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May 25th, 2008

Book 24: The Bicyclers and Three Other Farces

Posted on 2008.05.25 at 21:55
John Kendrick Bangs
1899 / Harper and Brothers

On the strength of A House-Boat on the Styx, its sequels, and some other novels, Bangs is lumped with other turn-of-the-century fantasists like James Branch Cabell, JM Barrie, and George MacDonald. I'm not arguing with that decision, I endorse it, but Bangs like those other authors wrote in other genres and others forms a lot more than contemporary authors do (excepting Asimov, always excepting Asimov). Case in point: The Bicyclers.

The Bicyclers is a collection of four one-act plays using a common set of characters. Here's a bit from "A Proposal Under Difficulties", featuring Barlow and Yardsley, two competitors for the affections of Dorothy, where Bangs comes awfully close to inventing emoticons, or at least the 'applaud' sign for television audiences.
Yardsley: Oh, thanks. You are very kind.

Dorothy: I think so, too, Mr. Barlow. You are almost too kind, it seems to me.

Yardsley: Oh no: not too kind, Miss Andrews. Barlow simply realizes that one who has proposed marriage to young girls as frequently as he has knows how the thing is done, and he wishes to give me the benefit of his experience. (aside) That's a facer for Barlow.

Barlow: Ha, ha, ha! Another joke, I suppose. You see, my dear Bob, that I am duly appreciative. I laugh. Ha, ha, ha! But I must say that I laugh with some uncertainty. I don't know whether you intended that for a joke or for a staggerer. You should provide your conversation with a series of printed instructions for the listener. Get a lot of cards, and have printed on one, "Please laugh"; on another, "Kindly appear confused". Then when you mean to be jocose hand over the laughter card, and so on. Shall I stagger?
I also consider him a progenitor of sorts to fanfic, considering his creation of Raffles Holmes, a descendent of two famous fictional characters, as well as all the famous folks he put on the House-Boat.

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