What do "Bambi" by Marjorie Benton Cooke, Russell Brand, and Kim Kardashian have in common? They all have nothing to do with deer.
Recently, I acquired a first edition of a novel called "Bambi" by Marjorie Benton Cooke, from 1914. No, not the deer story, that so many imbeciles hilariously thought they were purchasing on Amazon.com:
This story, instead, is about a bubbly, intelligent, young woman, Bambi, and her husband, Jarvis, a callow, pretentious playwright. Bambi gently prods and manipulates Jarvis into hawking his play to various agents in New York City, all the while, writing her own short stories for a literary magazine.
It becomes apparent that Bambi is the superior writer, and so her stories become serials, her serials develop into a novel, and her novel becomes a play, all unbeknown to Jarvis, who struggles to find work, by burden of his own delusions. The drama of her secret brings them together and pulls them apart throughout the novel. It’s an engaging read, with funny moments and a satisfying conclusion.
Despite this book being published over 100 years ago (!), there are some surprisingly modern ideals at play here.
Firstly, Jarvis is a surprisingly bohemian character. He’s the prototypical “struggling artist”; locking himself away in his studio for days on end, bemoaning the follies of upper-middle class society, and the state of democracy. Upon seeing scores of homeless on the streets of New York, he thunders:
“Why did they endure, these patient beasts? They numbered thousands upon thousands, these down-and-outs. Why did they not stand together, rise up, and take? ... If they could organize and stand together, they wouldn’t be what they were. It was because they were morally and physically disintegrated that they were derelicts. Their waste was a part of the price we must pay for commercial supremacy, for money, power, for – oh, sardonic jest! – for a democracy.” (Page 176)
He’s like an early 20th Century Russell Brand.
There’s also an interesting paragraph that instantly made me think of a certain someone, but I can’t quite put my finger on who…
“The play told the story of a woman whose God was Success. She sacrificed everything to him. First her mother and father were offered up, that she might have a career.
Then her lover.
She married a man she did not love, that she might mount one step higher
and finally sacrificed her child to her devouring ambition.
When she reached the goal, she had envisioned from the first, she was no longer a human being, with powers of enjoyment or suffering.
She was, instead, a monster, incapable of appreciating what she had won, and in despair she killed herself.”
I'm not wishing that last bit on her, but y'know...
(Unrelated picture of a disgusting creature and a lovely elephant.)