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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Wind in the Willows, anachronisms and reviewers

The symphonies of Jean Sibelius are often my companions as I work. I like them, but I also like the fact that he may once have said "Nobody ever erected a statue to a critic".  Writers also have problems sometimes with hack critics, but there are good critics as well.

I would have called E. V. Lucas one of those, but a friend mentioned a reference to "Toad of Toad Hall" in a TV series I don't watch, Downton Abbey, set in the Edwardian era.

Having trick memory for dates, I knew roughly when Wind in the Willows came out, close to the end of the reign of Edward VII.  I scented a possible anachronism (or if not an actual anachronism, a sailing-close-to-the-wind).
I must now rush on quickly and issue a clean bill of health to the script writers: on enquiry and consideration, I declare the above accusation to be not proven—for now.  Apparently, "Edwardian" was only being used by my informant as a loose way of describing a style.
While checking my facts to arrive at this verdict, I read early newspapers ads in Australia and overseas.  That was how I came across the review on the right, published in the Times Literary Supplement.

It looks as though Lucas didn't like the book, not one bit.  He did like two other Kenneth Grahame works, one of which I have heard of (but not read) and another that I have never even heard of.

I also came across a delightful essay by one G. B. Stern, also previously unknown to me, but whose shade I now plan to pursue until I can access some more of Stern's works.

The essay appeared first in the London Daily Chronicle, though I found it reprinted in the Adelaide Register, January 13, 1921.

Stern loved that book, and a number of others that I hold dear.  This is the sort of critic I would happily follow, though in Lucas' case, I think maybe he had just missed the point. Critics and reviewers do that sometimes, and in the TLS that day, his next review was an enthusiastic greeting to another new book, just out, called A Room With a View.  Until further notice, Mr. Lucas remains on my reading list, but I won't be calling for tenders for a statue of him.

Now for book lovers: what books get up to at night.  This is a delightful stop-frame animation.  Go and watch it!  The message: real books are better, but this morning, I have read a number of ads from 1908 in an online version of The Times, a review in an equally online TLS, an essay in a long-defunct Adelaide paper, and after lunch, I will track down e-book forms of the other two Kenneth Grahame volumes and anything by the delightful Ms Stern, Gladys Bronwyn.

PS: linking statues and A Room With a View, Lucas wrote A Wanderer in Florence, which had quite a bit about statues.  I might see if I can dig that out as an e-book as well.  But do e-books dance at night?  I think maybe that is a magical property that real books get from being made from dead trees.

Hmmm.  There's a good plot for a book for small people there!

1 comment:

  1. I love books...but I no longer have enough space to store them all. I converted to ebooks except for those well loved books that are out of print and not available as ebooks.
    That said, I still love the experience of having a paper book in my hands. There is room for both in my life.