Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Title page from a collection of short stories by Don Marquis
Our topic today is the art of short story writing. One of the best
representatives of the genre is author Don Marquis.
His style of writing foreshadows the combination of dialogue and
narrative that Mark Twain would later elevate to a higher level.
"And the world would go forth from Dan to Burrsheba and from
Alpha to Omega that peetryarch Bill was fightin' dull care from
his lovin' people with a barbecue." Such are the dialogues we find
in this collection. These statements from the characters reveal
the sharp ear that Don Marquis had developed.
As far as the narrative, Marquis was equally sharp. In his
story "The Tablecloth Millionaire" we are introduced to a
character named Dickie Peters who was always dreaming up
ways to make a million dollars. Here is the way Marquis
"presently he would be convincing everyone
within sound of his voice that there were
millions in it, whatever "it" might be. Not
the least convinced would be Dickie himself.
For at thirty-six he was still an enthusiast,
a believer. After one of these fervent lessons
Dickie always felt so wealthy, and so benign
and friendly toward all the world, that almost
anybody could borrow ten dollars from him -
if he had it. Frequently he had and they did."
That is just a delightful piece of writing and, even
though it might be labeled as fiction, we have a strong
feeling that it was taken from real life, every bit of it.
Other stories worth mentioning are "The High Pitch"
and "The Spots of the Leopard." Mostly every line here
is providing a window for us to peek into the days of the
roaring twenties. Don Marquis was a faithful observer
of life in those days.