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The Lawrenceville Stories by Owen McMahon…

The Lawrenceville Stories

by Owen McMahon Johnson

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This omnibus of the three books about prep school life at the dawn of the 20th century is filled with laughter and just plain good storytelling. On one hand, like the fiction of Booth Tarkington, or even the Horatio Alger books, they are just simple stories giving us a view into a departed slice of American life (despite a sort of madcap embellishment of reality). On the other, there is a deep understanding of boys that—without meaning to equate them—reminds me of stories such as Tom Sawyer. When Dink Stover looks at Josephine and thinks, "She's twenty-four, only twenty-four. I'm sixteen, almost seventeen—that's only seven years difference," it's a moment I can understand with fond recollections of first crushes.

The stories were originally published in another piece of a bygone America, the Saturday Evening Post. As that wonderful curmudgeon, Cleveland Amory, wrote in his introduction to the 1967 edition:

…they were read by millions—by men of twelve and by boys of eighty. Even mere women loved them—although it goes without saying that those of you who intend to read parts of this volume aloud to your wives should do so sparingly. The moral in many of these stories is so subtle it is beyond the comprehension of all but a handful of women—even those fortunate enough to be blessed with prep school husbands.

These aren't books for everyone; by today's standards they are rather naïve stories, lacking the complexity and sophistication of today's fiction. However, if you are one who enjoys occasionally dipping into what now seems a simpler era, I recommend them. ( )
1 vote TadAD | Aug 8, 2010 |
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