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The Rise of Roscoe Paine!

By (May 31, 2015) No Comment

the rise of roscoe paineOur book today is The Rise of Roscoe Paine, a delightful 1912 novel by the Joseph Lincoln, who died half a century ago but who, for half a century before that, enjoyed a very nice career as a novelist and balladeer, singing the praises of a gently mythologized Cape Cod in book after book, much to the enchantment of his readers. Lincoln wrote “beach books” before they were formerly designated as such; he’s the spiritual godfather of current-day writers like Susan Mallery and Elin Hilderbrand, and like them, he transports his readers to an idealized, romantic world of muted colors, friendly characters, and happy endings. Lincoln made a very tidy living by doing this ushering of his harried, overworked readers into this make-believe world of long sunsets and sandy footpaths, and once he found a formula that worked, he didn’t trouble himself with varying from it to any notable degree.

By the time he wrote The Rise of Roscoe Paine (about ten novels into his career, with about twenty more to come), Lincoln knew the ingredients of that formula about as well as he ever would: a feisty heroine, an easily-misunderstood young hero, some kind of boat-trouble, and most of all, the constant hint that the haven of his fictional Cape Cod town Denboro might be under threat from the impinging outside world (the reader will notice at once that these ingredients are exactly the same in 2015 as they were in 1915). In The Rise of Roscoe Paine, the title character is our hero, a handsome young man who affects a nonchalant manner but who inwardly broods over the tragedy that derailed his comfortable life a few years before. In fact, Roscoe Paine remembers the exact moment that tragedy touched him:

As a boy I remember myself as a spoiled youngster who took the luxuries of this world for granted. I attended an expensive and select private school, idled my way through that somehow, and entered college, a happy-go-lucky young fellow with money in my pocket. For two-thirds of my Freshman year – which was all I experienced of University life – I enjoyed myself as much as possible and studied as little. Then came the telegram. I remember the looks of the messenger who brought it, the cap he wore, and the grin on his young Irish face when the fellow sitting next me at the battered black oak table in the back room of Kelly’s asked him to have a beer. I remember the song we were singing, the crowd of us, how it began again and then stopped short when the others saw the look on my face. The telegram contained but four words: “Come home at once.” It was signed with the name of my father’s lawyer.

You can see even from so short an excerpt how inviting a writer Lincoln could be (despite his penchant for Irish stereotypes – although since there are such beer-gulping faith-and-begorrah comic figures in every single one of his books, I have to conclude he’d have been more or less lost without those stereotypes … or maybe it was just what his audience wanted). The telegram in question contained news not of death or injury but of disgrace: Roscoe’s father had been branded a thief and embezzler, and the family was ruined.

The aftermath finds him living quietly in Denboro with his ailing mother – when suddenly the quiet is shattered by the arrival of a new family and their construction of what today would be derided as a McMansion. Their pretensions seem absurd to Roscoe, who treats them with the sneer of the Cape native:

I could see the carpenters, whose hammers I had heard at work upon the roof of the barn, now destined to do double duty as a stable and a garage. They, and the painters and plumbers, had been busy on the premises for months. The establishment had been a big one, even when Major Atwater owned it, but the new owners had torn down and added the rebuilt until the house loomed up like a palace or a Newport villa. A Newport villa in Denboro! Why on earth any one should deliberately choose Denboro as a place to live in I couldn’t understand; but why a millionaire, with all creation to select from, should build a Newport villa on the bluff overlooking the Denboro Bay was beyond comprehension. The reason given by the Cape Cod Item was that Mrs. Colton was “in debilitated health,” whatever that is, and had been commanded by her doctors to seek sea air and seclusion and rest. Well, there was sea air and rest, not to mention seclusion or sand or mosquitoes, for a square mile about the new villa, and no one knew that better than I, condemned to live within the square.

By the time The Rise of Roscoe Paine appeared in Boston’s bookshops, readers knew they could expect that the Coltons would have a beautiful young woman among their number, and that she and Roscoe would have a quite literally stormy relationship (including as it does some mild nautical peril at one key point), and that they would end up being each other’s salvation. But the fact that these things are predictable doesn’t in any way make them less enjoyable, especially in the hands of a happy lucy reading roscoe paineprofessional like Lincoln.

I was prompted to find The Rise of Roscoe Paine on my shelves after I spotted a whole slew of Lincoln’s novels on the bargain carts of my beloved Brattle Bookshop (I bought my copy a very long time ago, at a Tremont Street bookshop that’s long gone now). I was briefly tempted to scoop up the lot of those old novels, those trusted friends at so many Cape bookshops and rental houses of a bygone era … but this time, I refrained. Here’s hoping some Brattle browser took a chance on them – and is enjoying their rewards even now, on a reading couch in whatever seaside Denboro they call their own.

Home » stevereads

The Rise of Roscoe Paine!

By (May 31, 2015) No Comment

the rise of roscoe paineOur book today is The Rise of Roscoe Paine, a delightful 1912 novel by the Joseph Lincoln, who died half a century ago but who, for half a century before that, enjoyed a very nice career as a novelist and balladeer, singing the praises of a gently mythologized Cape Cod in book after book, much to the enchantment of his readers. Lincoln wrote “beach books” before they were formerly designated as such; he’s the spiritual godfather of current-day writers like Susan Mallery and Elin Hilderbrand, and like them, he transports his readers to an idealized, romantic world of muted colors, friendly characters, and happy endings. Lincoln made a very tidy living by doing this ushering of his harried, overworked readers into this make-believe world of long sunsets and sandy footpaths, and once he found a formula that worked, he didn’t trouble himself with varying from it to any notable degree.

By the time he wrote The Rise of Roscoe Paine (about ten novels into his career, with about twenty more to come), Lincoln knew the ingredients of that formula about as well as he ever would: a feisty heroine, an easily-misunderstood young hero, some kind of boat-trouble, and most of all, the constant hint that the haven of his fictional Cape Cod town Denboro might be under threat from the impinging outside world (the reader will notice at once that these ingredients are exactly the same in 2015 as they were in 1915). In The Rise of Roscoe Paine, the title character is our hero, a handsome young man who affects a nonchalant manner but who inwardly broods over the tragedy that derailed his comfortable life a few years before. In fact, Roscoe Paine remembers the exact moment that tragedy touched him:

As a boy I remember myself as a spoiled youngster who took the luxuries of this world for granted. I attended an expensive and select private school, idled my way through that somehow, and entered college, a happy-go-lucky young fellow with money in my pocket. For two-thirds of my Freshman year – which was all I experienced of University life – I enjoyed myself as much as possible and studied as little. Then came the telegram. I remember the looks of the messenger who brought it, the cap he wore, and the grin on his young Irish face when the fellow sitting next me at the battered black oak table in the back room of Kelly’s asked him to have a beer. I remember the song we were singing, the crowd of us, how it began again and then stopped short when the others saw the look on my face. The telegram contained but four words: “Come home at once.” It was signed with the name of my father’s lawyer.

You can see even from so short an excerpt how inviting a writer Lincoln could be (despite his penchant for Irish stereotypes – although since there are such beer-gulping faith-and-begorrah comic figures in every single one of his books, I have to conclude he’d have been more or less lost without those stereotypes … or maybe it was just what his audience wanted). The telegram in question contained news not of death or injury but of disgrace: Roscoe’s father had been branded a thief and embezzler, and the family was ruined.

The aftermath finds him living quietly in Denboro with his ailing mother – when suddenly the quiet is shattered by the arrival of a new family and their construction of what today would be derided as a McMansion. Their pretensions seem absurd to Roscoe, who treats them with the sneer of the Cape native:

I could see the carpenters, whose hammers I had heard at work upon the roof of the barn, now destined to do double duty as a stable and a garage. They, and the painters and plumbers, had been busy on the premises for months. The establishment had been a big one, even when Major Atwater owned it, but the new owners had torn down and added the rebuilt until the house loomed up like a palace or a Newport villa. A Newport villa in Denboro! Why on earth any one should deliberately choose Denboro as a place to live in I couldn’t understand; but why a millionaire, with all creation to select from, should build a Newport villa on the bluff overlooking the Denboro Bay was beyond comprehension. The reason given by the Cape Cod Item was that Mrs. Colton was “in debilitated health,” whatever that is, and had been commanded by her doctors to seek sea air and seclusion and rest. Well, there was sea air and rest, not to mention seclusion or sand or mosquitoes, for a square mile about the new villa, and no one knew that better than I, condemned to live within the square.

By the time The Rise of Roscoe Paine appeared in Boston’s bookshops, readers knew they could expect that the Coltons would have a beautiful young woman among their number, and that she and Roscoe would have a quite literally stormy relationship (including as it does some mild nautical peril at one key point), and that they would end up being each other’s salvation. But the fact that these things are predictable doesn’t in any way make them less enjoyable, especially in the hands of a happy lucy reading roscoe paineprofessional like Lincoln.

I was prompted to find The Rise of Roscoe Paine on my shelves after I spotted a whole slew of Lincoln’s novels on the bargain carts of my beloved Brattle Bookshop (I bought my copy a very long time ago, at a Tremont Street bookshop that’s long gone now). I was briefly tempted to scoop up the lot of those old novels, those trusted friends at so many Cape bookshops and rental houses of a bygone era … but this time, I refrained. Here’s hoping some Brattle browser took a chance on them – and is enjoying their rewards even now, on a reading couch in whatever seaside Denboro they call their own.