This lightly-plotted story from 1921 concerns a 22-year-old young woman who acts more like teenaged girls we might have encountered in 1960s comic books: flirty, thoughtless, self-absorbed. She is 22, virginal, living at home with her parents, socially isolated, ordinary, and virtually skill-less, wholly occupied with what dress she might be able to cobble together for the next society ball; how to pamper and prod her ailing and unambitious father; and how to ignore Walter, her ne’er-do-well brother who hangs out with stable-hands and girls of questionable repute. What is to become of a girl like Alice?
Alice Adams becomes the first of Tarkington’s “serious” literature to be almost entirely set in a domestic environment, and the family home in particular. As Tarkington later came to establish himself as perhaps the nation’s pre-eminent literary champion of middle-American workaday women, Alice Adams’ fate at the end of the novel also foreshadowed a “new day” for her creator as well.
First published by Doubleday, Page & Company, May 20, 1921. Priced at $1.75. 30,000 copies in first printing. First state of first edition includes the following error on p. 419, line 14: “I can’t see you why don’t…” (incorrect word order). Also printed on watermarked paper (Warren’s olde style). Binding is a British tan mesh cloth. See Russo and Sullivan for complete collation of first edition.
Early in the fall, I was contacted by Patricia D’Ascoli, educator and publisher of the Connecticut Muse, about contributing reviews of to an anthology of Pulitzer prize winners in fiction. I submitted my mss at the end of December, and look forward to sharing the full text of those reviews on this site down the road. For now, D’Ascoli’s project is being shopped around to agents and publishers, so I’m expecting the book will likely be published sometime in 2014.