These days I prefer to dip, so my preference is for Saki. The Chronicles Of Clovis, or better yet, Beasts and Super-Beasts; I revel in his macabre whimsey and timeless prose. Wonderful stuff!
Oh, yes, I remember Saki! Such a dark, vicious humour underpinning his stories, and very well observed. Nightmare stuff in places, too - I remember being terrified by “Sredni Vashtar” even though I can’t actually remember what the story is about. (I’m useless at character names, book titles etc, so it’s quite interesting that I can remember the name of this particular scary thing - must have unsettled me quite a lot.)
Must dig Saki out of my bookcase…
Oh, yes. And The Storyteller, about the nauseating little girl who’s won medals for being very very good, and gets eaten by the wolf. As one of the small listeners remarks: ‘The story began badly, but it had a beautiful ending.’
Still makes me smile. Thanks for reminding me.
I’m a great Saki fan. I love “The Mouse”, the one of the bloke on the train who finds he has a mouse inside his clothes, and also enjoy “Mrs Packeltide’s Tiger”.
Many are very black humour, but beautifully written. They are more gentle, but with a lovely twist to them.
H.H. Munro. Yep, absolutely love him. “Saki” is such a great name, too - “Sarcy” (sarcastic) as we used to say in the Midlands. There was a great program on BBC4 about his life a couple of weeks ago, too.
Saki is always on my bedside table, in case I want my tastes for recreational vituperation refreshed with sentences like, “freshwater fish and abnormal vegetables enjoy an afterlife in which growth is not arrested.”
You just can’t top that, or can you?
Now the Packletide has been rather decent to me in many ways, a sort of financial ambulance, you know, that carries you off the field when you’re hard hit, which is a frequent occurrence with me, and I’ve no use whatever for Loona Bimberton, so I chipped in and said I could turn out that sort of stuff by the square yard if I gave my mind to it.
Wnhy did someone have to raise Saki? I have worshipped at his altar since I was about six or seven (although I didn’t fully appreciate his genius then). I lost sight of Saki and read a lot of P G Wodehouse through my teens and enjoyed him immensely. Then in my late teens I came across Beasts and Superbeasts again. In the absence of Saki, Wodehouse looked looked subtle and funny as he took apart the aristocracy; next to Saki’s silky skills, Wodehouse looked like a hacker trying to chop down a tree with a four iron.
I enjoy both now, but there is nobody who compares with Saki in full flood. I love the notion of the train traveller telling an unsuitable story, of the painter making a sensation at the Academy with his “Bull in a Boudoir” (or whatever it was) and “Barbary Apes Wrecking a Boudoir” (I have actually seen pictures of this nature from that period since). And the Munchhausen on the train with his drab life. And I have been known to cry with laughter at the 20th (or was it the 30th) reading of the story about the otter.
That said, there are certain Saki stories which I simply cannot read. They are those in which Saki shows himself as a subscriber to the sexism and racism of the day. I would have hoped he saw through those positions as he did see through the blatant nonsense of so much of the other snobbery and affectation of the aristocracy.
Yep, love Saki. There was a great Channel 4 program on about him not long ago, too… I remember reading him in my 20s and being surprised at how funny, fresh and sharp-tongued his stories still seemed. I haven’t read him for a few years, though; I may have to re-read.
If you enjoy Saki, you might also enjoy John Collier, an English writer from a later period with the same kind of epigrammatic style and subliminally violent wit. Not as sophisticated or polished, of course, but very satisfying when you wish to laugh at human folly.