Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: Castle Craneycrow

Title: Castle Craneycrow
Author: George Barr McCutcheon
Date: 1902
Publisher: Herbert S. Stone & Company
ISBN: none
Length: 391 pages
Quote: “It was characteristic of Mr. Philip Quentin that he first lectured his servant on the superiority of mind over matter and then took him cheerfully by the throat and threw him into a far corner of the room. As the servant was not more than half the size of the master, his opposition was merely vocal...”
Right...it’s awful. Consistently, resoundingly dreadful. During McCutcheon’s lifetime, the specific kind of kitschiness that defines his fiction was named, in McCutcheon’s honor (??), “Graustarkian.” The first of his bestsellers was called Graustark, which was also the name of the fictional European kingdom where the stories are set, and this first edition of Castle Craneycrow contains advertisements for Graustark
The story of how young Quentin found a servant who would put up with his abuse, and then proceeds to woo and win a bride in a similar style, is so preposterous as to be funny. Sadly, though, no internal evidence suggests that McCutcheon realized how bad his fiction was.

Castle Craneycrow is recommended to those who want to read a full-length novel that would have won a Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Award if it had been written in the 1980s. (Although the quote above is written as two sentences, don’t you agree that as an opener it deserved a Bulwer-Lytton Award?) It’s also recommended to collectors of old books. The copy I had when I wrote the first draft of this review really was a first edition from 1902, wonderfully well preserved, marked only with the signature and private library “catalogue” information of its original owner.

Though old, Castle Craneycrow was a bestseller in its day and is still easy to find online. You can buy it from me for the usual $5 + $5 shipping, but since McCutcheon no longer needs a dollar you're welcome to shop around for this book and buy a living writer's comic novel from me.