Saturday 30 September 2023
Thursday 14 September 2023
Although there are more than three, there is a certain highly prominent trio of widely famed authors of the past, each of whom disconcertingly enjoys a most significant reputation and a large and ultra-serious band of defenders, admirers and disciples. I've tried repeatedly to understand why it is that I've never been able to get into them, yet the reason still evades me. While attempting to read and become engrossed by their novels my mind wanders away so far that I'm very soon merely reading pages upon pages of words which fail to penetrate my consciousness at all, until I'm suddenly aware of the futility of the exercise.
1. Rudyard Kipling
I cannot comprehend why this man is so revered - above all for his children's stories, which I find dense and obscure - and boy oh boy, how I've tried! Even his most famous of all, 'The Jungle Book' (both 'Jungle Books' actually), I find indigestible, completely lacking the welcome lightness of touch which Disney brought to his cartoon (helped, of course by some awfully good songs).
I've identical feelings towards all the 'Just So' stories. Right now I'm currently ploughing through 'Stalky & Co' and what a joyless slog it is! It's my very first attempt at this one, though I have read the aforementioned novels at least twice each. Apparently 'Stalky' is about a misbehaving group of (public)schoolboys getting up to various japes often involving their teachers or other members of the public as victims. It seems one is supposed to be entertained, even amused, by their antics but I'm finding it so hard to follow that it's leaving me cold and unmoved. But got to persevere, even though when I'm through I simply know now that I'll hardly recall any of it.
I've also read the entirety of the man's poetry, all 800+ pages of it. I have to say that most of it is rather more accessible than his stories, but that's probably because they are largely in more digestible, mostly shortish lumps. (Btw: Some years ago a BBC national poll revealed that his poem 'If' was voted here as being the best regarded poem of all in the English language - and I wouldn't disagree that it at least is pretty good).
2. Joseph Conrad
Have to confess that it's quite a few years since I last tried to assail this, for me, highly problematic writer - among whose works are 'Nostromo' ,'Lord Jim' and, his most celebrated of all, 'Heart of Darkness'. I'm not even sure that I managed to get right through any of them, his style of writing being maddeningly circuitous. A lot of admiration towards him is engendered by the fact that English was only his second language (after Polish) so it's undoubtedly some sort of achievement, though for me therein lies the problem. I could never get onto his 'wavelength'. If his thoughts were lucid, and I can't argue that they weren't, then to my mind they didn't translate successfully into the written word. He's definitely another author who gets my mind wandering off to unrelated, more captivating, subjects - though I would like to have another bash at 'Hearts of Darkness' before it's too late.