Saturday, 16 June 2012

David of King's

Fiction ~ novel
Published 1924
Approx. 88,000 words
(First read 12/06/2012)

In which our hero David Blaize goes through university without doing any 'sap' because it's such 'rot'; instead he just 'gasses' and 'rags' and talks 'piffle' with his pals, most notably the 'ripper' Frank with whom he is, by all modern standards, very obviously in love; and everything is 'awfully jolly'.  Unfortunately Blaize is almost entirely a cypher ~ hidden depths are hinted at but never explored.  By the end of this he's no more 'mature' a human being than he was at the beginning of David Blaize (1916); and, apart from developing a vague notion to become a writer, the only thing he's actually learnt is how to study foreign languages without their seeming an absolute bore.  Ah! correction ~ the other thing he's learnt to do is babble exactly like Dodo, with equally unamusing results.  The babble of the minor character A.G., who Benson allows to
be as camp as he pleases (without, of course, ever being 'gay'), is far funnier by comparison.  It's a pity EFB never wrote a whole book about an A.G. figure.  Well, anyway, there's a lot of stuff to enjoy in David of King's, most of it, or rather almost all of it, supplied by the minor characters (A.G., Bags, Crowfoot, even David's still-embarrassing dad); and of course there's all the minutiae of life in early-1920s England.  But I couldn't really rate it higher than 5/10 ~ at the same time as I was quite enjoying it I was wishing they'd all shut the phucque up and go away.

For the same book 30 years younger, and less of an effort, see The Babe, B.A. (1896/97). 

This is Mr Benson's original David Blaize, only David is now at Cambridge. David of King's is, in short, the breeziest, happiest and, at the same time, the most convincingly truthful tale of undergraduate life that anyone has written. A real book ~ a remarkable book ~ a thoroughly enjoyable story.
~Hodder & Stoughton publicity blurb, so probably not a review at all, found in The Yorkshire Post for 21/05/1924
The charm of David as a child made Mr. Benson's first story about him delightful. There is charm still left in David the undergraduate, but his college life is described in a breathless and inchoate fashion.
~The Outlook (US), 22/10/1924
A pleasant picture of undergraduate life at Cambridge.
~The Bookman's Guide to Fiction, 11/1924

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