le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Toby Tyler and the Boys' School Story

This weekend I read James Otis's Toby Tyler, or 10 Weeks with the Circus. I found it rather boring but it moved along reasonably quickly. My mother informs me that Disney made a live-action adaptation of this, which baffles me, since the original novel is pretty lame. I mean, the circus is a totally unglamourous place, Toby is an object of pity (an abject of pity!) as well as beaten every time he turns around. The most intriguing element of the novel to me is his friendship with the monkey, Mr Stubbs. There's a definite nod to evolution in the novel - something about recognizing Mr Stubbs as an ancestor. It's BAD evolution, or misunderstood at any rate, but it's still there, which I found interesting. Toby's relationship with Mr Stubbs is the most developed and intense relationship that he (Toby) has, despite the lame gesture at heterosexual coupling (with Ella/Mlle Jeannette, the little girl who performs as an equestrienne). The moralizing of the book was lame, naturally, and really sporadic. Toby's dialogue felt very unrealistic to me - it just felt stagey and fakey and weird. But the monkey was interesting, for sure.

I've finally gotten young Tom Brown to school, thank god, so that the Schooldays can commence. He's at Rugby, just finishing his first day, right now. I read - all right, skimmed - about six pages of small print, describing a foot-ball match in detail. UGH. I also feel like I'm reading another language - here's a sentence fragment I cannot comprehend:

they... "administer toco to the wretched fags nearest at hand; they may well be angry, for it is all Lombard Street to a china-orange that the School-house kick a goal with the ball touched in such a good place" (97).

HUNH???


there's more, too, of course. I'm snickering a little as I read, recalling the recently read (for the first time!) Diana Wynne Jones novel The Crown of Dalemark, and the scenes at Hildy's school which are laden with bafflingly incomprehensible school slang. The slang marks Mitt's distance from Hildy, but it also - now especially - seems like Jones's poke at the school culture.

anyway, the boys at Rugby are now drinking beer and singing good British songs ("British Grenadiers"!!) in the hall, so I had better go rejoin them.

I think this will be my new catchphrase: It's all Lombard Street to a china-orange!
(whatever that even means)

3 comments:

Michele said...

I believe I can help you on that one! It means long odds since Lombard Street in London was (and probably still is) the centre of the great Banking and Mercantile life of "The City". It essentially means to stake the Bank of England against a common orange - that is, to stake what is of untold value (the Bank of England in Lombard Street) against a mere trifle (a China orange).

kbryna said...

yay! thank you! If I just keep reading, eventually, I'll know everything there is to know about England!

I'd guess Lombard Street is the English equivalent of Wall Street?

Michele said...

Pretty much yes ! I checked and all the major banking and financial institutions had their headquarters there for two or three centuries !