Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Solemn Confession

April Fool! Anyone who was paying close attention yesterday might have guessed that we were pulling a nether appendage with our small offering from one "Henry James." Actually, that overly mannered and nearly nonsensical prose was from the wicked pen of none other than Max Beerbohm, parodying the worst of James's latter-day excesses.

Please forgive us for this heinous deception and trust that we won't be pulling any such shenanigans again... No fooling! (Right?)

To make up for our iniquity, here's the real Max Beerbohm--pretending to be Max Beerbohm.

"A Vain Child" by Max Beerbohm

The grotesque 19th century children's book, Struwwelpeter (Slovenly or Shockheaded Peter) by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, is the subject of this odd little bagatelle, in form somewhere between fabricated anecdote and fictionalized memoir. The story of a young boy lost in books with his head in the clouds certainly must have appealed to young Master Max! Read by Scoot.

Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm straddled the nineteenth and twentieth century with his satiric novels, such as the wildly funny Zuleika Dobson, and shorter essays and parodies such as this one, which is actually a self-parody in the best Beerbohmian style. While still a college student, he contributed to the infamous Yellow Book of the Wilde era. Though very English, he was partly German in ancestry, married an American, and spent the latter half of his life in Italy--so one could justifiably call him a humorist of international proportions.

Friday, April 01, 2005

"The Guerdon" by Henry James

A superb example of Henry James's late, most mandarin style, this little story concerns the meeting of royalty and a commoner--or something like that. (Do they ever really meet?) Of course, nothing much happens, but did you really expect that in late James? Read by Scoot.

From The Turn of the Screw to Daisy Miller to The Golden Bowl, Henry James has entertained generations with his novels of manners and morals (as critics invariably put it). Whether you prefer him with one lump of obliqueness--or two, or twenty, depending on which era of his you most worship--this once-forgotten and only recently discovered story is certain to interest even the casual reader. Here is your own guerdon.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Period Piece" by Evelyn Waugh

Elderly Lady Amelia is mad about novels and sincerely taxes her assistant, Miss Myers, with demands for more. Miss Myers dares to voice an opinion about one of the books she has read to her employer, who is forthwith inspired to tell a tale of her own . Read by Jonathan Strong.

Stop if you think Brideshead Revisited is the best and most lasting of Evelyn Waugh's many published works; actually, his very best work (in our humble opinion) is in his more comic novels and short stories, of which this is a fairly early example. Waugh dominated several decades of English letters in the twentieth century and has since gone in out of fashion with some regularity. He was considered a master in the construction of the perfect sentence, and we are not inclined to disagree.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"A Patriotic Short" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Back in his glory days, Pat Hobby the screenwriter had wealth, women, rewards--and a swimming pool. Now he has nothing but the memories, and here's one, of the day the president of the United States himself paid his respects. Read by Scoot.

Not long before his untimely death, the largely forgotten writer F. Scott Fitzgerald was publishing a series of stories in Esquire magazine detailing his own bittersweet experiences in Hollywood. No longer forgotten, Fitzgerald is one of the best-loved writers of the twentieth century, of course, and if you still haven't read The Great Gatsby or Tender is the Night, you should begin today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"The Terrible Peacock" by Djuna Barnes

Just who is this green-eyed, red-haired seductress in satin and silk? A young reporter sets out to expose her--and exposes only his own vain follies. Read by Scoot.

Those who are familiar with Djuna Barnes's experimental and opaque novel Nightwood might be surprised by this trifling, even flippant yarn with an O. Henry-esque twist. But if you know of her long, varied career, starting as a reporter herself, and continuing on through associations with the Provincetown Players of the O'Neill era and ex-pat Paris of the Gertrude Stein era might recognize something of the iconoclast within this piece, which is among her very earliest fictions.

Monday, March 28, 2005

"The Triumph of Vice" by W. S. Gilbert

A gnome, a count, a baron, and a baron's daughter. Here's a fairy tale the Grimm Brothers never told. Read by Jonathan Strong.

Though known to most people for his musical collaborations with Arthur Sullivan, William Schwenck Gilbert was first and foremost a satirist, author and illustrator of poems (including The Bab Ballads), plays, and short stories. If you saw the Mike Leigh film Topsyturvy, you'll know him as a cranky, misanthropic character, and the tone of his writing is much the same. He can also be quite funny!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

"The Haile Selassie Funeral Train" by Guy Davenport

Note: Podcast removed.

On this surrealistic train ride that seems to encompass several lands and decades, you'll meet James Joyce, Guillaume Apollinaire, a few spearmen in scarlet capes, and other assorted personages gathered for this not-so-solemn affair. Read by Scoot. (This time you'll hear him mispronounce not just English words, but words from several other languages, as well. Including what should be pronounced Hi-lee.)

Guy Davenport, one of our favorite writers and critics, died recently, and so we dedicate this reading to his memory. His extremely erudite, historically complicated, and ingeniously formulated short stories are truly not like any others. Though not always the easiest of reads or read-alouds, their diverse styles and themes make even his slightest offerings richly rewarding tours de force. He was also quite a fine illustrator of his own works, as well.