Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fortnightly Book, September 28

The next fortnightly book is Bret Harte's Tales of the Gold Rush. Harte, born Francis Brett Hart in Albany, New York, went to California at the age of seventeen. There he taught school for a while in Oakland, doing various odd jobs for additional income. In 1868 he became editor for The Overland Monthly, which would change his life. There was a paucity of literature about California life, so Harte wrote up a story, "The Luck of Roaring Camp", to be included in the periodical. By his own story, he got called to the office of the publisher, who was very worried: when the printer received the story, he had returned the proofs not to Harte but to the publisher, insisting that the story was so scurrilous and indecent that his proofreader could hardly read it. Harte was utterly baffled as to what this meant. He read it again, and was convinced that this was wrong. He convinced his publisher at least to let it through as a test of his editorial judgment -- and the story, about a group of miners stuck with an infant after the death of a prostitute, garnered Harte instant acclaim. For a brief period, he made a considerable amount of money as a writer for periodicals, although he spent much of his last years struggling as his popularity waned.

Tales of the Gold Rush is an anthology of thirteen tales from various of Harte's collections of short stories:

The Luck of Roaring Camp
The Outcasts of Poker Flat
Tennessee's Partner
Brown of Calaveras
The Idyl of Bed Gulch
The Iliad of Sandy Bar
The Poet of Sierra Flat
How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar
An Apostle of the Tules
An Ingenue of the Sierras
A Protegee of Jack Hamlin's
Prosper's "Old Mother"

The one I'll be reading is a Heritage Press book illustrated by Fletcher Martin, the American painter. The typeface is a version of Walbaum called 'Waverly', with a fair mix of other typefaces fulfilling other functions. The book has a plain linen spine and marbled gold covers that are quite handsome.

I've been snowed under with grading recently, but even if this continues, this should be a fairly manageable book to handle.

1 comment:

  1. MrsDarwin11:46 AM

    Oh, I have this one in the Heritage Press edition! The gold cover is an elegant bit of book design.

    An interesting theme running through the stories (I've read about half of them before) seems to be how even those living sinful lives can snatch at grace, how virtue can find a foothold in the unlikeliest situation, and, ultimately, how hollow are the allurements of the world. At least in the ones I've read, there haven't been any standard happy endings -- everything is bittersweet.


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