What the Editors Are Reading

A casual mention by a friend of The Magnificent Ambersons, the novel by the Midwestern American novelist and playwright Booth Tarking ton (1869-1946) translated to the silver screen by Orson Welles, sent me to my library to renew my acquaintance with a book I read many years ago.  Instead of Ambersons, however, the book I took down was my boyhood copy of Penrod, one of several works Tarking ton wrote for “young people,” and became instantly lost in it again.  Penrod, and its successor Penrod and Sam, belong to a literary genre that has ceased to exist, though it includes such classics as Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series: books that exist, as it were, in two artistic dimensions—the juvenile and the adult.  Though it had been years since I last took up Penrod, I found myself anticipating not just turns of events in the chapters but entire scenes, passages, and phrases.  To my mind, the novel is at least a match for Tom Sawyer in terms of humor, and superior to it as a penetration and depiction of the psyche of a pre-adolescent male (though there are indeed striking similarities between Tom and Penrod, separated in time by nearly a century and by utterly dissimilar social milieus). ...

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