January 3, 2008

One of the greats...

One of the greats, George McDonald Fraser has just died. Everyone will be talking about the famous Flashman books. I'd like to put in a word of appreciation for his collections of short stories about Lt. Dand McNeil and his impossible burden, Private McAuslan (the dirtiest soldier in the British Army) which are extremely funny and charming.

From a reader-review [By Reader "piratebean" (Bristol, RI USA)] at amazon.com:

...George MacDonald Fraser has written the stories of this regiment and its most infamous soldier, Private McAuslan, in three collections: The General Danced at Dawn, McAuslan in the Rough, and The Sheikh and the Dustbin.

Through the narration by platoon commander Dand McNeil, McAuslan comes alive as the dirtiest soldier in the world, "wan o' nature's blunders; he cannae help bein' horrible. It's a gift."

Yet McAuslan is one of the most loveable creatures in all of literature. He may be grungy, filthy, clumsy, and disreputable, but he tries to do his best. Through his many misadventures, McAuslan marches into the heart of the reader, right leg and right arm swinging in unison, of course.

McAuslan, outcast that he is, experiences some infamous moments in his career: court martial defendant, ghost-catcher, star-crossed lover, golf caddie, expert map reader, and champion of the regimental quiz game (!). His tales, and the tales of his comrades-in-arms, are poignant at times, hilarious at others. These tales are so memorable because they are based on true stories.

The reader basks in all things Scottish in the stories. The language of the soldiers is written in Scottish brogue, although Fraser says in his introduction, "Incidentally, most of this volume is, I hope, written in English." Don't fret - a glossary is provided. (Reading the glossary alone causes some serious belly laughs.

And also for his superb memoir of his service in Burma during WWII, Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma

You don't need much more evidence of the total decadence and decline of Britain, than to just point out that there seem to be no more George McDonald Fraser's in the pipeline...

* Update: (late late at night, and I'm drinking the Glenlivet.) I should point out that the cover pictured below on the The Complete McAuslan is a travesty!!! The immortal McAuslan is a scrawny malnourished wide boy from Gleska (Glasgow); not in any way fat. (So read the book, already!! You will thank me. Geez. Why do I even bother recommending things anyway?? People will just go buy some crappy movie on a DVD. Why do I even bother to keep living in a post-literate age???? I'm all alone. At least click-through my amzaon link to buy your stupid flick, so i make a profit on my wasted electrons...)

* Update: I mean really, why am I doing this?? I'll never speak to a soul who's read about Lt. McNeil's platoon standing guard at Edinburgh Castle. Or Captain Einstein's stunning defense of McAuslan at the Court Martial (Shakespeare himself would have smiled.) Or Captain Errol. Ah well. Let the barbarians over-run all. Perhaps a new and better civilization will arise from the steaming rubble...

* Update: One more glass. SO good. Scotland is doomed, but somebody will continue to distill the whiskey---there's too much money in it not to. SO, Mohammed--my brother--please--Scotch doesn't need to be flavored with Cardamom or Anise. Just stick with the original recipe and you will do fine. Trust me, the smokey flavor grows on you.

* Update: (I have a little program that inserts these "Update" dingbats with a keystroke--it's not like I have to working hard at this.) OK, I'll go along with the Cardamom. But, by the beard of the Prophet, that's where I draw the line!@!!


Posted by John Weidner at January 3, 2008 9:13 AM
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