Stranger than Fiction

In the Financial Times (I know, I know) yesterday there was an article headlined Drama is struggling to match the reality of Donald Trump. It’s behind a paywall unfortunately, but it discusses, albeit briefly, how “satire, theatre and TV shows are challenged with the restless US news agenda”.

Continue reading “Stranger than Fiction”

Uncle Fred

In actual count of time, he was no longer in his first youth. The Spring now enlivening England with its alternate sunshine and blizzards was one of many that had passed over his head, leaving it a becoming iron-grey. But just as the years had failed to deprive him of his slender figure, so had they been impotent to quench his indomitable spirit. Together with a juvenile waistline, he still retained the bright enthusiasms and the fresh, unspoilt outlook of a slightly inebriated undergraduate – though to catch him at his best, as he would have been the first to admit, you had to catch him in London.

So goes the introduction to Uncle Fred in P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred in the Springtime. It’s my first Wodehouse novel I’ve read and I’m beginning to sense that quality (which was mentioned to me) a Wodehouse novel possesses – its ability to pull you up out of despondency; this no doubt connected to, as Stephen Fry writes in praise on the book’s back cover, its ‘sunlit perfection,[…] its warmth and splendour’.

I also wanted to give this particular passage a mention because it kind of touches on a point that came up in a conversation I was having recently: when someone refers to maturity, or perhaps more often levels the charge of immaturity (not that the narrator of Uncle Fred is doing so here), what exactly do they mean? What was this measured in then, when Uncle Fred was on the loose, and now? Responsibilities? Appearance? As a work colleague said to me the other day: “My Dad never wore jeans; if he had I would have been shocked.”

A Joke Endures

I’ve just finished reading volumes III and IV of Tristram Shandy. Towards the end of volume IV there’s a part about Grandmothers:

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Forward 256 years, to Series 9 Episode 6 of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Bob Einstein tells a similar joke (around 12m05s).

Isn’t that great. For a joke to be able to survive that long there’s something to be said, I think, about the joke, about comedy, about us, etc. etc.

Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

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I do not dread the judgements of the ignorant multitude; I ask, however, that they spare my little works in which it was always the design to pass in turn from jests to serious matters and from serious matters to jests

Translation of the epigraph to Volume III

I picked up Laurence Sterne’s novel again this week. “Again” because when I finished reading volumes I and II last year I thought I might read the rest of the novel following the original publication of the volumes (the novel being published between 1759 and 1767), and there was a year gap between the publication of the first two volumes and III and IV.

This has also handily (and you might say it was the sole purpose of my decision) given me a strategy to navigate a novel – one that is often labelled as one of the greatest comic novels in the English language – that I feel purposefully pushes back at its readers.