The Unbearable Bassington by Saki
I used to read references to Saki in long-ago literature classes and yet never actually read him until lately. This novel is short, acerbic, hilarious, sad, and one of the best reads I’ve had in a while. All those fussy, mannered British characters that you’ve ever wanted to lampoon are roasted with a roaring flame of wit, to the point that I felt as if I should not be enjoying myself so much at the expense of so many people, albeit made-up ones. “Some people are born with a sense of how to clothe themselves, others acquire it, others look as if their clothes had been thrust upon them.” “Hostesses regarded her philosophically as a form of social measles which everyone had to have once.” “The sort of pulpiteer who spanks the vices of his age and lunches with them afterwards.” There is never any hope that the self-centered rake Comus will win the hand of the lovely and wealthy Elaine, nor is there any hope for her in the choice that she does make. Mother and son will never come to understand that they are bound to one another with true feeling until it is, of course, too late. Funny as it is, the book left me with a deep sadness for its central characters, particularly poor doomed and handsome Comus and his mother Francesca who declares that her soul is kept in her parlor among her very fine possessions.