THE CRAZY OIKLET 14
Carr Winklemann Wolf
A recent TLS review of a biog of the great historian Raymond Carr identifies him as a prodigious reader. He was an echt-oik from Kent who got a scholarship to Oxford. Not knowing anything about the place he chose, quite fortuitously, what is probably the most swank college, Christ Church, and soon got pally with the son of the prime minister (Asquith). His tutors were mightily impressed by his diligence, he’d get up at 6 a.m. and work for solidly for eleven hours. One observed that Raymond was the only student he’d ever advised to work less hard. Raymond castigated his mum’s cooking as quite dreadful (me too Ray) and resented her attempts to curtail his studies. “Why are you always reading Raymond?” she’d moan “Haven’t you got any ideas of your own?” More snippets on this topic come from Peter Watson’s The German Genius
He [Winklemann] would read Greek till midnight, sleep in an old overcoat in an armchair until four in the morning, when he would resume his reading. In the summer months he slept on a bench with a block of wood tied to his foot which fell down at the slightest movement and wakened him. p95
Born in 1759, the son of a schoolteacher, [Friedrich August] Wolf [1759-1824] could read some Greek at the age of six, and rather more Latin and French. At Göttingen, although he kept his distance from the most famous classicist there Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729-1812) he nonetheless emulated the older man’s dedication: like Heyne he slept for just two nights a week for six months, so as to immerse himself in his beloved classical authors as quickly as possible, keeping himself awake by sitting with his feet in a bowl of cold water. He would bind up one eye with a bandage to rest it, while he used the other. His dedication was reminiscent of Winklemann and the block of wood attached to his foot. p 106
Your echt-oik writer might say: “Eeee I’ve got no time for reading – I’m always writing!” – big mistake.
An update on three of our contributors. Tom Kilcourse follows up “Who Killed Clarissa?” with another crime novel: A Deadly Deception Tom writes:
A number of people who read ‘Who Killed Clarissa? were kind enough to ask to know when the next Inspector Turner book was available in paperback. ‘A Deadly Deception’ is now on Amazon. Type my name into Amazon’s search window to find it. The following blurb from the book gives an indication of what it’s about. Thanks for your interest.
Why does a woman stab her wealthy, ageing husband to death in his sleep, before calmly calling the police? Investigating the murder, Detective Inspector Turner and Detective Constable Francis discover a web of evil centred on the picturesque Lancashire town of Medlock Bridge. What appears to be a legitimate business proves to be a cover for depravity.
Why does Janice King surrender to the sadistic appetites of her lover, deceiving her adoring husband in the process, and what is the end-game? Is her husband capable of murder? DI Turner believes so.
Why does Janice King cut out and conceal a newspaper appeal for information concerning a murdered little girl? Is her lover involved in the child’s death?
The story follows DI Turner and DC Francis as they consider these questions and find themselves faced with a sordid, cruel reality.
Well there’s certainly a large constituency for this kind of thing and we wish Tom well with this new direction. Personally we prefer his slices of oik-life mode but admit that even his crime stuff is largely in this rich vein, so there’s nowt to complain about. Generally speaking I find the widespread fascination with detective stories as incomprehensible as crosswords or soduku. I except classics like Chandler and Hammett from this blanket critique. Edmund Wilson wrote two fine analyses on this phenomenon in the 1940s in his Classics and Commercials (1950) Why Do People Read Detective Stories? and Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? These are so rare and expensive that I reprint them as an Oik appendix. (Wilson on Crime Fiction)
Another Oik contributor working a narrower seam is Brett Wilson whose latest production Tears of God deals vertiginously with black holes, time travel and quantum mechanics, of which Neils Bohr famously remarked “If you think it makes sense you haven’t understood it properly”. One might say the same of Tears of God. Brett, in an intro, rubbishes characterization and plot as outmoded fetishes. To give readers a taster we add chapter one to the Bedlam. Tears of God: Chapter One
More conventionally, but still well off-piste, oiku master Dave Birtwistle sends me a vast tranche of Oikus. These are added to his Oiku page on the site (Dave’s Oikus) and now amount to 147 – ie 14,700 words. An Oiku, for new readers, is a short story of exactly 100 words. Dave’s obsessions emerge from these apparently random squibs – quantum mechanics, astro-physics, school teaching, gardening, obesity, existentialism and JP Sartre, Lancashire life and the disgusting adventures of town slut Doreen Dobson.
Yes, three crazy oik classic writers. One wonders what Edmund would have to say.