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Collected Tales and Fantasies of Lord Berners: Including Percy Wallingford/The Camel/Mr. Pidger/Count Omega/The Romance of a Nose/Far from the Madding Paperback


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Collected Tales and Fantasies of Lord Berners: Including Percy Wallingford/The Camel/Mr. Pidger/Count Omega/The Romance of a Nose/Far from the Madding + Lord Berners: The Last Eccentric
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Turtle Point Press; 1 edition (June 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885983387
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885983381
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

During his life, Gerald Tyrwhitt, the 14th Baron Berners, made his reputation as a composer of ballet and opera scores, but he was also an entertaining memoirist and a crafter of sly and funny tales. In First Childhood and A Distant Prospect, he depicted the realities of growing up Victorian; in Collected Tales and Fantasies, he examines his privileged world through a medium that is no less true for being fiction. Berners relies on humor to make his points, but there's nothing remotely gentle in his mockery. Take, for example, "The Camel," an absurd tale of an ecclesiastical couple whose life is undone by a dromedary's mysterious appearance on their doorstep. Or "Percy Wallingford," in which the title character, a young man entirely without fault, begins to crumble when he discovers his wife has amazing night vision and can see him at his most defenseless: while he is asleep. In the world of Berners's making, even the most innocuous or ridiculous of events can lead to serious consequences indeed, and each of the six tales included in this volume has its dark side. Misdirected love letters, antique embroidery, little dogs that are loved and loathed in equal measure--from such off-kilter seeds, full-blown satire blooms, and readers who like their humor spiced with just a dash of arsenic will embrace this underappreciated writer. --Margaret Prior

From Publishers Weekly

A flamboyant, wealthy aesthete, the 14th Baron Berners (1883-1950) was, in no particular order, a composer, writer, painter, musical collaborator with Sacheverell Sitwell and Gertrude Stein, and friend of John Betjeman, Rosamond Lehmann and Nancy Mitford. This omnibus of six of his arch, epigrammatic stories and short novels recalls H.H. "Saki" Munro in their light comedy, displayed in such disparate situations as that of a disruptive camel who adopts a village vicar's wife; palace intrigue set in a late-Ptolemaic kingdom; an inheritance-sabotaging lapdog; or academic life during wartime. The most amusing of these, "The Romance of a Nose," features a young Cleopatra seeking proto-plastic surgery to alter her profile and change the face of the Roman world. There is always an air of pastiche in Berners's style, and his characters are often parodic studies of British high society; in "Count Omega," the mercurial title character's hapless prot?g?, Emanuel Smith, is a lightly fictionalized version of Sitwell-crony and composer William Walton. Berners lances (and not without homoerotic tension) the masculine anxiety in and around one "Percy Wallingford," an exasperatingly perfect young man of whom a worshipful classmate says, "The Greek God had descended from Olympus but had lost nothing in his transition to earth." As the aesthete-at-loose-ends, Lord FitzCricket in the WWII academic soft-satire "Far from the Madding War," confesses, "I'm... fundamentally superficial. I am also private spirited." Readers may find this also applies to the eccentric aristocrat Berners's writings, but for those who like their short fiction light, the sugary surreality of these whimsies may provide amusement. (May) FYI: Berners's two-volume autobiography, First Childhood and A Distant Prospect, was released in 1998 by Turtle Point Press and Helen Marx Books.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Russel E. Higgins on February 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Lord Berners' Collected Tales and Fantasies are six rather bizarre tales or short novellas, filled with dark and mysterious happenings. The characters who inhabit these stories are equally as bizarre and eccentric as the tales themselves, and, although they contain some hilarious satire in the style of Evelyn Waugh or "Saki," the narratives are laced with violence and tragedy. Lord Berners' characters include an assortment of eccentric artistocratic types that he knew between the years dividing the two World Wars. His characters include a mixture of neurotics, paranoids, megalomaniacs, pederasts, parasites, and what Monty Python would call "upper-class twits," all of whom partake in the most amazing adventures. In one of the best stories, "Far from the Madding War," the author himself makes a brief appearance as Lord FritzCricket. Berners admits that his own outlandish personality is that of "the Unstable Peer," an eccentric born into the aristocracy who can act in any way he pleases. Let us look briefly at a few of the stories. "Percy Wallingford," (written in 1914) tells the adventures of a self-assured and talented man who, on the eve of World War I, has his confidence destroyed by his wife, a fantastic woman who can see in the dark and who strips him of his self-assurance. "The Camel," (written in 1936) relates the mysterious appearance of a camel at a vicarage in the quiet British town of Slumbermere, which violently disrupts the easy life there and forces people to confront their own fears, anxieties, and jealousies. It is a deceptively dark and disturbing tale, perhaps influenced by the novels of Thomas Hardy and Anthony Trollope which also dealt with small-town British rustic life. "Mr.Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've loved Lord Berners' music for years. And I knew he was an eccentric. But these pieces knocked me out. Wry, ironic, hilarious, skewed, but also humane. He's someone I wish I'd had dinner with; I suspect it would have been a memorable encounter.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book several years ago after reading Lord Berners' two autobiographical volumes, "First Childhood" and "A Distant Prospect." Both of these books offered excellent insight into the character of Lord Berners and on a broader level into the social milieu -- late Victorian England -- that he grew up in.

While an excellent memoirist, Lord Berners falls flat in the short story arena. I don't have a sense of how his stories were received during his lifetime, but feel that regardless they have not aged well. They seem strangely heavy handed and overwrought for someone who wrote so deftly when describing his own life. I didn't end up reading the entire book, so perhaps I gave up to soon.
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