I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books lately, a thing I do when I am busy and stressed. Because I am
thrifty lazy broke, I’ve been trawling for free recordings. These vary in quality (Girl with the Screechy Voice? I don’t know who told you a future in audiobooks was yours, but first paragraph made me howl like a scalded hound and stick my back leg in my ear). Some of them are pretty good.
The free stuff is all works fallen out of copyright, which is okay by me. I love last century’s fiction. It’s like biting a sugared lime: bracing, astringent and clean. None of this nuanced, morally ambiguous bullshit. And the sex is all one man, one woman, and happening off camera, thanks, where you don’t get anything on you.
I started with a very good version of Dr Syn (no link; it was a BBC Radio 7 production, and they don’t hang around long online). Then it was this good reading of Prisoner of Zenda, in handy 15-minute bites.
They were both young. They were both atheists, with a depressing fixity of outlook but great mobility of exposition. They were both pupils of the great Dr Hirsch, scientist, publicist and moralist.
M. Brun had become prominent by his proposal that the common expression “Adieu” should be obliterated from all the French classics, and a slight fine imposed for its use in private life. “Then,” he said, “the very name of your imagined God will have echoed for the last time in the ear of man.” M. Armagnac specialized rather in a resistance to militarism, and wished the chorus of the Marseillaise altered from “Aux armes, citoyens” to “Aux greves, citoyens”. But his antimilitarism was of a peculiar and Gallic sort. An eminent and very wealthy English Quaker, who had come to see him to arrange for the disarmament of the whole planet, was rather distressed by Armagnac’s proposal that (by way of beginning) the soldiers should shoot their officers.
And this was published in….? 1914. Before Vietnam? Before WWI!
Thus, the slow smoldering persistence of wicked ideas. So much of what we believe is a reaction to the Great Wars of the 20th C was well afoot before the century had even gotten a start. And yet, at nearly a hundred years old, is still regarded as new, modern, edgy and cool.
I’m too drunk to work it out. Someone throw a blanket over me, please.