Thursday, 13 September 2012

Michael Arlen Mayfair

Michael Arlen's Mayfair is a 1925 collection of 11short stories with a prologue, which Arlen described in the frontispiece as "Being an entertainment purporting to reveal to Gentlefolk the Real state of Affairs existing in the very Heart of London during the fifteenth and sixteenth years in the reign of His Majesty King George the Fifth: together with Suitable reflections on the last follies, misadventures,and galanteries of These Charming People."

Lowry was allowed to chose a copy of Arlen's Mayfair as a prize by the Leys Fortnightly in 1925 as detailed in letter to Carol Brown dated May 1926; "However the Fortnightly always rake up a prize for me at the end of the year: last year they gave me O'Neill's 'Anna Christie,' Michael Arlen's 'Mayfair,' and 'The Wrecker' by R.L.S." (Collected letters Vol 1 Pg. 26)  . Lowry also refers to Mayfair in his short story 'The Blue Bonnet' for the Leys Fortnightly; "With apologies to the Author of "Mayfair", "The Green Hat", etc (Pg. 5) - the short story is a pastiche of Arlen's work.

Beginning to read Mr. Arlen's new book of short stories, "May Fair," I had the good fortune to begin with a story in the middle of the book, "The Revolting Doom of a Gentleman Who Would not Dance with his Wife," and instantly began to utter glad cries of joy. When a tale is told with such frolicsome humor and satire, what does it matter whether the characters are inhabitants of May Fair or of Limehouse? What difference does it make if the owl, who takes a leading part, has flown straight out of Max Beerbohm's "Zuleika Dobson"? What does it matter if there is more than a suggestion of the precious poseurs of the Yellow Book period? The story is a cream puff, and as such it is perfect. If you wish corn beef and cabbage, you have no business to be reading Michael Arlen. The same commendation I would like to accord to the story called "The Battle of Berkeley Square," which could not be surpassed by any writer of to-day whose name comes to mind. Aside from these, I will admit, in the cause of honesty, that there are two or three stories in the book which I have not read. I hope that they are as good as the two I have named, but I doubt it. There are two or three others, however — notably "The Prince of the Jews," "The Gentleman from America," and "The Ghoul of Golders Green" — which seem to me to be failures, and not very splendid failures at that. In them the author essays to write little tragedies, mysteries, ghost stories, horror stories, or other serious yarns. Sometimes, as in "The Ghoul of Golders Green," they are tragedies up to the end, when they turn into farce. Writers have achieved this with success, but Mr. Arlen does not do it. But he may be forgiven if a number of his arrows stick in the outer rim of the target, or even hit the grass alongside. For two of them, at least, have gone straight into the bull's-eye. Read more her: Edmund Lester Pearson The Outlook June 10 1925 or another contemporary review The Saturday Review of Literature June 6th 1925

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