Friday, November 16, 2012

Penrod - by Booth Tarkington

Free US/UK Kindle Classic
Once upon a time, a Hoosier child (Indiana was a state famous for authors, so we had a lot of readers) would read Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Penrod.  Who?  Penrod was an Indiana "Huck Finn" - with smoother edges- created by Hoosier author, Booth Tarkington in 1914. (US Edition)  (UK Edition)  

A bitter soul dominated the various curved and angular surfaces known by a careless world as the face of Penrod Schofield. Except in solitude, that face was almost always cryptic and emotionless; for Penrod had come into his twelfth year wearing an expression carefully trained to be inscrutable. Since the world was sure to misunderstand everything, mere defensive instinct prompted him to give it as little as possible to lay hold upon. Nothing is more impenetrable than the face of a boy who has learned this, and Penrod's was habitually as fathomless as the depth of his hatred this morning for the literary activities of Mrs. Lora Rewbush--an almost universally respected fellow citizen, a lady of charitable and poetic inclinations, and one of his own mother's most intimate friends.
Oh yes, Penrod has to appear in a children's play!  It is the end of the world . . .
UK readers will enjoy this as well. Penrod is very much an "everyboy."

He must wear a costume for the play:
The upper part of his body was next concealed from view by a garment so peculiar that its description becomes difficult. In 1886, Mrs. Schofield, then unmarried, had worn at her "coming-out party" a dress of vivid salmon silk which had been remodelled after her marriage to accord with various epochs of fashion until a final, unskilful campaign at a dye-house had left it in a condition certain to attract much attention to the wearer. Mrs. Schofield had considered giving it to Della, the cook; but had decided not to do so, because you never could tell how Della was going to take things, and cooks were scarce.
Dog lovers, there is a beautifully delineated portrait of Duke:
And then there are those quiet moments that bring back childhood more clearly than play . . .
And now, a plaintive little whine sounded from below Penrod's feet, and, looking down, he saw that Duke, his wistful, old, scraggly dog sat in the grass, gazing seekingly up at him. The last shaft of sunshine of that day fell graciously and like a blessing upon the boy sitting on the fence. Years afterward, a quiet sunset would recall to him sometimes the gentle evening of his twelfth birthday, and bring him the picture of his boy self, sitting in rosy light upon the fence, gazing pensively down upon his wistful, scraggly, little old dog, Duke.
Don't let Penrod remain neglected and fall further into obscurity.  Booth Tarkington is America's most forgotten and underrated author.  He twice won the Pulitzer for excellent novels, but once upon a time it was Penrod that made him beloved, not his awards or prize winning novels.

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