Desirable Residences and Other Stories
For some years after his death in 1940, E.F. Benson was a forgotten man of English letters, remembered only by a few enthusiasts of his supernatural fiction. But over the last decade this has all changed, as successful TV adaptations of his comic masterpieces, the "Mapp and Lucia" stories, have transformed his reputation and led to the reissue of his best comic novels. Now, Jack Adrian, an authority on twentieth-century popular fiction, has brought together twenty-six of Benson's delightful short stories, some of which are newly discovered, and most of which have never been published in book form.
In Desirable Residences we find all of Benson's archetypical characters--absurd, gossipy socialites, appalling meddlers, and hapless males--sketched with a fine satirical wit, and juxtaposed in hilarious short stories. Benson's typical tale involves the humorous misadventures of his sorry, but lovable crew of main characters. One story relates the catastrophe which ensues when a pair of misogynistic bachelors mistakenly think they have solved their domestic problems by investing in the latest household appliances ("electricity," they hoped, would "take the place of a staff of greedy, incompetent females"). Adrian includes several of Benson's society stories (such as "The Drawing Room Bureau," in which a feud develops between two fashionable women over who will be able to divulge the most classified information from their "sources" at the War Office), and four depicting "The Diversions of Amy Bondham," a meddlesome social climber who is revived on her death bed when her husband reads to her the lineage of the Duke she has just visited. A typically pointed Benson passage has Amy complaining of the dreary social scene: "There had been so many pianists, so many singers, so many operations, and though a play by West African cannibals was a novelty, there would be risks in asking these artists to her house....She would never forgive herself if any of her guests were killed or eaten." Benson's taste for the bizarre is well represented, and the collection includes three of his ghost stories (which he like to call "spook stories"). Throughout, Benson creates memorable, often absurd characters--from the unfortunate Miss Mapp (featured in the title story) to the priceless Dodo to humorous hypochondriacs like Dicky Pepys and Bertram Potter.
Like his dozens of novels, these stories show Benson to be a master of many genres--from the society spoof to the chilling supernatural tale. These never-before-collected stories will only increase the burgeoning popularity of this once forgotten author.
Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1991
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