Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Alexander Botts

1977, possibly first edition, from the Curtis Publishing Company
William Hazlett Upson
Alexander Botts
Original and purchase price unknown
Worn hardcover, with my writing of some of the dates on Table of Contents

These short stories were originally published in The Saturday Evening Post, over the course of almost half a century.  Upson's style, deliberately stilted and understated to reflect Botts's personality, doesn't really change.  In fact, the stories are pretty formulaic.  Botts tries to sell someone a tractor or maybe a dozen, mishaps and misunderstandings ensue, he sometimes ends up in the hospital or jail, but everything works out OK, while his boss Henderson frets and scolds, sometimes by telegram.  And in several of the stories, businessmen are named George, perhaps in tribute to Babbitt, conscious or not.  I find this collection pleasant but not too memorable, although this time it was amusing to see a corporation called "Metallica."  (The heavy metal band formed in '81, probably not inspired by Upson.)

There are some generally topical references, from World War I to "the younger generation," and it's funny to see how Communists are presented in the 1930s and then the 1950s.  Botts and his wife "Gadget" age over the years, but he doesn't really act like an 82-year-old in the story set in '74, even though he reminisces about a vacation with an uncle in 1904.

In 1936, Warner Bros released a movie, called Earthworm Tractors after the company Botts works for.  I've never seen it, but it stars Joe E. Brown as Botts.

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