MASTERS OF THE ART—THOROUGHLY ENTERTAINING INTO THE BARGAIN—AND SOMEWHAT FORGOTTEN
One of the great regrets of my life has been that I have never succeeded in keeping a diary for longer than a year. Given the imperfections of memory, it just seems to me that life unrecorded is life lost.
That is not exactly true, of course, because the fact that an event has not been recorded does not mean it has not happened—but, it is just the way I feel. Call it a writer’s bias, if you will. It is actually a rather odd notion because it suggests that the written word is necessary to confirm the validity of something happening, or even that the written word is more important than the event itself. Arguably, it frequently is—in the sense that by its communicating to others it enhances both the perceived veracity and the significance of the act in question.
These musings stem from my just having re-read Hornblower and The Hotspur by C.S. Forester and being struck—yet again—by what an extraordinarily fine writer Forester was. It wasn’t just that he wrote a series of fast-paced and fascinating naval adventures—set in and around the Napoleonic wars—about the fictional Horatio Hornblower. It was more that he was a maestro of the written word. He not only knew what word to use, but he excelled at pacing a story; and knowing what to leave out; and his sense of place was phenomenal. If you want to know what it was like to command a man of war in the late eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries—down to the last weevil in your sea biscuit—Forrester is the man to read. He was also astonishingly prolific and achieved an output that would put most authors to shame even though he died at the relatively early age of 66. He had yet another claim to fame in that he was also the author of a work that is probably best known as a movie, The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.
I wish I had kept a diary if only to recall the truly remarkable writers who introduced me to the craft of storytelling. There is now so much choice that my sense is that some of the finest—widely read in their day—are in danger of being forgotten.
In future posts, I shall try and recall some of my favorites in this blog. It is the least I can do.
By the way, the actor who played Hornblower in the TV series is Ioan Gruffudd—illustrated above. He was a fine choice.