A little stumble out of the gate…

Remember my bold March reading plans, so recently announced? Well, it’s not that they are completely derailed or anything, but I admit that The Man Who Loved Children has presented me with an unexpected obstacle in the form of Sam Pollit, the single most annoying character I’ve ever met. What’s so annoying about him? Mostly, that he talks like this:

‘Boys,’ said he, ‘boys, you soon won’t have your little feyther with you. He is going away to Greenland’s icy mountings and India’s coral strand. You have to look after yourselves, your mother, and your sisters. I want all of you to stand together and look after the house for me, not only the female hanni-miles mentioned and aforesaid, but also the real honest-to-goodness hanni-miles, Procyon the raccoon, Gimlet the parrot, Didelpha the vixen opossum, Cocky-Andy the sulphur-crested cockatoo, Big-Me the pygmy oppossum, not to mention the birds and reptilians. That will be quite a job even for you smart boys. Now we’ll have to work up a schedule. And fustest, you must write to your poor Sam [that’s him] ebbly week and tell him how ’tis tuh hum; and second, you must keep a record of the birds and anni-miles wot visit Tohoga House. Tohoga Place that is. No! Momento! Loogoobrious can do that. It will be a good thing for her, keep her mind off of her herself, on which onpleasant objeck,’ he continued (believing that Louie was there), ‘it is glued at time of speaking. But that is, no doubt, on account of her fai-hairy figuar and her bewchus face.’

Seriously, WTF? I am pretty sure he is meant to be annoying–insufferable, even?–but if that quality is too perfectly realized, it’s about as risky as representing a tedious bore too exactly (the Baron of Bradwardine, anyone? who is rescued only–or maybe not quite–by Scott’s obvious affection for him and what he stands for?). We’ll see how this goes. At the moment, though, I dislike it so intensely whenever Sam starts talking that (a) I am all on his neurotic wife’s side in what he calls “this everlasting schism” (they aren’t speaking–but can you blame her?) and (b) I am hoping his trip to “Greenland’s icy mountings” lasts the rest of the novel.

6 thoughts on “A little stumble out of the gate…

  1. Amateur Reader March 10, 2011 / 9:47 pm

    Good lord, it’s like listening to a recording of myself! How did Stead know what I sound like in real life?

    I love that passage – I mean, I find it a complete scream. I don’t want to guess how much of it I would continue to find as funny.

    Glancing at Randall Jarrell’s introduction to the novel, I find that he actually longs for more Sam. He wishes there were more novels – Sam at College and so on. I suspect that one’s response to Sam will predict one’s response to the book.

  2. Me too March 11, 2011 / 1:47 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I am currently using this book for a work assignment. I just want to stick needles in my eyes.

  3. Annie March 11, 2011 / 2:16 pm

    Surely the poor woman had grounds for divorce? Possibly even a defence against murder? At the very least I’d be calling for the men in white coats.

  4. Dorothy W. March 13, 2011 / 9:44 pm

    I tried hard with this book but couldn’t make it, and I don’t give up on books easily. It was just too much of a slog. I felt like I read and read and read and got hardly anywhere. If only it were 200 pages! And without Sam! 🙂

  5. Danielle March 14, 2011 / 10:37 am

    I just finished this book, and I was completely amazed by it. It’s a painful read, but that’s part of what makes it so incredible. It’s a freakishly accurate psychological exploration of narcissstic parents, a horrible marriage maintained by a terror of losing the children to the other parent, the emotional resilience of abused children, and the crushing oppression of debt. Sam is a monster, and it takes a lot more compassion than I have to find anything redeeming in him, but this is still one of the best and most disturbing novels I have ever read.

  6. Rohan Maitzen March 14, 2011 / 11:36 am

    Well, I’m pressing on. I’m trying the unusual strategy (for me, at least) of skimming along a bit, to see if I can get caught up in some momentum without getting overwhelmed by the aspects of the book and the writing that I really don’t like–including Sam, but I’m also getting a good hate on for Henny now too.

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