What ho, got a couple of potboilers on the backburner and all that. Here's just a few of them...
The Railway Children, Edith Nisbet
Edith Nisbet is great; I read some of her stories about the Bastables a couple of years ago and loved them. She typically writes realistic stories about England at the turn of the century, from the perspective of children, with a bit of bluestocking rhetoric thrown in as well, if that makes sense. In some of her books (Five Children and It, for instance) she'll throw in some weird gnome or fairy, which kind of stuffs up the realism a bit, but still makes it interesting.
I like 'The Railway Children', though; it's the story of a family whose father is taken away to London, and probably imprisoned, for mysterious political reasons. As a result the family have to go and live in the countryside, where the rent is cheaper, supported by their mother, who spends her time sending off poems, stories, and articles to various quarterlies. (Occasionally she sends off letters to Members of Parliament and Secretaries of Societies and what-not, too). Let's quote a bit of it, shall we? Oh, do lets!
Mother, all this time, was very busy with her writing. She used to send off a good many long blue envelopes with stories in them - and large envelopes of different sizes and colours used to come to her. Sometimes she would sigh when she opened them and say:
'Another story come home to roost. Oh, dear! Oh, dear!' and then the children would be very sorry.
But sometimes she would wave the envelope in the air and say:
'Hooray, hooray. Here's a sensible Editor. He's taken my story and this is the proof of it.'
At first the children thought 'the proof' meant the letter the sensible Editor had written, but they presently got to know that the proof was long slips of paper with the story printed on them.
Whenever an Editor was sensible there were buns for tea.
One day Peter was goingg down to the village to get buns to celebrate the sensibleness of the Editor of the Children's Globe, when he met the Station Master...
I say, how perfectly ripping!
Serious Concerns, Wendy Cope
I picked this up in Readings a couple of weeks ago and started leafing through it. The first poem that I read was 'The Uncertainty of the Poet' - it's a parody of a painting of the same name by Chirico:
I am a poet
I am very fond of bananas.
I am bananas.
I am very fond of a poet.
I am a poet of bananas.
I am very fond ...
The second poem I read was even better. Cope's verse is typically light, the tone hovering somewhere between Pam Ayres and Ogden Nash, but she makes some serious points, about life and relationships and stuff (apparently the book was written at an unhappy period in her life.) What can I say, I enjoy it.
Oh, alright then, let's quote one more Cope poem, the one from which the book gets the title:
Write to amuse? What an appalling suggestion!
I write to make people anxious and miserable and to worsen their indigestion.
War of the Wing-Men, Poul Anderson
I couldn't resist the title.
The Legends of Lennie Lower
I read some of these on the plane flight over to the US, but to tell you the truth, a bit of this humour is on the nose. Lower is the author of the classic Aussie novel 'Here's Luck', a tale about the anarchistic life led by a father and son in suburban Sydney during the onset of the depression. It's narrated with drunken eloquence by noted toper Stanley Gudgeon (the father) and ends with their house being burnt down.
I was sort of expecting more of the same when I picked up this book, a collection of comic newspaper articles written by Lower. The best of the articles here are packed full of hilarious puns and Lower's typically anarchistic humour; some of the nonsensical fairy stories, for instance, are great. But then, Lower also has the occasional habit of making appallingly un-PC jokes about, for instance, men hitting their wives. It's a real head-scratcher, this book - by turns quite funny, and occasionally quite awful. I just don't know what to think of Lower.
The Pilgrim's Regress, C S Lewis
An odd allegory about the Christian life by C S Lewis. The title suggests a parody of John Bunyan's classic renaissance English text, but it's not really a parody; it's a serious allegory in its own right. Some writers have a way of writing characters that resemble people in your own life; Lewis has a way of creating allegorical figures (Mr Sensible, Mr Vertue, Mr Enlightenment) that resemble specific philosophical and ethical flaws. This book is pretty interesting - it seems to start out as a comedy, and ends up reading like a medieval text.
Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker
The New Yorker published some of the best - Nabakov, Thurber, E B White, S J Perelman, John Updike - but it's amazing how simple some of these stories are. Entertaining stuff. Unfortunately, my book has the habit of making a 'Screech!' noise when the pages rub together, which twists every stomach in the vicinity of the book into knots.
I'm off now to eat a bowl of freshly picked grovels with a runcible spoon and vorpal sword. Any reflections on these books, reader? What are you reading?
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
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