Now THIS Means War

Okay, now it’s time for the pikes to be sharpened:

The light-hearted escapades of Jeeves and Wooster have become the latest victims of the seemingly relentless march of literature’s word police. 
PG Wodehouse’s books on the pair’s aristocratic misadventures have been identified as having what the publishers describe as ‘unacceptable’ prose. 
The comic novels have had passages cut or reworked for new editions by Penguin Random House, as well as trigger warnings added to warn readers of ‘outdated’ themes.

If any body of literature can be classified as “completely harmless”, that would be the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse, quite possibly the world’s greatest-ever humorist.

In fact, the only group of people who could lay claim to being offended by Wodehouse’s writings would be the British aristocracy, whom P.G. universally skewers on the point of his razor-sharp wit.  And they wouldn’t, because as one toff reportedly said, “Every single character in Wodehouse resembles a member of my family”.

But let us not giggle, because there is serious work to be done…


One Or The Other

If it’s not Gummint fucking us over, it’s Gummint Lite ( and its suppliers:

Owners of Roald Dahl ebooks are having their libraries automatically updated with the new censored versions containing hundreds of changes to language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race. Readers who bought electronic versions of the writer’s books, such as Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, before the controversial updates have discovered their copies have now been changed.

Puffin Books, the company which publishes Dahl novels, updated the electronic novels, in which Augustus Gloop is no longer described as fat or Mrs Twit as fearfully ugly, on devices such as the Amazon Kindle.

Dahl’s biographer Matthew Dennison last night accused the publisher of “strong-arming readers into accepting a new orthodoxy in which Dahl himself has played no part.”

I think it’s the “automatically” part that gets to me — even though I don’t have Kindle or any ebooks.

Thanks but no thanks. Paper, Dead Tree, whatever you want to call it, are mine, all mine. As for Kindle: turning them into “kindling” would be my suggestion.

Four Down, Six To Go

Okay, maybe three and seven out of the ten listed.  (I read Undaunted Courage, about the Lewis & Clark expedition, not Lewis’s account, but that should count for something.)

Of the others, Storm of Steel  impressed me the most.  Ernst Jünger must be the greatest soldier who ever lived, if for no other reason that he survived all four years of WWI in the trenches of the Western Front, not as some staff flunky or quartermaster’s orderly, but as a front-line rifleman.  And not a whiny little brat like Remarque‘s Paul, either:  just a man of steel — which could have been the title of his book, come to think of it.

I’ve been wanting to read Last Train  for years, but just never got around to it.  Ditto Death Company, if for no other reason than to fill in the many gaps of my knowledge of the Italian Front.  Both duly ordered.

I’ll get after the rest in due course — it’s an excellent list, so thanks to the folks at Intellectual Takeout  for that.  (If they aren’t on your list of daily reads, fix that now.)

Reading Recommendation

Out of pure curiosity, I recently picked up a second-hand copy of J.K.Rowling’s (non-fantasy) novel, The Casual Vacancy.

What a delight.

The story involves an enormous cast of characters getting involved in a fairly mundane matter — the filling of a vacant town council seat — and its profound and often tragic consequences for the people of the town.  It’s not an easy read — Rowling writes in the Russian style, where characters are introduced and never again explained — but it is very well written.

This is also a novel for grownups and not a Harry Potter book.  It’s a searing and bleak sketch of modern British small-town life, and I can recommend it wholeheartedly to any of my Readers (especially of the Brit genus ) who want a decent few hours’ entertainment.

I’m definitely going to read it again, in the not-so distant future.  Thanks, J.K.

Desert Island Authors

Continuing the series on stuff I’d take to a desert island (see here for Guns, and here for Dames), let me remind you first of the island:

And now to the main topic.

Usually, the “Desert Island” series consists of only five items (e.g. 5 songs/discs), but there is no way on Earth that I could survive with only five books.  Recently, I have noted that such questions now allow compendia — e.g. the Sharpe’s Rifles series or the Hornblower series, and so on.

So now I’m broadening the scope, so to speak, to allow myself to take the complete works of five fiction authors onto that desert island.  They are, in no specific order:

  • Ian Fleming
  • William Shakespeare
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • P.G. Wodehouse
  • John Sandford*

*unlike the others, Sandford is still alive and writing, so I’d get at least one new novel every year, to keep things fresh.

I have other favorite authors, of course (Hugo, Dumas, Higgins, Follett and Ruark, for example), but unlike those listed, I don’t like everything they’ve written, whereas the above five are consistently good.

As for the five non-fiction authors, that’s a lot easier:

  • Paul Johnson
  • Victor Davis Hanson
  • John Keegan
  • Jacques Barzun
  • Thomas Sowell

Four historians and an economist.

Your own choices in Comments.

Good Man Down

I see that novelist Wilbur Smith has died aged 88, and I have to mourn one of the world’s great storytellers.

Longtime Readers will recall that when anyone asks me to recommend books about South Africa, I recommend Wilbur Smith’s Courtney trilogy  (When The Lion Feeds, The Sound Of Thunder and A Sparrow Falls ) as the best of the bunch (along with Stuart Cloete’s Rags Of Glory, for the Boer War).

Having read almost all Smith’s Africa novels, I have to say that after a while the stories become somewhat formulaic — but that does not take away from their wonderful pacing, excellent settings and gripping conclusions.  In fact, it says quite a lot that I, knowing all that, still have read and continue to read his books as soon as they appear on the (digital) shelves.  In other words, even though I pretty much know what’s going to happen within the first few chapters, I still continue to read because at all times, I learn stuff about the location(s) of the stories and their characters.

Sooon there’ll be no more Wilbur Smith novels, and I have to say, a little joy has gone out of my reading world.