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10. H.H. Munro, aka Saki (1904), Reginald

Thanks to this site, I have taken to reading short stories by Saki while eating my lunch-time sandwiches. I've enjoyed the odd Saki story in the past (my favourite probably being The Stalled Ox), but the Square Eye site offers the opportunity to read them systematically, collection by collection, so I have now read the entirety of Reginald - his first collection, published in 1904.

Reginald is cynically effete, and enjoys shocking the staider members of Edwardian society. He's the natural successor to Dorian Gray, though also beginning to nod a little in the direction of Bertie Wooster. I think my favourite story was 'Reginald's Choir Treat', in which Reginald is persuaded by a well-meaning vicar's daughter to take a group of choir-boys on their annual outing. Having set them to bathe in a local stream and sat upon their clothes, he proceeds to organise the naked boys, plus a handy nearby goat, into a Bacchanalian procession which he then sends singing and piping back into the village. "Reginald said he had seen something like it in pictures; the villagers had seen nothing like it in their lives, and remarked as much freely."

They're all good, though. Many are in fact more snippets from Reginald's conversations than stories as such. His interlocutors serve simply as audience and foil – sometimes they get as much of an identity as 'the Duchess', but often they are simply 'the Other' – while the real focus is Reginald's declamations upon society. They're also all very short, making them ideal lunch-time reading, as there is always a natural break ready for whenever you have finished your sarnie. I suspect reading too many in one sitting would start to cause ennui – as can also be the case with Wilde or Wodehouse. But the odd lunch-time visit is much to be encouraged, and I shall certainly be working my way through more of them.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
sushidog
Aug. 17th, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC)
Saki is wonderful; I think The Open Window may possibly be the best short story in the English language, although Sredni Vashtar gives it a run for its money.
strange_complex
Aug. 17th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
I haven't got to either of those yet, but I'm pretty much determined to work my way through his entire oeuvre eventually.
glitzfrau
Aug. 17th, 2007 12:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, Saki! They were always my go-to reading in times of profoundest pre-teen desolation. A family friend gave me Chronicles of Clovis when I was twelve, and the sheer vile funniness got me through pubescence so well.
strange_complex
Aug. 17th, 2007 12:42 pm (UTC)
Ah, I wish I'd know of them then! I didn't even discover Wodehouse until I was about 15. Mind you, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett served the same purpose pretty effectively.
dedbutdrmng
Aug. 17th, 2007 01:24 pm (UTC)
I've got a collection of Saki to read right here so I am now looking forward to it tremendously.

You might like WIlliam Hope-Hodgeson's wonderful (and frankly terrifying) Carnacki stories

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Casebook-Carnacki-Wordsworth-Mystery-Supernatural/dp/1840225297
strange_complex
Aug. 17th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
Ooh, those look great! Nothing like turn-of-the-century ghost stories. :-)
dedbutdrmng
Aug. 17th, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC)
There really odd. Sort of lovecrafty who/whatdunnits. But he's a much better writer than lovecraft (Not in lovecraft's world but that sort of idea).

There's one about a Hog that is the most terrifying thing I've ever read. I have to read it and then sleep with the lights on

mrkgnao
Aug. 17th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
Oh I love Saki! His language is so sublimely measured.

I prefer Clovis to Reginald, for some arbitrary reason, I don't know why... but they're very similar in many ways.
strange_complex
Aug. 17th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
His language is so sublimely measured.

Yes, indeed. It's that which reminds me of Wodehouse, more than the subject-matter.

I haven't tried Clovis yet, but I'll let you know what I think when I do.
rosamicula
Aug. 17th, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
Ah Clovis is wonderful. I have long been a fan of Saki. He is Woodhouse's evil twin, especially when it comes to aunts. I have a biography of him on my 'to read' pile.
strange_complex
Aug. 17th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
Woodhouse's evil twin

Hehe, yes - that's a perfect description! :-)
(Anonymous)
Dec. 20th, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)
Short Stories of Saki
So glad you like my Saki website although how you find my The Square Eye site helpful is beyond me.

If you or any of your visitors are interested, the home page needs to be completely redone. Just needs enough text to fill a page as long as the menu in the left.

The Unrest-cure is one of my favorites. Clovis was always such a thoughtful lad. Always thinking of others.

Tom Hay
smidon@gmail.com
strange_complex
Dec. 20th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Short Stories of Saki
Oh, hello! Thanks for popping by my journal. :-)

I don't think I'm up to helping you revise your Square Eye site myself, as I'm no Saki expert. But if it's any consolation I think it's pretty good as it is. As I say, it's the arrangement of stories by their original collections that I really appreciate. I can see how you might want to improve the main page a bit, but the basic structure of the site is really handy.

I haven't got onto the Clovis stories myself yet - I've been reading 'Beasts and Super-Beasts' instead since I finished with Reginald. But Clovis may well be my next stop after that. He certainly comes well-recommended by the commenters above!
(Anonymous)
Dec. 21st, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
Re: Short Stories of Saki
Hi again Purple,
T'is the Saki site needs a new front page. I really don't care about the Square Eye site. I just wanted to do something with the square eye image. Tthe site was never meant to be read like the Saki site.

Good reading

Tom
strange_complex
Dec. 21st, 2007 11:40 am (UTC)
Re: Short Stories of Saki
Ah, OK - this is a confusion of vocabulary, then. When I said 'the Square Eye site' I actually meant the Saki site, as it says at the bottom 'copyright The Square Eye'. I didn't realise there was another site altogether actually called 'The Square Eye'.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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