Pints of Simcox Ale All ‘Round

My final semester at FSU, I took a course called “Twentieth Century Literature.”  My major was Literature, and this class met my most critical needs: it was a night class.

In other words, the only vital requirement I had was schedule-based.  I had my final semester of German, two film classes to wrap up my minor, and a writing seminar, just for giggles, so I just needed one more class at night.

A bonus was that Professor Crook was teaching.  I’d taken Chaucer with Dr Crook, and he was one of the best instructors I had. (Dr Crook was a great teacher; Chaucer wasn’t)

Of the dozen or so novels we read, two immediately joined my “All-Time Favorites” list.

The first novel we read that term was Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair.”  At the time, the novel’s broody protagonist appealed to me, and I felt a certain kinship.  Not that I identified with him 100%, but I fancied myself a brilliant, arrogant writer.  I felt like I belonged to the Arrogant Nit society.  Great novel, one I still love.

The other novel I grew to love was John Mortimer’s “Paradise Postponed.”

Dr Crook was a great teacher–I want to reiterate that.  If somebody had handed me either of these books, I’m sure I would have enjoyed them.  However, Dr Crook had this infectious enthusiasm for certain works, and I wanted to like this book just so I would be as giddy as he was, and not let him down.

Turns out I needn’t have worried.

“Paradise Postponed” was hysterical.  The characters were lovingly described, and I always felt like I was part of that little English village.

Over the years, I’ve re-bought and re-read “Paradise Postponed” numerous times.  I just finished reading it yet again.

One joy of this novel is that it spans a generation or two in these characters’ lives.  We see Fred Simcox (the sorta protagonist) as a small boy, as a boarding school student, as a directionless college grad, and as a country doctor.  When I first opened the book, I was 12 weeks from my college graduation.  That was two decades ago. Like Fred, I’ve passed various life milestones.

One of the joys in reading “Paradise Postponed” is the pacing.  In some books, the action is overwhelming.

Granted, if Jack Ryan strolled casually through his stories, we’d all have been smited ten times over.

I love that the story remains as it did when I first read it.  Those who die still die; those who are born do so.  What has changed is my perspective.  John Mortimer’s gift is creating a world so fully realized that we can feel a part of it.  Twenty-two years ago, the Simcox familly and their neighbors were just as they are today. 

Over that same period, I’ve had a rich variety of experiences, some good, some bad, some all mixed up.  For example, Saturday is Shortstop and Princess’ birthday (yay!). Last night, my peripheral neuropathy kicked in something fierce–my feet burn and hurt and itch so badly that I might go completely nuts before I can get S&P their birthday presents (boo!).

I’ll go to the doctor, and I’m sure he’ll work towards a treatment.  God willing, Shortstop and Princess will have innumerable more birthdays.  Maybe to celebrate one of those forthcoming birthdays, we can go to The Badger on a Saturday night, and hear Dr. Fred Simcox and the Riverside Stompers play “Slow Boat to China.”  Heck, I’ll even spring for a birthday balloon animal (some traditions are too precious to abandon).

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7 Responses to “Pints of Simcox Ale All ‘Round”

  1. I haven’t read that particular John Mortimer book, tom: I’ll have to add it to my winter reading list (which is going to come in handy, given the early start of the rainy season here and the number of power outages we’ve had this week).

    Graham Greene however is one of those writers I’ve grown to appreciate and dislike with age: appreciate, because I realize what a terrific writer he is; dislike, because his protagonists are almost always these gloomy sinners who hate themselves for doing the “wrong thing” but “I can’t help it, it’s the fallen flesh I can’t overcome!” I think we’ve all been there at one point or another (example, I need to lose 10 pounds but I can’t say no to chocolate), but most of us just admit, I am who I am, I like chocolate [or fill in your favorite sin here]. Green’s characters however will agonize like this through the whole book. This I was told is supposedly what makes them “truly human.” But I remember tossing “The Heart of the Matter” into a wastebasket when the main character began agonizing about suicide being a mortal sin though I knew he was going to do it anyway. Meh.

    • “To appreciate and dislike.” Perfect. I have the same sort of relationship with Greene. I appreciate his artistry and importance, but “The End of the Affair” is the only of his novels I’ve reread. Graham Greene wrote the screenplay for “The Third Man.” Lots of sinners and rending of garments. The only lines 99% of people remember from the film are the famous “cuckoo clock” speech…written by joyous sinner and genius, Orson Welles.

  2. Freedom Smith Says:

    Great post. I wonder if your teacher is still alive because I wish he could read the lovely tribute that you wrote about him. I have not read either book that you mention but you certainly have peeked my curiosity. My husband and my 19 year old son do not read for pleasure, something that I think it sad, but I also think it has to do with a learning challenge. My oldest son does love to read. Two of my three girls love to read. The daughter that does not also have a processing problem to overcome when reading.

    All that to say, it is fun to read a post by a man that is so excited about reading and has a wonderful memory of a book and a teacher. That is fantastic. Rare is the teacher that impacts our lives that much and that we remember so fondly over time.

    • Thanks Freedom. Paradise Postponed is veddy British, but it’s not stuffy. It’s one of those books I adore, but don’t necessarily recommend to people. Sort of like “Fanny and Alexander.” It could be my favorite movie ever, but it’s 3.5 hours, all in Swedish, and very slow. Of course, it won 4 Oscars, so I’m not the only one who likes it.

      Btw, thanks for sharing autumn from Freedom Mountain. Beautiful.

  3. Why haven’t you mailed it to me yet? 😀

    OK, fine. I’ll look for it in my local library. Harrumph!

  4. My favorite class was Sci-Fi Lit. When they announced the books we’d read durin ghte year, I’d already read them all at least three times each. It was an interesting year, for the instructor. LOL

    Have not given those two a read, but will definitely check them out. It’s odd how I got through school and didn’t read a bunch of what everyone else calls the classics. But after reading some of them, I’m amazed that they are considered classics. I mean, have you read the long droning introduction of The Scarlet Letter A? Sheesh…

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