It’s no secret I love Steinbeck. I regularly visit Archives in the hope they have a book of his amongst the ample Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Last month I found The Short Reign of Pippin IV. Besides telling a story, the pages had the lovely benefit of each falling out as I read them in turn. Who needs a book mark? I will have to use the binding technique utilised by my mother on her copy of 1984; the ancient art of rubber band binding. An no, I am still not any closer to desiring any sort of ebook. My books have personality. This book’s personality just happens to be that of an unstable person. But every village needs the village fool.
This short story I found is in the same vein as The Moon is Down. It is a satirical look at politics and society, acted out by idiosyncratic eccentrics. The Short Reign of Pippin IV is purported as some of Steinbeck’s funniest novellas, however I found The Moon is Down to be much wittier. Having said that, Pippin is full of very clever descriptions and imagery of caucuses, it’s only that the humour is a bit more literal than that found in The Moon Is Down (at least to my mind).
If you’re feeling a bit lazy or can’t get your hands on a copy, the concept (minus the political insights) of the story have been put into a few terrible films, such as King Ralph.
This book has caused ‘Moonshadow’ by Cat Stevens to be stuck in my head for 4 days. Luckily I love Cat Stevens (saw him live last year. Best. Concert. Ever). Moving on…
Physcially, this book was very pleasant. It’s soft and light, like the story itself. As another second hand eddition from Archives book store , the pages were darkened at the edges, which had the effect of lighting up the words in the centre. Who needs a digital book? It was also the perfect example of what book lovers are talking about when they refer to the smell of a real book. It was musty, distinct and comforting.
I had forgotten why Steinbeck was my favourite author. This reminded me. Like many of Steinbeck’s works, this book is short, simply written, with interesting characters, and no messing about. Like A Passage To India , The Moon is Down drew me in from the first page. Basically, a group invades a small town, tension ensues.
One of the nicest things about this little novella is it’s wit. The clever characters’ sharp retorts had me chuckling on more than one occasion. Furthermore, while a line was drawn easily between invaders and invadees, one could sympathise with individuals on both sides.
Anyone who is interested in war or political strategy, or what’s going on with Western invasion anywhere, should enjoy this. Anyone like me, who is peaceful and generally light-hearted, will also love it.
Unsurprisingly, Steinbeck also adapted this to a play. It should be a movie. I could picture it on screen frame by frame. The ending is to die for.
Best quote: The flies have captured the fly paper.