A great many people have been wondering what happened to the Mr. Blandings who built his dream house in 1946. Now they are in a position to find out.
Let's face it quickly - Mr. Blandings tried to become a Social Force. And Blandings' Way sets forth, with alternations of warm humor and cold terror, the log of this perilous voyage.
Mr. Blandings knew very well how to be a successful advertising man. But with the world in an agony of tension he had difficulty keeping his mind on Queeze, the new modern luncheon spread; or Arf, the dog food with the three Balanced Odors.
So nothing could have been more logical than for Mr. Blandings to plan an escape into the placid simplicity of the small New England township where he had built his home, and where he could do good by the bucketful. But by the time Mr. Blandings, the man of good will who can see both sides of every question, has had sufficient time to do sufficient good in Lansdale Town, he has every reason to consider the life of a city advertising man as nothing less than Paradise Lost. Such is his country success that half his fellow men there regard him as a communist while the other half call for his blood as the type of capitalist who must be liquidated as the price of an advancing social order.
If you have ever found yourself in a quandary; if you have ever doubted or been misunderstood; if the world has ever turned against you because you generously offered to help it out of a hole, this book will bring you a message of hope and cheer: you had it easier than you thought. A page by page comparison of your life with Blandings' Way will prove conclusively that you and he are brothers - but that he bore the brunt.
As the best of high comedy inevitably must, the book deals with the vital problems of the day. It is a genuine work of social satire, brilliantly deft and witty. But please keep this to yourself, because a lot of people without your discernment are also going to read Blandings' Way and laugh their fool head off just because it is so warmly funny. In this book Mr. Blandings emerges from the status of a man who built his house and becomes a permanent, full-scale addition to American folklore.
The publishers are hoping to be able to arrange to have it denounced shortly after issue. Meanwhile: this much is certain - it is an October choice of the Book-of-the-Month Club.
Born 1899, Eric Francis Hodgins was the American author of the popular Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1946). Hodgins served as editor in chief of The Youth Companion, associate editor of Redbook, and then as associate editor of Fortune magazine. He became publisher of Fortune in 1937, and a vice president of Time Inc. in 1938. He quit Time Inc. in 1946 to write full-time.
His novels also included a sequel, Blandings Way, published in 1950.
I stumbled across this book in the 1970s when I was a teenager and reading everything I could get my hands on. If I remember correctly, I read it the same summer I read Atlas Shrugged. I found Atlas to be more of a fun escapist tale, while this story seemed all too real at the documentation of a certain life, so often lived by those who has "succeeded" in some sense in winning at the American dream." (As a side note, I was horrified, a few years later to find that Atlas was seen by my peers, and possibly, even the author, as seem great overrreaching endorsement of capitalism!)
While I cannot quote a line or even really tell you the gist of the story, the experience of having read it, and even as a rural southern teenaged boy, a generation after it was written, the sense that it was a life I could see, as likely mine, possibly, as the best possible life I could hope for, to be both, at once, heartened and depressing.
It is a book, I would reccommend to any reader, whereas, I am careful, because of the baggage to suggest anyone read Atlas, this book gets at the heart of what makes Americans think like they do. yes, the story is of a contemporary late 1940s-early 1950s, but the american mind doesnt seem to have shifted too much for all the radical upheaveals of the last 3/4 of a century.
As I read books, I mark places that speak to me or inspire further thought. From the Judge Learned Hand quote on the title page (“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”) to the entire final paragraph, I marked almost a third of this book. It’s been many years since I read Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, but I enjoyed this one as much if not more.
Selecting among the passages dealing with the decline of good workmanship, a déjà vu trip to past times, being a liberal descendent of a Revolutionary Tory, and the contrast between city and country politics, I will limit myself to quoting this timely reminder: “It’s getting to be a deep-rooted American custom to call anyone with whom one disagrees by some abhorrent political name. “
Blanding's Way is a much more serious novel than its predecessor, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, in both tone and approach. Whereas Hodgins's first novel was a cathartic fictionalization of his own foibles at having his dream house built, the sequel gets way deeper inside his alter-ego's head, and also shows things from the points of view of several different characters in the town. There is also a fair bit of social commentary, vis-a-vis the Red paranoia of the time. I enjoyed it just as much as Dream House, but for different reasons. I strongly suggest checking it out.
I stumbled on a 1950 first edition of the book in the local library book sale and thought it would be interesting to read a novel that I knew nothing about and that was written a little before I was born. Mildly amusing, mildly provocative, mildly thoughtful. Also mildly sleepy.