February 2023

My book of the month for February was Russell Hoban's, Riddley Walker

Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980) Uploaded to YouTube 2023/03/01
The absence of a standard written English being available to the narrator, Riddley, has two notable consequences:
1: Despite Riddley telling us he is writing his account, the text is effectively an example of a skaz narrative.
2: There is extensive use of 'eye-dialect,' which we can interpret as both Riddley's pronunciation and how certain words and phrases retain significance but have lost their original meaning.

(R) Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (1889)
Kobo Abe, Secret Rendezvous (1977 / English translation 1979)
Quite possibly the strangest 'novel' I have ever read.

Short Stories
From R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days (1942)
The Doctor's Word
Perhaps some awkward phrasing, but the precise timeline seems jumbled. Weak.
Gateman's Gift
Excellent. One of the stronger stories.
The Blind Dog
Similar man-dog relationship to that found in Camus's L'etranger.
Amusing. The character's final utterance leaves what's happened in doubt.
The Tiger's Claw
Repeats the trick of the previous story, but applies it to the entirety of the nested tale.
Rather predictable twist, but strong characterization.
Such Perfection
Supernatural element.
Father's Help
Amusing story concerning a boy's schooling.
The Snake-Song
The Talkative Man back with a yarn about how his dreams of becoming a musician ended.
Engine Trouble
The Talkative Man with how winning a road engine at a fair caused him all kinds of bizarre trouble.
Forty-five a Month
A little more interesting, technically. First tells the daughter's day, wanting to leave school and prepare for a trip to the cinema, then an analepsis that tells the father's day and why he disappointed his daughter.
Out of Business
Very gentle story of an agent for a gramophone company who loses it all, tries to win crossword puzzle competitions, fails and resolves to die, and is then spared.
Amusing story about an ugly puppy purchased for its ferocity whose nature is kindly.
The Axe
Excellently told story of a life, a supposed high point of which was foretold by an astrologer in the opening line.
Lawley Road
The best story yet, and so timely. It concerns a statue of a British colonial official and its fate after India wins independence. Use this for a reader recommendation video on statues, along with Prosper Merimée's Green Venus and the Chesterton story.
Trail of the Green Blazer
Goes to the heart of Narayan's method - a pick-pocket experiences remorse and tries to replace the purse he has stolen, is caught, imprisoned, but extracts a self-serving moral from the experience. Excellent.
Martyr's Corner
Story where a chance event, a political riot, leads to the displacement of a street trader.
Wife's Holiday
Gambling husband raids his son's money box and is found out when his wife and son return home unexpectedly.
A very sad story about an actor father who has died and now his last film is being shown in the village. His son goes every day, while his mother refuses, until finally attending the last showing.
A Willing Slave
A really good story inasmuch as the attention it pays to how a servant plays with a child. Their interactions feel so convincing.
Leela's Friend
Also strong on the games a servant (male this time) plays with a child, but unsatisfying twist that was completely predictable.

From Luigi Pirandello, Short Stories (1987)
The Cooper's Cockerels
Not what I was expecting at all. Something that resembles Chaucer or Boccacio, a very amusing story of a husband and his wife, and how she accomplishes, finally, her aim of, for once, having dinner with him on a feast day alone.
The Little Hut
A simple story of a girl whose sister runs away with a local boy, enraging her father who then sets fire to the little hut. But there's something powerful in the way it's told and the choice of words.
A Dream of Christmas
Very strange tale of a dreaming man's vision of Jesus. There's just something so bizarre about this appearance of Jesus in a text. Reread more closely.

Critical Works
Jon B. Reed, Astrophil and Estella: A Defense of Poesy (1990) JSTOR link
I searched this out after noticing the phrase 'Great Expectations' appears in Sidney's sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella. A very stimulating article that argues that Dickens' novel is a critique of Petrarchan love.
Chris Jones, Anglo-Saxon Anxieties: Auden and ‘the Barbaric Poetry of the North’ (2006)
Interesting if one has a liking for Old English poetry, which Auden's work makes extensive use of. I don't.