Skimming through my extensive to-read lists, I notice that there an awful lot of books by authors named Dorothy. I thought that I would profile a couple of the lesser-known books by three different – and equally wonderful – Dorothies; Miss Baker, Miss Whipple, and my beloved Miss Richardson. Whilst a handful of their books have been reissued by the likes of NYRB and Persephone, many are still sadly out of print, and rather difficult to get hold of. Still, the following are the ones which I am coveting!
Dorothy Baker (1907-1968; most famous for Cassandra at the Wedding, 1962)
1. Young Man With a Horn (1938)
‘Rick Martin loved music and the music loved him. He could pick up a tune so quickly that it didn’t matter to the Cotton Club boss that he was underage, or to the guys in the band that he was just a white kid. He started out in the slums of LA with nothing, and he ended up on top of the game in the speakeasies and nightclubs of New York. But while talent and drive are all you need to make it in music, they aren’t enough to make it through a life. Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn is widely regarded as the first jazz novel, and it pulses with the music that defined an era. Baker took her inspiration from the artistry—though not the life—of legendary horn player Bix Beiderbecke, and the novel went on to be adapted into a successful movie starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day.’
2. Trio (1943)
A comprehensive and intriguing review can be found at A Penguin a Week, here.
Dorothy Whipple (1893-1966; nine of her books are published by Persephone)
1. Young Anne (1927)
A fascinating review of this, and Persephone’s choice to reprint, can be found at BooksSnob’s blog.
2. Every Good Deed (1950)
BooksSnob has also reviewed this novel, which you can see here.
Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957; most famous for the Pilgrimage trilogy)
- The Long Day (1905)
‘The Long Day: The Story of a New York Working Girl, As Told by Herself is a book about the life of a working-class girl. She was formerly a teacher in a small town, but is now alone in New York City, living day to day on a few dollars. She lives from boarding house to boarding house, experiencing harsh rules, starvation, and the death of a friend. Furthermore, she works in a number of different positions, including box-making, flower/feather making, sewing, and finally, a shaker. Throughout this time, she learns what it is like to live on a few dollars a week, working twelve-hour shifts with horrible conditions and few breaks. Ultimately, she is able to earn a respectable living as a typewriter. At the time the book was released, Richardson remained anonymous.’
Have you read any of these? Which are your favourite books by Dorothies?