Last Call: Strange High Courage Edition

George Weller was no penny-a-page ghostwriter’s imaginary pen name, but a serious journalist whose long and storied career would take him around the world as a respected newspaper and magazine correspondent, in both war and peacetime. In 1936, however, he was just starting out and wrote a rather avant-garde collection of short stories intended to echo American’s lives much as James Joyce’s Dubliners had for the Irish two decades earlier. Unfortunately, Random House’s famously hubristic and autocratic chief Bennett Cerf chose to forcibly jam all the stories within a strange, metaphorical framework of automotive references, which made it even more bewildering a read. At the height of the depression, few readers were eager to spend money on experimental fiction. The author, while never quite disavowing the book, readily admitted that it largely deserved the failure that resulted. But seventeen years later, and without Weller’s knowledge, the publishing rights to Clutch & Differential were sublet to pulp-fiction purveyor Royal Books. The new publisher re-titled it Highway Episode and splashed the cover with their typically sensationalized words and images, most of which had only the barest relevance to the stories within. I have to wonder exactly how many critics called this “the definitive fictional work…of the automobile age,” considering that as those words were being written, the book had sold fewer than 700 copies.
Last Call indicates the end of Hooniverse’s broadcast day. It’s meant to be an open forum for anyone and anything. Thread jacking is not only accepted, it’s encouraged.

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12 responses to “Last Call: Strange High Courage Edition”

  1. RustySpokes Avatar

    Grabs library card, keys and coat. Rushes out front door…

  2. crank_case Avatar

    Even as an Irishman, you lost me at James Joyce. Probably holds the record for the author most people have pretended to have read but haven’t, because no-ones got time to be reading anything that impentrable.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      I’m a Welshman, but I actually tried reading Joyce’s Ulysses some years ago. I normally don’t have much of a problem with “difficult” books but this was just too much. I gave up after a half dozen pages.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Yeah, total letdown, the cartoon was way better.

      2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

        As a Welshman, you have your own impenetrable prose to answer for. I have tried to read John Cowper Powys several times with results similar to Crank_case’s attempt at Joyce.

        1. Vairship Avatar

          Harder to penetrate than Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch?

  3. neight428 Avatar

    I once read of the adventures of a duplicitous and conniving nudist. This sounds like a breath of fresh air.

  4. Alff Avatar

    Cerf was just ahead of his time. Once people had money again, sex and cars became a huge seller.