Sunday, June 27, 2004

Topper and modern life

Having almost finished reading Thorne Smith's "Topper", I can say that the whole message of the book is that modern life has smothered many a fine soul. Written in 1926, it resonates just as much in 2004, except that perhaps we have a finer sense of the eventual mess alcohol and fast driving brings, but then again, maybe not. Through the ghosts of George and Marian Kirby, Topper is introduced to wild living and breaks out just a bit from the deadening pace of his ritualized suburban life, each day of which he can recite from memory as well as in advance: meals planned by the day of the week, and all appearances to be carefully maintained.

Of course most of us have seen the movie, and the casting of Cary Grant and Constance Bennett couldn't have been better. The DVD, released in Feb. 2004, is excellent. The book is different than the movie, mainly in the transfer of the action in several scenes to other settings from those in the book. I don't know why, but really, the movie does an excellent job of capturing both the absurdly confused state Mr. Topper is in after seeing the Kirby's, and the ambiance of the whole story. I love the movie, and now I love the book. Just a wee bit dated, but still a romp.

Interesting note: Thorne Smith is credited with creating the "modern ghost", and with the general pop culture status of ghosts in movies such as "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", "Heaven Can Wait", and even "Ghost". That last sentence is taken from the blurb on the back cover of the Modern Library paperback edition, published in 1999. Look for it. Read it.

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