Archive for the ‘Anthology’ Category

When the Going was Good by Evelyn Waugh ~ 1946. This edition: The Reprint Society, London, 1948. Hardcover. 314 pages.

My rating: 7.5/10. Held my interest throughout.

I’m not even sure where I picked this one up – it appeared in a stack of books gathered in this summer’s travels through B.C. I’m thinking either Kamloops or Vernon, though there is no price and bookseller code marked anywhere on the flyleaf. Possibly from the Sally Ann or a similar charity shop? No matter what it’s provenance, I’m most glad I’ve added it to my private collection. A most enjoyable read, consumed in goodly portions each evening for the last week just before closing my eyes.

*****

From the inner dustjacket:

About this book

It comprises all that the author wishes to preserve of the four travel books he wrote between 1929 and 1935: Labels, Remote People, Ninety-Two Days, and Waugh in Abyssinia. “These four books,” he writes, “here in fragments reprinted, were the record of certain journeys, chosen for no better reason than I needed money at the time of their completion; they were pedestrian, day-to-day accounts of things seen and people met, interspersed with commonplace information and some rather callow comments. In cutting them to their present shape, I have sought to leave a purely personal narrative in the hope there still lingers round it some traces of vernal scent … I never aspired to be a great traveller, I was simply a young man, typical of my age; we travelled as a matter of course. I rejoice that I went when the going was good.”

It’s vintage Waugh, and it’s well-written, the author’s disclaimers aside. Some of it is excellent; it’s all very readable, and it made me brush up on my history; Waugh was of course writing for a contemporary audience, and though I was pleased to realize his references were easy to place, I was quite vague on the details.

Here are the contents:

Preface

From 1928 until 1937 I had no fixed home and no possessions which would not conveniently go on a porter’s barrow. I travelled continuously, in England and abroad… We have most of us marched and made camp since then, gone hungry and thirsty, lived where pistols are flourished and fired. At that time it seemed like an ordeal, an initiation to manhood…”

Chapter One: A Pleasure Cruise in 1929 (From Labels) – London, Paris, Monte Carlo, Naples, Catania, Haifa, Cana (Galilee), Port Said, Cairo, Malta, Crete, Constantinople, Athens, Corfu, Gibraltar, Seville.

Chapter Two: A Coronation in 1930 (From Remote Peoples) – The coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Ras Tafari at Addis Ababa.

Chapter Three: Globe-Trotting in 1930-1 (From Remote Peoples) – Zanzibar, the Congo, Aden, Kenya (Nairobi, the Rift Valley), Tanganyika, Cape Town.

Chapter Four: A Journey to Brazil in 1932 (From Ninety-two Days) – Guiana and Brazil.

Chapter Five: A War in 1935 (From Waugh in Abyssinia) – The Italian invasion of Abyssinia, from a war correspondent’s perspective. Farce versus bloodshed.

*****

If you happen across this little account in your own travels, it is worth the time to read, especially if you are already a Waugh convert.

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Stories to Remember, Volumes I & II, selected by Thomas B. Costain & John Beecroft ~ 1956. This edition: Doubleday, 1956. Hardcover. Volume I – 409 pages. Volume II – 504 pages.

My rating: 10/10. Excellent anthologies; something for everyone.

I have read the companion Stories to Remember  volumes many times over the years. This anthology was purchased new by my mother in 1956, likely through her long-time Doubleday Book Club involvement, and was some of the first “adult” material I dipped into as I expanded my childhood reading horizons. I still have the original books, and now my own family, adults & teens, re-read and enjoy them. And yes, I remember most, if not all, of the selections with deep fondness!

Looking at this collection with a critical eye 56 years after its publication, I fully suspect that some of the selections might no longer appeal to the average modern audience – would a typical 2012 teenager even “get”, or more to the point, even want to “get” many of the societal and historical references in Alexandre Dumas’ Man Who Lived Four Thousand Years, or Maugham’s Lord Mountdrago? –  but there is enough good stuff in here to keep any reader engaged for quite some time, even if one cherry-picks their way through the collection. Overall, an interesting vintage read containing a number of familiar authors & stories, as well as an introduction (or a remembrance?) of several writers now fallen out of public notice.

I have seen these volumes numerous times in 2nd hand bookshops, generally priced very reasonably. Worth picking up for dipping into, and for leaving on the guest room nightstand, if your guests are the type to appreciate a non-electronic reading experience.

The double-column format and smallish print takes a bit of adjustment on the part of the reader; it appears that the publisher tried to squeeze as much text as possible onto each page to limit the ultimate length of the book while still providing generous content. Occasional nicely rendered realistic line drawings throughout are an attractive feature.

A nice balance of dramatic, humorous and “darker” stories; not at all a depressing collection, which cannot be said for many other short story anthologies of more recent vintage!

Volume I

  • The General’s Ring (complete novel) – Selma Lagerlöf, 1925Written by the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1909. This is the first installment in a trilogy concerning a ring given to General Bengt Löwensköld by King Karl VIII of Sweden. After requesting that the very valuable ring be buried with him, it is soon discovered that the ring has been stolen from the General’s grave, with tragic consequences to everyone who subsequently comes in contact with it. A morality tale, a ghost story, and at least one love story make up this intriguing and well-paced novella, set in eighteenth century Sweden.
  • Mowgli’s Brothers Rudyard Kipling, 1894From The Jungle Book. A lost woodcutter’s child is adopted by a wolf family in the Indian jungle.
  • The Gift of the Magi O. Henry, 1906. Most of us will remember this one, stock story of countless anthologies! Della and Jim both sell the thing they love best to buy the perfect Christmas present for each other.
  • Lord Mountdrago W. Somerset Maugham, 1939. Lord Mountdrago consults a psychiatrist to help him deal with disturbing dreams. But are they really just dreams, or is something much more sinister going on?
  • Music on the Muscatatuck and The Pacing Goose (excerpts from The Friendly Persuasion) – Jessamyn West, 1945. Quietly humorous stories concerning Quaker fruit tree nurseryman Jess Birdwell and his Quaker minister wife Eliza.
  • The BirdsDaphne du Maurier, 1952. What if all the birds in the world banded together to revenge themselves on humans for the harm done to their kind throughout their shared history? Chilling. 
  • The Man Who Lived Four Thousand Years (excerpt from The Queen’s Necklace) – Alexandre Dumas, 1850. Count Cagliostro, who claims to have lived four thousand years, predicts the “unbelievable” futures of a group of royals and nobles gathered to dine with Maréchal de Richelieu in 1784.
  • The Pope’s Mule Alphonse Daudet, c. 1894. The humorous fable of a good Pope’s pampered mule, who gets her revenge on a tormentor after seven years’ patient waiting.
  •  The Story of the Late Mr. ElveshamH.G. Wells, c. 1911. The sinister Mr. Elvesham seeks immortality by continually switching bodies. 
  • The Blue CrossG.K. Chesterton, 1938. Clever but often underestimated Father Brown brings a jewel thief to justice. 
  • Portrait of Jennie (complete novel) – Robert Nathan, 1940. A struggling young artist encounters and adopts as a muse a mysterious girl who apparently has been travelling through time.  A ghostly love story.
  • La Grande Bretêche Honoré de Balzac, c. 1831. A convoluted telling of the tragedy of a grand old ruined house and its history regarding a Spanish nobleman, a jealous husband and a betraying wife.
  • Love’s ConundrumAnthony Hope, 1899. An ironically humorous, very short story concerning a self-absorbed scholar who completely misunderstands a confession of love and proposal of marriage.
  • The Great Stone FaceNathaniel Hawthorne, 1889. A young boy, inspired by a legend concerning a cliff resembling a strong human profile, waits his entire life for the human embodiment of the noble edifice to appear. It does, but in a way he has not suspected. (The Great Stone Face was an actual New Hampshire rock formation, known widely as “The Old Man of the Mountain” until its collapse in 2003. This story is one of the more dated tales in this anthology, though it is classic Hawthorne and enjoyable as such.)
  • GermelshausenFriedrich Gerstäcker, c. 1850. A wandering artist stumbles into a remote German village, the cursed Germelshausen; doomed to sink beneath the earth for eternity, only to arise for one day in each century. (This is one of my personal favourites in this anthology.) This story has been credited as the inspiration for the musical Brigadoon, though the setting in that case was changed to Scotland.
  • I am Born (excerpt from David Copperfield) – Charles Dickens, 1850. The title character describes his coming into the world. Irresistable – your next step will be to read the whole novel.
  • The Legend of Sleepy HollowWashington Irving, 1820. Itinerant schoolmaster Ichabod Crane sets his romantic sights on the lovely Katrina and meets a harsh fate for his folly in aiming too high.
  • The Age of MiraclesMelville Davisson Post, 1918. Injustice and retribution. A wronged heiress, a sudden death, and a clever onlooker who sorts it all out.
  • The Long Rifle (excerpt from The Long Rifle, a novel) – Stewart Edward White, 1932. Fictionalized account of the life of the legendary Daniel Boone.
  • The Fall of the House of UsherEdgar Allan Poe, 1939. A gothic horror tale. Roderick Usher and his sister Madeleine are the last of their family; they fulfill a prophecy which predicts their dramatic demise.
  • The Voice of Bugle Ann (complete novel) – MacKinlay Kantor, 1935A very short novella set in contemporary Missouri about an unjust conviction for murder and its surprising resolution. Fox hounds feature strongly.  

Volume II

  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey (complete novel) – Thornton Wilder, 1928. A suspension bridge in the Peruvian Andes gives way, sending a group of travellers to their demise. Who were they, and what chances of fate led them to their rendezvous with death at San Luis Rey? Excellent story.
  • Basquerie – Eleanor Mercein Kelly, 1927.   A lovely, not-so-young American girl in Europe must decide between love and (possibly?) a more financially wise match. This author is worth further investigation.
  • JudithA.E. Coppard, 1927. Aristocratic Judith meets  and dallies with a handsome young schoolmaster, to his eventual tragic downfall.
  • A Mother in Mannville – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, 1936. Touchingly poignant short story about an orphan boy and his integrity and pride.
  • Kerfol Edith Wharton, 1916. The tragic tale of a jealous French nobleman and his faithless wife. Supernatural elements – something of a ghost story.
  • The Last LeafO. Henry, 1905. Platonic love among a group of artists. Touching nd memorable.
  • The Bloodhound Arthur Train, 1923. Shrewd New York lawyer Mr. Tutt defends a client. Badly dated, one of the less memorable stories in this collection.
  • What the Old Man Does is Always RightHans Christian Andersen, 1861. Clever Danish peasants get the better of a condescending Englishman.
  • The Sea of Grass (complete novel) – Conrad Richter, 1936. Feuding between cattlemen and incoming small farmers in New Mexico at the turn of the century. Told from the point of view of the nephew of one of the most outspoken cattlemen, and with a crucial role played by Lutie Cameron, newly arrived from St. Louis to marry into the cattle-baron hierarchy.
  • The Sire de Malétroit’s Door Robert Louis Stevenson, 1877. In cavalier France of 1429, a case of mistaken identity and the equivalent of a shotgun wedding. Vintage Stevenson.
  • The NecklaceGuy de Maupassant, 1884. Vanity and social ambition lead to a young French couple’s downfall. An ironic small masterpiece of a story.
  • By the Waters of BabylonStephen Vincent Benet, 1937. Post-apocalyptic America seen through the eyes of a young man on a quest. A “rebirth of civilization” theme; definitely a precursor to the many similar stories which are hitting high popularity today.
  • A.V. Laider – Max Beerbohm, 1920. A palm-reader forsees the death of four friends, but chooses not to warn them. Or at least that’s his story… Nicely done! 
  • The Pillar of FirePercival Wilde, 1925. A clever method of cheating at cards is discovered and nipped in the bud. A bit rambling.
  • The Strange Will (excerpt from The Man With the Broken Ear) – Edmond About, 1862. The rather macabre tale of bringing a mummified murdered man back to life.
  • The Hand at the Window (excerpt from Wuthering Heights)- Emily Brontë, 1847. A short, decidedly gothic episode from the novel.
  • “National Velvet” (complete novel) – Enid Bagnold, 1935. 14-year-old Velvet Brown wins a horse in a raffle and decides to race him in the Grand National steeplechase. Beautifully written portrait of family life; the horses play second string to the human relationships. Excellent.

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