Thursday, October 29, 2015

The 1924 Club: Distressing Dialogues by Nancy Boyd

I'm taking part in the 1924 Club hosted by Simon over at Stuck in a Book where participants are reading books published in 1924. My 1924 selection is Distressing Dialogues by Nancy Boyd. 

When I read Nancy Milford's biography of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay earlier this year, I found out about Millay's book of prose, Distressing Dialogues, and became curious. Then, a little over a month ago when I was at Millay's home, Steepletop, I caught a glimpse of Distressing Dialogues on a table in her library. I was told by the guide that Millay chose to write her prose under a pen name because she didn't want to jeopardize her reputation as a poet.

Apparently, Millay didn't try to hide the fact that she was Nancy Boyd. Distressing Dialogues is under the the copyright of Edna St. Vincent Millay. She also wrote a very tongue in cheek introduction to the book as Edna St. Vincent Millay:

Distressing Dialogues is made up of twenty-two pieces that Millay wrote for Vanity Fair magazine. These works are in a variety of forms such as a spoof on agony aunt letters, dialogue with stage directions, free verse and short stories. Often, the subject of her writing deals with the complexities of how men and women relate to one another.

What surprised me about Distressing Dialogues was that each of these pieces had such joie de vivre and at the same time exhibited a biting wit that made me think of Dorothy Parker or Robert Benchley. I liked that she gave great detail about what characters were wearing, and the situations in her dialogues took place on ship voyages or at parties. Then there were vignettes which take place at home between a man and wife. The book is a fun read and like taking a trip to the 1920's. 

Unfortunately, Distressing Dialogues is no longer in print. I'd been on the lookout for the book and finally found it at a decent price on Ebay. But you might get lucky and happen upon Distressing Dialogues at a book sale. If you do, I highly recommend it. 

Do you have a favorite book published in 1924?

Edna St. Vincent Millay 


  1. This sounds so wonderful! What a great addition to The 1924 Club - I'm going to have to hunt down a copy. This is just the sort of 1920s books I love. And what a fun preface!

    1. I take it back! Impossible to find affordably in the UK, sadly.

  2. This event is turning up so many interesting books that sound worth hunting for. It's great to revive some of those forgotten titles and authors from the past.

  3. So interesting... and the preface made me smile. I'll keep an eye out for a copy of this, too.