Friday, May 1, 2015

Show Boat

I was very excited to finally read this. My first encounter with the phrase "Show Boat" was when I was maybe six years old, at an amusement part on the Jersey Shore. It featured a walk through fun house right on the water, themed as a riverboat, and sporting a large sign reading "Show Boat." I was intrigued by the notion of a show boat right off, and it was my first walk through fun house, and it made a big impression on me.

Later in life, I would run into the Show Boat musical in various places, mostly on TV. Everyone knows Old Man River, of course, but my fascination was with Captain Andy, who somehow tolerated his harpy of a wife, was always merry, and no matter what, would make sure that the show must go on. So -- reading this, I was ready to get to know Captain Andy better.

But I was quite surprised to learn that Captain Andy plays a somewhat minor role in the story. The parts about him that I loved so much were made up for the shows! But that in no way diminishes the novel. It's a wonderful tale of life on a Show Boat, with so many little details, that it really makes you feel like you are right there. How Edna Ferber came to know so much about the details of a Show Boat would be fascinating to know. Again, this is a story about raising a child in unusual circumstances, and the characters that she creates make it really engaging and interesting. The idea of having a travelling show troupe on their own boat, that slides up and down the river, and is greeted with excitement by every port it stops at is a wonderful fantasy -- like a circus with less work, and always a pleasing river view! Anyway, I'm glad I took the time to read it. And I love the curious inscription: "To Winthrop Ames Who First Said Show Boat to Me." It is, indeed, a magical phrase.

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