Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: John Riordan, On the Make (1929)

Fourteen stories, mainly about college boys and working girls. The prose is faux Hemingway; the plots are purposefully stagnant; and the characters are interchangeable. The overall effect is numbing. John Riordan's On the Make reminded me of Robert C. Du Soe's 1938 novel The Devil Thumbs a Ride, about which I wrote, "Much liquor is consumed, many sexual advances are made, and many lives are endangered, but never is there so much as a peek into anyone's soul." On the Make is superior, however, if only because it is a collection of stories: Just as readers may be tiring of one set of empty characters, the next set comes along. As well, Riordan strives for a sociological significance that Du Soe does not: While The Devil Thumbs a Ride feels unconnected to the real world, On the Make wants readers to wring their hands over its scandalous though understated portrayal of Jazz Age youth. More interesting than good. Grade: C-

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