“You don’t think that the world might be a saner, healthier, more normal place to live in if we all discarded our clothes and the whole world lived as we do here?”– Marriage Can Wait, James Clayford
This week I finished Marriage Can Wait by James Clayford (a pen name for Peggy Dern) and first published in 1949. It’s a ragged little magazine-paper-quality book that was found in an Antique store and purchased with a stack of other such books because the covers and titles amused and intrigued me.
I honestly had no idea what to really expect from this book. Was I going to find a love story? Erotica? A sensationalized moralistic tale? A thriller? The quality of the publication suggestion something far more tawdry than something of higher production value, but the date of publication makes it unlikely to be too titilating.
It turns out to be a sweet, but sort of sensationalized romance taking place on an island inhabited by a nudist colony and involving buried pirate treasure and lots of philosophizing about the morality of clothing. The main characters are Tony, the darling of a wealthy and beautiful young heiress, and Eve, the secretary in the nudist colony. Tony is disenchanted with his life and his spoiled sweetheart and ends up on the island where he runs into Eve and falls promptly in love. Eve, however, is much better at keeping her head about her and resists, reminding him that such shenanigans are against the rules of the colony. Eventually, of course, the rich sweetheart and her chohorts of wealthy friends and hangers-on arrive on the island with a map to search for pirate treasure and complicate Tony’s seduction of the sweet and innocent ex-burlesque dancer, Eve.
The story feels half created by magnetic poetry, but the writing is decent and the plot actually manages to hang together reasonably well, even with the crazy elements. I enjoyed the book more than I expected to and was surprised at the intriguingly complex arguements in favor of nudity. I expected far less reasoning for it, but clearly the author didn’t want it to seem like the nudity was simply there for sensational reasons.
I’m not sure I would recommend this book in particular, but it was a fun read and an interesting example of pulp fiction from the 1940s. I’m looking forward to working my way through the rest of the stack of books!