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Casual Review of Topper

     Topper was written by Thorne Smith in 1926 and described as a ribald comedy. There's a word that doesn't get enough use nowadays; ribald. By dictionary definition the word means something crude, offensive, or indecent in speech. Now, that's my kinda word.

    I found the novel at a used book sale. I've seen one of the movies on TCM and was curious as to the original story. The book and movie series were very popular in its day, even spawning a 50s TV series which ran for two years. The movies came out in the 30s, the books were written in the 20s.
     Our hero of the story is Cosmo Topper; a set-in-his-ways banker and stuffed shirt that goes off on, as mentioned above, ribald adventures with a pair of ghosts. The adventures consists of Topper and the ghosts getting drunk, getting into trouble while drunk, and dealing with the consequences. In reality, pretty much a weekend in any rural township area.* There are no explicit descriptions of ribaldness, although there is a rather naughty metaphor involving a cigar that suggests oral sex. That's fairly ribaldy.
     In the short of it all, Topper learns some things about himself and eventually returns home to make an effort for his life not to be so boring. The story has the elements of a poor guy/gal being stuck in a predicable and dull job only to go home and fall into another rut of predictable and dull home life. One little aspect of the story struck me odd in that Topper's wife didn't seem weirded out that her husband took a separate vacation. (The ghosts are doing mischief which creates an unsuitable environment for our Cosmo, making him feel the need to get away. ) Maybe that is a 20s-30s thing. There is also the point early in the book where Topper buys a car and teaches himself to drive. At times, the description of the event feels like he has bought the 20s equivalent of the Space Shuttle. Which, in the early days of automobiles, was kinda the case. The level of freedom involved of owning a car is nicely described in the book.
     It is a fun story, worth reading if you come across it. The situation of a person stuck in a rut ( of job, social, life in general, or all of the above ) and finding an escape, no matter now brief, has been used countless times over the decades in movies and novels. It is a topic that most of us, unfortunately, have too deep an understanding.

* Makes me wonder if Hunter S. Thompson had read any of the books. If you read Curse of Lono, you know what I mean.



what hell
Eldon Litchfield

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