Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Blue

I enjoyed the prospect of reading one of the first ten Penguin paperbacks from their inaugural year 1935. I had never heard of Poet's Pub nor was the author's name familiar to me -- Eric Linklater. I followed the links on, however, and placed my order for a used copy of the 1929 novel with a bookseller in Guelph, Ontario. IMDb revealed the existence of a 1949 black-and-white British film based on the novel, but I could find no leads to copies of it available for purchase or rental.

Eighty pages into Poet's Pub, I confess that I am enjoying myself enormously even in these hot New England days.

One passage early on provides a taste of the Twenties and near-Gatsby excess. Proud of a blue cocktail he has created, a bartender named Holly prepares a sample lot for guests of the inn where he works:

'Anything that a lady like Miss Benbow suggests is all right, sir,' said Holly politely; and deftly poured measures of this and measures of that, crystal clear, faintly yellow and richer orange, a glass delicately poised with the rising meniscus unbroken, a drop, two drops of wormwood, a fluid ounce of sweetness and an ounce of twice-distilled strength...gravely, intent on his task as an alchemist seeking the elixir, the aurum potabile, Holly poured his chosen liquors into a long silver shaker, added broken fragments of ice, screwed down the top, and, like a man with the palsy, shook. His hands were clenched on either butt, his muscles were taut, his face was set like a mask. And all this time his audience watched him silently as if a conjurer were at work, and where paper flags had gone in the doves of peace might emerge. Then the rapid shaking changed to a long swinging movement like an old-fashioned concertina-player swinging his instrument to spread his melody wider, more powerfully. And at last he was done. He set six glasses on the bar and poured into each a liquid, at first cloudy-blue like the sky at morning, that slowly cleared to a hue ineffable and serene.

The writing is rich fare, perfectly overdone, excessive and amusing.

May I join in the fun and provide hints of the blues with which I am entertained these warm summer days, both in the kitchen at home...

...and above a bookcase in my office at work?

I am just trying to stay cool. These serene hues help.


Ur-spo said...

Serene tones are cool and , well, serene. I like them as well.
I have a collection of 'Top 100 USA Short stories" published in the late 1800s or so. I find it amazing what was considered good then - some of it is terrlble actually. Your penguin book made me think of the collection .

Short and Bored said...

I am so glad to have found your blog! A writer myself, I am in these hot New England days as well. I look forward to reading the archives!