Tuesday 21 October 2008
Just a little patience
I've been carrying this book around for a very long time - I'm guessing about 7 years now - and it's been making me feel incredibly guilty. The other night, though, in a fit of angry, insomnia-induced reading, I picked it up and I'm happy I did.
I have to say this book embodies something I miss about tomes written 80+ years ago: patience. Grahame doesn't hurry things too much; on the contrary, he lingers (dare I say it?) lovingly over the words, all of which are entirely apropos and well-placed.
Another thing: this was written back when kids' books authors weren't labouring under the current/North American assumption that sprogs are basically idiots. The words are big and the sentences very often display subordinate clauses. Crazy, I know. This book presupposes a readerly vocabulary I fear is much rarer these days than it was in 1908.
But about the story, or to be more precise, stories. The Wind in the Willows contains episodic tales of Rat, Mole, Badger, and Toad, some of which are connected and some of which are not. The stories about Toad tend to be connected and feature an early foray into the post-modern art of the intervention: Toad is addicted to driving, but he's a very bad driver, and so accidents and various other disasters invariably ensue. His friends try to cure him by locking him up in his house and watching him constantly until he gets it out of his system. Like any addict worth his salt, however, Toad escapes and engages in a really big driving binge which results in incarceration...but still, he's incorrigible! More hi jinx ensue but I won't reveal them here. Not-really-joking aside, the Toad stories are an interesting look at the privileges that come with class and the enabling by others that allows for.
Of the other stories, one in particular really stood out for me: "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn". This tale had a sort of a pre-Narnia magical Narnia feel to it, but was much better done than anything of C.S. Lewis's, I thought.
The Wind in the Willows was a nice book and the problem with nice books is that they're not so exciting. And not so exciting books don't make for exciting blog reviews. Nice books do, however, make for nice relaxing reading and I'm happy to have that right now, thank you very much. When I get to reading my fat Victorian novels I'm just going to be outraged at unfairness to women, children, and the lower classes all the time - so I'd better take my few and far between serenity reads while I can.