Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!

Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!: The raucous, hilarious, big bestseller about sex, guided missiles, real estate, commuters, love and the U.S. Army in a Connecticut town
© 1957 Max Shulman
277 pages

There are some authors for whom I will buy or obtain a book blindly. Max Shulman is one of them, thanks in part of my extreme affection for his Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. A few weeks ago I read another of his works and enjoyed it -- well enough to look for another book, not knowing what it might be about.

As it turns out, Rally ‘Round the Flag Boys is an entertaining comic story about what happens when the US Army invades a small town in Connecticut in the late forties or early fifties. Shulman opens the book by introducing the reader to our viewpoint characters, most of whom live in the small town of Putman’s Landing. Their paths and plot threads will converge -- or collide with great drama --  in that town with comic results. Putman’s Landing was once a small fishing village turned into a bedroom community following a postwar building boom. ‘Round the Flag is definitely a product of the early Cold War period, particularly its emphasis on surburbia. 1950s stereotypes abound: one of the plot threads concerns an unhappy commuting husband whose homemaking wife is too busy running the PTA and a score of other civic organizations for romantic intimacy.

Part of the book’s humor consists in having these characters bounce off one another, like the staid but affable conservative father and his daughter, who speaks nothing but fifties jive. Shulman has a knack for dry and oblique humor that strikes from behind and kept me rolling. Unlike Tomatoes are Chapter, ‘Round the Flag’s characters are largely sympathetic and their tragedies are all the more effective at rendering gasps and laughs because of it.

Shulman provides a riot, and although the book is a bit dated that adds in part to its charm. Unfortunately for those who might be interested, this book is probably quite rare.


  1. Would you believe time travel?

    I bought an incredibly battered little paperback off of Amazon. I'll probably have to have it rebound: the poor little thing literally fell apart as I read it.


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