26 October 2015

The Most Depressing Canadian Novel of All Time?

The new issue of Canadian Notes and Queries has landed in my Wellington Street post office box, bringing with it my thirteenth Dusty Bookcase column.

Lucky thirteen.

The subject this time is The Wine of Life, Arthur Stringer's dispiriting 1921 novel about the doomed marriage of Owen Storrow and Torrie Thorssel. Substitute Arthur Stringer for "Owen Storrow" and Jobyna Howland for "Torrie Thorssel" and you get some idea.

If this in any way seems familiar, it may be because some months back I mentioned my discovery of twenty-three uncollected illustrations the great James Montgomery Flagg undertook for the novel's newspaper syndication.

The Pittsburgh Press, 23 December 1921
Like Owen and Torrie's, the Stringers' relationship played itself out in the papers. Together they were fêted as New York's handsomest couple; apart they were irresistibly tragic figures.

The Times Dispatch [Richmond], 23 March 1913
The Times Dispatch [Richmond], 8 November 1914
"Peculiar Romance-Tragedy of an Actress and a Poet", which appeared in newspapers across the United States the year after the couple split, paints Stringer "a man of sorrows":
For know you, all girls and women who have wept and glowed and smiled over the poems of Arthur Stringer, that he is living a romance as sad and as surcharged with longing love as ever were any of his poems.
The new CNQ has me thinking about The Wine of Life again. In truth, the book never left me. It's hard to forget such a depressing a novel – doubly so a roman à clef. I won't mention Mencken's descriptions of the latter day Jobyna; it would only spoil your day.

But just look how sunny Seth's cover is! Sure to cheer you up. Also contributing to the new CNQ are:
Caroline Adderson
Chris Arthur
Marc Bell
Emily Donaldson
Kathy Friedman
Douglas Glover
Jason Guriel
Kim Jernigan
David Mason
Susan Olding
Peter Sanger
Robin Sarah
Carrie Snyder
JC Sutcliffe
Jess Taylor
Anne Marie Todkill
As always, subscriptions can be had through the CNQ website. A bargain!

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