Monday, July 22, 2013

The English, they are a funny race

I've been reading three Englishmen in recent days, and, without purporting to analyze English character, I will say that each of these examples shows considerable wit, and that the wit cuts deeper than mere jokes.

The first is from a short story by Michael Gilbert:
"Mr. Behrens said, raising his voice a little, `If I were to lift my right hand a very well-trained dog, who has been approaching you quietly from the rear while we were talking, would have jumped for your throat.' 
 "The colonel smiled. `Your imagination does you credit. What happens if you lift your left hand? Does a genie appear from a bottle and carry me off?' 
"`If I raise my left hand,' said Mr. Behrens, `you will be shot dead.'  
 "And so saying, he raised it."
— "The Road to Damascus" 
The second is from a novel by John Lawton:
 "Interned, released, enlisted, trained and promoted all in less than three months. The insignia of rank barely tacked onto his sleeve. If the next promotion were as swift as the first he’d be a Flight Lieutenant by the end of the month. This had baffled Rod. He had tried to explain it to his father some time ago. ‘I said the obvious thing. “Are you sure I’m ready for this?” Sort of expecting the genial “Of course, old chap” by way of answer – and they said “Ready? Of course you’re not ready. Ready’s got bugger all to do with it. You’re thirty-three, man, you’ve held a pilot’s licence for ten years. We need people who can fly, people who can command a bit of authority, people who might look as though they know what they’re doing even if they don’t. You couldn’t grow a moustache, could you?’” 
Bluffing Mr. Churchill 
The third is from a poem by Philip Larkin:
"Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout
Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff
That dreams are made on:"
— "Toads" 
Aren't those fun?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Dana King said...

I find myself watching and reading more British stuff all the time. As these examples show, whether it's humor or violence, or plot, the Brits seem to be willing to let the audience "get" it, and not beat us over the head to be sure we do. The deft, light, touch is far more entertaining.

July 22, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thing is, this convergence of English writing is a coincidence. I didn't decide to read something English, it just happened, and I noticed certain qualities these examples happened to possess.

Of course, I'm sure there are dopey English writers, too. I just happened to choose three of the most intelligent of the bunch.

July 22, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Now I'll go look at your blog and see if I can dig up these Englishmen you've been reading.

July 22, 2013  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...


Larkin is like a cold shower of truth. With jokes.

Try Vers De Societe or This Be The Verse...both excellent and very funny.

July 23, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That sounds about right. That leap from resignation to jokes in "Toads," with just the barest stop at the self-reproach that I think other writers might have spent more time on, is wonderful.

July 23, 2013  

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