Monday, November 13, 2017

50. The Book of Merlyn by T.H. White

Blam, did it.  I am quite happy to have made 50 but not feeling like cheering or resting on my laurels.  The challenge is to keep this up year after year and not flake out and build up a huge debt like I did for the last 4 years.  Also, this was perhaps not the best choice for my 50th book.  I have to admit that I read it almost entirely out of duty and not pleasure.  It was like the toughest part of a marathon.  You just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It is ostensibly (at least according to the breathless editors, who seem to dotheth protest too much) the true ending to White's classic The Once and Future King that got partially incorporated into the 4 books series that was actually published but mostly blocked due to wartime shortages and editorial decisions.  It was a decent coda, but most of it was the king as an old man going back to the animal societies he visited as a boy when first starting under Merylyn's tutelage.  Then the animals all argue with Merlyn about various types of statehood and how man compares to other species. If you were looking for a political science debate, this would be a fun one to read.  If you are looking for a conclusion to The Once and Future King, this felt like a lot of repetition.  When it does get to the real narrative ending, it is satisfying but it's only about 30 pages.

I was expecting a story that was really about Merlyn, as he is one of the most interesting characters in the Once and Future King. He is going backwards in time, which would be quite difficult to tell in a book.  I suspect the title was created by the editors and not T.H. White himself for exactly the reason that it would encourage sales.  I lay the blame of my dissatisfaction with this book entirely at the feet of the publishers.

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