…even if business men scorn it

This book does not seem to be growing very large although I have got to Chapter Nine…I know this will never be a real book that business men in trains will read, the kind of business men that wear stuff hats with curly brims and little breathing holes let in the side. I wish I knew more about words. Also I wish so much I had learned my lessons in school. I never did, and have found it such a disadvantage since. All the same, I am going on writing this book even if business men scorn it.

Chapter Nine from “Our Spoons Came From Woolworths”, a novel by Barbara Comyns, who is one of my favourite authors for the way her artless voice skewers everyday life and whose writing in fact contains great skill. From later in the book, this passage always makes me laugh too:

“I knew it was Rollo. When he saw me bent over the disgusting jam [Sophia’s employer has asked her to make rhubarb jam on the hottest day of summer], he said ‘Good afternoon. How are you?’ and the girls seemed surprised he knew me. I hunched myself up and murmured ‘I’m feeling beastly, thank you’ and great puffs of jammy steam came in my face.


I came across the work of Max Beckmann in the Met this week, and it seems a good fit for Barbara Comyns’ writing, not just in period but also the style of appearing extremely sunny in a manner that conceals great skill. This is Beckmann’s wife Quappi on the Riviera in 1926 (photo October 2016.)

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