A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Fancy a grown man saying hujus hujus hujus as if he were proud of it it is not english and do not make SENSE.
This is going to be a short and sweet review because, to be frank, I could certainly spend a thousand words – far more – telling you about the denizens of st. custard’s. However, there is little point in my doing that when the best thing by far about the molesworth books is getting to know them all via the narrator, viz one nigel molesworth, skoolboy and philosopher.
nigel is quite something. The people at TIME magazine – who allege, although I have yet to see it myself, that the problem with molesworth is “whimsy, which has long been the curse of British humour” (to which I sa chiz chiz chiz) – call him “a sort of cross between Tom Brown and a wombat”. Maybe the people at TIME magazine thought that was witty. Who knows.
I don’t think I could come up with a pithy qualifier for molesworth, because he is far too complex a beast to be the easy victim of someone else’s facile one liner. He is at once universally recognisable and incredibly distinctive. Like most of us, his true passions (warfare, adventure films, unhealthy food, the invention of terrible instruments of revenge) are constantly thwarted by the things people insist on imposing upon him (latin verbs, maths, caesar, foopball, dancing, skool sossidges and the KANE). His spelling is atrocious, his self-representation is that of an unrepentant thug, but his talent for observation and for parody is outstanding. I don’t agree with Thomas Jones, who claimed – rather grumpily – in the LRB that Molesworth is only really funny to people who read him at school, and went on to suggest heftily and with a great deal of distaste that enjoying the whole thing is essentially a sign of being a posh type who knows about gerunds. I’m not sure what nigel ever did to merit the series of scathing putdowns in that particular review, although I quietly suspect the real target was molesworthophile Philip Hensher. At any rate, I do not agree in the least that the world seen through the eyes of molesworth is “terribly cosy”. I think it’s actually rather scary. But that might be because I never grew out of my own molesworth phase: I’m still regularly baffled by the people around me – particularly the grownups – even though it has been over ten years since I left my own skool.
But then, I don’t go to molesworth for a reaffirmation of my political perspectives in the first place; and why would I? The setting may be English, the class more or less upper, and the skool private, but I don’t think the humour is defined by any of that. Even in an age when the kane is a long gone horror, the rusians are no longer rotters (or not for the same reason), most of us don’t have Latin and students are generally spared from learning wet and weedy pomes like THE BROOK, there’s something about molesworth’s narration which remains deeply funny. Perhaps it is because I, at least, know the feeling of being well and truly disgruntled; and I wish I could express it half as eloquently as he does.
The Compleet Molesworth is published by Pavilion Books, ISBN: 1851450017