Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Enoch to the Max

I haven't posted for a few days, and for a number of reasons which you can be assured that I will not spare you here. One is that I have been quite busy. (Confidential agents with packets of secret dispatches, dangerous ladies with concealed motives in fetching disguises (both the ladies and the motives), shadowy figures leaving notes pinned with jewel-encrusted daggers to desktops, intricate webs of criminal activity gone unnoticed in the hurly-burly of modern life, grocery shopping, and so on. Those who know me can fill in the blanks. Those who do not can wonder why they never noticed the blanks before this.) Another is that I have had nothing to say. This, one might object, would come as something of a surprise to those to whom I have said it. Point granted. A third is the vast outpouring of inquiring e-mail, of which more in due course. (Those who have written -- and eloquently, too! -- can rest assured that I will read them with all due patience and care, and endeavor to send the proper replies to the right letters. Unlike last time, something we will not dwell on.)

I haven't posted concerning The Incomparable Max, and may never do so. The very notion of writing about literature sets the blood pounding in my temples (yes, I have temples, though the upkeep is extravagant), due to the few misguided years I spent taking courses in English literature as an undergraduate many years ago. But I've come upon a very amusing piece about Max and the Enoch Soames connection, and this is the first paragraph:

WE ALL HAVE FAVORITE BOOKSHOPS, and one of mine is in London. It's crammed with books, both new and secondhand, in tidy piles upstairs and in more enticingly untidy ones downstairs. It's a great place to wedge yourself in a corner and see what you find. A few years ago, I had already turned up a copy of The Wallet of Kai Lung (one of Lord Peter Wimsey's favorites for whiling away an idle hour on a punt), some light verse by Evoe, an H. Rider Haggard novel I'd never even heard of, a pile of Dornford Yates, and a prayer book for children from the 1930s ("Please God bless Mummy, Daddy, my brothers and sisters, Nanny, and all my dear friends"). Thinking I should really try to be more serious-minded, or at least up to date, I turned to a table of new books and had to catch my breath. For there amongst the new glossy art books and fat biographies was a matte orange book, elegantly square, with a spidery pen-and-ink portrait-a Beardsley?-with a name I'd never thought to see: Enoch Soames.

This is from The Hudson Review, and can -- should -- be read in its entirety here. I long ago gave up reading any journal whose name ended in the word "review," which has unfortunate associations with school days, the working life, and pointless drilling in the Crimean sun. Also because the word "review" in a magazine title is a flashing alarm to the vaguely alert reader that the contents are criminally dull, fatuously portentous, and stupid, stupid, stupid. But, perhaps due to an editorial error, that is not the case with this article. I found out about the piece at Charlock's Shade, who apparently noticed it first, though it seems to have taken him a few years, so he can't be awfully enthusiastic about reading through "reviews," either. C.S. is a very fine blogsite, and although books (good ones!) are reviewed there, we won't consider it a "review" unless it becomes very gasbaggy. I'm fairly certain that whoever edits it is not the real Enoch Soames, at least until someone presents incontrovertible proof to the contrary, at which time I will be less than fairly certain, although that day may never come.

For those poor souls unfamiliar with Max, many of his fine works, including the immortal Zuleika Dobson and his trenchant essay "Enoch Soames," can be read by clicking on the permanent link at the top right of this site. Do it; I don't think you're likely to find anything better to read anytime soon, perhaps ever. I'll throw in a knit brow and a measured qualification of that last statement sometime, when I'm feeling subtle.