Does anyone read 1950s fiction?

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Does anyone read 1950s fiction?

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Jan 30, 2010, 1:03 pm

I'm reorganizing my books (thanks largely to LT), and I've come across several 1950s novels in my library. That in turn made me decide to reorganize my fiction by decade (or by individual year as I get to more current fiction).

Does anyone have a favorite 1950s author or novel?

I want to read By Love Possessed, by John Gould Cozzens. It's definitely not for today's readers (who are used to Patterson's 2.4-page chapters, for example) with its long sentences and convoluted syntax. However, I think I'm going to give it a try.

I'd love to hear from anyone of our 50-somethings who read 50s-fiction.

Jan 30, 2010, 4:08 pm

Me again. I'm sitting here trying to visualize my parents' 'just read' bookshelves -- McKinlay Kantor, Alan Moorehead (White Nile, Blue Nile.... )Frank O'Hara??? I think of him as preceding Updike and Cheever. IRWIN SHAW! Many of his short stories are pure genius.... JAMES JONES --From Here to Eternity, of course and also The Thin Red Line which is a great great book. John Marquand? Who I think is very very funny. Some of the first 'grown-up' books I read were from those shelves.... have to think. I have a feeling I have read tons of books from the 50's.... Throw some titles out? Herman Wouk? We had tons of Thurber and EB White around. Of course, they span several decades, and aren't classic 50's -- maybe even the 40's was their prime.

I'm not easily coming up with women -- Flannery O'C., I guess, and .....

And then all those Beat guys, my father, despite being a prof. teaching mainly Fall of rome to medieval period history, was hip for awhile anyway and we had Kerouac et al around pretty soon after those books surfaced.

oh boy. I just sorted out my mother's library a couple of years ago ... but she had already moved once and had left many of those books behind. Her favorite contemporary writer really was John Updike I think. She had every single one of his books.

Jan 30, 2010, 5:06 pm

Wow, Lucy, I'm impressed that you remember so much of what was on your parents' bookshelves. I don't remember much fiction on the shelves because my dad was pretty much a library hound, and I don't remember what my mother read. I read stuff that I would find lying around the house. Oh, I just had a flash--LOTS of Readers' Digest Condensed Books. Oh ugh.

Yes, James Jones was big. John Marquand too, although I didn't discover him until just a couple of years ago, so I guess my parents didn't read him. He also wrote in the 1940s. Herman Wouk and The Caine Mutiny.

How about Daphne du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel and others? I think Taylor Caldwell. I think she was a favorite of my mother's: Dear and Glorious Physician and Testimony of Two Men I remember being on the shelf. And of course Grace Metalious and Peyton Place. I wasn't supposed to read that one--probably read it when I was babysitting.

Herman Wouk, Marjorie Morningstar. Another "babysitting" novel not found in my parents' house.

I don't remember reading any John Updike; I guess my dad didn't read him. Nor Irwin Shaw. I do remember John O'Hara, BUtterfield 8.

I don't think I heard of Kerouac until I was in college. He wouldn't have been my dad's sort of thing. My dad was a pretty buttoned-down sort of guy, worked in sales all his life. He didn't have any more than a high school education, but he should have. I really wonder what he would have done with his life if he had managed to go to college. But even so, he was the one who got me to read. The two of us would go together to the library every Friday night when I was a kid--what a treat.

Anywho, hope you're having a good weekend. Bye for now.

Jan 30, 2010, 5:25 pm

Hi back! Yeah, I'm a rememberer. It's a mixed blessing.

We're supposed to drive over to New Jersey for dinner and its snowing -- but I have to pick up harp and a wooden crate for it and all this stuff, so we'll go anyway....

Updike really got going in the early sixties, Cheever too so I don't really count them quite... but DuMaurier, yes, I think she's on my list already.... Peyton Place was fun! My parents were .... I guess... kind of ICE STORM crossed with COUPLES coupled with THE LATE GEORGE APLEY (there was some comedy.....) (I should send this privately!). For all his outrageous over-education, it didn't do his fathering or his character a darn bit of good. Anyhow they certainly never quarantined anything. All that Ian Fleming was so naughtyt! Oh my gosh. There's another vein to mine!

Editado: Jan 30, 2010, 6:00 pm

Well My Mother read a lot of Grace Livingston Hill but I'm not sure that that was fifties stuff, maybe earlier. As a young tween reader I read books about Cherry Ames, Nurse(My mother's hopes for me I'm afraid), A couple of books about a girl named Polly French who did some mystery solving and of course the infamous Nancy Drew. None of which I care to read again but they were great at the time

Jan 30, 2010, 6:20 pm

I tried very hard to read By Love Possessed but I just couldn't trudge past the first chapter. I got it because on a "The Day You Were Born" poster, it was listed as "Top Fiction." I really wanted to read it, but had to quit. If you read it and it picks up later, let me know and I'll try again.

I read all the books in my Mom's bookcase when I was younger, and I suspect they were all 50's. I remember a lot of Zane Grey and of course, shelves of Readers' Digest Condensed Books. Ugh, yes, but they did send me to the library for the full books of the ones I liked. Many mysteries too.

My Grandmother had shelves of Art Linkletter's "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" kind of books, but that's also where I read Profiles in Courage and Before I Sleep and lots of Jean Kerr.

Jan 30, 2010, 11:18 pm

I ran across Cozzens when I was working up some research on his wife, Bernice Baumgarten. She was one of the smartest literary agents in the business. Cozzens was basically a hermit who stayed home with their dogs and wrote. He spent 8 years on that book and considered it his best. I'm gonna try it one of these days, and if it gets better after Chapt. 1, I'll let you know.

I actually used to love it on the days the Readers' Digest books came in the mail; maybe that's why I like buying my books through the mail, do ya think? I'd forgotten about those books.

Jan 31, 2010, 1:51 am

I remember a number of the titles mentioned; we had ALL the James Bond books, though I don't think I read them until the sixties. We had a lot of Erle Stanley Gardiner Perry Masons, too. (Touchstone not working.)

Editado: Jan 31, 2010, 2:45 am

To me -- I'm 78 and was in my 20s when the 1950s novels were published -- "Does anyone read 1950s novels?"is like the proverbial "Is the Pope a Catholic?" question. Or like "Does the British Royal family have any Scottish or German ancestry?"
Or: "Do they serve Narragansett beer in
Providence, RI?" The quesiton is not "Is there. . ." but "What else is there?"

It may have been a tedious decade for those who follow pop music, or for those who yearn for political change. But it was great for novels!

Examples? To close with another cliche: Don't get me started!

Jan 31, 2010, 9:01 am

Indulge us! As fifties people those were the books we saw in our childhood, even if we didn't read them, they were there. -- I lay in bed this morning happily thinking about them. The parents had their serious books in the living room and then in this other small room (graciously known as the TV room even though there were a lot of bookshelves and even a piano... ) were all the more contemporary books..... If I could I would have called my mother as soon as I got up to ask her what her favorites were -- She was clever I think too -- shelving the most enticing art books and picture books of various kinds on low shelves in the living room... mixed in with anthologies of New Yorker cartoons and such as bait. She knew what she was about! My daughter has fallen for the same ruse!

Jan 31, 2010, 1:15 pm

>9 rolandperkins:. Oh, I'd love to know what you read. I don't see the 1950s as a tedious decade at all. I think the decade is largely misunderstood and has gotten a bum rap. David Halberstam's book The Fifties is on my to-be-read list. Even though I lived through most of the decade (born in 1952), still, I could only view what was going on around me with childish eyes.

So if you wouldn't mind--what did you read when you were in your 20s?

Jan 31, 2010, 6:11 pm

I haven't read anything from the 50's recently but I do have some favourite authors and their books from that era: Exodus by Leon Uris, Herman Wouk who wrote The Caine Mutiny and Frank Yerby who wrote The Foxes of Harrow. They do seem to have been popular because those books were later made into movies and I think perhaps Frank Yerby was the first African-American to have a novel picked up by a major studio with The Foxes of Harrow. Frank G. Slaughter is another author I remember well and Marcia Davenport's My Brother's Keeper is a book that stayed in my memory because of the hoarding obsession of the two brothers (perhaps based on the real life Collyer brothers).

Jan 31, 2010, 6:54 pm

Right--Marcia Davenport. She's someone I've run across. She wrote a biog of Mozart and maybe some memoirs. She was a Maxwell Perkins author, so she was writing in the 1940s also.

Uris and Wouk--two authors who were definitely on my dad's shelf.

Fev 1, 2010, 1:58 am

"Indulge us . . .
What did you read when you were in your 20s?"

Some of my favorites were:
The Dharma Bums and Doctor Sax by Jack Kerouac.
Night and Glover by Francis Pollini

Barbary Shore by Norman mMailer
A Shooting Star by Wallace Stegner --probably was the next decade by this time , (but come to think of it we didn't call the 50s "The 50s" while they were going on . "Decade Madness" started later. By the 70s we were talking about half-decades and (even though it's mathematically unsound) even thirds of a decade. As someone in an AOL Trivia Room once said in parody: Who could forget the lower third of the Middle Sixties?)
I was reading a lot of Sinclair Lewis in the 50s -- most of it written in the previous 3 decades. The same for James T. Farrell
In European literature, the one that impressed me most was Ernst Junger's On the Marble Cliffs (Auf den Marmorklippen). Nearly as impressive were Vladimir Dudintsev's {not by Bread Alone (Nye Khlebom Yedinyim and Camus's L'Etranger I read these, except Camus, in translation. I was impressed with Miguel de Unamuno's Niebla which I read in Spanish. In the next decade I read Dr. Zhivago.
In the early 50s I was reading, and making a complete metrical translation of Lucan's The Civil War -- epic. and therefore the Ancients' equivalent of the novel. Also a lot of the Greek drama, in the original. Based on Greek legends and myths, the Greek tragedies amount to fictions in dialogue and lyric choruses.


Fev 1, 2010, 7:35 am

Yes yes, dharma bums, everyone should read that in their twenties, right?
I love Stegner -- I've read a couple and I've been saving them for a rainy day (why???) Norman! How could anyone forget. He's an amazing writer even if his personality ended up occluding the writer. Dr. Zhivago, of course....

What a great way to stretch yourself -- the Lucan - now why did you choose that text over another?? Did you get through it?

I've absorbed enough Greek to limp through a few lines here and there -- but that's it - Every time I take the time to struggle with my own translation it is very rewarding.

It took me AGES to make up a joke of Lucan being of the 50's give or take a coupla millenia....

Fev 1, 2010, 11:11 am

>8 staffordcastle: Oh, I had forgotten the Erle Stanley Gardner books! After I read all of Mom's, I went to the library and got all the rest of them to read.
I should go up to her house and see if I can find some of her old books. This thread is making me nostalgic for them!

>14 rolandperkins: It's funny, but I guess I never really thought about that. There really wasn't a "decade mentality" then. Why do you suppose that came about?

Fev 1, 2010, 12:43 pm

>14 rolandperkins:, 16. I tend to think in decades when I look back on my life. I guess I just assumed everyone does. Like, what was I doing in the 1980s?

Maybe one reason I do this is because of my other hobby, genealogy. I work with the census records all the time, so that has probably emphasized for me the "decade" perspective.

Editado: Fev 6, 2010, 7:14 am

top favorite: C.P. Snow The Strangers and Brothers series of novels.

others John Steinbeck

Anthony Powell

Ernest Hemingway

Graham Greene

Samuel Beckett

Lawrence Durrell

Somerset Maugham

Rebecca West

Norman Maclean A River Runs Through It (true, not written in the 50s. Ooops.)

most of Hemingway also wasn't written in the 50s. My lawyer will now read a prepared statement....

Fev 5, 2010, 10:54 am

Editado: Fev 5, 2010, 12:08 pm

#18 -- I never think of A River Runs..... as a 50's book..... the next book on my reading roster is (I mean even before I read this post) So Long See You Tomorrow -- been in my shelf way too many tomorrows.

Heinlein, I read most of those -- how about that Hal Clement!! and all those other great dudes from that era!!!! All the martian adventures seem quaint now not to mention ludicrously sexist but, all that aside, I was just reading about terraforming Mars in the last issue of Science News -- all quite plausible-seeming, so who knows???

Fev 6, 2010, 12:45 pm

>18 proximity1:. Never read any C.P.Snow. Rebecca West! The only book I have of hers was written in the 1940s--Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. I used it as a door stop for awhile but never read it, maybe because of its daunting size (and small print). She's a fascinating person--I have her biog.

>19 fugitive:. Haven't read Heinlein.

I just found an old Dell copy of The Caine Mutiny on my shelf. I think someone mentioned Wouk. I also found an old paperback version of an Isaac Asimov book published in the 1950s: A Whif of Death. I read that one around the end of December, just for fun. The setting was academia, and the sexism of the "professors' wives" was hilarious. We really have come a long way--and the 1950s was a strange-o decade!