Friday, June 3, 2016
NEVER HEARD OF HER
"For half a century, she was the best-known, best-loved, and best paid writer America had ever known. Her novels were bestsellers, her plays had successful runs on Broadway, she paid visits to royalty and dined with presidents. One of the few women allowed to visit the front line, she reported firsthand from the battlefields of World War I. A spokesperson for Native Americans, she went to Washington to champion the rights of the Blackfeet Indians. In 1947, she laid the issue of breast cancer openly before the American public, writing candidly about her own experience. Daring, adventurous, yet devoted to her husband and family, MARY ROBERTS RINEHART became one of the most charismatic, most celebrated women of the century."
Quote from the Charlotte Macleod HAD SHE BUT KNOWN biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Searching for good, but inexpensive books to read on my kindle, I discovered Mary Roberts Rinehart's THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE, a delightful mystery featuring a salty, irascible silver haired matron as heroine. It sold 1.25 million copies in 1907. And that was just the beginning for Rinehart.
So you might reasonably ask yourself, if here was a best selling mystery writer who arrived fourteen years before Agatha Christie, and who went on to write for the next fifty years, becoming probably the most celebrated writer in the states, what happened? If here was a woman who rose from genteel poverty by becoming a nurse when nice girls didn't do things like that, who married a doctor, had three sons, and when they lost all their savings in the crash of 1903, picked up a pen and wrote to help support her family, why don't we all know about her? Why isn't Hollywood clamoring to do her life story? Why doesn't one of those actresses who always complain that there are no parts for older women shop the Circular Staircase to the studios. It's still a terrific mystery story, and no more dated than anything Agatha Christie ever wrote. Why is she forgotten?
Well, there are two very good reasons for that. One, she was popular, meaning she sold books without the help of anyone who calls themselves an intellectual or who went to Harvard. Intellectuals feel it beneath them to acknowledge any value in the merely popular, for no other reason than that it is popular. Since today we all live and breath at the behest of the elite, naturally they have no interest in advancing the works of a writer who anyone can enjoy. No, difficult works of literature that are obscure and give you a headache are more their line.
The second reason is that she's American. Now to you and to me, that's kind of a point of pride, but to intellectuals, we rubes in flyover country, Americans are the bane of their existence, the great unwashed, etc. Now, had Rinehart been British, she might be regaled today in a way worthy of her talents, for we all know that anything British is so far superior to anything merely American that it makes an intellectual laugh. Or if she was someone published in a foreign language, that would have been a great help. Intellectuals hold European culture over the heads of Americans like a cudgel ready to beat the insensitive brutes into submission at every opportunity. What? You haven't read THE AIRY WISPYNESS OF NOTHINGNESS by Sordid Fustylocken? My, my!
Take my advice for your kindle. For free on Kindle unlimited or .99 to 7.99 you will have yourself many, many completely pleasurable hours of reading if you download anything by Mary Roberts Rinehart. She is witty, romantic, well spoken, pithy, observant of character and place. She wasn't the most popular writer in a America for nothing. No sir!
Take that you intellectual snobs! And from a woman who had more courage and intelligence than I've seen in anybody to come out of some fancy school in many years.