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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris (1958) by Paul Gallico


Book Review
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris (1958)
by Paul Gallico

  Paul Gallico is another American author I'd never heard of before the 1001 Books project started.  He came up as a sports journalist, and his greatest hits make him sound like an early exponent of the "new journalism" where the writer became the story.  He broke into the national consciousness when he interviewed Jack Dempsey and described the feeling of being knocked out by Jack Dempsey.

 By the 1930s, he moved into fiction and struck commercial gold with The Snow Goose, which is a story about a man who nurses a Snow Goose back to life in a light house.  Sentimental, maudlin, a tearjerker, those are the ways that The Snow Goose was described by audiences.  He also wrote a book called The Silent Miaow, about cats, and another book of poetry about cats.   Paul Gallico was what you call "middlebrow." How then, do we account for his presence in the 1001 Books project?

 I would chalk it up to a popular American author writing a believable English character, and a working class English character at that- which is a difficult achievement even for native English authors.  His 'Mrs. 'Arris is a London char woman with a tony Kenishington area clientele.  One day she comes face to face with a Dior dress, which launches her on a multi-year quest to acquire a Dior dress.

  Her adventures are the kind of adventures you would expect from a 50s Hollywood film.  Not surprising- today Gallico is best remembered for writing the underlying story that the disaster film Poseidon Adventure was based upon.

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