Sunday, 21 September 2014

Time Travel

Welcome to a new series for the LRBS Blog called "Literary Time Travel".
We will be looking at a selection of entirely random years, picked for purely arbitrary reasons, and making that all important decision, should we visit? and what will we wear?

We have been hearing a mention or two of the year 1951 this morning on National Radio, in relation to the Elections and what-not. Which had us Generation Xers at The Little Red Bookshop wondering: what exactly was going on in 1952?....

Mr Burroughs

1952; while Burroughs was busy: (accidentally)shooting his wife and making his first contact with "the invader, the Ugly Spirit", some authors were hard at work. This was the year J.D. Salinger presented the world with 'Catcher in the Rye', which even now is probably our most frequently requested Modern Classic. Beckett and Capote were busy, as was Daphne du Maurier.

John Griffiths, 1963, 'The Gonads' cover.

But really 1951 was the Year of the Science Fiction greats.

Issac Asimov put out both 'Foundation' and 'The Stars like Dust', Arthur C. Clarke published 'The Sentinel"- for which Kubrick should be forever thankful. Then we had Bradbury's 'The Illustrated Man' which was a collection of 18 short stories, not all of them new, but it is a solid collection, and one worth owning if Classic Sci-Fi is your thing.

There was also Heinlein’s 'The Puppet Masters' and Lewis 'Prince Caspian', the second book in The Narnia Chronicles, no doubt the 'Harry Potter' of it's day. And then there was John Wyndhams post-apocalyptic masterpiece  'The Day of the Triffids'.  According to Brian Aldiss 'The Day of the Triffids' is a classic example of what he termed  'cosy catastrophe' - a sub genre of apocalyptic fiction where society is destroyed apart from a handful of survivors, who are able to enjoy a relatively comfortable existence. I suspect that is no compliment.  But as a committed 'Survivors' Fan girl I'm all for 'cosy catastrophe'.

Newspaper report as it appeared in the Dunedin 

Evening Star  in December 1952

As far as New Zealand goes Janet Frame had her The Lagoon and Other Stories, though that didn't actually appear on the shelves till the following year. And things were starting to move in a slightly more interesting direction as far as NZ Poetry was concerned, with the emergence of James K. Baxter and Alistair Campbell etc, with Baxter at least making a push against the old school of more Nationalist poets like Allen Curnow.

All in all though, I  think that 1951 might just be one of those years I'd give a miss.... though it was a good year for Men's suits.