10 thoughts on “Seventeen

  1. says:

    F.S Fitzgerald has mentioned Seventeen in his personal 10 best books he ever read list as The funniest book I ve ever read WikipediaThat s quite a plug from a famous fellow Princetonian, but hardly surprising A hundred years ago, Newton Booth Tarkington was one of America s most celebrated and prolific authors, winner of two Pulitzer prizes and author of numerous best sellers Now, he s almost forgotten That s also hardly surprising Times and tastes change All glory is fleeting Take a look at today s fiction best seller lists A century from now, I believe few if any of those books will have much of a readership and most of their authors will be forgotten The fact is, many best selling novels are poorly written hack jobs with formulaic plots Why do they succeed where others fail I guess they have the good fortune to catch the wave of current popular taste When tastes change today s best seller becomes tomorrow s dinosaur.Tarkington was not a hack On the contrary, The Magnificent Ambersons is a first rate novel, still worth reading So, what is wrong with Seventeen Seventeen s problem can be summed up in one word nostalgia, and nostalgia is what made the novel so popular when it first appeared in serial form back in 1914 and for many years after Nostalgia, a wistful, sentimental longing for a happy or at worst bittersweet past, sells.Happy Days The popular sit com ran from 1974 1984 with its nostalgic look back at teen life in the Good Old 1950 s Was it funny Yes, until Fonzie jumped the shark That is to say, the nostalgic formula worked until people got tired of it and jumping the shark couldn t resuscitate the corpse The 1930 s early 1940 s Andy Hardy comedies worked too, until Mickey Rooney grew up and started on his first of eight wives Ava Gardner , and then the series limped along for a while until it died of old age I m old enough to remember 1950 s sit coms like Ozzie and Harriet, The Stu Erwin Show, My Little Margie, and Father Knows Best Nice light comedies about average American families, average meaning Middle Class, Middle American WASPS who lived in nice little houses, could afford a colored maid and handyman, with average problems and complications often played for laughs, and a moral at the end Not a hint of Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, etc.You can follow the fading image of the average American family by following the sit com patriarch s devolution Father Knows Best 1950 s in which he really did know best, with a little help from Mom All In The Family 1970 s Father is a lame brained bigot who, with a little help from Mom and others, very slowly learns the error of his ways Married With Children 1980 s Father is a lazy, morally challenged moron Mom is a lazy, morally challenged moron the kids are lazy, morally challenged morons None of them is capable of learning anything and the moral is there is no moral.Is Seventeen funny Yes, if you can stomach the racial and gender stereotypes that are common to the fiction of the period The laughs are based on the self consciousness, embarrassment and humiliation of one or characters In Seventeen, almost all that humiliation falls on the head of the young protagonist William Sylvanus Baxter, aka Wille or Silly Bill The novel s sub title is A Tale of Youth and Summer Time And the Baxter Family Especially William In the summer of 1914 or thereabouts in a place resembling Tarkington s home town Indianapolis, Indiana William Baxter and the other young men in his circle of friends and acquaintances are infected with a bad case of puppy love The cause of the infection, Lola Pratt, is a pretty, fashionable, young lady from out of town who goes about with her lap dog, Floppit, and has the annoying habit of babbling baby talk to both canine and humans Az ik le boy Badstuh been notty, Fwopitt Widdle Fwopitt don wike mean, notty boyz That s not a direct quote but you get the picture Anyway, the boys find this sort of thing charming Lola is staying with her friend May Parcher, to the consternation of put upon father Parcher There are several bits of funny schtick with William s ten year old little sister, Jane One of the funniest involves her substitution of word for damn when telling her mother about Mr Parcher s overheard rant about all those word boys hanging around the unwelcome guest day and night.StyleIt might seem dated, but for the most part I think the narrative, descriptive writing and dialogue are all quite good And the plotting and pacing held my interest and kept me reading The humor is derivative, Mark Twain light The dated stuff is mostly the mock heroic usage of big, hifalutin words to exaggerate the silliness of a particular situation There are no Good Old Days There aren t any old times When times are gone, they re not old, they re dead There aren t any times but new times Those lines are from Tarkington s masterpiece, The Magnificent Ambersons That s the dark side of nostalgia If you can t cope with change you turn into one of the walking dead a zombified individual longing for the Good Old Days with selective amnesia regarding all those things about the old days that weren t so good.


  2. says:

    This book is a hilarious take on adolescence, even after 100 years You will cringe as it reminds you of the constant humiliations of being young and in love If you are of a certain parental age, about halfway through you will also wish fervently, along with Mr Prather, that Miss Pratt would just GO HOME, because only besotted young men could stomach her and her little white dog for an entire three months There are many laugh out loud moments Tarkington is a deft writer, and the humor comes from his shrewd and sympathetic portrayals of all the characters, who are wittily drawn, from the boy at the center of the universe, to his little sister, his rivals, and the parents, and a host of others The language is witty, and the comic incidents build and whack you on the side of the head Particularly the climax at the railway station, and the Big Reveal in the final pages neither of which I will spoil for you As with all good novels of manners, the humor arises out of the personalities of the characters, the narrator s wit is sharp, and the author s plot is very well done each new event comes very naturally out of the main frame of the story summertime This is not so much a beach read as a front porch read Many reviewers mention the issue of the African American characters certainly the use of dialect when Genesis and Mr Genesis speak was ok in its time, and is no longer For me it reminds me of my Great Uncle, who had attitudes literally from the time in this work, and was an embarrassment to us even in the 50s and 60s He would have loved the darky dialect I can t imagine anyone ever really spoke like this Except for the rather unnecessary monologue about catering that was cringe worthy, though, Genesis was a great character because he is the straight man who sets up the crazed boy to run with his madness When viewed through a lens of class rather than race, it s sobering to think that we no longer live in communities where the garden help is part of the web of relationships that could be part of an idyllic summertime They drive in, run their mowers, load up and drive away They don t bring their loping, comic dogs, or crusty old fathers along and spend time gossiping with little girls and embarrassing our fragile ego d teen boys I don t know if I attached this review to the right edition many of these Kindle editions have imprints from secondary e publishers who have appropriated it I downloaded my e book from www.gutenberg.org, for free.


  3. says:

    In which a self important, lovestruck teenager is soundly though rarely undeservedly, or cruelly for that matter humiliated at every turn I ve never had the patience for most things written before, say, 1972, and over the past few years I ve begun to hate that about myself I happened to read Seventeen aloud to my wife which has proven to be a restful pre slumber activity than watching The Two Coreys , and we laughed and were terrifically entertained throughout, despite deep, old timey text that I would have dinkishly glazed over were I reading it silently to myself Tarkington had a very dry, impish sense of humor that put me in mind of Garrison Keillor, whose Book of Guys I d recently also read aloud and liked a lot I understand a fitting contemporary to mention here would have been Mark Twain, but as he never wrote any Choose Your Own Adventure books I ve been forced to leave him off my summer reading list We were quite sad to see Seventeen end, but on the plus side it did allow us to start reading The Dirt by Motley Crue, so all in all, a bittersweet departure In conclusion, reading old books aloud helps if you re a history hating ding dong like myself Also, Booth Tarkington was a funny guy.


  4. says:

    DNF at 100 pages.Mini review I don t really know enough about what the literary world was like in 1916 to say whether or not it s surprising that this was the bestselling book of the year However, it s not at all surprising to me that this book has been forgotten relatively quickly The book is going for whimsical and insightful, and it lands a lot closer to awkward and simplistic There was a Wikipedia article that said that anyone over the age of 50 should read this book to remind them of what it was like to be a teenager, rather than recommending the book to teenagers themselves I think this is pretty telling of what you ll find in this book William s only two character traits are that he s a teenager, and that he s extremely irritable He s not there to represent an actual teenager he s a caricature of a teenager that adults can laugh at The book is barely even about him, even though he s supposed to be the protagonist His ten year old sister Jane is in the novel than he is, and she s a way interesting character I might have liked the book a lot better if she was the protagonist, because she is actually a fun character to read about, similarly to how Ramona Quimby is fun to read about But even if she had been the protagonist, I doubt the book would ve been that good, simply because Tarkington is so bad at coming up with funny situations for the characters I get the impression he was going for something kind of similar to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, something episodic and amusing that also has a larger theme But it falls very flat, mostly because Tarkington seems to lack imagination as to what the episodes should be like The episodes here are extremely forgettable, and not even a little funny This is a pointless little book its message about adolescence is ruined by how unrealistic William was, and the humor is weakened by how few good ideas Tarkington has The book has very little to offer to anyone It s also worth noting that there s quite a bit of very tasteless racism here And yes, I know, this is a product of its time, you can t hold authors from a hundred years ago to the same standards you d hold a modern author But the racism does impact whether or not some people decide to read this book understandably, I might add and if you re bothered by that kind of thing, there s not much in here to make it worth the trouble The prose is alright, and I did enjoy reading about Jane, but other than that, there s no reason to read this book.


  5. says:

    3.5 stars This is another one of Tarkington s fluffy humorous confections very much like Gentle Julia, with its themes of infatuated young suitor and mischievous young relative, except that the primary characters are even sillier, if such a thing is possible Light on plot, but with plenty of irresistibly hilarious moments and passages that made me laugh out loud perfect for a summer afternoon s reading.


  6. says:

    This is one of the funniest books ever He nails perfectly a seventeen year old young man no matter the time period.


  7. says:

    NOBODY S BUSINESS IS SAFE FFROM THAT CHILD Small town romance is an uphill battle not to mention source of public amusement for easily smitten seventeens in the 19 teens, when everyone knew everyone else s business especially the protagonist s bratty little sister It isn t enough that a fellow suffers the social torments of hell in order to impress a visiting bubble blond his Baby Talk Lady, but that his pecocious younger sibling makes it her summer business to spy on, tattle on and harrass her haggard brother in his amorous affairs There is little familial sympathy shown for the young man struggling to beat out the competition to win favor in the eyes of the Most Noble One Tarkington s world is blissfully naive compared with the dangers and pitfalls of 21st century life for teenagers, yet William s emotional battles remain poingnant, as young love actually infatuation undergoes daily upheavals Relatively clueless as to his motivations and private agonies, his parents exist on another plane as do manyadults in this novel of pre war Americana The most original character created is that of Genesis, the dishevled Black town handyman, whose very presence with his mongrel canine companion causes William frightful embarrassment Keeping up appearances is critical, as William foolishly allows Clothes to Make and Break the Man The humor comes not only in the pathos of William s extreme efforts and psychological sress, but from the drole style of the narrator s commentary The story unfolds with little plot but much expenditure of physical and emotional energy How can William rise above his rivals to capture the heart of the enchanting Miss Pratt in one too short summer This summer is anything but short to the female sensation s long suffering host, who is soon on the brink of breakdown And through all the anguish caused by Lola s invasion of this small town, Jane eats and sneaks and deliberately torments her bother alas, she mostly gets away with it, too How can a decent fellow court a goddess like Lola, with such disreputable creatures as Genesis and Jane lurking about This is a delightful pre Happy Days read for kids of all ages reminding us of the pangs of young love and foibles of youth As fresh as when it was written by the author of PENROD July 26, 2011 I welcome dialogue with teachers.


  8. says:

    Interesting fast read While there is some popular notion that teenager first became a category in the 1950s, this book would seem to refute that The last chapter is just a little too precious for the rest of the book in my mind The vocabulary seems much advanced than I would expect of a present day book with a similar level of plot complexity perhaps that s just me reading my own preconceptions of the era into the book This gave me insight into the college widow character in the Marx Brothers film Horsefeathers Evidently they were actually making fun of an archetype there


  9. says:

    I began thinking about Seventeen as my grandchildren are arriving and leaving that crucial age I thought I may have read this book when I was young, but I can t remember it at all I even wonder if I may have an old copy at home lurking in the midst of my other teenage books.I loved this book and the essence of Seventeen that the writer captures At Seventeen, everything is a crisis in our lives and the world may end at any minute The writing was suburb The characters were tremendous and alive and that story line was so fun and amusing.I will read Booth Tarkington if I can find some


  10. says:

    This book is one of the funniest books I ve read in ages Perfectly captures the joy and pain of being a teenager in love It s true, at times it was painfully ignorant of modern attitudes towards race, but at its heart this is a story as relatable today as it was when it was first a bestseller 100 years ago Highly recommended.


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