A Thousand Flappers and Hobbledehoys

not merely superfluous, but ridiculous

Zuleika Dobson — Review

this post was originally published on my Goodreads account.

With every book I read from the Edwardian era, I find more things to like about the super-flowery style that was in vogue at the time. Authors like Max Beerbohm have a way of dazzling with their sheer facility with words while simultaneously inspiring laughs at the mundane nature of the subjects they are going to such trouble to describe. It’s a style that was bound to take it hard on the chin once Hemingway came around, but it’s fun to read. And there’s no more appropriate subject for it than Zukelia Dobson, Max Beerbohm’s turn-of-the-19th-century satire of dandyism, academic life, and the nature of young love. Beerbohm takes liberties with narrative that would give a postmodern writer pause, and manages to stay both funny and vicious for long stretches of the novel–no easy task.

All the same, I closed the book thinking it was easier to admire than love. It’s the nature of this type of book that you can’t care too much for any of the characters, because they’re all objects of ridicule, but it did make the book slow-going at times. Also, several times in the early going, Beerbohm describes things at absurd length, a practice that tends to be more tedious than funny if even if it’s only used once. Still, this is required reading for anyone who wants to read an excellent early example of the “campus novel,” or would like to see Edwardian dandies get taken down a peg.

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This entry was posted on 3 February 2016 by in Elegant Extracts and tagged , , , , .
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