H.H. Munro, aka Saki
Hector Hugh Munro, who wrote under the pen-name Saki, was born in Akyab, Burma in 1870, the son of a military police officer. At the age of 24, Munro moved to London with the intention of becoming a writer -- and he soon made his name as a brilliant satirist of late Victorian and Edwardian societies. Perhaps his role as an outsider helped him to develop his satirical eye. He mercilessly -- and efficiently -- lampooned the British upper classes for their shallow concerns over social status, their adherence to outmoded forms of etiquette, and their focus on appearances rather than substance. A master of the short story, Saki wrote funny, sometimes macabre short pieces in which, often in as few as three or four pages, he struck at the heart of snobby social conventions. He also showed a predilection for pitting diabolical children against somewhat dim-witted adults, who were hopelessly outmatched.
In this reissued collection of some of Saki's finest short stories, NYRB offers an unbeatable combination: Saki's writings paired with Edward Gorey's illustrations. In the title story, "The Unrest-Cure," J.P. Huddle complains to a friend during a ride in a railway carriage of his descent into a "deep groove of elderly middle-age" in which he and his sister "like everything to be exactly in its accustomed place; we like things to happen exactly at their appointed times; we like everything to be usual, orderly, punctual, methodical, to a hair's breadth, to a minute." His friend suggests that perhaps Huddle would benefit from an unrest-cure, as he is "suffering from overmuch repose and placidity, and you need the opposite kind of treatment" from the traditional rest-cure. "The Unrest-Cure" is a fitting title for this collection, as these stories, short, bracing, devilish, and very, very funny, provide an excellent remedy for our own placid, boring, conventional moments.
Many thanks to NYRB for letting me read this ARC through Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.