Tuesday, August 24, 2010

class and peter o'toole

here's a bit more from the aforementioned porterhouse blue in which the head porter, skullion, finds some little bit of class consciousness.

"as the full extent of his deprivation dawned on him, the anger which had been gathering in him since sir godber became master broke through the barrier of his deference and swept like a flash flood down the arid watercourse of his feelings. for years, for forty years, he had suffered the arrogance and the impertinent assumptions of privileged young men and had accorded them in turn a quite unwarrented respect and now at last, released from all his obligations, the anger he had suppressed at so many humiliations added to the momentum of his present fury. it was almost as though skullion welcomed the ruin of his pretensions, had secretly hoarded the memories of his afflictions against such an eventuality so that his freedom, when and if it came, should be complete and final. not that it was or could be. the habits of a lifetime remained unaltered...his anger was all internal. outwardly skullion seemed subdued and old, shuffling about his office in his bowler hat and muttering to himself, but inwardly all was altered. the deep divisions in his mind, like the two seperate lobes of his brain, his alliegence to the college and his self-interest, were sundered and skullion's anger at his lot in life could run unchecked."

this is a not-unwelcome change in the social conscience of skullion who, after the death of zipser, has seemed to become our hero or at least our major character. but it seems sharpe wasn't really clear what he wanted his novel to be. it seems a lucky jim-style light satire for most of the time, but then slides into darker territories with scenes like the deaths of zipser and mrs. biggs or the fury skullion displays on being sacked or the decimation of the tv personality carrington by the dean. I can't call it dull but I can't call it very good either.

otherwise, I realized yesterday that in my list of campus novels I read long before I joined academia that had an impact on me I left out one of the most delightful: jeremy leven's creator. I'd watched the horrible movie with peter o'toole and vincent spano at least a half dozen times by the time I located a copy of the novel, and was gratified at how very, very different it was. I can't lay my hands on my copy so I don't have any quote here, but I can link to one of the reasons I watched the film so often: the deep laconic effortless resonance of peter o'toole's acting even when he's phoning in his role. this was, at one time, the professor I wanted to be.

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