Needed: A Title

21 May


So every few years, I end up asking people if they have, by any chance, read this book that I once stumbled across when I was about twelve. Things get a little silent and complicated when I explain that I can recall neither its name nor its author and I’m a bit hazy about the plot as well.

Hey, it’s been a while since I was twelve, alright? What do you want from me? If it helps any, I read it in one of those Reader’s Digest condensed works volumes from 1970-something. It could have been 1960-something too. I wasn’t paying attention to the publication details.

It was summer, I was bored, this book was funny, it was there. I would like to read it again. Here’s what I remember of it –

The story is set in America, in a rural town. It centers around this eccentric family that’s not too bright. There’s an ornery old patriarch who shows up occasionally to do things like refuse to sell the family farm so the town can put up something in the name of progress in its place (my brain says “hydroelectric dam” but I know that can’t be true! Shopping mall, maybe? But did they have those in the 60s and 70s? What was progress back then? That thing).

Then there’s his son, let’s call him The Cutie, who’s beefy and hunky and completely dimwitted in an interesting kind of way – you know, the kind of guy you’d sit and listen to for hours because you can’t believe what’s coming out of his mouth? But he’s also a nice guy. Which is why a psychiatrist and the schoolteacher both want a piece of him.

Those two ladies come in because of the twins. The twins are the younger siblings (?) of The Cutie. Pre-adolescents. And they’re quite sharp so they leave him puzzled.They might be fraternal or identical, I don’t remember which. They might also be his nephews/ nephew and niece. Definitely not a pair of girls though.

Things happen and the mayor or somesuch sees an opportunity to twist the arm of The Cutie and the patriarch by threatening to take the kids away because the father-son duo are clearly too stupid to take care of them. The district attorney sends a psychiatrist to evaluate the living situation and after flirting heavily with The Cutie without getting anywhere (primarily because he’s too dumb to see a come on when he sees one), she submits a report that says he hates the kids.

The schoolteacher then comes to his rescue (there’s an entertaining passage that hints at the courtroom drama to come when she asks him why he said “kidnap” when he and the psychiatrist played word association and she mentioned the twins – and he says that the twins are kids and kids take naps so he said “kid nap”. Groan). She’s dazzled by the fact that he’s so darn cute and so darn stupid and finally decides to take things into her own hands and seduces him.

Next comes a courtroom battle which, if I remember correctly, left me screaming with laughter and the presiding judge with a bad headache. Things end well with Authority being defeated by the power of good old fashioned stupidity and the judge tells them never to darken his court again.

Does anyone out there know what I’m talking about? *crossed fingers*

Update: Well, you lot were a fat lot of help! Not only haven’t any of you read anything like it, you made me wonder if I’d actually read it myself. The nerve! So an hour of intense and imaginative googling later, here’s what I found out: there is too a novel much like what I’ve described above (except for the part where I totally blanked on major plot points or otherwise messed it up) and it’s called Pioneer, Go Home!

A full eleven people have read it on Amazon and concur with my opinion of it (to wit: awesome!). You can read it too for the affordable price of $145. Ahem. If that breaks your budget, then Elvis Presley made a movie called Follow That Dream! based on it (all together now: “WTF?!”), so…

It appeared in Volume 40 of the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books’ Winter collection of 1960. I’m sending out a big kiss and good thoughts to whichever clever person at RD thought it might be a good idea to publish a list of titles. Long may your tribe increase.

It was written by Richard Powell who also wrote The Philadelphian which I vaguely remember reading. It’s a lot more memorable as the Paul Newman movie The Young Philadelphians though. The other book written by Powell that I can recommend is Don Quixote, USA which was almost as funny as Pioneer, Go Home!


Posted by on May 21, 2009 in Books, Personal


Tags: , , , , ,

22 responses to “Needed: A Title

  1. pitu

    May 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I give up. You shd too :-p

  2. memsaab

    May 21, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    For a long time I was trying to remember the author and the title of one of my favorite books from childhood. My only real memory of the plot was that there were goblins and a Princess, and drawings throughout that I loved.

    Lo and behold, I found it on eBay by doing a search for “goblins, Princess” and Scholastic Books (I did remember the publisher, because all the books I had at that age were published by Scholastic). Shadow Castle! I even found the same edition I’d had, drawings and all.

    Which is my long way of saying: don’t give up (sorry Pitu)…

  3. sachita

    May 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Didnt you have a similar thing for a song sometime ago? I remember because there in the comment section I found a song I was looking for.:)

    I might not root for a girl looking for her Mr. Perfect, but I will root for quests like this. I think there is a definite possibility of success.

    But I havent come across this book.

  4. apu

    May 21, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Amrita…err…how to ask this nicely…hmm are you sure that was really a book and not a crazy dream you had? 🙂

  5. M

    May 22, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Heh – I have Apu’s question too….the book sounds way wacky for RD to condense….

    But I do have a request – does anyone remember a book where the protagonist was called ]Jan(et)? It is a story of sweet sacrifice, if I remember – Jan is the older sister who gives up her life for the family….read it years ago, and feel in the mood for self-flagellation, but can’t remember any actual details of this book!


  6. buddy

    May 22, 2009 at 12:49 am

    made for a great read..but what i ask is, is this what you were reading at 12?

  7. Prasanth

    May 22, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Awesome stuff..that’s corny ecology+mills and boon+angel vs vamp+court room drama+…..really impressive! You sure that book exists?

    On a related note, the book I read which nobody has(till now) is the spectacular ‘Embers of Dawn’. Set in the aftermath of the Civil War with a entrepreneur heroine(she starts a tobacco firm), a caring dignified heroA, a dashing tempestuous heroB, business rival villain(who was mutilated in a sensitive part by a prostitute) and lots of what can termed ‘steamy scenes’, it stuck me as being an original concept amidst the few other B-grade stuff I had seen till then(I was 10)

    It was many years later that I encountered something by the name of Gone with the Wind.

  8. Gradwolf

    May 22, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Twins. Rural area. Patriarch stopping progress. Stupid crazy guy. I first thought you were talking about There Will Be Blood. And then it went somewhere! Did you try Googling with the correct keywords. You don’t remember a single character name? But I am tempted to ask buddy’s question. At 12? Really?

  9. wordjunkie

    May 22, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Er, this sounds way too weird for Condensed Editions of that time (dim Okies, randy aunty types)!!! . The CEs of that era used to be more on the lines of Nevil Shute and Arthur Hailey. But good luck with the hunt.

  10. Amrita

    May 22, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Pitu – from my cold dead hands… 😛

    Memsaab – Shadow Castle, eh? Should I take that as a recommendation? Talking of princesses and goblins, have you read Laurel K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry books?
    Although that is very definitely NOT a Scholastic type of book.

    Sachita – yes! A Zeenat Aman / Rajesh Khanna song that people found very easily. I thought I might replicate the success. Apparently not. 🙂

    Apu – humpf! 😛

    M – And a humpf! to you too! Do you have any more info? That sounds like every Betty Neels book to me, actually. Very nice for relaxation purposes.

    Buddy – yes, it was 😀 I was both a precocious child and extremely bored. Somewhere is a post explaining all.

    Prasanth – Embers of Dawn! Hahahahah! I was reading that description and thinking to myself “did he just mess up Gone with the Wind?” and lo and behold!

    Adithya – I was reading the review at Time and didnt remember a single name. It’s funny, but I hardly ever remember titles or authors. But I remember the stories. Also – I drink your milkshake!

    Wordjunkie – Did I say humpf to you? 😛 Those RDs were actually awesome. I have an enduring fondness for mid 20th c. pop fiction because of them. of course, with the naughty bits cut out.

  11. M

    May 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I have to admit to a sneaking fondness for RD condensed as well…found some lovely books that way – Tree grows in Brooklyn, Mrs. Mike, Daddy, all read in RD form first…as for my book, No, not Betty Neels – Jan certainly wasn’t a nurse, waiting for a doctor-in-shining-armour. 🙂

    It was a Raj era book – I remember Jan coming back from India by ship, and a shipboard romance going nowhere (or maybe she was going to India) – some throwaway mention of places in India (Calcutta I think)…lots about gardening, pruning roses actually!


  12. wordjunkie

    May 23, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Don’t say humpf. I loved them too.
    And yay, someone else reading weird stuff at 12.

  13. Amey

    May 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Aah, Google. The boon for those who remember everything except names, titles and main plot points 😀

  14. maxdavinci

    May 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    book-illiterate and hence cudn’t comment earlier. Seems like a neat excercise though..

    however agar bolly-town mein doubt ho then ask!

  15. Gent Li Tormented

    June 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    “Things get a little silent and complicated when I explain that I can recall neither its name nor its author and I’m a bit hazy about the plot as well.” — Hey, how about we turn the tables and beg for your help instead, to resolve a small matter that’s the movie equivalent of your exact conundrum?

    Flipping channels last night, I came upon this movie on FX. It was halfway thru already, but I nonetheless trained my eyes on a bewildered Jet Li — partially inside a restaurant’s restroom stall, with a blond woman — because it brought back fond memories of a Bruce Lee biopic I’d watched a while ago, which is my only recollection ever of an Asian guy getting together with a blond girl, in the movies (not counting Anna and the King, whose only “getting together” was a ballroom dance).

    But, coming back to the Jet Li movie, I quickly realized things are not as hot and heavy as I’d presumed (in fact, the girl proceeds to observe — “you know nothing” she says — during a later conversation, what an innocent he is that he doesn’t even know who Santa Claus is [or isn’t]!).

    Long story short, here’s what I know: Jet Li is an undercover cop running a Chinese restaurant in France. (He apparently specializes in blue shrimp chips that this blond woman is crazy about and comes there regularly to gorge on.) He’s really over there only to singularly hunt down this French Mafia involved in some high-profile killings. Mr.Evil at the mafia’s helm, who also happens to run a prostitution ring (because merely reveling in cubicle gladiatorial games where his guys beat the bloody crap out of intercessors in his racketeering isn’t entertainment enough), is who this blond woman works for, because he’s holding her little daughter hostage (80s-bollywood plot line?)…

    Oh by the way, it turns out the scene I jumped into the movie at was actually an innocuous case of Je Li wanting to close down shop to go chase some bad guys, but this drunk blond, his last customer for the day, simply wouldn’t leave coz of (a) an inebriation-induced stupor and (b) an extremely full bladder. He HAD to help her to that small bathroom next to the kitchen because she could barely stand up on her own. And the “Oooh this is soooo good” moan that ensued — which was just her heaving a tepid sigh of “relief” — although enough to have me and the guy delivering the frozen veggies (two people who just happened to choose that exact moment to arrive on the scene) get all wide-eyed, was apparently nothing at all!

    The remainder of the movie is the usual stuff — Jet Li gets the bad guys after a bloodbath, saves the blond woman’s daughter after putting out the villain (in what I thought was a copy of that classic Kill Bill (Vol 2) maneuver — the acupuncture equivalent of that acupressure move The Bride uses to have Bill’s heart implode, only in this case, the body part turning that particular trick is the guy’s brain).

    So…what do you know? (Title, for starters, would be good.) 😀

    • Amrita

      June 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm

      Kiss of the Dragon? I don’t know if he’s done any other movies set in France. If this was a movie that came out a few years ago (but not 80s or anything) then it’s a good bet you’re talking Kiss of the Dragon which co-starred Bridget Fonda (a blonde!).

      • Ramsu

        June 19, 2009 at 12:35 am

        That’s the one. I don’t remember the blue shrimp, but otherwise everything else fits. Tcheky Karyo plays the bad guy. I don’t think Jet Li has anything going with Bridget Fonda, though.

        Some of Jackie Chan’s Hollywood movies involve romantic relationships between Asians and Caucasians — The Medallion, The Tuxedo… Although, given that it is Jackie Chan, you know how much you’re likely to see on screen.

        Still, even if all you’re doing is suggesting the possibility of a romance with Claire Forlani and Jennifer Love Hewitt, I think it ought to count for something 😀


        • GLT

          June 24, 2009 at 7:28 pm

          Hey. I recently re-watched The Forbidden Kingdom that had both Jackie Chan AND Jet Li in it. And the only “romantic relationship” there was between a very pretty Yifei “Golden Sparrow” Liu and Michael Angarano (couldn’t believe that little kid from Almost Famous is now all grown up — haven’t seen Angarano in anything else…wait, maybe back episodes of the sitcom Will and Grace).

          Lovely movie. Li plays The Silent Monk and The Monkey King with equal elan — a real treat to watch!

      • GLT

        June 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm

        Amrita: It is indeed! Thank you. I’ve never seen (or heard of ) Bridget Fonda in anything else, but she was fantastic in this.

        Ramsu: About the blue shrimp [chips], as Zinta’s Khan once famously said, “Chhoti chhoti details mein bada lutf hota hai.” 😀 And oh yeah, a “possibility” was about all I was suggesting…I’m a “pick the parable over the parabola” kind of person!

        • Amrita

          June 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

          Bridget isn’t what you might call the spark of the Fonda family but she isn’t painful by any means. I’d help her to the bathroom, sure! Why not?

          I’ve never understood the Love Hewitt fascination.

          • Ramsu

            June 24, 2009 at 12:18 am

            Seriously, what’s to understand? We men are an uncomplicated lot. It doesn’t take much to fascinate us, and Hewitt is pretty well-endowed in the “not much” category. Unless there’s some rogue Y chromosome out there that actually thinks she’s a good actress, or is fascinated with her ankles or some such thing, that’s pretty much it.

  16. pitu

    June 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    “I’ve never understood the Love Hewitt fascination.” Thank you, God.

%d bloggers like this: