‘Some Like Them Cold’ by Ring Lardner

Some Like Them Cold by Ring Lardner, 1921

The magic trick:

Capturing two distinct character voices, but also showing distinctly different variations of those voices throughout the story

Epistolary romantic comedy today from Mr. Ring Lardner.

A lot of his stuff is just too much for me. Too much of a particular kind of character sketch humor. Too much local color language. Too much “this was probably pretty funny to a particular audience in 1918” for me to enjoy much these days.

But I have to admit, even saying all that, this story was pretty amusing.

The romance takes place in the form of a series of letters between a man and woman who met very briefly in a train station. She lives in Chicago. He was moving to New York in hopes of a songwriting career.

The letters take on their respective authors’ voices remarkably well. We get to know each of these people through their words. What’s even better is the way their voices change as the plot thickens. So the story doesn’t simply capture two characters; it captures three or four variations of them.

And that’s quite a trick on Lardner’s part.

The selection:

Dear Mr. Man: Hope you won’t think me a “silly Billy” for starting my letter that way but “Mr. Lewis” is so formal and “Charles” is too much the other way and any way I would not dare call a man by their first name after only knowing them only two weeks. Though I may as well confess that Charles is my favorite name for a man and have always been crazy about it as it was my father’s name.

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