I’m not stout, I just a have a chest, that’s all

October 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Forsyte Saga, read by Fred Williams:  I could never have written anything even remotely close to this:  the characterization of people through tiny details of metaphoric description:  “square eyes”, “Swithine rotated his chin inside his stand up collar”, “James wound up his long long legs under the table”, “at 72, Anne had never looked better”; Swithin:  “Stout!  Stout!  It’s vulgar to be stout!  I’m not stout, I just a have a chest, that’s all”: I just don’t notice people that much.

Nor could I ever hope to read it like Fred Williams does: Old Jolyon’s voice actually does quiver where the text says to; Young Jolyon sounds just the tiniest bit angry on the word “debt” — just as the text then goes on to indicate.  Everyone has his own voice, and , of course, absolutely everyone has his own way of mispronouncing Bossiney Bosinney’s name.  Fred Williams is a genius and I have listened to this recording for over 20 years.

The story delights mainly on account of her old people:  they are nasty, mean buggerers, but one forgives that sort of thing in old folk; it’s cute of them to be mean; it’s funny.  (Perhaps because they are impotent).  The story itself is god-awful, if well — even very well — told.  The figure of Irene is a bloody bore, she’s as dull as a planter; and all those men who find her irresistibly attractive puzzle me, too.  Her description as Young Jolyon sees her for the first time (on a bench in a park) seems precisely the sort of woman I’d never take a second look at.  They must all be bores.  (Why, they are!)

I’m not too fond of the Victorian poetry of the language, either — the marvelous London sky full of human hopes and suffering and all.  Galsworthy’s sailing pal, Sir Joe, was better at that sort of thing.  And small wonder:  it’s the Poles who keep getting Nobel prize in poetry, not the English.


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