This is still a pretty lousy time in much of the world if you happen to like live music, movies, plays, or most other kinds of public entertainment. But here at Tales for Our Time the lights stay on - and, in the absence of alternatives, there's never been a better time to prowl around our back catalogue. James, a First Week Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Dallas, inclines toward the lighter side:
Having read all of the oeuvre I could find there doesn't seem to be any bad Wodehouse. The early Psmith school stories are great fun even if one doesn't understand the rules of cricket.
And after a pretty thorough study of English comic novels, I am yet to find a funnier book than Three Men in a Boat.
I was reading an interview with the late Terry Pratchett where he cited Wodehouse, Jerome, and Mark Twain as literary influences. Twain of course is on a whole other level of greatness, and I'm not sure Sir Terry ever quite reached the heights of Wodehouse or Jerome, but it's an excellent selection of writers to admire.
Indeed it is, James. We're a bit short on Mark Twain, but that may be rectified in the very near future.
Tomorrow, Sunday, by the way, I shall be presenting a Tales for Out Time music special on the Jane Austen Songbook. We do musical editions of our Tales once in a while, and I figured we were overdue for another.
That will air here at SteynOnline right after the latest audio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week on Serenade Radio in the UK at 5.30pm British Summer Time (12.30pm North American Eastern). You can listen from anywhere on the planet by clicking the button in the top right-hand corner here.
Meantime, welcome to Part Twenty-One of our latest audio adventure: Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. In tonight's episode Catherine has gotten it into her head that General Tilney is not in fact a widower but is holding his wife prisoner in a cell in the abbey. So she is astonished to be confronted at Sunday service by an especially brazen affront:
The day was unmarked therefore by anything to interest her imagination beyond the sight of a very elegant monument to the memory of Mrs Tilney, which immediately fronted the family pew. By that her eye was instantly caught and long retained; and the perusal of the highly strained epitaph, in which every virtue was ascribed to her by the inconsolable husband, who must have been in some way or other her destroyer, affected her even to tears.
That the general, having erected such a monument, should be able to face it, was not perhaps very strange, and yet that he could sit so boldly collected within its view, maintain so elevated an air, look so fearlessly around, nay, that he should even enter the church, seemed wonderful to Catherine. Not, however, that many instances of beings equally hardened in guilt might not be produced. She could remember dozens who had persevered in every possible vice, going on from crime to crime, murdering whomsoever they chose, without any feeling of humanity or remorse; till a violent death or a religious retirement closed their black career. The erection of the monument itself could not in the smallest degree affect her doubts of Mrs Tilney's actual decease. Were she even to descend into the family vault where her ashes were supposed to slumber, were she to behold the coffin in which they were said to be enclosed—what could it avail in such a case? Catherine had read too much not to be perfectly aware of the ease with which a waxen figure might be introduced...
We'll be right back here tomorrow with Part Twenty-Two of Northanger Abbey. If you're minded to join us in The Mark Steyn Club, you're more than welcome. You can find more information here. And, if you have a chum you think might enjoy Tales for Our Time (so far, we've covered Conan Doyle, H G Wells, P G Wodehouse, Orwell, Dickens, Conrad, Kipling, Kafka, Gogol, Baroness Orczy, Victor Hugo, Louisa May Alcott, O Henry, John Buchan, Scott Fitzgerald and more), we have a special Gift Membership.