Archive for the ‘1938’ Tag

A Tall Tale   Leave a comment

As told through the eyes of Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Nickel, West With Giraffes is Lynda Rutledge’s fictionalized account of the 12-day road trip from New York City to the San Diego Zoo on the Lee Highway in 1938.

Looking back from his vantage point of living more than a century, Woody is suddenly compelled to share his experience as a 17-year-old helping transport the giraffes cross country. He’s enthralled with the long-necked beasts at first sight. They’re something neither he, nor many others, have seen before.

When he learns the giraffes, whom he names Girl and Boy, are en route to California, the Oklahoma-born and raised Woody is determined to make the trek with them. Initially, he’s turned away by Riley Jones (affectionately referred to as Old Man) in charge of getting the giraffes to the zoo in a custom-made truck.  Old Man eventually agrees to temporarily hire Woody, but only for a short distance. Augusta, aka Red, who aspires to be a Life magazine photographer, is the other major character.

Rutledge has crafted an exciting adventure rich with descriptions of the country’s people and landscapes. The former represent the best and worst; the latter reflect abundance and scarcity.

There’s tension as Woody worries Old Man will make good on his word to find another driver and whether or not the animals can survive the journey. Old Man gives directions, Woody drives the truck, which is (somewhat) surreptitiously followed by Red, across country, and all want to leave something behind.

West With Giraffes

Four-and-a-half Bookmarks

Lake Union Publishing, 2021

316 pages, includes epilogue, author’s note, historical notes and acknowledgements


More Than a Matter of Manners   Leave a comment


Rules of Civility might sound like an oxymoron today, but author Amor Towles has crafted an engaging novel set in 1938 about social mores that provides plenty to contemplate now.

Katey Kontent (as in the adjective, not the noun) is the narrator whose memory is jarred at an art exhibit in 1966 which takes her back to that one eventful year and the cast of characters who filled it. Katey is a lively, intelligent 25-year-old trying to survive in New York City. A chance encounter on New Year’s Eve 1937 sets the stage for her friendships, romantic relationships, disappointments and her career.

Towles evokes a lively, and noir-ish, portrait of New York City where martinis, jazz and social status dictate. He does so with humor and emotion. Katey works in a secretarial pool in a large financial firm, but her interests lie elsewhere. No sooner is she promoted then she quits to work for an editor past his prime: “He stopped taking on projects and watched with quiet reserve as his authors died off one by one – at peace with the notion that he would join them soon enough in that circle of Elysium reserved for plot and substance and the judicious use of the semicolon.”

Plot and substance are the stuff of Towles writing, which focuses on Katey’s relationship with Tinker Grey, a dashing banker of means. Through Tinker, she has access to upper society, although, as is often the case, appearances in any circle aren’t always what they appear.

Rules of Civility
Four-and-a-half Bookmarks
Penguin Books, 2011
335 pages, which includes The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation