Saturday, 1 September 2012

Wallace Smith revisited

Julien Gorbach, who's writing a doctoral dissertation on Ben Hecht, very kindly sent me some images and articles by Wallace Smith (see this previous post) from the Chicago Literary Times, a paper established by Hecht in 1923. Some of these are credited to "Vulgus", but I'm pretty sure they're by Smith, whose Beardsley-esque line is far better suited to fantastical visions than to caricature. Julien describes Smith's articles as being " like the kind of thing you might see from the last few decades in an underground 'zine or comic mocking urban hipster culture," so the following is from one of his "Wise Cracks by Joe Blow" columns:
"They tell me where you have been hanging out with these Bohemians, like they call 'em," charged Bitter Bill, "and I look to hear any day where you have wrote a book or done a old master painting."
"Somebody has gave you a very wrong steer about the jolly land of Bohemia," replied Joe Blow. "Otherwise, you will be next where true Bohemians don't do the kind of things."
"I am on to these Bohemians account of some one tells me where they're making a book over on Washington Street. Naturally I mosey over to see if some new handbook bloke has opened up a racket. I am very dumb to make this play. Because it ain't a gambling joint at all, only a place where they print novels and poems named after colors and literature."
"But while I'm in there, i run into my friend, Language McCarthy, and the next thing I know I am eased into a crowd of these Bohemians. They ain't foreigners, like you think. Although now and then you do hear some very heathen dialects, at that. And I get into some artist studios and meet some of the girls and boys with bobbed hair.
"But I never do catch one of these jobbies doing any writing or any painting. The long suit of the Bohemian blokes is heavy conversation. The main privilege of being a Bohemian is telling off-color stories in a mixed crowd and getting away with it. And talking about things which usually are left to the sewing circle clinics.
"Besides that, they gab most about literature and painting. They are strong for free thinking, like they call it. You can see right away where the kind of thinking they use ought to be free; or, at least, have no very hefty price mark on it.

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