ON DEARBORN STREET by Miles Franklin


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The author of My Brilliant Career (1901) wrote this feather-weight courtship tale during her subsequent stay in America--and, along with quotable feminist depth-charges, there's a sticky flood of sentiment and quasi-US vernacular. Narrator Cavarley, fairly well-off adopted ""nephew"" of feisty widower Aunt Polly (he'll eventually learn of bas real parentage), pursues ""little"" Sybyl Penelo, Chicago working girl and unlikely feminist spokesperson: Sybyl's a mere wisp with an ""indescribably little face""; she's a ""little squirrel,"" a ""little bird in the nest."" (And how Cavarley yearns to ""crush her little form in my arms!"") But playboy Bobby captures Sybyl's interest by bat odd conversion to religion (""I love people to let me dig into their souls . . .""). And so, to counteract Bobby's success with cars, Cavarley tries aeroplaning. . . and crashes. Bobby is killed (in an auto race); nice Cavarley mourns him, then continues serious wooing. But Sybyl is shy of marriage (it contains ""infinite possibiLities of unhappiness""), and will be--until she hears Aunt Polls tale of extra-marital freedom . . . and Cavarley declareS himself to be on the side of single-standard pre-marital virginity. True, even if one can shovel through the period cute (""You are the damfisticatedest quintessense of a pestiferous jube-jube""), this is tedious reading. But, as an early-feminist, sugar-coated curio--with pronouncements against war, male-dominated religion, wifely subservience, and ""parasitism""--it's a peacherino for the archivists.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1982
Publisher: Univ. of Queensland Press (5 S. Union St., Lawrence, MA 01843)