shazam! i'm reading ring lardner again and this time it really crystallizes for me why i like him so much. it's this voice that always puts me in that barber chair, or pulls up a stool beside me at the bar, this simple and persuasive voice of a master raconteur. i have a serious penchant for this anecdotal tone, this folksy style, reminiscent of o. henry, promoted by fitzgerald, admired and emulated by my favourite salinger. the subtle yet insistent vernacular sits me down every time and i am fully acclimatized. it's simple straight forward finely-tuned storytelling and i admire the hell out of it.
Just ten stories are found in these pages, including the often and justly anthologized well-known lardner stories like the eponymous "haircut", "i can't breathe", "a day with conrad green", "the love nest" and "the golden honeymoon". there is a mix of slice of life and the sporting life -- before fitzgerald championed his fiction, lardner was primarily known a sportswriter who loved baseball, and this passion is reflected in the inclusion of "alibi ike" and "horseshoes".
in revisiting these stories, i find "i can't breathe" still so knowing -- it is the blue print of the empty-headed love struck teen. reprint this puppy in a teen magazine today and i know they'd relate even if it was first published in 1925. along these lines, the notions of a perfect marriage, and love are challenged in "the love nest" in a way that would ring a bell for anyone familiar with those real plastic housewives of greedywood county.
that said, there are a few times where it's clear lardner's stories are relics of their time -- there are off-the-cuff racist remarks that reflect the age, and then there's this joke in alibi ike, about his family living in the post office which always makes me wish for an annotated edition, as i don't get the joke any more than ike does. for those that wonder how i can abide lardner given my usual aversion to satire, all i can say is that he writes the bathos and pathos of the lives he describes in a way that charms me, and they are married perfectly within his satirical world view. i love lardner; i only wish i had more of his stories on hand.
doing literary detective diligence on youtube, i found a clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M5opTy7tco of groucho marx and truman capote on the dick cavett show where they briefly discuss lardner as a writer. groucho suggests that him as a great comic writer and capote disagrees saying what lardner writes is not humour at all. he also says that groucho is wrong when he relays the story that lardner wrote only when drunk -- capote argues one can't write drunk at all, only re-write. then more weird stuff happens, including groucho rambling about his accountant and eventually proposing marriage to capote.
i also found this article about the friendship of fitzgerald and lardner which really needed a proofread, but is nonetheless enlightening.