Monday, July 14, 2014
Beasts and Poets
The principle to be observed in that game, however, is that the dog is not supposed to win. Tug-of-war represents a challenge to authority, so either the human must win the game or the dog must release the toy on command (and then receives it as a reward for obedience). But a slippery rubber bone doesn't offer a grip good enough for the human—me, in this case—to win against the strength Bär can put into tugging, so I don't often agree to play that game now. Once I've removed the bone from my Kindle screen a few times, she usually...er, hopefully...eventually settles down to lay at my feet, or on my feet, and chew it while I read.
But as I was saying, this set-up isn't really conducive to in-depth reading. So I've been dabbling in poetry and short stories. I made use of the time to finally finish Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, which I'd been picking away at for a long time. The funny thing is, my Kindle edition didn't say which of the poems were Wordsworth's and which were Coleridge's, so I had to guess, and look them up afterwards. I tend to like Coleridge's style a hint better, I think; "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "The Nightingale" were my favorites.
After that, it occurred to me that I could get the short stories of Saki, which I'd sampled some years back (around the time I made my first unsuccessful attempt at reading Katherine Mansfield), for free on my Kindle; and I promptly did so. It seems appropriate that I started with Beasts and Super-Beasts. I have more mixed feelings about Saki. Some of his stories I love, others I just like, and still others I don't like at all. He's sometimes compared to O. Henry, which I understand and yet don't understand. Saki employs the twist ending, yes, but not always and without as great a punch. Furthermore, one is distinctly British and one distinctly American. I'm not sure I could put my finger on what makes the difference, but there it is: their characters, settings, vernacular, and atmosphere all have an intangible flavor of one or the other. The difference most obvious to me, though, is that Saki's wit has a much sharper, sarcastic edge, which occasionally runs into the downright macabre. I can read O. Henry indefinitely, but I prefer Saki in smaller doses. Of course, with Bär around, that's the way it often happens.