- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Thistle Publishing (December 27, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1910670227
- ISBN-13: 978-1910670224
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Horse's Mouth Paperback – December 27, 2016
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About the Author
Joyce Cary was born in 1888 into an old Anglo-Irish family and educated at Clifton. He studied art, first in Edinburgh and then in Paris, before going up to Trinity College, Oxford, in 1909 to read law. On coming down he served as a Red Cross orderly in the Balkan War of 1912-13, the inspiration for Memoir of the Bobotes, before joining the Nigerian Political Service.
He served in the Nigeria Regiment during the First World War, was wounded while fighting in the Cameroons, and returned to civil duty in Nigeria in 1917 as a district officer. His time in Africa provided the inspiration for his first four novels. Though he settled in Oxford as a fulltime writer in 1920, it was not until 1932 that his first book was published. At the time of his death in 1957, he was recognised as one of the leading novelists in the world.
Cary is probably best known as a novelist and especially for Mister Johnson and ‘The First Tryptych’ (Herself Surprised, To Be a Pilgrim and The Horse’s Mouth) in which the three main protagonists narrate their interlocking experiences and reveal their contrasting personalities. However he was also a fine short story writer, essayist and poet.
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Despite the novel's essentially comic nature, it's comedy with a bite; and the reader may feel a bit unsettled during and after the reading of it. The despair is quite real and quite lyrically described, with a painter's eye, one could say:
"And I went out to get room for my grief. Thank God, it was a high sky on Greenbank. Darker than I expected....Sun was in the bank. Streak of salmon below. Salmon trout above soaking into wash blue. River whirling along so fast that its skin was pulled into wrinkles like silk dragged over the floor. Shot silk. Fresh breeze off the eyot. Sharp as spring frost. Ruffling under the silk-like muscles in a nervous horse. Ruffling under my grief like ice and hot daggers."
Explaining what this book is "about" though, in a deeper sense - and there is a deeper sense - is well-nigh impossible. This difficulty arises from the fact that Jimson quotes Blake's prophetic and abstruse poems throughout the book. Indeed, they make up almost a fifth of the entire novel and seem to be the only thing in which Jimson staunchly believes. All this is to say that if you have a comprehensive understanding of Blake's mythology - Be clear though that Blake and Jimson emphatically do NOT regard it as mythology - you might understand this book. Any poor soul that's delved into Blake's arcana and tried to make sense of them knows full well what a bootless task this endeavour is. The only thing one can say with any degree of certainty is that Jimson, along with Blake, is the artist who thinks that the world can go hang. Art is the only reality.
Thus Jimson cadges, robs, nearly starves himself, murders (inadvertently, of course) in order to follow his pursuit. Be all this as it may, when all is said and done, it is Cary's gift with dialogue and Jimson's sharp wit that catch the reader and linger. Further, the book, for all its madcap drolleries, has a twilit shroud hanging over it. The reader knows from the first chapter that Jimson will die soon, and as Jimson says:
"Old men when they begin to hear the last trumpet, on the morning breeze, often have a kind of absent-minded smile; like people listening."
It's no small task to wipe that smile off one's face after finishing this book.