Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Paperback cover: "Tales from the White Hart"

  • Title: Tales from the White Hart
  • Author: Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)
  • Cover artist: Richard M. Powers (1921-1996), according to Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Original publication date: 1957
  • Publication date of this edition: Third printing, November 1966
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (U2113)
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Pages: 151
  • Dedication: To Lew and his Thursday night customers
  • About: This is a collection of short stories by Clarke with the shared theme of being club tales told by a man named Harry Purvis. For more about club tales and Lord Dunsany's part in the subgenre, see the 2020 post "Stay-at-home shelfie #57."  
  • Table of contents: You can find it on Wikipedia, with hyperlinks to most of the individual tales.
  • First line of preface: "These stories were written in spurts and spasms between 1953 and 1956 at such diverse spots on the globe as New York, Miami, Colombo, London, Sydney, and various other locations whose names now escape me."
  • Colombo? He's talking about the city Sri Lanka. Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008. He was an avid diver and wrote books about his underwater explorations.
  • First passage of collection: "You come upon the 'White Hart' quite unexpectedly in one of these anonymous little lanes leading down from Fleet Street to the Embankment. It's no use telling you where it is; very few people who have set out in a determined effort to get there have ever actually arrived."
  • Random sentence from the middle: "It was obvious that the orchid had a highly developed nervous system, and something very nearly approaching intelligence."
  • Goodreads rating: 3.93 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2020, Erik wrote: "I read this when really young up at paternal grandmother Lajla's cottage on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan — on the great wicker couch in the living room, to be exact. It was a cool night outside. Clarke's device, setting up his stories in the context of tale tales told in a pub, the whole grownup Englishness of it, enchanted me thoroughly, made me think consciously that 'now, this is a good book!'"
  • Amazon rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2011, Paul wrote: "Readers of some of my other reviews know that I am partial to science fictional tavern or club stories. There are basically two ways of relating fantastic events in such settings. The first is to have the events occur in the tavern itself (as in the Gavagan's Bar stories or the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon tales). The second method is to have a "tall tale" spun out by a plausible narrator (as in the Jorkens stories or the Brigadier Ffellowes tales). ... The White Hart stories are funny. I have read them over a dozen times, and I still laugh at them. But you should understand. The humor is not a slapstick American humor. It is a dry British humor. Alec Guinness rather than Jerry Lewis."

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