So cleverly and wittily are the stories told that we sense we belong in the charmed café society of post-1918 Britain, and life seems, as Ernest Jones says in his critical introduction, "a Nirvana in which homosexuals are the ultimate chic and in which... almost everyone turns out to be at least bi-sexual." In Vainglory, Mrs. Shamefoot, who "almost compels a tear," embraceSo cleverly and wittily are the stories told that we sense we belong in the charmed café society of post-1918 Britain, and life seems, as Ernest Jones says in his critical introduction, "a Nirvana in which homosexuals are the ultimate chic and in which... almost everyone turns out to be at least bi-sexual." In Vainglory, Mrs. Shamefoot, who "almost compels a tear," embraces the quest for a cathedral stained-glass window "that should be a miracle of violet glass." In Inclinations, Miss Brookomore, filled with longing for her companion, the "sunny" Miss Mabel Collins, travels to Greece where Mabel, rather treacherously, acquires a husband and baby. And in Caprice, Miss Sinquier flees her rural parents and the comfort of her black slippers ("all over little pearls with filigree butterflies that trembled above her toes") to pursue an acting career in bohemian London. To quote Mrs. Shamefoot describing a novelist clearly meant to be Firbank: “He has such a strange, peculiar style. His work calls to mind a frieze with figures of varying heights trotting all the same way. If one should by chance turn about it’s usually merely to stare or to sneer or to make a grimace. Only occasionally his figures care to beckon. And they seldom really touch." Originally published in 1951, Three More Novels by Ronald Firbank is now reissued as a New Directions Paperbook....
|Title||:||Three More Novels: Vainglory, Inclinations, Caprice|
|Number of Pages||:||431 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Three More Novels: Vainglory, Inclinations, Caprice Reviews
ChronologyIntroductionFurther ReadingA Note on the Texts--Vainglory--Inclinations--CapriceAppendix 1: Variants in the 1915 Edition of 'Vainglory'Appendix 2: Part II, Chapter IV, of the 1916 Edition of 'Inclinations'Appendix 3: 'Ronald Firbank' (1936) by E. M. Forster
Reading Ronald Firbank, a good writer once told me, was like opening up a jewel box. Gazing over it's sundry contents - which, if I am to elaborate- would be of uncommon assortment and wonder! Precious stones of clashing colours, possibly on christian relics inset, tiny golden Byzantine feet charms, Ancient Greek (Sappho's maid's broach?) bits, Renaissance Venetian death-lace, a tarnish cow-bell, etc., etc., etc! The Firbank wavelength is about the pleasure and the that exact moment of reading - nothing adds up or comes together in the end out of all that has been spilled in the course of these short novels. No character is really too defined, each of them are almost interchangeable vehicles for whips of amazing dialogue. Mistake this not as vacant writing - it is not! Taken as a whole it may seem like total surface, but each line, when almost on it's own, bubbles with a strange giddy-making profundity. A page of Firbank equals a pile of Proust.
Uncommon writer - builds plot and characters through conversation. Offers a spectacularly vivid picture of the English upper class: their mannerisms, fripperies and eccentricities. And a hero and model for the intellectual gay man both then and now (nb Stephen Fry's Moab is My Washpot) and influenced Waugh and Forster amongst others. Modernist, pre-Woolf and Joyce. I enjoyed these stories the most of all his novels as they were easy to read and relatively easy to follow. And funny, in a savage, satirical way.
What amount of stars do I have to give it in order to convey that while I didn't exactly like it, I also definitely didn't Not like it? The thing about Firbank is that I don't understand what the thing about Firbank is. I wanted to like him; in fact I wanted to Love him. I wanted to love him because everything I've read about the man himself made me wish I'd been alive back then to have a chat with him, maybe lift his spirits a bit in the process, I wanted to love him because he was at least to some extent influenced by Oscar Wilde - whom I happen to admire immensely - and because, while reading Vainglory, I found underneath all the seemingly nonsensical rubble bits and piece of absolute brilliance. Last but not least, I wanted to like him because Richard Canning's introduction to this book probably deserves some sort of literary award on its own; it's always a pleasure to witness someone speaking candidly and passionately about what they love, and Mr. Canning admires Firbank's oeuvre with such unabashed intensity it makes one wish they could feel the same way. I sense there's so much potential in this one tiny novel; I feel almost guilty for not being able to unearth it all in one read. I plan on re-reading this book again in the hopefully not-so-distant future, and I trust that Firbank's writing is an acquired taste, and that once my taste buds get used to the novelty of it all, they'll find themselves craving more. Also, I want my own window.
Another book bought for me by my supervisor, though it had been previously recommended to me by certain extracted quotes that made it seem an appealing read, as well as by mentions of it in The Swimming-Pool Library. But I really struggled with the writing. I feel like I only half-heard anything and kept losing my attentiveness, which is what all the characters are doing to each other when anyone talks but which is also something I don't really go in for when I'm reading. And the back says that Auden and Forster and Waugh adored Firbank and sets it up as if to not like his work is to be a fake Forster fan or something, which I rather resent. Greg wanted to buy me Valmouth, I think, or The Flower Beneath the Foot: Being a Record of the Early Life of St. Laura de Nazianzi, but they couldn't be found.Maybe I was reading it all wrong, but it was simply something I couldn't properly enjoy however much I tried.
It started badly for me in mid-conversation between two characters, taking quite a few paragraphs to unfold and make sense of what is going on in the story (actually very little). This is one of my least-favorite literary devices, but what really didn't work for me as a reader is a lack of cultural and historical context. American English is my second language and I found myself at sea trying to figure out many little bits and pieces which I'm sure are supposed to be funny but made no sense whatsoever. I am sure it must be charming for native British readers but from an outsider point of view it reminds me of, say, a Mannerist derivative little master whose work might be significant for a historian studying the period, but doesn't transcend its social milieu for later viewers/readers.
[Reading in THE COMPLETE RONALD FIRBANK, Duckworth 1961]So many characters, and at least to a 21c American, so much obscurity.If we must find a plot, it is Mrs Shamefoot's wrangling for a commemorative stained glass window in the Anglican cathedral at Ashringford. According to Anthony Powell's Introduction, "Mr Harvester" is Firbank himself. See pp 82, 89, 199A few representative lines:"Somehow, some people are so utterly of this world that one cannot conceive of them being grafted into any other." (146)“Nobody denies her her taste in flowers,” Mrs Pontypool exclaimed. “Though from her dress one wouldn’t perhaps take her to be a Christian.” (160)"I'd give such *worlds* to be a widow," Miss Pontypool declared. (166)
What to make of Ronald Firbank? I still don't know. Perhaps that's his charm. Be prepared for an onslaught of almost (but not quite) purple prose and improbable flights of fancy. There's no one else like him.
Purple and lavendar are to mild of words to describe Firbank, yet it's hard not to appreciate the charms of this sometimes too precious author.