Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Arnold Bennett: A Great Man

Finally, a new book!



Arnold Bennett was extraordinarily prolific, which has probably one of the reasons he's no longer seen as the giant of literature he once was. But that's not entirely fair, because his best books really are great. He could also be very funny, and as someone who knew the Victorian and Edwardian literary worlds intimately, he was ideally placed to write A Great Man, a wonderful satire on writers and publishing.

It's a satire that still holds true for today: the financial and artistic wranglings between writers, publishers and agents; the sheer mass of books being produced every day; literary fiction versus commercial fiction... it's all there.

The hero, a sentimental novelist who views himself as the enemy of  what he calls 'the Stream of Trashy Novels Constantly Poured Forth by the Press', is also the owner of a delicate digestive system. Here, in an extract that will give you an idea of the style of the novel, is perhaps the finest description of an attack of vomiting ever given in an Edwardian novel:

It proved to be the worst dyspeptic visitation that Henry had ever had. It was not a mere ‘attack’—it was a revolution, beginning with slight insurrections, but culminating in universal upheaval, the overthrowing of dynasties, the establishment of committees of public safety, and a reign of terror. As a series of phenomena it was immense, variegated, and splendid, and was remembered for months afterwards.

A Great Man can be viewed and bought here.

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