Penguin 70's Series (2008)
1 journaler for this copy...
56: Caligula by Robert Graves
(20/01) This is an interesting concise introduction to the modern classics I, Claudius and Claudius the God; in which we meet the deranged Caligula leading up to his assassination and Claudius becoming emporer by default, ‘What’s wrong with old Claudius for Emporer? The best man for the job in Rome, though he do limp and stammer a bit.’
The outrageous blood-letting, the political intrigue and patronage is all written in a strangely flat prose (like a Latin translation?) I won’t be rushing to read the full novels.
(9/03) I’ve read Breakfast at Tiffany’s but didn’t read the book group choice of In Cold Blood …Capote’s 2 most famous books in different genres. These slightly quirky, supernatural/dreamlike short stories are something different again. I think I preferred the 1st story, about the haunting & persecution of Mrs. H T Miller by Miriam; the title story, set in the deep south has an underlying menace; the other stories feel a bit incomplete. An interesting collection, but probably not TC at his best.
(22/03)...and a more free-willed, idealist, precocious young man you couldn't wish to meet. The teen and 20-something Shelley travels the country with his [mostly female] set, disappointing his father, getting involved in radical politics and writing a bit of poetry. Not the finished article, except maybe Queen Mab, but definite signs of the doyen of the Romantics he was to become.
ps. as a piece of biographical writing, this was a bit clunky for me; too much unnecessary detail, and research-based showing-off :(
‘The Kiss’ and ‘A Visit to Friends’ are a matching pair of short stories about unheroic men and unrequited love; the sadness and bathos of not seizing an opportunity for love & happiness. These are concise, spare, character-led and atmospheric, an understated joy.
This is a fascinating essay about the Winston Churchill that his contemporaries knew, and in a lot of cases disliked, and the British Bulldog image that predominates for the rest of us. Churchill was a fascinating and flawed character, part of a declining post-Victorian aristocracy; a drinker, a spendthrift, shameless sponger & nepotist; by inclination a gentleman and part of the ruling classes, but by nature a bullying, vacillating autocrat.
63: Jeeves and the Impending Doom by P G Wodehouse
(02/06) "What ho, Jeeves!”. Here are 2 topping tales of Bertram ‘Bertie’ Wooster being the unsuspecting comic fall-guy for his infinitely smarter butler as tricky fixes are resolved, and matters of the heart and purse are bought to a satisfactory slap-stick conclusion. These are brilliant affectionate satires against an idle monied, or at least privileged(!), class…not gone entirely, but noticeably underground in the C21st.
(2/07) This is an odd collection of fantastic folk tales and would-be legends from the imagination that bought us Metamorphosis. I found none were immediately approachable except maybe the title story. The Great Wall (and similarly the Tower of Babel in another story) as a cultural idea rather than a physical reality, built to protect the Emporer in Peking (Beijing) from a real or imagined dark force, "A strange boatman...has told me that a great wall is going to be built to protect the Emperor. For it seems that infidel tribes, and demons other gather in front of the imperial palace and shoot their black arrows at the Emperor'"
(27/07) I continue to be disappointed with Waugh Snr; Vile Bodies, Men at Arms and now this piece of travelogue-cum-journalism. As it says on the tin, Waugh talks about his first hand experiences of the crowning of an Emperor amongst the incongruities of Addis Adaba, an unfinished city in a tribal country, flirting with a European middle class, riven with religious divides. I would have loved some more historical context, and more about Selassie; it wasn't to be.
(8/08) This series continues to surprise, delight and amuse...some, but not all, emotions illicited in this collection. Eggers takes a gentle dig at the s/s genre, by constructing a lot of tiny (mostly < 2 pages) little vignettes. None are memorable, most have something to say about the infinite idiosyncracies of human beings.
ohmigosh the last of the 70's series...how i'm going to miss these, the 60's are just not the same!
(31/08) And so, I come to the end of this brilliant series, spread over nearly 3 years; not all gems, but constantly different(!)
I think I put War Talk off 'til late because i've read Regeneration, but it was still good to revisit Seifried Sassoon encarcerated in Craiglockhart officer's asylum for his entirely rational views on fighting in a no-win war of constant nullifying stupidity, death and destruction. I read this alongside SS War Poems which added a bit of extra detail and colour. Even in this 50+ page extract there are some great insights by Dr Rivers, the start of a growing friendship between SS and Wilfred Owen, and glimpses into the life of troubled Billy Prior.
One particular insight [by Rivers] draws parallels between men being drawn to the manly adventure of war, but ending up more 'female' in passive domesticity...and why was the army 'mobilised' to sit idly in trenches?
This is the final version of a couplet that Sassoon was helping Owen to re-write, from Anthem for Doomed Youth
"What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstruous anger of the guns."