A William March Omnibus
. Rinehart & Company . NY/Toronto ,
PS3505.A53157 A15 1956 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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I knew nothing of William March or his work, and I have been happily surprised by this book. Born in 1893 and active in the shipping business, he had a long bout of hysterial blindness in his thirties and, by writing Company K, discovered a wry and melancholy imagination, according to Alistair Cooke's introduction. Ten years later, he shedded his interest in shipping and turned entirely to writing. He died in 1954. Two books of his were apparently acclaimed: Company K and The Bad Seed. It fits with his life and temperament that these were the two books he cared about least! His twelve fables (133-51) are both good and strong. After reading so many fables that are not fables, I find these works a delight. They have more than a small touch of the sardonic Bierce in them. The parrot in The Crow and the Parrot explains that he duplicates what his mistress says and has reached the ripe old age of fifty without hearing a single cross word (135). The wise old tortoise discreetly suggests to the polecat that other animals who shun him are not undemocratic slobs, but rather that the polecat himself stinks a little (136). The terrier sees his one reason for living destroyed when he learns that he is not dragging his fat mistress along (139). The glib and arrogant cock who has told the capon that love is of little importance learns rather, by being penned up with a flock of geese, that Love is of no importance so long as you can have the particular thing you want (143). See also The Unspeakable Words (147) and Aesop's Last Fable (151), which makes a very fitting finish to the section. The Delphians, it turns out, killed Aesop because he kept answering their good questions with transparent stories.