The Snow Goose (1941)
Paul Gallico had a varied and interesting career, but seems doomed to be best remembered for the cheesy movie version of one of his stories: The Poseidon Adventure. As I recall, the book actually wasn't too bad and The Other Brother an d I loved his long-forgotten novel, The Boy Who Invented the Bubble Gun. Gallico had years before been one of the highest paid sportwriters in America, starting the Golden Gloves, blazing a trail for the likes of George Plimpton by boxing a round with Jack Dempsey and catching Dizzy Dean, and he later drew on the experience to write the story that became the basis for the great film, Pride of the Yankees. But he walked away from that success -- leaving one of the great sports books in his wake, Farewell to Sport -- in order to take a less lucrative position writing general interest material. When he met with some success he picked up stakes and moved to Britain to focus on writing fiction.
The Snow Goose originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on November 9th, 1940, winning an O. Henry prize, and became a best-selling novella the next year. It's pure sentimental hokum, but of the most heart-rending sort. Philip Rhayader is a misshapen hunchback of a man who lives almost in the marshes on the South coast of England, shunning his fellow men who have reacted so badly to his deformity, tending to the wild waterfowl of the area, and painting pictures he rarely displays to anyone. One day a young girl, Frith, intrudes on his solitude, bringing him a Canadian snow goose that has somehow been blown off course and ended up getting itself shot. The girl is as skittish as a wild animal herself, but as they nurse the goose back to health, Philip and she form some kind of bond. As the years go by she turns up whenever the goose returns and disappears when it migrates south. Philip comes to love her, but is unable to express himself, and she remains too apprehensive about his outer form to encourage him, though she does love him too. Comes a day though when she finds Philip hastily preparing to launch his little sail boat and he informs her that he's off to Dunkirk to help rescue the stranded British Expeditionary Force. She wants to go with him, but he realizes the danger he's sailing into, a likely suicide mission, and that she'd just take up room that could go to a soldier. So he sails off without her, though the goose follows him. Together the two pass into legend.
The whole thing has the quality of a fairy-tale and is so well told that we can't help but forgive its sentimentality and the transparency of its familiar message. It's not necessarily great literature, but it's certainly a great short read.
See also:Short Stories
-The Literature of Paul Gallico
-FILMOGRAPHY: Paul Gallico (IMDB.com)
-Paul Gallico (Wikipedia)
-The New York Times > Movies > People > Paul Gallico
-Paul Gallico 1898-1976 (Baseball Library)
-Paul Gallico (Philosophy of Sport, Writing in Style)
-ESSAY: Will Authors Guild Let Gallico Speak for It? (Howard Fast, Feb. 25, 1948, Daily Worker)
-ARCHIVES: "paul gallico" (Find Articles)
-REVIEW: of The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico (Arnold Blaise, Objectivist Center)
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