Thursday, 8 November 2012
Discovering G. E. Farrow and his Dodo
One of my favourite things is discovering very old and seemingly forgotten books and finding that they're brilliant and fresh as the day they were first published. This happened when i picked up a hefty hardback one of the bookshops we visited in Whitby on Saturday. G. E. Farrow was waiting in there with his fantastical, late Victorian children's novel, 'The Little Panjandram's Dodo'. It's a kind of Edith Nesbit story, with three children encountering an irascible and extinct old bird who thinks a lot of himself - in this case, the Dodo, who's on the run, having stolen a fancy pair of gloves from his boss, the Little Panjandrum. He's such a preening, boastful buffoon - I really enjoyed his outbursts and knack for getting everyone into trouble.
There are touches of Alice in Wonderland with some of the verbal games and the abrupt shifts in direction and the dream logic that hangs over it all. It also reminded me quite a lot of Baum's Oz books, with the gathering up of a number of absurd creatures - though this time they're not headed for the Emerald City, but the Crystal Palace in Sydenham. The creatures in question are the slightly lopsided antideluvian animals who, once in place on the island in that London park, turn to stone - where, as Farrow tells us, they can be seen to this very day. (He was talking about 1899, but I've been and seen them quite recently - 2012 - and have pictures to prove they're still there..!)
It's a lovely, silly book which restored my faith into delving into the unknown and neglected past - and it's made me want to read more of Farrow. Luckily, there are a few on Project Gutenberg, to download for free. Including this very one, but in the US it seems to have been renamed 'Dick, Marjorie and Fidge'.
The illustrations are fab, by the way!