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Book Report: Cold Comfort Farm

An odd thing about blogging everything I read is that I find the blogging seeps into the reading. I read the book knowing that I’m going to be blogging the book, and in the back of my mind, often enough, is the question what am I going to say about this book? This question moves closer to the front of my mind if I’ve read the book before, particularly if I’ve read it several times, which we all know happens a lot. Oh, it’s not a terrible thing, and of course I reserve the right to just say I’ve read the book and move on. But it’s there, and it affects my experience.

So. I was in a foul mood at some point fairly recently and picked up Cold Comfort Farm in an attempt to cheer myself up. A successful attempt. Much cheerfulness resulted. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book.

Here’s what I was thinking I might write to the blog, though, as I went through it this time: why did Stella Gibbons make this book specfic? It’s written in the early thirties (and/or the late twenties) and set in the mid-fifties, as far as I can tell. After the 1948 Anglo-Nicaraguan War, anyway. There is no particular point to it, other than throwing in a few jokes about visiphones and air taxis. I suppose there’s a joke in the idea that Sussex farm life, already a relic of an earlier time, will be essentially unchanged a couple of decades hence. Mostly, though, it just seems odd. You could leave out every indication that it’s set in what was then the near-future without harming any part of the rest of the novel, and in fact the magnificent film version does so. So did Ms. Gibbons put the specfic stuff in as a E.M. Forster reference? Or just a general joke on futurism in the sorts of writing she was mocking? Or what?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


I note that this observation ties in well with Ben Rosenbaum's recent post about some received wisdom about specfic stories:


I noticed that, and have been deciding what to comment on his note, other than that, you know, What about Cold Comfort Farm?


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