nostrangerer (wrayb) wrote,

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bookish matters

I was thinking about doing the 5 books meme but my books are in piles or in storage, neither readily accessible, plus a list of 5 would be so arbitrary and vary week to week anyway. So instead I thought I would share my current reading.

April Fools day I worked in a building next to Argosy Book Store in Manhattan. They specialize in rare books and antique prints. In front they have some loss leaders for 1 to 3 dollars to draw folks into the store. I picked up a handful of books all over 50 years old. Two are by the editorial humorist Don Marquis who is mostly remembered for his Archy and Mehitabel writings which were illustrated by George Herriman. Those are fun in a nostalgic manner (I got Prefaces 1919 & The Old Soak 1921). The Old Soak is a series of anecdotes of an older gentleman nostalgic for the days before prohibition closed saloons.

I am currently reading a slim anthology called Orion published in the UK in 1945. Among the editors are C. Day Lewis and Edwin Muir. Today's gem is an essay on French writer George Bernanos (come on, I can't do all your googling for you). The Nepali and Bengali customers of New Grameen were only minorly disturbed by the white haired guy who was cackling over this passage:

Let us be quite frank and admit that an element of Bernanos's appeal to his reader is pornographic. Flagellation, transvestism, the seduction of fourteen-year-olds by middle-age rakes, the sadistic murder of pure girls of good family by proletarian debauchees who are foreigners and Peeping Toms into the bargain... these are the familiar ingredients of rubber-shop literature, with or without the shutters of the confessional, the priestly robe, the candle-lit study and the clouds of incense.

Let us also be scrupulously fair and admit that Bernanos is sparing of his incense. Perhaps no other Catholic write has so little of it blowing about his pages. Indeed, he rarely takes us inside a church at all. The candle-lit study, hall and passages of the presbytery are his favourite mise en scene. It is also as well to point out that the appeal of pornography is by no means a superficial one. The evil of pornography is like the evil of public oratory and lies in the fact that it appeals too directly and with insufficient control to the deepest instincts, and this is the level attached also by mythology.

The part that made me crack up was the parallel between public oratory and pornography. Made me think of how politics currently operates in this country with the speeches made for manipulation in total disregard for reality.

The writer was Rayner Heppenstall who is new to me. Googling I have learned that he is known mostly for having been beaten with a "shooting stick" by George Orwell and then writing about it. They were roomies. Heppenstall also wrote some "anti-novel" novels and is credited with the line: "We are all largely fictitious, even to ourselves."

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