The irony of it
Posted by Constanza on April 20, 1998 at 17:19:57:
In response to "Dazzling parody", written by Barbara on April 19, 1998 at 13:15:08
I think that Gibbons is deliberately being pretentious and using this writing to draw attention to itself, perhaps to parody other novels from that era.
In the letter to Anthony Pookworthy printed as a foreword to the novel (at least in my copy), Stella Gibbons says:
"The life of the journalist is poor, nasty, brutish and short. So is his style. You, who are so adept at the lovely polishing of every grave and lucent phrase, will realize the magnitude of the task which confronted me when I found, after spending ten years as a journalist, learning to say exactly what I meant in short sentences, that I must learn, if I was to achieve literature and favourable reviews, to write as though I were not quite sure about what l meant but was jolly well going to say something all the same in sentences as long as possible.
And it is only because I have in mind all those thousands of persons, not unlike myself, who work in the vulgar and meaningless bustle of offices, shops and homes, and who are not always sure whether a sentence is Literature or whether
it is just sheer flapdoodle, that I have adopted the method perfected by the late Herr Baedeker, and firmly marked what I consider the finer passages with one, two or three stars. In such a manner did the good man deal with cathedrals, hotels and paintings by men of genius. There seems no reason why it should not be applied to passages in novels.
It ought to help the reviewers, too."
The first paragraph of chapter 3 is rated **. And consider it the worst one of all I 've read up to now. However, if as you said, she is parodying other author's styles, it would be an altogether different thing, wouldn't it? And in such a case, the letter above would have been a little on the ironic side. That is, she would have been mocking authors by imitating the pompous phrasing, and making fun of reviewers by rating higher the elaborate passages, "finer" meaning "finer according to the then accepted standards". And further mocking them all by using Baedeker's method. I dare say it makes sense. Polite with a bite, eh?
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