Archive for Edward Said

The Rudyard Kipling Cinematic Universe

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on May 22, 2021 by dcairns

This journey began with a Penguin book of classic short stories, in which I read Wireless, a very strange story indeed, by Rudyard Kipling.

That lead me, after weeks of time-wasting, to pick up and devour a volume called Strange Takes, which collects many of Kipling’s tales of the uncanny but NOT Wireless, which is incomprehensible to me since Wireless is, as noted, a very strange story indeed. With telepathy compared to radio as its theme.

Strange Tales shows a fantastic breadth — there are fairly straightforward accounts of supernatural vengeance, but also an uncanny dog story, the healing of a sick building, an account of what the Victorians termed “maternal influence” and an encounter with something called a “wishing house” — a creepy element in a story that’s otherwise plain tragedy.

Two features recur — the casual racism of the time, and a fear of madness so persistent that I wondered about Kipling’s own mental health history. He seems familiar with manias, persecution complexes, depression, the horrors, and all manner of malaises of the mind.

A character called Strickland recurs only twice, in the first two stories, written at the outset of the Great Man’s career, both tales of native revenge and both fairly horrid — contemporary reviewers were repulsed by the grisly imagination displayed, one critic declaring that the author would end in the madhouse.

Strickland is described as the sort of man things happen to, a throwaway line to account for the sheer implausibility of High Weirdness striking twice in this character’s life. He’s like Kolchak. Strickland is an effective sort of bastard, driven to grisly extremes in his first appearance in Mark of the Beast, and I was sort of looking forward to reading more of him, but he doesn’t appear again.

Still, Kipling’s prose and imagination lead me to pick up Kim, which is free of racism and cultural prejudices to a striking degree, magnificently written, and combining high adventure with still loftier spirituality. And here comes Mr. Strickland, walking into the book and out again within a page or two.

I’d started reading Edward Said’s intro but discovered to my fury that it was full of casual spoilers so I set it aside. Now I’ve finished the novel I’ll go back to it, but right now I’m following Strickland’s trail on the internet and discover he’s in four more short stories so I’ll have to read them too. Mark of the Beast is not his actual first canonical appearance. And he’s one of these masters of disguise the Raj seemed to be full of, dragging himself up as natives like the hero of The Deceivers.

But first I’ll watch Victor Saville’s film of Kim — from the one scene I remember of it, it’s clearly going to be a travesty, but then Kipling’s novel is not conventionally filmable. I did recognise a line of dialogue from the book repurposed for the movie, dropped into another character’s mouth in another situation, and I sort of appreciate that kind of effort.