|Five Short Pieces
||[Feb. 2nd, 2010|11:52 am]
Life's Handicap is a bit of a rag-bag. Later collections are meticulously organised, but here Kipling has just bundled together whatever he had available at the time. The more substantial pieces are placed at the front, the scrappy, little anecdotes- originally written to fill empty columns in some newspaper or other- bring up the rear. |
"Namgay Doola" is a joke at the expense of the Irish. If I were Irish myself my reaction would be, "patronising English git".
"The Lang Men o' Larut" may be the most pointless thing Kipling ever wrote.
With "Bertran and Bimi" we're on a steamer travelling round the Malay peninsula. Hans Breitmann, the orchid collector, tells us a gruesome tale in his funny German accent- and incidentally utters the glorious phrase- which I repeat to myself whenever I'm faced with loud and bumptious people- "you haf too much Ego in your Cosmos".
"Reingelder and the German Flag" is another tale from Hans Breitmann, similarly gruesome. The German flag is a species of poisonous snake.
"The Wandering Jew" deals with a rich man in the grip of a crazy obsession. It makes me think of Howard Hughes. Incidentally, the man is not a Jew- and by the end of the story he no longer wanders. It's a prime example of how much power Kipling could pack into four pages when his daemon was upon him.
Yeah, when you started quoting from the first of the stories which had a phonetically spelled Irish accent all the way through, you lost me at that point. I decided I wasn't all that bothered with Kipling after all!
It's an obstacle one has to surmount. Whenever he's giving us speech that's not standard English he reaches for the phonetics. At the time it was probably quite daring and avant-garde. I've read that his Yorkshire- which he got his dad to check for him- is accurate, but that his Irish is all over the map.
I sometimes think we'd be doing him a favour if we reprinted his stories without the funny spelling. I'm sure it puts a lot of people off.
Didn't help that I'm Irish - I can see why people who are prone to being stereotyped just don't engage further after that. Yeah he was a man of his times, but once you know the dissolute lifestyle, the indiscipline and bottle of booze are on their way (and 9 times out of 10 they are) it's...well...zzzzzz.
That said a whole extended piece of fiction written in the manner of Wuthering Heights Joseph would not appeal to me either. Of course I don't like the character either.
He seems to have had a thing about the Irish at this point in his career. I've no idea why. I guess Home Rule was in the air- and it made him nervous- or something like that.
That said, Mulvaney- the soldier who crops up in a number of these stories- starts out as a stage Irishman, then turns into something rather more interesting- a guy who's hiding his pain- which is considerable- behind a stage Irish persona.