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.