Want to read something utterly fascinating? Let me recommend to you Bab: A Sub-Deb, a title described by James Lileks as “sound[ing] like a novel written entirely in the voice of someone with a head cold”. The premise is that Barbara (“Bab”), a 17-year-old itching for her debut, has written essays and diary entries about her various comic mishaps.
I thought the stories themselves were entertaining enough — in the same genre as the Jeeves stories, except that the clever-linguistics angle is supplied by Bab’s poor spelling and overdramatic sensibilities. But the book becomes absolutely absorbing when you keep in mind as you go that this girl is seventeen, and that the backdrop is 1917 America and all that goes along. It’s not that you get little glimpses of the past; you find yourself transplanted by the author’s assumptions about her audience into someone else’s world. Well, I do, anyway.
Can you imagine this sort of thing?
I spent the morning with mother at the dressmakers and she chose two perfectly spiffing things, one of white chiffon over silk, made modafied Empire, with little bunches of roses here and there on it, and when she and the dressmaker were hagling over the roses, I took the scizzors and cut the neck of the lining two inches lower in front. The effect was posatively impressive. The other was blue over orkid, a perfectly passionate combination.
I just had this conversation with my mom today (I wish):
“Work!” mother said. “Career! What next? Why can’t you be like Leila, and settle down to haveing a good time?”
The male equivalent of “coming out”:
Eddie Perkins saw me there and came over. He had but recently been put in long trowsers, and those not his best ones but only white flannels. He was never sure of his garters, and was always looking to see if his socks were coming down.
The war peeks in:
So here I sit, Dear Dairy, while there are sounds of revelery below, and Sis jumps at her chance, which is the Honorable Page Beresford, who is an Englishman visiting here because he has a weak heart and can’t fight.
And this classic:
Mother rose and made a sweeping gesture with her right arm.
“I wash my hands of you!” she said. “You are impertanent and indelacate. At your age I was an inocent child, not troubleing with things that did not concern me. As for Love, I had never heard of it until I came out.”
“Life must have burst on you like an explosion,” I observed. “I suppose you thought that babies—-”
“Silense!” mother shreiked.
It’s just too cool. And it’s completely irrelevant to my final papers/exams.
ETA: Ye gods! Socialism! This book just keeps getting better!
So I told him that Adrian was a mill worker, and the villain makes him lose his position, by means of forjery. And Adrian goes to jail, and comes out, and no one will give him work. So he prepares to blow up a Milionaire’s house, and his sweetheart is in it. He has been to the Milionaire for work and been refused and thrown out, saying, just before the butler and three footmen push him through a window, in dramatic tones, “The world owes me a living and I will have it.”
“Socialism!” said Carter. “Hard stuff to handle for the two dollar seats. The world owes him a living. Humph! Still, that’s a good line to work on.”
ETA2: It. Does. Not. Stop.
I meant to ask father tonight, but he has just heard of Beresford and is in a terrable temper. He says Sis can’t marry him, because he is sure there are plenty of things he could be doing in England, if not actualy fighting.
“He could probably run a bus, and releace some one who can fight,” he shouted. “Or he could at least do an honest day’s work with his hands. Don’t let me see him, that’s all.”
“Do I understand that you forbid him the house?” Leila asked, in a cold furey.
“Just keep him out of my sight,” father snaped. “I supose I can’t keep him from swilling tea while I am away doing my part to help the Allies”
ETA3: I spared you the reference to nurses at the Front, but I cannot keep this from you:
“Knit! If that’s the scarf you were on at Christmas, and it looks like it, because there’s the crooked place you wouldn’t fix, let me tell you that since then I have made three socks, heals and all, and they are probably now on the feet of the Allies.”
“Three!” she said. “Why THREE?”
“I had no more wool, and there are plenty of one-leged men anyhow.”
One last addition: The last chapter is effing MIND-BLOWING.