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The Woman-Haters: 07/04/16

The Woman-Haters by Joseph C. Lincoln

The Woman-Haters by Joseph C. Lincoln is set along a fictional bit of the Cape Cod coastline, in a lighthouse and a nearby shack. The title is unusual for one of Lincoln's books and very dated. It's there to evoke similar feelings as The Odd Couple. Nowadays it might be called Confirmed Bachelors.

The author in the introduction describes the book as a yarn or a summer-farce comedy. Essentially it's a screwball comedy, but written twenty years before the term was coined to describe a certain type of romantic comedy by Hollywood.

Seth, the lighthouse keeper for the last five or so is in need of a new assistant. His last one was lazy and incompetent. Because of the remoteness and the time of year, it will be months before he can even contact the government to request a new one.

In the meantime, he spots a man washed up on shore, presumably fallen overboard from one of the many ships that pass by. The man who has fallen over board gives a cock and bull story about how he came to be washed ashore. It's clear though, that he had tried to drown himself and failed. Seth, though, sees an opportunity and let's "John Brown" work as his temporary assistant.

While they are getting to know each other, both men swear to avoid women at all costs. They are to stick to the task at hand, namely, running the lighthouse. They won't be flirting with women or in anyway engaging with them.

Of course the instant that sort of promise is made, there's bound to be a hiccup. This is after all, a romantic comedy, and the romance isn't between Seth and John (though they do make a cute and believable couple). Two women end up renting the shack normally rented by a male artist.

The gag is that Seth recognizes one of the women and John recognizes the other. They have both sworn to stay away from women but for reasons that are revealed at the end, they can't. It also turns out that they aren't the "women-haters" that they each claim to be.

There's a 2009 film, The Lightkeepers, based on the book but the film misses the mark in a bunch of places, focusing too much on Lincoln's use of Cape Cod vernacular, rather than on characterization. If you've seen the film, I recommend tracking down a copy of the book either in print or in ebook format and reading the source material. It's much funnier than the film.

Four stars

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