Music in the Street by Vera Caspary (1929)

Music in the Street by Vera Caspary

Music in the Street was one of three novels by Vera Caspary, the prolific American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, that were all released in 1929, along withThe White Girl  and Ladies and Gents.

This analysis of Music in the Street by Vera Caspary is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

Mae Thorpe moves away from her small-town family into a working girls’ home in Chicago, where at first, she is one of the unpopular girls with no boyfriend who stays home on a Saturday night.

Mae finds a man, though he is by no means the kind of boy the popular girls would envy: Olyn is an artist, an intellectual, shy, socially awkward, and worst of all, poor and living at the YMCA.

“While Olyn was regarded suspiciously by the more hilarious because he neither smoked nor drank, he was accepted as Mae’s boyfriend. The girls teased her about him, made fun of his large collars and long neck, mocked his slow, serious manner of speaking, but they expected Mae to marry him.”

Still, despite Olyn taking her to the Art Institute of Chicago and other places her housemates would sneer at, when the phone rings at Rolfe House and her name is called, Mae feels as though she has finally made it.

. . . . . . . . . .

Vera caspary

Learn more about Vera Caspary
. . . . . . . . . .

“Mae stepped forward with an air of importance. She was being called by her boyfriend and she had a large audience.” And when they go out together, Mae feels she has become part of the life of the city at last.

She was happy. She was a color in the spectrum, a figure in the parade. The lights winked merrily as if they knew how wonderful it was to be a girl going somewhere in the city with her boyfriend.

Mae hears music in the street. But the relationship has difficulty progressing. Since both of them live in hostels, there is no chance for them to be alone, no privacy anywhere. It is a long time before they even kiss.

After much argument she allowed him to press his eager timid lips against her lips while he breathed heavily through distended nostrils to show his rapture.

. . . . . . . . . . .

A girl named Vera can never tell a lie

A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie is available on
 Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK)
. . . . . . . . . . .

But then someone far more romantic comes along – Boyd Wheeler, a salesman. He has been coming into the drugstore where Mae works on a regular basis and she has always liked him, but never had the courage to talk to him. Eventually one of her friends from Rolfe House introduces them. He takes her out – to a theatre and a restaurant rather than an art gallery. Boyd wastes no time, even though this is the first date.

In the taxicab he kissed her. She knew it would have been better if she turned her head away. She knew it was not right for him to kiss her so fervently the first time he took her out. But with his lips hard against her lips, with his cheek brushing her cheek with its burning masculine roughness, she had no strength for resisting. He was an insolent lover and she was happy.

Boyd is clearly not going to give up until he gets his way, and eventually he does. After only a few more dates, he takes her to a seedy hotel. Mae cannot have any doubt about what is inevitably going to happen when she gets there, “but her body stiffened and she held him at a distance. She was frightened.”

Mae still doesn’t run away. Here is Caspary’s bleak description of a young single virgin giving herself to a man before marriage at the end of the 1920s.

      There was a crack in the wallpaper. She stared at it as if she were fascinated by the thin jagged line of the crack. The room vanished. All she could see was the wallpaper with its faded flowers and the ugly brown crack. Minutes passed. Years passed.
      Boyd moved. The bed spring creaked.
      Mae turned her head. She saw Boyd sitting there fingering the knot in his brown tie. Like a person who has been unconscious she was suddenly aware of the room around her and the iron bed and Boyd’s raccoon coat hung carefully on the costumer. She looked intently at her lover. She saw his short nose and his proud crest of curly hair.
      “You’ve got naturally curly hair,” she heard her voice saying. “I love naturally curly hair.” Then Boyd took her in his arms and she was afraid no longer.

. . . . . . . . . .

Laura by Vera Caspary

See also: Laura by Vera Caspary
. . . . . . . . . .

Contributed by Francis Booth, the author of several books on twentieth-century culture:

Amongst Those Left: The British Experimental Novel 1940-1960 (published by Dalkey Archive); Everybody I Can Think of Ever: Meetings That Made the Avant-Garde; Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-Twentieth Century Woman’s Novel; Text Acts: Twentieth-Century Literary Eroticism; Comrades in Art: Revolutionary Art in America 1926-1938; High Collars & Monocles: 1920s Novels by British Female Couples; and A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary.

Francis has also published several novels: The Code 17 series, set in the Swinging London of the 1960s and featuring aristocratic spy Lady Laura Summers; Young adult fantasy series The Watchers; and Young Adult fantasy novel Mirror Mirror. Francis lives on the South Coast of England. 

. . . . . . . . . .

More about Vera Caspary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *