1 EAGLETON NOTES: Cold Comfort Farm



Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Cold Comfort Farm

When I started to read Cold Comfort Farm I didn't know what to expect even though I'd read CJ's posting on A Book Every Six Days which, by the way, I would suggest that you read before you venture further with this paragraph. It was that posting that made me take the book off my shelf and read it. Anyway whatever it was I might have expected I certainly would never have expected what I found.

It is supposed to be a comedy. It didn't amuse me. It seemed to me to be a parody. But of what or whom I had no idea and it made me wish that I had a better knowledge of English literature. I came across a paragraph which started "Dawn crept over the Downs like a sinister white animal, followed by the snarling cries of a wind eating its way between the black boughs of the thorns." I have never liked Thomas Hardy and it was at that moment that I thought perhaps I had discovered at least one of those whom Stella Gibbons was mocking.

I was fascinated by the ludicrousness of the whole book: its plot, its setting, its characters, its language and its prose. I couldn't see why I should continue reading it and yet I couldn't put it down. Surely there must be a twist in the tale's tail. But no. Instead we end up with the ending of a romantic novella.

We are told that "The action of the story takes place in the near future." As it was written in 1930 and 1946 is in the story's past it is difficult to even approximate a time. However as air taxis are a commonplace it is nearer our time. But as mail appears to be delivered the next day it is presumably set some time ago! Ah. 'Tis full of puzzlement. And sukebind.

There was a son [a Sussex man] who was easy on the eye but slow on the uptake. [A current Sussex saying is 'Strong in the arm but thick in t' head']

'Who's "she"? The cat's mother?' [A saying of Mum's from my youth. Had she read Cold Comfort Farm I wonder.]

Nature is all very well in her place but must not be allowed to make things untidy. [A quote for Helen and CJ in particular.]

..a philosophic treatise.....not to explain the Universe but to reconcile man to its inexplicability. [That's one for me - I never did have an enquiring mind.]

She liked Victorian novels. They were the only kind of novel you could read while you were eating an apple.

I think we ought to dine out... to celebrate the inauguration of my career as a parasite.
And one must not forget the parrot. You did read CJ's posting, didn't you?

Yes. I enjoyed this book. But I'm still not really sure why.

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