[DWJ] Book recommendations

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Thu Nov 16 15:10:00 EST 2006

>On Thu, 16 Nov 2006, Minnow wrote:
>|"I'm sure there are eloquent defenders to be found on this list: would
>|anyone like to have a go at explaining what is wonderful about *Swithering
>|is an invitation to people to recommend it, or at the very least commend
>|it, so I didn't change the title of the thread.
>I suspect  strongly that this is a phrasing issue -- after all,
>if one of our many threads about Fire and Hemlock was introduced
>with "would anyone like to have a go at explaining what is
>wonderful about *Piles and Ham-art*?", I suspect that would
>irritate people, as well. *g*
>-deborah, who is not a Fire and Hemlock fan

Ah!  Those who haven't encountered Rachel Ferguson's wonderful (and
decidedly  *not* "anti-bronti") *The Brontes Went To Woolworths* wouldn't
realise the affectonate nature of that mis-titling, you mean.  Drat.
Sorry.  I'm *sure* I have said where that came from before now, but maybe
I've misremembered and it was an email reply when someone asked, rather
than to the list.  If it was in private email, I apologise to anyone who
found *Swithering Depths* offensive.

If I *haven't* already recommended *The Brontes Went To Woolworths*, I'd
like to do so at once.  It's not very easy to explain in a short form, but
I'd class it in a category with *Cold Comfort Farm* and *No Bed For Bacon*
as being a 'tween wars light novel (and Classic) written by someone taking
a light-hearted tilt at things generally taken Altogether Too Seriously.
At one end of that sub-sub-genre one could probably put *1066 and All That*
and at the other, I don't know, maybe *I Capture the Castle*, which is
mostly quite serious when it isn't being utterly surreal.  It's a very
small s-s-g; far too small in my opinion.  P.G. Wodehouse subverting the
Minor Public School Story in *Mike* is another example, I suppose, and
there are traces of it in the description by Sayers of Harriet Vane going
up to London for Christmas in *Gaudy Night* and attending a Prize Book
party and talking about the Modern Play, and Peter Wimsey going to the
Bohemian Party in *Strong Poison*.  Compton Mackenzie has it a bit in *The
Adventures of Sylvia Scarlet*, in which he invented a school of painters
called the Blanchists (an advance or offshoot from the Azurists), who
assert that All Is White and paint accordingly...

And I tell you what, if anyone on the list can point me at other examples I
shall be very grateful indeed.  It has to be emphasised that these works
should not be "satire", and certainly not pisstake nor cruel, but stem from
the occasionally felt irresistible impulse simply to follow some path
altogether too well-trodden but *in the ditch* or perhaps leaping from one
post to another of the fence beside it or otherwise not exactly doing what
the reader might expect.

More recently I suspect *Musrum* by Thacker and Earnshaw of being in the
same tradition, and sometimes newspaper columnists like Miles Kington
attain it; Beachcomber is said by some to have done so; Peter Simple
certainly did if only with the Underwater Motorcycling Federation, and
Mountwarlock Park (with its general factotum Phantomsby, the only
practising werewolf in the Midlands).

I collect these things with both passion and utter frivolity.


(Oh.  archy and mehitabel too.  It isn't only a British phenomenon, nor
restricted to the 20s and 30s.)

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