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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Mr. Grubkin, Stern Realist

By Aaron Chinitz, '33

The Magpie, January 1932, v. 33, n. 1, p. 51.

The name of Horace Grubkin is not at all well known today; even at the time I first heard about him, he was not a very popular author. His works, and there are some thirty of them in all, depended on the irksome odour they could raise to rescue them from obscurity. However, this odour had lost its novelty about the time of the inauguration of the short skirt and bobbed hair.

If I remember correctly, it was the boast of my late childhood, that I could read everything. It was not an idle boast; I could and did. Naturally my first preference was for the usual, dust-masticating redskins, and the mortgage-lifting heroes of Alger.

Since, however, I was a decently bright youngster, these began to call after a time. I always knew just when the hero was meeting a confidence man on his first trip to New York, and, when his employer's son gave a sniff, a sneer, and a contemptuous snarl, that he would later be caught absconding with his father's money, which latter would be saved by our hero.

When this type of fiction was swept into the rubbish heap, others had their brief innings. Of these, none left a more indelible impression on me than that which forms the subject of this article.

What I liked most about Mr. Grubkin was his description of red-tape politics and corruption in a great city. Until that time I had always imagined a senator or an alderman as a rubicund old gentleman with white sideburns, and a broad gold watch chain crossing his breadbasket, who patted Frank Brightheart on the head, while calling him a fine, manly, young fellow.

Now, however, I knew much better. He was not at all like this. He was tall and shifty, with flashy clothes, and a dishonest smile, bristling with yellow, wolfish teeth. He had connections with the underworld, actually! I never knew exactly what the underworld was, but I had a pretty vague idea that it was something like a vast cellar, where people in black clothes skulked. Neither did I see what profit the dishonest politician got from his shady connections, but it was enough for me that Mr. Grubkin knew, even if he did not say so.

This was but one of the vivid, if indefinite pictures that Mr. Grubkin drew with his fearless pen. He was, as his book jackets said, one of the men who got to the bottom of things....

I wonder what I shall be laughing at five years from today.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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