In praise of silly books

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Transrealism is a revolutionary art form.

A major tool in mass thought-control is the myth of consensus reality…. Atwood, Pynchon and Foster-Wallace all employed transrealist techniques to challenge the ways that “consensus reality” defined who was normal and who was not, from the political oppression of women to the spiritual death inflicted on us all by modern consumerism.

When she reads things like that, Gert feels as if she’s been caught lying on the bed eating chocolates instead of doing her homework. As if she’s turned up to the Canute festival in an old sheet with a bucket on her head while everyone else has a portable sea with real waves, and a genuine trident.

Gert’s father read Greek, Latin, Italian, French, German and even a spot of Gaelic, yet he was often to be found reading what he called ” a silly book”.  One of his favourite silly books was a girls’ school story called Leith and Friends, which he read at least once a year. A silly book has to be good enough to keep you reading and good enough to reread, even though you know it isn’t great literature. The re-reading criterion is vital:  lots of books can be swallowed in one gulp, but the genuine silly book is savoured, like a nice jam tart with a cup of tea.

Here’s to the genre of the silly book. We need it just as much as we need the others.

Some of our favourites:  Cooking with Fernet Branca; The Unscratchables; Farewell My Lovely; At Swim-Two-Birds; Eloise Goes to Moscow; My Father and Myself; The Thirty-Nine Steps; and of course,  Leith and Friends.

What are your favourite sllly books?

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/oct/24/transrealism-first-major-literary-movement-21st-century

Images: http://www.zorger.com

 

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6 thoughts on “In praise of silly books

    1. Oh dear oh dear, our papa would certainly not have included Belloc in the list of silly books. He took him very seriously. But of course it’s all a matter of perspective We’re inclined to think of “Jane Eyre” as a silly book because it has that compulsively re-readable quality, but many would think we were trashing it to say that.

      1. This is the Hilarie Belloc I loved in my younger years (and the drawings too):

        “The Microbe is so very small
        You cannot make him out at all,
        But many sanguine people hope
        To see him through a microscope.”

        “A Python I should not advise,—
        It needs a doctor for its eyes,
        And has the measles yearly
        However, if you feel inclined
        To get one (to improve your mind,
        And not from fashion merely),
        Allow no music near its cage;
        And when it flies into a rage
        Chastise it, most severely.
        I had an aunt in Yucatan
        Who bought a Python from a man
        And kept it for a pet.
        She died, because she never knew
        These simple little rules and few;—”

        “The Vulture eats between his meals,
        And that’s the reason why
        He very, very rarely feels
        As well as you and I.

        His eye is dull, his head is bald,
        His neck is growing thinner.
        Oh! what a lesson for us all
        To only eat at dinner!”

        He has quite a lot, not so much designed for bad children, that can be satisfactorily re-read many times in later years as well::

        “When I am dead, I hope it may be said: “His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”

        “The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

        “If we are to be happy, decent and secure of our souls: drink some kind of fermented liquor with one’s food; go on the water from time to time; dance on occasions, and sing in a chorus…”

        So I think that I agree with your father that he can be taken seriously, and also re-read many times — so fits your definition. Thanks for a chance to re-visit him.

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