Review: ‘The Addicts’ by Gertrude Friedberg

Friedberg is almost lost to history. She was a mid 20th Century New York City playwright and author.

’The Addicts’ is a story eerily familiar to today’s readers.

The cautionary tale is about a family who love to read at the dinner table.

The habit crept up on the Tuppersons, a husband and wife who then passed it on to their children.

They would hide their habit if the grandparents were coming to dinner, but otherwise they always obsessively read at the dinner table.

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Man in the Fictional Mode, Book 3 McDougal, Littell

Mrs. Tupperson thought they could break the habit if they accepted a dinner invitation from a friend, a Mrs. Ravell.

The family practiced by devouring a book of Ettiquette, also read at the table.

Their attempts to make conversation fell flat.The Ravells, who did not read at the table, but rather kept a phone there so Mr. Ravell could respond to business calls fell into a terrible, ugly argument.

The Tupperson’s conclusion? Not only is reading at the table not rude, it avoids nasty interpersonal conflict brought about by conversation.

So don’t yell at friends or family for being on the cellphone at the dinner table, it leads nowhere good.

Peace be the Botendaddy

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Table of Contents McDougal Littel

‘The Addicts’

Man in the Fictional Mode, Book 3

Hannah Beate Haupt, editor

McDougal, Littell & Company

Evanston, IL 1970

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Review: Shirley Jackson ‘The Night we all had Grippe’

What an amazing short story.

What a beautiful, lyrical piece of Americana.

Originally published in Harper’s Magazine in the January, 1952 edition with a four-frame illustration.

It was the lead story from ‘Man in the Fictional Mode’ Volume 2 from the wonderful ‘Man’ Literature series that made its entrance into American schools in the early 1970s.

I hated school until the day I discovered these books.

They were banned in some districts due to ‘at that time’ politically incorrect themes.

Shirley Jackson, most famous for her dark piece: ‘The Lottery’, switched gears for this funny slice of family life.

The story has this bizarre precisely mechanical and almost rhythmical cadence, contrast to Lovecraft’s bizarre but equally rhythmical ‘Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ or Roald Dahl’s frenetic narration in ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’.

The subject matter of ‘Grippe’ is common to many, but not usually captured in such campy detail.

I especially like the fact that the parents each had alcohol and cigarettes at their bedsides. Unthinkable today.

Her epic opening line: ‘We are all of us, in our family, very fond of puzzles.’ sets the tone for the rest of the story.

In the end the little blanket disappears and the mystery is gained not solved:

‘It was a blue patterned patchwork blanket, and has not been seen since, and I would most particularly like to know where it got to. As I say, we are very short of blankets.’  “Shirley Jackson Novels and Stories” at p. 626

‘Man in the Fictional Mode’ Volume 2 is one of the greatest compendiums of 20th Century short American Fiction I have ever seen.

The only ones that rival it are Ray Bradbury’s ‘Illustrated Man’, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Welcome the Monkey House” and Lauren Groff’s “Delicate Edible Birds”.

If you haven’t read this story, if you haven’t read Shirley Jackson, if you haven’t read the ‘Man’ series and you fashion yourself an American writer, or a writer of Americana, please help yourself and do all of the above.

 

Peace,

The Botendaddy