Saturday, April 3, 2021

Book cover: "Sorry to Be So Cheerful"

  • Title: Sorry to Be So Cheerful
  • Cover subtitle: "Adventures of a true drab blonde"
  • Author: Hildegarde Dolson (1908–1981)
  • Cover and interior illustrations: Paul Galdone (1907-1986)
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "How to be muddled though single" might be a suitable subtitle for this collection of light satirical pieces. For in these deft and witty pages Miss Dolson skips joyously over the problems of the embryonic copywriter, a visit to a cactus-studded Arizona ranch, a black eye in Paris, a visit to an astral masseuse, a boating expedition in Central Park, and her first flying lesson. ... These bizarre escapades, now gathered for the first time into book form, range in mood from merry to madcap, and offer hours of diverting reading for the young in heart.
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Dust jacket price: $3.50
  • Year: 1955
  • Pages: 207
  • Format: Hardcover 
  • Dedication: For Jan and Winslow Dolson with love
  • Excerpt from "Author's Warning!": These first-person pieces were written over a period of twenty years, and the author implores readers to take the book piecemeal — say, a piece occasionally after meals — to avoid indigestion, or an acute case of the Evil I.
  • Some chapter/essay titles: Proletariat with Duncan Phyfe Legs, Beast of Sea, Spilling Tea with Emily Post, Village Genius, I'm Saving My Hair for a Second-Hand Car, Let Me Fib Like a Lady, With All My Unworldly Goods.
  • Best chapter/essay title: "Yoo-Hoo, Satan, I'm Idle"
  • Excerpt #1: As a writer, I'm procrastinating and moody, with the added disadvantage that I have to think, or at least some editors expect me to think, which is equally debilitating.
  • Excerpt #2: It's worse when my friends discover I'm actually seeing a man they don't know about.
  • Excerpt #3: John Wilkes Booth had come to western Pennsylvania to prospect for oil, the year before he shot Mr. Lincoln, and had lived eight months in a boarding-house on the site of what is now the Elks Club parking lot.
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2014, Austen to Zaf√≥n wrote of Sorry to Be So Cheerful: "As a 10-year-old, I would read anything I could get my hands on. Living with my grandfather, I discovered one shelf of dusty, forgotten books in one of the bedrooms. ... As a 5-grader in San Diego, I had no context for this book of humorous essays by a young woman journalist in the 1940s. There was something about it though that I loved because I read it several times and I still remember some of the stories. One was about Duncan Phyfe chairs. I had no idea what those were. ... Of course, I'm not making it sound funny, but it was. I should pull it out and read it again, now that have have almost 40 more years of perspective behind me."
  • More about the author: This is straight from the book: 
Miss Dolson says, "I'm a self-made spinster who crows too much about it, especially when I get paid by the word. I also paint, but so far no fool has turned up to pay me for that." She came to New York from Franklin, Pennsylvania, in 1929 on the day known as Black Thursday (more because of the stock market crash than because of her arrival).

Her other books include: How About a Man, We Shook the Family Tree, The Husband Who Ran Away, Guess Whose Hair I'm Wearing, Heat Lightning and Please Omit Funeral.

Wikipedia notes that, about a decade after the publication of Sorry to Be So Cheerful, Hildegarde "met mystery writer Richard Lockridge, and Lockridge quickly decided he wanted to marry her. Dolson loved her Greenwich Village apartment, and Mr. Lockridge lived in the country. He had two beloved Siamese cats, and she preferred dogs. Despite the obstacles, within a few months of their first meeting Lockridge and Miss Dolson married in May 1965. Lockridge would refer to Hildegarde as either Hildy, or The Lady." 

Of course, our marital status does not define us. And the phrasing "Lockridge quickly decided he wanted to marry her" is problematic, at best, when it comes to what should be a mutual decision on marriage. Richard Lockridge wrote a whole book about their swift courtship (which came after his first wife, Frances, died in 1963), titled One Lady, Two Cats. I think I'd much rather read Hildegarde's perspective on it. 

  • Final note: I'm probably one of the few people who has two books by Hildegarde Dolson on their shelves. The other is The Great Oildorado, which is subtitled "The gaudy and turbulent years of the first oil rush: Pennsylvania, 1859-1880." It can be seen in last year's Shelfie #5. I think I might also want to track down her autobiographical book, We Shook the Family Tree, some day.