Thursday, November 13, 2014

1936 dust jacket: "Around the World in Eleven Years"

This is the tattered dust jacket for the 1936 book Around the World in Eleven Years. The travel memoir with a twist, authored by globe-hopping children Patience, Richard and John Abbe, was a best-seller. (This particular book is part of the thirteenth printing, which came in just the seventh month of publication.)

The three authors were the children of "James E. Abbe, internationally known photographer, and his wife, Polly Platt, formerly of the New York stage."

According to the dust jacket blurb:
"The Abbes travel like gypsies who tell only their own fortunes and expect as fee only the gold of adventure. They know everybody, from Stalin to Alexander Woollcott (of whom Patience writes, when they ran across him in Russia: 'A big man in a big coat made out of a camel. He is a very nice and smart man. He loves children') They have lived in all sorts of countries, in all sorts of shelters, from tents to palaces. They talk and think in several languages."
Reviews for the book, also noted on the dust jacket, included:
  • "A barrel of fun." — Harry Hansen, N.Y. World-Telegram
  • "Like no other book you've ever read ... consistently delightful, refreshingly different." — Herschel Brickell, N.Y. Post
  • "Rare, rich, racy ... an instantaneous hit." — John Clair Minot, Boston Herald

While the book had three co-authors, it was widely admitted that Patience Abbe was the primary contributor to Around the World in Eleven Years.

She died at age 87 in early 2012 and, according to her obituary in The New York Times, her fame and desire to write waned as the years passed.1 Her parents were divorced in the late 1930s, even as the children's books were still selling well.

Here's an excerpt from the Times obituary:
"After their Hollywood adventure fizzled, Ms. Abbe’s mother settled with the children in Laguna Beach, where their fame gradually expired. The last ember seemed to die, according to a story Ms. Abbe loved telling, at a beach party held for her on her 21st birthday. Bette Davis, who owned a place in Laguna, happened by. 'Patience Abbe!' Davis exclaimed. 'I always wondered what happened to you!'"
Although Patience seemed to be a born writer, she never published her own book. Again, we turn to the well-written Times obituary2, penned by Paul Vitello, for the bittersweet story behind what happened following her childhood fame:
"Family members traded theories about why Ms. Abbe had been reluctant to pursue writing as an adult. Ms. Abbe Moyer’s view was that the coincidence of her early success and her parents’ breakup — and even the start of World War II — had become 'all mixed up in her head' and soured her on writing. 'She called it "the great synchronicity" of disasters,' Ms. Abbe Moyer said. For many years, the only writing Ms. Abbe did was for a church bulletin of St. John’s Church in San Anselmo, Calif., where she was the secretary."
The obituary ends, however, on an up note. Patience Abbe began working on her memoir in the 1990s. Shortly before her death in 2012, she finished the manuscript. I can't find any evidence that Patience's final book has been published yet, but at least we know that she completed it, and it exists.

1. There were two sequels to Around the World in Eleven YearsOf All Places! (1937) and No Place Like Home (1940).
2. Here are two collections of obituaries you don't want to miss, if you are a fan of such journalism: The Last Word: The New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells and 52 McGs.: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas.

1 comment:

  1. As we wait for the publication of Patience Abbe's memoir "I, Patience", we can watch and learn from her nephew's video biography of Patience's life:

    Meanwhile, Amazon and numerous public libraries offer various books by Patience from the 1930's. Source: