Thursday, July 14, 2011

{review} injury time

D. J. Enright Injury Time: A Memoir (2003)

Injury Time: A Memoir

Injury Time was D. J. Enright's final book, a quite charming collection along the lines of that old-fashioned creature the 'commonplace book'. The title refers to the 'injury time' that is his life after his diagnosis with cancer, but also to the 'injuries' he collects in his daily reading: that is, the injuries done to his great love, the English language. 

I have previously read some of Enright's poetry and dipped into his critical works, The Alluring Problem (about irony as a 'style' in literature) and Fields of Vision (in which he gets to grips with television - and language). I also have the wonderful anthology he edited: The Oxford Book of Death. Enright had a very interesting career - a product of Cambridge in the F. R. Leavis era (but not a Leavis disciple), he spent many years in academia outside of the U.K before coming back to edit Encounter (the cultural journal founded by Stephen Spender) and serve as a director of Chatto & Windus. Enright read everything: great literature (in many languages); spam letters from Africa; brochures in the post office; Harry Potter; mail-order catalogues; pill packaging; everything - and Injury Time is his final volume of a trilogy of his thoughts on the bits and pieces that have caught his eye.

Some of the 'injuries' done to English include the dreaded 'dangling participle':
Then there is - surprisingly common - the dangling or unattached participle. Robert Burchfield cites Lord Belstead speaking of Lord Whitelaw on BBC Radio in January 1988: 'Being unique, I am not going in any way to imitate him', and Richard Ingrams in 1987 writing of the house in which he grew up: 'Now demolished, I can call it to mind in almost perfect detail.' (Lord Belstead 'did not intend to imply that he was himself unique', and 'obviously Mr Ingrams had not been demolished'.)
People look baffled should you draw their attention to a dangling participle, and slightly anxious, as though they had omitted to adjust their dress. When, stumblingly, you seek to explain matters, they grow ratty: the intention is plain enough, no one would ever suppose it meant what (or so you say, and who are you to say?) it may signify grammatically, what does grammar count for anyway?
Have just come across a splendid specimen in Barbara Skelton's Weep No More: 'Dining alone in Ajaccio, a cockroach actually ran across the plate.' That should cure us of dangling participles - if anything could.
There we can just about make out what is going on, even though, from what we know of her, Miss Skelton was less likely than a cockroach to be dining alone.
Enright also collects small witticisms that turn on language; he ranges from high to low culture without missing a beat. Goethe in one paragraph; Hollywood in the next:
It appears that Cubby Broccoli, producer of James Bond films, when asked why he continued working into his eighties, replied: 'If I didn't, I would turn into a vegetable.'
No pun is too low for Enright and this book has many very funny offerings (his passages on misplaced hyphens are wonderful). In places Enright also passes a certain stern eye over popular morality:
There used to be an expression, 'conspicuous consumption'. This has disappeared, what it represents having become normal and therefore no longer conspicuous.
He acknowledges these signs that he has become,
'Difficilis, querulus, laudator temporis acti...' It is amply attested to that old people are convinced things are getting worse all the time. On top of this predisposition, it is perfectly possible that some things are getting worse all the time. [The quotatation from Horace brilliantly encapsulates the 'grumpy old man' who praises the past]
Injury Time is also coloured, for this reader, by the knowledge that Enright was struggling to the conclusion of both this book and his life. Tucked in amidst Enright's witty didacticisms (did I invent that word?) are passages that reveal fragments of his day to day struggle with cancer - his thoughts on the NHS, on endoscopies, on young doctors (and elderly patients) and - inevitably for a man who edited The Oxford Book of Death - on The End. What is left for the man who lives to read when the terrible disease (or, ironically, its treatment) puts an end to his greatest pleasure?
Used to read the newspaper . . . Used to read the headlines in the newspaper . . . Used to read the first two or three words of the headlines . . . Have given up reading.
Rating: 8/10.

If you liked this: everyone should keep a commonplace book. Go on...

The Oxford Book of Death The Oxford Book of Friendship

No comments:

Post a Comment

{READ IN 2017}

  • APRIL
  • 37.
  • 36.
  • 35. A Scream in Soho - John G. Brandon
  • 34. A Murder is Arranged - Basil Thomson
  • 33. The Milliner's Hat Mystery - Basil Thomson
  • 32. Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? - Basil Thomson
  • 31. The Dartmoor Enigma - Basil Thomson
  • 30. The Case of the Dead Diplomat - Basil Thomson
  • 29. The Case of Naomi Clynes - Basil Thomson
  • 28. Richardson Scores Again - Basil Thomson
  • 27. A Deadly Thaw - Sarah Ward
  • MARCH
  • 26. The Spy Paramount - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 25. The Great Impersonation - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 24. Ragdoll - Daniel Cole
  • 23. The Case of Sir Adam Braid - Molly Thynne
  • 22. The Ministry of Fear - Graham Greene
  • 21. The Draycott Murder Mystery - Molly Thynne
  • 20. The Murder on the Enriqueta - Molly Thynne
  • 19. The Nowhere Man - Gregg Hurwitz
  • 18. He Dies and Makes No Sign - Molly Thynne
  • FEBRUARY
  • 17. Death in the Dentist's Chair - Molly Thynne
  • 16. The Crime at the 'Noah's Ark' - Molly Thynne
  • 15. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
  • 14. Night School - Lee Child
  • 13. The Dancing Bear - Frances Faviell
  • 12. The Reluctant Cannibals - Ian Flitcroft
  • 11. Fear Stalks the Village - Ethel Lina White
  • 10. The Plot - Irving Wallace
  • JANUARY
  • 9. Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • 8. Give the Devil his Due - Sulari Gentill
  • 7. A Murder Unmentioned - Sulari Gentill
  • 6. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
  • 5. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed - Sulari Gentill
  • 4. While She Sleeps - Ethel Lina White
  • 3. A Chelsea Concerto - Frances Faviell
  • 2. Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul - H. G. Wells
  • 1. Heft - Liz Moore

{READ IN 2016}

  • (K = Kindle; rr = re-read)
  • DECEMBER
  • 92. Richardson's First Case - Basil Thomson [K]
  • 91. The Alington Inheritance - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 90. Orphan X - Gregg Hurwitz [K]
  • 89. The House of Godwinsson [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 88. Music Tells All [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 87. Helen Passes By [Bobby Owen 23] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • NOVEMBER
  • 86. It Might Lead Anywhere [Bobby Owen 22] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 85. There's a Reason for Everything [Bobby Owen 21] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 84. Secrets Can't Be Kept [Bobby Owen 20] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • OCTOBER
  • 83. Night's Cloak [Bobby Owen 19] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 82. The Conqueror Inn [Bobby Owen 18] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 81. The Diabolic Candelabra [Bobby Owen 17] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 80. The Dark Garden [Bobby Owen 16] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • SEPTEMBER
  • 79. Picture Miss Seeton - Heron Carvic [K]
  • 78. Down Under (Benbow Smith 4) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 77. Walk with Care (Benbow Smith 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 76. Danger Calling (Benbow Smith 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 75. Fool Errant (Benbow Smith 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 74. The Annam Jewel - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 73. Mr Zero - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 72. Will o' the Wisp - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 71. Red Shadow - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 70. Pursuit of a Parcel (Lamb 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 69. Who Pays the Piper (Lamb 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 68. The Blind Side (Lamb 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 67. Outrageous Fortune - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 66. The Amazing Chance - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 65. Red Stefan - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • AUGUST
  • 64. The Coldstone - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 63. Anne Belinda - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 62. The Black Cabinet - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 61. Hue & Cry - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 60. The Skin Collector - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 59. The Kill Room - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 58. Nothing Venture - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 57. Kingdom Lost - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 56. Beggar's Choice - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 55. Hole and Corner - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 54. Touch and Go - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 53. The Red Lacquer Case - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 52. Run! - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 51. Fear by Night - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • JULY
  • 50. The Dower House Mystery - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 49. The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 48. Weekend with Death - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 47. Blindfold - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 46. Silence in Court - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 45. Acts of the Assassins - Richard Beard [K]
  • JUNE
  • 44. Hack - Kieran Crowley [K]
  • 43. The Portable Veblen - Elizabeth McKenzie [K]
  • 42. The Spirit Murder Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • MAY
  • 41. The Ginger Cat Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 40. The Pleasure Cruise Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 39. The Polo Ground Murder - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • APRIL
  • 38. The Outsider - Jason Dean [K]
  • 37. The Hunter's Oath - Jason Dean [K]
  • 36. Missing or Murdered - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 35. The Beetle - Richard Marsh [K]
  • MARCH
  • 34. A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell 1) - Deanna Raybourn [K]
  • 33. The Chimera Vector - Nathan M. Farrugia [K]
  • 32. An Infamous Army - Georgette Heyer [K]
  • 31. Mr Bazalgette's Agent - Leonard Merrick
  • 30. Don't Tell - Karen Rose [K]
  • 29. Say Goodbye - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 28. Gone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 27. The Killing Hour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 26. The Next Accident - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 25. The Third Victim - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • FEBRUARY
  • 24. The Perfect Husband - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 23. Find Her - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 22. Fear Nothing - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 21. Catch Me - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 20. Love You More - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 19. Live to Tell - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 18. The Neighbour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 17. Hide - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 16. Alone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 15. The Humans - Matt Haig [K]
  • 14. Utopian Man - Lisa Lang
  • 13. Love Insurance - Earl Derr Biggers [K]
  • JANUARY
  • 12. The Ignition Effect - Viv Ronnebeck [K]
  • 11. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin [K]
  • 10. Dangerous & Unseemly - K. B. Owen [K]
  • 9. In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward [K[
  • 8. Half a Crown - Jo Walton [K]
  • 7. Ha'penny - Jo Walton [K]
  • 6. Hilda Wade: A Woman with Tenacity of Purpose - Grant Allen [K]
  • 5. The Case of William Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 4. Blue Murder - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 3. Bleeding Hooks - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 2. Knock, Murderer, Knock! - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 1. Ten Star Clues [Bobby Owen 15] - E. R. Punshon [K]