Monday, April 2, 2012


The Fabulous Country
An Anthology
Author: Charles Laughton
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Book Co, Inc.
Copyright: 1962



This was a delight to read.  Charles Laughton was a screen icon as the hunchback of Notre Dame and many more, but he also was a traveling actor and speaker.  In the anthology he matches his U.S. destinations memories with the impressions of other authors from other times .We not only are let in on Laughton’s favorite and very fine literary tastes, but he tells stories in his introductions of his experiences in the same locations.  The coincidences and surprises were a lot of fun.

Right now, I’m reading “Cavett,” and he tells of his Lincoln, NE, experience of meeting Laughton backstage.  The coincidence is fun, but moreover, its obvious Charles Laughton was a gentle, sweet man and every bit the English gentleman.

He and his wife, Elsa (famous stage and screen actress, herself) were not impressed with New York, noticing how impolite a policeman was to him, and the taxi drivers treated them as equals!  They both had a change of heart over time and grew to laugh at the things that bothered them at first.  He was in New York “. . .when the bay by Battery Park was sweet smelling.”  Can you imagine?

He begins with Gertrude Stein’s, 1937 “Arrival in New York”; Laughton was a genuinely good-natured person.  He knew that Stein’s verbosity and seemingly nonsensical stops and starts could be off-putting.  He kindly hopes you don’t find her hard to follow.  It’s just that she’s direct.  To me her writing and included statements that seemed like a series of unconnected synapses.  Maybe it was fashionable to talk fast and make no sense or she was conducting an experiment of James Joyce’s stream of consciousness style.

You travel all over in time to around 1800 (guess) with Henry David Thoreau.  He and his fellow surveyor had to stay overnight at the home of a grizzled, 70- year-old-Scotsman in “The Wellfleet Oysterman.” (Now Cape Cod).  He tells about growing up under King George III, seeing George Washington on his horse, hearing the guns fire at the battle of Bunker Hill across the bay, as well as information about oysters. “I am a poor, good-for-nothing crittur, as Isaiah says. . .” he repeated from the bible

Charles Dickens had quite a battle in 1842 just trying to get to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.   He wrote in his book “American Notes” of an appallingly crude three-day boat trip he endured just to promote his work.  Dickens descriptions of the unappealing trip, amongst other things mentioned, created quite a “stink” in America Laughton said.

Laughton noted the beauties of the South, even meeting a young Andy Griffith.  He admits one “could go on and on, even though one could wish some things were not there to see.” 

You get to read all manner of things, Washington’s farewell address, Jack Kerouac, Sinclair Lewis, Sarah Orne Jewett, Truman Capote, and so much more.  You’ll bounce between fiction and non with this gracious host.  His story that was the wonder for me was the evening he was shooting a scene for the movie, “Advise and Consent’ outside the Whitehouse and suddenly the chandeliers went on.  I quickly checked the copyright and realized that Camelot was still there and nothing bad had happened, yet...  I quickly checked the copyright and realized that Camelot was still there and nothing bad had happened, yet.

31 Steps to the Attic!  Wonderful.

 

This book is in fine condition w/dj good.  One small enclosed tear on the bottom. In 1962 it sold for $5.95. not a bookclub book.  This book is in fine condition. Pages lightly sunned but text bright & clean. dj good.  One small enclosed tear on the bottom. In 1962 it sold for $5.95. not a bookclub book. 

Abebooks values this book at $65 on down according to quality.  This one matches an ABBA certified seller’s price of $25 plus $5 shipping.  mbtaffe@hotmail.com