This is a really funny and weird book. Its narrator, Pompey Casmillus, is a young London woman who works in a publishing firm and has a fiance she loves named Freddy.
And that’s the book basically. The concept though is that she’s narrating her random stray thoughts, ideas, circumstances, and other things that cross her mind. The narrative is sprawling and disconnected, it’s self aware, and it’s really very funny. She’s writing all these down on yellow paper, which I interpret as foolscap legal notepads, and the result is like flipping through someone’s random and disconnected thoughts, but maybe also having them read them back to you and with you over lunch or drinks.
One really interesting thing this book does is catalog the 1930s without any sense of longterm vision and obviously no retrospections. She’s in Germany in 1935, and discussing how gauche and annoying she finds Nazis to be, especially their weird neoclassical almost occultish views about youth and health. This is something that sometimes shows up in memoirs and novels well after the fact, but here she is creating a record of it.
Anyway, here’s a relatively representative and also random passage.
“As a baby I was rather cynical. I wrote a poem about it which I will now give you. It will break up the page for your, and something fresh to the eye helps the tired brain and aids concentration. I dare say you find it difficult to concentrate? Never mind, the great thing is never to mind. Just keep on trying, and one day you may figure as a case-sheet in one of those books the smarties write, that have such high-up titles, they would look well on any drawing-room table, like the one I have in mind at this moment–‘The Economics of Fatigue and Unrest.’ I said The Economics of Fatigue and Unrest. Is is not a sweet title to put in gold ink on a red cloth-board?
Do you, Reader, ever have this suffering feeling of economics and unrest? Do you?
Like hell you do. Well, here is the poem; work it out for yourself:
It was a cynical babe
Lay in its mother’s arms,
Born two month too soon,
After many alarms.
Why is its mother sad,
Weeping without a friend?
Where is its father, say?
He tarries in Ostend.
It was a cynical babe. Reader before you condemn, pause:
It was a cynical babe–not without cause.”