Friday, 9 January 2015

The Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things

(Grahame, 1931)
If - as a short person - you did a lot of reading, you may be aware of the book, The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.

I read it when I was at primary school, and enjoyed every word. I probably have not read it since - or at least, I don't recall it being a much revisited 'old friend' in my book collection.

However, recently I noted it was listed as an audio book with my council's library service. I downloaded it and have been listening to it this summer.

I have made some wonderful rediscoveries. The author wrote in the most beautifully crafted prose. For example: "On this side of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the crowded and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so clearly. What seas lay beyond, green, leaping, and crested! What sunbathed coasts, along which the white villas glittered against the olive woods! What quiet harbours, thronged with gallant shipping bound for purple islands of wine and spice islands set low in languorous waters!" (Grahame, 1908, p. 96).

Not only was Kenneth Grahame a fantastic wordsmith, but he inspired many others. As Douglas Adams puts it - in the first of his Dirk Gently books (1987, p. 144) - "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things", this connectivity shows up many times in The Wind in the Willows. For example, the title of chapter eight, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", is the title of the first Pink Floyd album. Toad "overslept" himself before the battle to reclaim Toad Hall, which Agatha Christie recycled in her 1939 book "And Then There Were None".

On reflection, I wonder if my lack of revisiting this book may well have been because The Wind in the Willows was not written as a children's book, and its themes are distinctly adult: wanderlust, sybaritism, law breaking, imprisonment, fads, social responsibility (or lack of it) and much more. On publication, Methuen - the UK publisher - said "Mr Grahame breaks his long silence with The Wind in the Willows, a fantastic and whimsical satire upon life — or allegory of life — the author’s amusing device being to show the reader the real thing as if it were the play of small woodland and riverside creatures" (Duffy, 1989, p. 39).

So if you feel nostalgic and want to revisit a book from your youth, The Wind in the Willows will not disappoint.

Sam

References:
  • Adams, Douglas (1987). Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. UK: William Heinemann Ltd
  • Christie, Agatha (1939). And Then There Were None (original title: Ten Little Niggers). UK: Collins Crime Club
  • Duffy, Maureen (1989). A Thousand Capricious Chances: A History of the Methuen List 1889–1989. UK: Methuen.
  • Grahame, Kenneth (1931). The Wind in the Willows. UK: Methuen.
  • Grahame, Kenneth (1908). The Wind in the Willows. UK: Methuen.

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