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Titre : THE MECHANIC
Éditeur : William Ritchie ., New York
Date d'édition : 1906
Reliure : Hardcover
Edition : 1st Edition
Octavo, pp. [i-iv] v [vi] 7-300 [301-304: blank] [note: last two leaves are blanks] [note: title leaf is a cancel], title page printed in red and black, original red cloth, front panel stamped in gold and ruled in blind, spine panel stamped in gold. First edition. Although it has science-fictional elements in the form of amazing inventions and discoveries, this is really a business novel, a genre whose outlines and constituent parts has not yet been properly mapped by bibliographers or critics. If it had been, this would surely count as one of its more significant examples. This can also be read simply as a drama played out on a field of finance and manufacturing between characters of titanic proportions. The hero, John Worth, is the mechanic of the title, a man of the people who knows how to work with his hands but also with his mind. He is more of what we would today call a mechanical (and chemical) engineer, from a family that has proudly pursued this calling, but he has also studied law at Columbia. Growing up in New Jersey and Manhattan's East End, he has earned the respect of that neighborhood's rough and tumble immigrants, but he is also a gentleman in the best sense of that term and mixes on easy terms with the city's richest and most powerful members. Orphaned at an early age when gangsters controlled by an industrial trust murder his father and mother, Worth is brought up by his uncle, who, later in life, is also murdered by the same men. Revenge is Worth's controlling motive in this story, but a disinterested thirst for justice also drives him to break up the country's web of industrial trusts and corrupt government officials. We also see in him the curiosity of the inventor, the political wisdom of the manager, and, not least of all, the passion of a lover, when he becomes romantically involved with the beautiful daughter of one of his chief enemies. This is no simplistic screed about capital vs. labor. "Twenty years ago labor and capital got on fairly well. Then began to come in the giant amalgamations ." Acting on this equanimity, Worth forms a key alliance and friendship with Wall Street's most notorious stock manipulator. The style of the writing in THE MECHANIC is direct, even naturalistic at points, especially in describing violent scenes. It handles its love scenes with a pleasing degree of romance and wit, without descending into sentiment. The writing could be taken as an epitome of American popular fiction, embodying the virtues of its hero: direct, vigorous, clever, democratic, mixing the idealistic and the realistic into a new alloy stronger than either one by itself. In an amusing dig at the pretensions and weakness of the old world, an English aristocrat who comes to court Worth's wealthy girlfriend is simply named "Title." Worth is a natural mechanical genius, inheriting his father's discovery of a streamlined way to make steel; he goes on to discover a way to harden copper; to invent a new typesetting machine that, with a tenth of the weight and moving parts of the existing model, uses the principles of the stock ticker and electromagnetism; to discover, in an abandoned mining pit of the mound builders, an amber fluid that deodorizes oil and increases its potency fivefold; and, finally, to invent a fluid that decomposes iron and steel, used in the story's climax. At several points, it is hinted that there is something a little uncanny about the hero. Impressively for a century-old work of science-fiction, none of its fantastic premises obtrude themselves on the reader as ridiculous or obviously impossible. The story develops along unpredictable lines and holds one's interest from start to finish. An obscure but first-rate novel that deserves to be better known. Bleiler (1978), p. 130. Not in Reginald (1979; 1992). Smith, American Fiction, 1901-1925 M-130. Hanna, A Mirror for the Nation 2319. Slight spine lean, else a bright, near fine copy. A scarce book. (#149918). N° de réf. du libraire 149918
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