Monday, August 26, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 125: Ring Lardner, The Young Immigrunts (#190)

Ring Lardner, "The Young Immigrunts" (1920) from Ring Lardner: Stories & Other Writings:

In my brief experience with his work, I'd say that Ring Lardner specializes in people who don't entirely understand the story they're telling. In this instance, we get Ring Lardner's version of What Maisie Knew, only in this case, the child tells a story of how his parents drove from Chicago to Connecticut. So we get several jokes based on misunderstandings, like: dad says they will pass the normal school (i.e., the school where they teach teachers) in Ypsilanti and the child notes "I had always wanted to come in contack with normal peaple and see what they are like..."

And so on. The spelling is purposely off, but well done--still comprehensible and occasionally challenging. Similarly, the child narrator consistently misuses several words, including quite a few words that should have been dropped for the simpler "said" in dialogue. For instance:
Are you lost daddy I arsked tenderly.
Shut up he explained.
But apparently this piece isn't just a little bit of silliness aimed at both parents and children and the modern terror that is moving. According to the LoA page, this piece is a parody of an earlier piece that was supposed to have been written by a child and published with all the misspellings intack; and you can read it here if you want.

By itself, the Lardner piece has flashes of comedy and some stretches of dreariness. The plot and characters are so thin that the only real reason to keep reading is the jokes; and there's not enough of them. Still, a very interesting historical artifack. Okay, that's the last time I do that--promiss.

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