Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Low Man On A Totem Pole" by H. Allen Smith




What a discovery!  As I mentioned in another review of a H. Allen Smith title, I was at Powell's in Portland and I came across his books.  Used of course and i have to presume that all seven titles there was from a person who gave it up.  Not for money, but more likely for space, or a mad Uncle left it to a family member or something totally undramatic.  Nevertheless I have become a mega-fan of H. Allen Smith.

"Low Man on a Totem Pole is a collection of articles he wrote for the New York World - Telegram sometime in the 1940's.  What i have is the first edition hard cover copy, and as far as I know this book is now out-of-print, which I find deeply disturbing.  One, because Smith is an excellent writer and for sure one of the best of the old-school Manhattanites of the 30's and 40's.  in the same game park of James Thurber or even Dorothy Parker.  Extremely witty, and here is a writer at work because he had to turn in a column for his paper probably on a daily or weekly schedule.

My favorite pieces in this book deals with "Hollywood."  And it seems at the time a lot of NYC journalists treated Hollywood as the capital of weirdoland.  Which may or may not be the case, but one gets the impression that Smith had to cover the Hollywood beat with respect to interviewing the stars, but his heart wasn't really into it.  But that didn't stop this talented writer in making hysterical commentary regarding a journalist interviewing a movie star placed in NYC to promote a picture.  But saying that he is never mean to his subject matter, he makes fun of himself making fun of his subject matter.  But what is interesting is how a New Yorker or someone from that culture looks at Hollywood.

But his observations are spot-on and he lived in an interesting world.  It's sad to think that the type of world he wrote about (1940's Manhattan and Hollywood) is now totally gone.  Like this book, that is not in print.  But mark my words, H. Allen Smith is a brilliant stylist and a very very funny man.
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