Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Wrong Set by Angus Wilson

First published 1949; cover shown is the 1959 Penguin Books (UK) paperback edition. Cover illustration by Ronald Searle. 201p.

"The first thing that one notices about these twelve stories is how they make one laugh. Only later does one realise what a skilled exposure the author has made of those self-righteous and hollow conventions, those smug clique ideologies, those whimsical sayings and philosophical attitudes, in fact, the protective devices with which people seek to mask deep-laid egotism.

There is the wallowing in self-adulation on the part of the 'crazy Cockshott' family, as they delight to dub themselves. There is the search for really nice standards on the part of Vi, singer at the Passion Fruit nightclub - as hopelessly bemused a spirit as ever lived in sin at Earl's Court and attempted to lecture a young Communist nephew with untidy hair and spectacles.

There is the humbug of the bullying new curator at the provincial art gallery. And the staff dance at the South Kensington hotel, where lives the lady who spends her time trying to achieve รก Knightsbridge appearance on a Kensington purse', and where, as the evening progresses and the drinks begin to tell, the lady-like facades and gentlemanly courtesy of the clientele crack up with a vengeance."

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