The Golden Honeymoon by Ring W. Lardner, 1922
The magic trick:
Using the first-person narrator to poke fun at the petty, competitive, and insular communities people create for themselves
The narrator says in the first sentence that he has a reputation for not knowing when to stop talking. Thus, Lardner gives himself license to ramble, which he does for at least 500 words too long for my tastes. But along the way, he gives us some comedy and some social commentary via his first-person narrator, who despite traveling across the country, is most interested in highlighting who belongs to which Rotary Club, which Florida friends are good at playing cards, and which restaurant has the best prices.
Had Lardner used a third-person narrator, the critique would survive in tact but the character’s obliviousness would likely be lost. It’s soft satire – never mean – but it provides a sharp, little snapshot of early 20th-century, middle-class America. And that’s quite a trick on Lardner’s part.
Well, I excused myself from the checker game and it was pretty close to noon, so we decided to all have dinner together and they was nothing for it only we must try their cafeteria on Third Avenue. It was a little more expensive than ours and not near as good, I thought. I and Mother had about the same dinner we had been having every day and our bill was $1.10. Frank’s check was $1.20 for he and his wife. The same meal wouldn’t of cost them more than a dollar at our place.