Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sir Thomas Urquhart in Fiction

Apologies for the change to regular programming, but this morning I learnt of a new(ish) work of fiction featuring Sir Thomas, and was inspired to write up the ones I know of.  Sir Thomas seems to be the sort of character who catches the imagination, possibly because so much of his unique personality comes through in his writing, if you can manage to read enough of it. Of course anyone who can read enough of it is slightly odd, which explains a lot about these stories.

Logopandocy - Alasdair Gray
Written in 1983, this short story is presented as Sir Thomas' diary (diurnal) and in a style that is eerily reminiscent of Sir Thomas' writing. Slightly fantastic, it features a conversation between Sir Thomas and Milton about Babel, universal languages and 'the greatest and most truly Original Book in the Universe' - unfortunately there is a slight misunderstanding as to which Book that is, Sir Thomas of course having Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel in mind. The story also features Gray's characteristic illustrations, a number of which are of Sir Thomas, and various lists of pros and cons (contras) which draw extensively on Sir Thomas' own writing. Gray himself has said that only "one in twenty readers" would be bothered with this story. It is one for the logofascinated, including words Gray appears to have made up for the occasion, as well as a number of Sir Thomas'. If you've stuck with this blog you'll enjoy it, and if you've read any of Sir Thomas' original writings, you'll enjoy it even more. I wasn't able to find it as a stand-alone, but you can currently get all of Alasdair Gray's short stories on Kindle for $9.99, something you should probably do regardless of how you feel about Sir Thomas. (I can't tell you what the UK equivalent costs, I'm sorry, because Amazon are afraid to tell me.)

A Handbook of Volapuk - Andrew Drummond
Drummond is another Scottish writer, and in this novel he is inspired by the constructed language Volapuk. Sir Thomas is the basis for a character in the novel (called Sir Thomas), due of course to the language he purports to have constructed (I have my doubts) in Logopandecteision.  I haven't read this yet, as it doesn't seem to be currently in print or e-book, but the review here was enough for me to risk about A$8 on If you're looking for it on another book-buying site, it's helpful to look for 'Volapuk' rather than the full title, as some booksellers have listed it more simply. Make sure you don't buy the original Handbook of Volapuk unless you're particularly into constructed languages. There's more about the book on Drummond's website.

The Lairds of Cromarty - Jean-Pierre Ohl
Strangely enough, or perhaps not when you consider their history, this book was written by a Frenchman, in French, and translated into English late last year. Ohl stayed in Cromarty during his research for the novel, a mystery set in the 1950's and featuring fictional descendants of the Urquhart clan. It doesn't appear to be available in e-book (in English, anyway), but the interview here and review here convinced me to get a paper copy shipped across the globe. Promiscuous book-buyer that I am, I ordered this one from, but it is available via the Amazon domain of your geographical preference.

Reviews to come once the books do (a week or two, this being the Antipodes). 

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