Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A critic’s advice

To continue with Ford Madox Ford, from the last post. He was also a critic and is known for remarking: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.

Intriguing advice, which I at once sat out to follow. Here are extracts from some of the books on my table. Would you read these on behalf of the first lines of page 99? Naturally, you have to read the whole page, but I limit the text here to first line(s)/paragraph.

Lizzie Siddal by Lucinda Hawksley

The Ruskin vs. Ruskin court case, which came to an end in July 1854, was one of the most exciting scandals to hit London that year, not least because it involved so moral a figure as John Ruskin. 

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elisabeth von Arnim

… which was covered with buds ready to open, when they suddenly turned brown and died, and three standard Dr. Grills which stood in a row and simply sulked. I had been very excited about Dr. Grill, his description in the catalogues being specially fascinating, and no doubt I deserved the snubbing I got. “Never be excited, my dears, about anything,” shall be the advice I will give the three babies when the time comes to take them out to parties, “or, if you are, don’t show it.”

Let’s see if Ford Madox Ford himself, is up to it in the The Good Soldier.

The odd thing is that what sticks out in my recollection of the rest of that evening was Leonora’s saying:
‘Of course you might marry her,’ and, when I asked whom, she answered:
‘The girl.’

I think so…?

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

‘I’m a chef,’ he said, speaking to me and the woman sitting between us. ‘My cuisine is known around the world!’
‘Really?’ the woman said. ‘Are you famous for a culinary speciality?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Rat Poison.’
The woman drew back. ‘You’re joking.’

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Ecco

It didn’t occur to me that a conspiracy of five continents was perhaps rather an excessive way of changing the constitutional rule in France. Anyone from Piedmont at that time would, in fact, have said the only powers existing in the world were France, certainly Austria, and perhaps Cochinchina far far away, but no other country was worthy of note, except of course the Papal States.

The Red and the Black by Stendhal

She grasped his hand, covered it with kisses. Then, falling into a gloomy reverie, she said: Hell, now, real hell, would be a relief to me; on earth I would still have some time to spend with him, but to have hell in this world as well, the death of my children…

Page 99 in the book I am now
reading about Effie Gray

Well, what do you think? Is this a good advice? I at least am happy to have the books quoted above on my shelves (ahh, two of them I have already read), but still, it seems they were well chosen! In the future I will read page 99 before choosing a book.

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