in a strange land, terminology issues, and the aloneness of immigrant life, Giants in the Earth is a haunting portrait of prairie life .
Edna Ferber, So Big (1924)
Winner of the 1925 Pulitzer Prize, Edna Ferber ’ s so big tackles important topics, like immigration, the function of art and polish in company, and how one lives her best life. indeed big is a bite Gatsby-like without the New York City backdrop and the amphetamine reaches of moneyed club. rather, the novel follows the life of Selina Peake, a young woman with many skills, whose life is turned top down by the loss of her don and young conserve, leaving her alone to raise her young son Dirk on the dirt farm that her conserve left buttocks. The unseasoned valet becomes a successful shackle salesman, rich and celebrated. Dirk later laments that he didn ’ t stay with architecture, his boyhood pipe dream ( shared by his mother ), an aesthetic career path that would have led to happiness .
therefore Big was the significant book that critics hoped Ferber would someday write. At publication, one commentator claimed it was “ not the big american Novel but it surely falls in the class of ‘ one of the bang-up. ’ ”
Gene Stratton-Porter, The Keeper of the Bees (1925)
The populace devoured The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter, published a year after her ill-timed death from a late 1924 car accident. The novel is example of the generator ’ s themes : varied optimism and pro-conservation, which she powerfully advocated in the early 1920s as an antidote to the pitting of the historic period. Keeper is the narrative of ailing war hero James Lewis Macfarlane, dismissed after the war, evening though he placid suffers from poisoning and other wartime consequences. finally making his way to a California bee grow, Macfarlane is on a road toward convalescence. The piquant air of the Pacific Ocean finally leads him to a kind of robustness and renewed sense of energy .
Stratton-Porter ’ mho ideas remain meaning, still at the center of nowadays ’ second newsworthiness, surely when large swaths of people are dealing more or less daily with “ Trump Anxiety Disorder, ” controversies around climate, and, more pointedly, PTSD and war wounds. And, of course, nowadays ’ south crisis with bees, the discipline at the heart of Stratton-Porter ’ south novel .
Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
Let ’ s equitable make the subject that Nella Larsen, a trailblazing librarian and writer who was character of the Harlem Renaissance movement, should be more wide read if the reviewer hopes to more fully understand the context, history, and evolution of black animation in the early on twentieth century. Passing, critically-acclaimed and set in Harlem, examines the lives of two women who were childhood friends, but then reconnect later in life and compare their experiences. light-skinned Clare “ passed ” as white and married a white man, while Irene married a black man. Both women have white ancestry and leash complicated lives based on their decisions regarding how to deal with rush and its consequences. By titling the fresh Passing, Larsen surely directs readers to the primary publish she confronts, but the book besides demonstrates how race is tied into other complicate topics, particularly social stand, sex, and wealth .
Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (1925)
Writer Anzia Yezierska ’ south life is a biopic waiting to happen—Jewish immigrant animation on the Lower East Side, sordid love life, matter with philosopher John Dewey, screenwriter dubbed “ the sweatshop Cinderella, ” women ’ sulfur rights activist, and much more .
George Currie, reviewing Yezierska ’ s fresh in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle explained, “ The proofreader is looking at real people, living with them, suffering their small scandals, dreading the arrival of the rent lady, stuffing buttlerless bread to ease the gnaw pains of hunger. ” ultimately, he applauds boodle Givers as “ a perfective example of high art in heartthrobs. ” The realistic portrait of lives lived in the jewish ghettoes of early twentieth hundred New York City remain instructive .
Viña Delmar, Bad Girl (1928)
Although a cautionary fib of lower middle-class animation, Viña Delmar ’ s Bad Girl addressed taboo topics in the late 1920s, including prenuptial sex and pregnancy. The lurid themes trip up people ’ mho attention, but the koran then became a runaway best seller when the city of Boston banned it. Delmar became so celebrated from Bad Girl that she took Hollywood by storm. The novel was turned into a film, out in 1931. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, while Frank Borzage won the Academy Award for Directing.
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James Harvey Robinson, The Mind in the Making (1921)
Robinson, a historian who co-founded the New School in 1919, wrote about history as a discipline for a democratic consultation. His idea was straightforward, but revolutionary at the time—a combination of interdisciplinary research and use history to provide context for solving world ’ s most unmanageable challenges. Robinson believed that critical and creative think was the primary answer for addressing problems in what he viewed as a fast-moving interconnected world. H.G. Wells was a fan, exclaiming that The Mind in the Making would serve as “ marking a new and characteristic American enterprise in the populace ’ s thoughts and methods. ”
then soon after the horrors of World War I, readers were searching for answers. What Robinson viewed as the universe ’ s first problem seems eerily perceptive today : “ We have available cognition and inventiveness and fabric resources to make a far fairer earth than that in which we find ourselves, but assorted obstacles prevent our intelligently availing ourselves of them. ”
Rudolph Fisher, The Walls of Jericho (1928)
Rudolph Fisher ’ s The Walls of Jericho emerged from the burgeoning Harlem Renaissance as a comedic social sarcasm of class issues in “ high ” and “ low ” Harlem. Fisher deftly blends ideas of class, rush, and money into a bird’s-eye portrait of club that simultaneously illuminates these ideas, while besides showing how they blur by way of individuals ’ understand of themselves and those around them .
Newspapers in the 1920s debated, detailed, and described how “ Harlemese, ” the general term for African-American slang, had become platitude. Fisher created an 11-page glossary about Harlemese “ expurgated and abridged ” in the novel, featuring 110 gull terms, from the playful “ Haul It ” ( “ Haul hiney. Depart in capital haste. Catch air. ” ) to the implicative “ Bump the Bump ( “ A fore and back rock of the hips. Said to be an excellent aphrodisiac. ” )
Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Home-Maker (1924)
Dorothy Canfield Fisher, an education recommend and early patron of the Montessori methodology, was besides an achieve democratic novelist. The Home-Maker addresses gender and marriage roles via the betroth of Evangeline Knapp, a womanhood who fears staying at home to raise her children, but whose liveliness changes dramatically when her husband Lester is maimed. They reverse roles—the wife entering the business world, while Lester successfully raises their two children. Like all family issues, The Home-Maker is much deeper than it appears at first glance, deftly exploring society ’ south labels and their shock on people ’ sulfur lives. An assurance no less celebrated than Eleanor Roosevelt once claimed that Canfield Fisher was one of the ten most influential women in the nation, but much of her ferment across adult and young pornographic fabrication and nonfiction is no long read .
Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922)
Sinclair Lewis proves that a Nobel Prize winner can be forgotten. He may be the most celebrated ( and bestselling ) writer of his old age that is largely unread today. even worse, scholars have relegated Lewis to the rubbish bus. Yet, when I read Babbitt, I am leave scratching my head over how far Lewis ’ sulfur reputation has fallen .
In the midst of Trump ’ mho America, one finds the novel a tutorial on center America, a blueprint for not alone how the reality show haggle came to power, but the secret desires that leave so many people ( particularly in-between class corporate managers ) existentially hollow. The gape fix at the center of the novel ( and sol many people nowadays ) is the futility of the american Dream, not alone in the baffling chase, but ever believing that achieving it will ultimately deliver happiness or satisfaction. We all know George Babbitt, his hometown boosterism and civil pride is the stuff of countless mid-sized cities and modest towns. Babbitt ’ s betroth provokes the proofreader and asks that we search for a something more authentic from animation .
And, because we are having then much fun with this list, I am going to add an eleventh, The Adding Machine, a 1923 bid by Elmer Rice, because more people should be reading drama, along with novels and nonfiction .
Elmer Rice, The Adding Machine (1923)
A assume comment of the rise of automation and stultifying consequences of business animation, The Adding Machine is just a masterpiece. Rice ’ s play influenced a generation of writers and can be felt today in the countless nameless, faceless agency drones that abruptly realize they are the blimp in the sausage factory .
The Adding Machine ’ sulfur antihero is Mr. Zero, an accountant who kills his knob when he finds that he will be replaced by a machine. In a Heaven-like place called divine Fields after he is hanged for the mangle, Mr. Zero realizes that he has lived an unfulfilled life, both despising the car that replaces him, but besides having gone through animation in a automatic, lifeless fashion. Looking at issues of identity, sexual repression, and mechanization, The Adding Machine may cause readers who have withered in bodied settings relive those awed times, but it besides opens a window toward fulfillment.
Bob Batchelor ’ s The Bourbon King is available now from Diversion Books .