The Value of Optical Delusions
January 14, 2011 12:47 PM   Subscribe

William Taylor Adams, a progressive Massachusetts educator and one term legislator, was once a household name in populist fiction under his nom de plume Oliver Optic.

Largely forgotten today, Adams feuded publicly with Louisa May Alcott and drew the ire of librarians at the First Annual Conference of the American Library Association in 1876 and again at the Fourth in 1879 [pdf].
posted by JaredSeth (8 comments total)
Works by William Taylor Adams
posted by stbalbach at 12:52 PM on January 14, 2011

Thanks, stb. I probably should have included a link to his work.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:53 PM on January 14, 2011

Works by Oliver Optic
posted by stbalbach at 12:55 PM on January 14, 2011

No worries, it's actually non-trivial to create (decent) searches to authors on Internet Archive, notice the complexity of the URL (I use a custom script).
posted by stbalbach at 12:57 PM on January 14, 2011

Ha! Actually have one of these that my grandfather read as a boy (we're long-lived and reproduce late, we Joneses). And coincidentally it came up in conversation just this morning as an example of edifying fiction that frowned on smoking long before the surgeon general's report.

If you've read Horatio Alger, you've as good as read Oliver Optic.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:25 PM on January 14, 2011

Coincidentally enough, stumbling across a 1911 copy of All Aboard or Life on the Lake last night in a box of books we inherited from an aunt is what inspired me to find out more about Adams.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2011

Oh, it's a whole sub-subject of American lit in itself. Nothing new about YA fiction, no sir, there is not. (Well, generally not as edgy as it is now, but then, what is?)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:10 PM on January 14, 2011

(Well, generally not as edgy as it is now, but then, what is?)

Toby Tyler; or, Ten Weeks with a Circus (1877)
A young Carl Sandburg thought Toby Tyler one of his favorite books (even better than Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).[5] Harlan Ellison credits it as influencing his decision to run off with the circus.[6] William S. Burroughs wrote of it in his journals.[7]
The thing about the novel is it contains child-abusers, monkey killers, children who run off with the circus and are better for it. Disney gentrified it, Mark Twain copied it, but it was the original.
posted by stbalbach at 9:26 PM on January 15, 2011

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