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Read August 1st.

Oh of course Rudyard Kipling wrote a British-boys'-boarding-school book. What was I thinking?

And, of course, the language is magnificent. Kipling has a way with slang and rhythm and cadence that does not fail him here, so that even when the argot is so dense you have no idea what is actually going on you don't actually care because it's so damn colorfully spoken.

I am not sure why the book is called after Stalky, as he is not particularly the protagonist, but he is the only one of his trio of friends whose legally given name we ever find out, so maybe that's it. The three of them are at a school which is a training-ground, mostly, for boys going into various military areas; and they are politely, calmly, and stubbornly determined to do whatever they like to set the place on its head if they are not allowed to do whatever they like. Insulting them has a way of coming back in your face, somehow, and most of the schoolmasters are simply not able to keep up with the sheer deviousness they exhibit.

It's funny, of course, and terrifyingly colonialist, of course, and has basically no women, of course. There is one moment I found politically fascinating, in which a Member of Parliament comes to speak to the school about 'Patriotism'; eighty percent of them were born abroad and seventy-five percent into career military families, and the reception he gets is a stonewalled disbelief that any man can possibly be so stupid as to say the things he is saying. He ends with a flourish of the Union Jack and half of them don't know what it is, because it has never been a matter of practical importance. I enjoyed that; it felt both true and genuinely subversive.

But the meat of this book is in watching its three hellions get a better education than they think they are getting, by raiding the reputable and disreputable literature and techniques of Higher Academia in order to, for instance, learn enough about architecture to put a dead cat under the floorboards of the rival dorm. And the language. Kipling is one of those authors where as long as he keeps talking sometimes I almost don't care what he says. Almost.

I recommend this to Kipling completists, people who like to pick up obscure slang, and people who've read too many books set in boarding schools of the sort that make you want to throw those books, very hard, at the author and explain that children are amoral little hellions. This is specifically working against that last set of tropes. Stalky and friends would fit right in at St. Trinian's, if they were female, although they've a deep-down belief that other human beings are, you know, human beings; otherwise it wouldn't be nearly so pleasant to watch them hell around. I can see why I never encountered this as a kid, but it was worth looking at.

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rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Read August 1st.

Oh of course Rudyard Kipling wrote a British-boys'-boarding-school book. What was I thinking?

And, of course, the language is magnificent. Kipling has a way with slang and rhythm and cadence that does not fail him here, so that even when the argot is so dense you have no idea what is actually going on you don't actually care because it's so damn colorfully spoken.

I am not sure why the book is called after Stalky, as he is not particularly the protagonist, but he is the only one of his trio of friends whose legally given name we ever find out, so maybe that's it. The three of them are at a school which is a training-ground, mostly, for boys going into various military areas; and they are politely, calmly, and stubbornly determined to do whatever they like to set the place on its head if they are not allowed to do whatever they like. Insulting them has a way of coming back in your face, somehow, and most of the schoolmasters are simply not able to keep up with the sheer deviousness they exhibit.

It's funny, of course, and terrifyingly colonialist, of course, and has basically no women, of course. There is one moment I found politically fascinating, in which a Member of Parliament comes to speak to the school about 'Patriotism'; eighty percent of them were born abroad and seventy-five percent into career military families, and the reception he gets is a stonewalled disbelief that any man can possibly be so stupid as to say the things he is saying. He ends with a flourish of the Union Jack and half of them don't know what it is, because it has never been a matter of practical importance. I enjoyed that; it felt both true and genuinely subversive.

But the meat of this book is in watching its three hellions get a better education than they think they are getting, by raiding the reputable and disreputable literature and techniques of Higher Academia in order to, for instance, learn enough about architecture to put a dead cat under the floorboards of the rival dorm. And the language. Kipling is one of those authors where as long as he keeps talking sometimes I almost don't care what he says. Almost.

I recommend this to Kipling completists, people who like to pick up obscure slang, and people who've read too many books set in boarding schools of the sort that make you want to throw those books, very hard, at the author and explain that children are amoral little hellions. This is specifically working against that last set of tropes. Stalky and friends would fit right in at St. Trinian's, if they were female, although they've a deep-down belief that other human beings are, you know, human beings; otherwise it wouldn't be nearly so pleasant to watch them hell around. I can see why I never encountered this as a kid, but it was worth looking at.

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