Monday, March 30, 2020

The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium by Gerard Durrell

One of my little monsters asleep on my should while I write.

The Picnic and Suchlike PandemoniumThe Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium by Gerald Durrell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a collection of unrelated stories written by the late British naturalist, Gerald Durrell. Unlike his other books such as, My Family and Other Animals or Birds, Beasts and Relatives, this set of short stories are more about his family and other assorted people he came across in his life and travels.

All of the stories contain humor, some more than others. The first two stories, The Picnic and The Maiden Voyage, are about his family going on an ill-fated picnic outing to welcome home his brother Lawrence, and an even more ill-fated tour on a Greek cruise ship. These two stories have humorous moments, although some of it seems a bit canned. The third likewise is a little cliche as he meets an old girlfriend in Venice and gets sucked into her zany life dramas.

Some of the stories show a glimmer of the brilliant writer he could have been had he applied himself and, he freely admitted he never applied himself for the reason that he hated to write and only wrote in order to provide a financial resource for his animal advocacy and protection endeavors.

I am speaking of the last two. The penultimate story, The Michelin Man is narrated by a chef in an obscure French village containing an even more obscure restaurant that nevertheless sported one Michelin star. The chef gives a fantastic story as to how his restaurant gained this coveted recognition. Is it true? Doubtful, but it was a great story!

The last story is in a class of its own and almost makes one wonder if Durrell wrote it or plagiarized the story from someone with real ability. In fact he presents the story as if it were a manuscript accidentally found by a book seller. It is titled, The Entrance and is a ghost story/psychological thriller that is spine tingling.

I read it on a rainy day and finished it at two in the morning, which probably added to the suspenseful atmosphere of that particular tale.

Do I recommend this book? Sure. The few well-written stories, especially The Entrance, are worth the price of the entire book.

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Debbie Nolan said...

Sharon I never heard of this sad that he made his living writing but did not enjoy his work...wonder why he didn't do something different that was more in keeping with what he might have enjoyed doing? Hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe. Hugs!

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI Debbie!

It is strange, but he saw it as a means to fund his animal projects. His brother is supposed to be a very good writer, but I haven't read him.

Stay safe and healthy!

Brian Joseph said...

There really is something about Bach. I like almost everything that I hear. I also like it almost instantly. Most other music I have to listen to several times before I get it.

The stories sound fun and enjoyable.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian!

I know what you mean. I always loved learning how to play Back. His compositional logic is easy to memorize. Hope you're staying safe! I hear it's pretty bad in New York right now.

mudpuddle said...

Bach is better... than anyone!! i did a post on one of Gerald's books not too long ago: he's an interesting figure... and i have to ask: was "The Entrance" about a mirror? if so, it was the one i vaguely recall from over fifty years ago that scared the bejesus out of me and gave me nightmares for a long time... i should say i think he's an excellent writer: clear and humorous, comprehensible and magnetic... better, in fact, than his brother imo, of course... so that should give a clue about how low my lit appreciation is on the scholarly scale haha...

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI mudpuddle!

No, no, no. It may be that I am reading his work at the wrong season. For whatever reason his writing is not resonating with me.

The Entrance is about seeing things in a mirror. Or rather a ghoulish thing that tries to enter his room and eat everything. In the end it's left for the reader to guess whether there really was a monster or was the narrator insane.

And I agree about Back, I just love him!!

mudpuddle said...

that was it... very scary story, i thought...

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI mudpuddle.

It was, especially reading it at two am on a rainy night.