Sunday, 30 April 2017

Something Missing

The Oxford series 20th Century Classics is an odd one. Even the connoisseurs of fiction forced to concede, though with shifty glances to side and floor, a nervous twitching of the spectacles, lips silently rehearsing their own pet loves - the aristocratic elbows of Enid Bagnold, the provincial thighs of E.H. Young; the adolescent limbs of Llandudno’s wartime masterpiece: Jampot Smith - to their ignorance of Paul de Vries’ The Mackerel Plaza, A P Herbert’s The Secret Battle or Robert Graves’ Seven Days in New Crete. The series suggesting the eccentric tastes of a few editors (or a single one); a small bookcase of curiosities rather than a canon of classics; the classic defined as a book of exceptional depth, that is well-written, appeals to a wide literary audience and is sanctified by literature’s establishment.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Dangerous Times

We think of teenage identity solely as a problem for the teenagers themselves. A decade long guerrilla campaign to be free of the parental empire; room by room their influence is resisted, then pushed back; we ignore the pictures, look away from the statuettes - beribboned milkmaids with sickly sweet lambs whose faces are a sentimental leer - quietly remove the Coronation mugs, replace the DVDs and the CDs, put Val Doonican in the bin. The soft tyranny undermined, attacked, finally usurped until…that glorious independence day! when Virginia Holt, Wilbur Smith, Jean Plaidy and John le Carr√© are deposed from the shelves, and a new head of state is appointed. Henry Green! No. Rhys Davis! Certainly not. Too too often: Borges, Kafka or Camus. But what happens to the governor and his wife when the new flag goes up and they sail back to the old country?