No Mother to Guide Her by Anita Loos. McGraw-Hill (1961), 157 pp.
When I finished reading “The Better Things of Life,” I couldn’t conclude, unlike Edmund Wilson, that Anita Loos had created an unparalleled masterpiece of intrepid satire. But I was contented with the thought that I had uncovered a long-lost Hollywood novel by a well known author. Then, as I was rummaging around the internet, I came across mention of a much later book by Loos, No Mother to Guide Her. That’s the title of one of the serial episodes. Was there, I wondered, a connection between the serial and the book? It turned out that not only was the book connected to the serial, it was the serial. Loos had taken thirty years to do it, but she finally had her novel in book form. It was published in hard cover and paperback editions in the United States and in two hard cover editions in England, the second one in 2000. Dozens of copies are available at libraries and from internet booksellers. It may have been lost once, but now it’s definitely found.
The book’s title is somewhat deceptive, since the main character and primary satirical target is a man. Otherwise, with a couple significant exceptions the book pretty much follows the Cosmopolitan serial. Luce has renamed the ten magazine episodes and turned them into book chapters. She’s made few major revisions to the text, often merely altering the wording a bit and only occasionally leaving out a paragraph or two. But Luce hasn’t just copied the serial; she’s changed the story in two important ways. She’s added framing, putting the narrator, Elmer Bliss, in modern times and having him recall events of thirty years before. More important, she’s dumped the magazine-appropriate ending and added events that bring Viola Lake’s character more in line with the rest of the story. So while the book lacks the immediacy of the serial, it is more consistent in tone and message.