Saturday, 26 November 2011
me straight him funny
The problem -- no, not the problem; my problem -- with Frog And Toad Are Friends as a subject for close textual analysis, is that I wouldn't be able to do it without laughing at myself. I have enough trouble taking myself seriously under normal -- even harrowing -- circumstances. So the picture of me poring over these stories comma by comma, discussing how Lobel achieves his comic and revelatory effects ... well, I just had to shake my head. Like taking a spade to a souffle, as someone said, reviewing PG Wodehouse.
So I did a Saki story instead. That's him in the pic looking characteristically somber. He may not be as brilliant as Lobel but he's pretty brilliant. And easier to analyse without feeling like a piece of fruit. Turned out to be a good choice since my instructor is a big fan, and we had a lengthy discussion about Saki's place in the continuum of a certain kind of English humorist stretching from Wilde to Kingsley Amis.
You probably know Saki. A lot of his famous stuff has a surprising chilling flavour -- "Tobermory" or "The Reticence of Lady Anne" or "The Open Window" -- and these are great great stories. But I have a soft spot for his goofy surreal side, where he launches on a fugue of weird fantasy that takes the humour point and just runs away over the horizon with it. Wilde doesn't do that. Waugh doesn't do that. Leacock does it now and then, and Twain, but not as well as Saki. Anyway, it makes me howl with laughter. If you don't know "The Talking-Out Of Tarrington," give it a read.