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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Green Hat (1924) by Michael Arlen

Katherine Cornell played the doomed Iris Storm in the successful Broadway play version of Michael Arlen's The Green Hat

Book Review
The Green Hat (1924)
by Michael Arlen

  The copy I managed to obtain of The Green Hat by Michael Arlen was original (i.e. from 1924) via the San Diego State Library.  Pages that had been folded over as book marks by prior readers actually snapped off in my hand if I tried to manipulate them.  In the fashion of 20s novels, the margins are ample, making a 200 page book 350 pages.  Arlen was a bit of a one hit wonder, and if The Green Hat is the hit, you could almost call him forgotten.

  Michael Arlen was born as Dikran Kouyoumdijan, to Armenian parents, in Bulgaria, which was then still part of the Ottoman Empire.  His father was a successful merchant who moved the family to England in 1901 because, duh.  Arlen attended school in England and went to college at the University of Edinburgh.  As a young adult he was what you would call a dandy, and The Green Hat was one of a number of "shocking" jet set tragic romantic fables that dot the literary landscape of the 1920s, typically under the rubric of "lost generation."

   The Green Hat is supposedly a roman a clef about Arlen's peer in the London smart set of the early 1920s, and features syphilis and homosexuality as major plot points in a story that involves a tragic lover affair between at wealthy but disgraced older woman and an also wealthy (and married) younger man.

   The 1924 publication date marks The Green Hat as an early example of the lost generation genre- The Great Gatsby wasn't published until 1925, The Sun Also Rises until 1926.   

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