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26 December 2008 @ 10:52 pm
shaken. no, just shaken  
Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser

What ho! It's the bastard lovechild of Bond, Misogynist Asshole Bond, and The Far Pavilions.

There comes a point where I wonder about the integrity of the published word versus the reaction said word engenders. There is ample and cavalier use of the N word in this book, which was obviously standard at the time. It's probably one thing if a contemporary writer uses it, because they can't help but make a point if they do. But for someone like Fraser, the word was as common and essentially meaningless as asshole is now. But the N word bothers me. A lot. I kind of wish the book had been edited to replace it - even something as patronising as 'natives' would have been preferable to my delicate nerves.

My friend Shane lent me this when he saw me eyeing the second book in the series. He says that in general the series is good, as is the first book - if you can get past the fact that Flashman rapes someone. I could never condone rape and I certainly don't in this instance, but I could nearly swallow it more easily in the story's context than I could Flashman's attitude to women in general. Although he's a dickhead, he's not actually Evil TM, but ... he regards women as things, and so does every man in this book. The bit where he BOUGHT AND SOLD a bedslave creeped me the hell out. The only thing that redeems him at all is his marriage to Elspeth and that fact that he dances to her tune in the end. He deserves nothing less, and a hell of a lot more.

They all howled with fear, but they paid heed, the cook most of all. I took the opportunity to flog one of them every day, for their own good and my own amusement, and to these precautions I attribute the fact that in all my service in India I was hardly ever laid low with anything worse than fever, and that you can't avoid.

Okay, okay. For your own amusement I can kind of understand, because Flashman is basically a sociopathic monkey masquerading as a human, but FOR THEIR OWN GOOD WHAT. WHAT.

'[...] They'll be expelling' for rape next! [...]'

Oh yes, this wasn't disturbing AT ALL. As a reflection of the Regency, I can see why Queen Victoria was so utterly, utterly important to the restoration of a semblance of English morality.

'The wise son,' croaked Khan Hamet, opening his mouth for the first time, 'mistrusts his mother.' Doubtless he knew his own family best.

And yet there are funny things like this, which make the book less of a pain.

[...] the three Indian regiments of foot, black faces, red coats and white trousers, their naked feet churning up the slush.


'Well,' says he, 'we can make a blood good fight of it. We can die like Englishmen, 'stead of like dogs.'
'What difference does it make whether you die like an Englishman or like a bloody Eskimo?' says I, and he just stared at me and went on chafing his arms.

And you see, if you leave aside the attitudes Flashman's obviously inherited about women, he actually has a pretty decently interesting take on humanity. Very Rincewindish, I thought.

'There's a girl across the river with a bottom like a peach - but alas, I cannot swim.

And yet Fraser censors himself - that so goes 'there's a BOY across the river...'

'Oh, Harry!' says she, sparkling. 'I'm so happy I could die! Why, you are famous, Harry, and I...'
She didn't finish, but I know she was thinking that she was famous too. At that moment I loved her all the more for thinking it.

I kind of ship Harry/Elspeth a lot?

We shook hands, and he drove off. I never spoke to him again. Years later, though, I told the American general, Robert Lee, of the incident, and he said Wellington was right - I had received the highest honour any soldier could hope for. But it wasn't the medal; for Lee's money it was Wellington's hand.

Neither, I may point out, had any intrinsic value.

So I ended the book on an amused note; I just wish there was more of Flashman being cuckolded and less of him RAPING PEOPLE and the highly unlikely scenarios like the one with the dwarf and the pit of snakes. I'm pretty sure that happened on a Bond film I was forced to watch. (Gul Baz and Flashman's freaky aptitude for languages, on the other hand, were directly caged from MM Kaye. I'd swear it.)

Previously, on Book Glomp 2008:
#1Middlemarch | #2Invisible Monsters | #3A Thousand Splendid Suns | #4Love in the Time of Cholera | #5Oscar and Lucinda | #6Kim | #7Breakfast at Tiffany's | #8Atonement | #9To the Lighthouse | #10On the Road | #11Brideshead Revisited | #12Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | #13Bonjour Tristesse | #14A Passage to India | #15Three Men in a Boat | #16Vile Bodies | #17Prozac Nation | #18The Heart of the Matter | #19Jinx; #20Airhead | #21Doomsday Book | #22The Gum Thief | #23Choke | #24The Stone Gods | #25Beauty | #26Before They Are Hanged | #27The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation | #28Franny and Zooey | #29Girl in a Blue Dress | #30A Doll's House | #31Nation | #32City of Bones
Amanuensis: NOT the heat miser!amanuensis1 on December 27th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC)
The Flashman books are such a gem of non-PC glee. Isn't he a rotter?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: daisiesscoradh on December 29th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Except for his heinously careless attitude towards women, I have to say I love his take on life. Yes for cheating, treachery and underhandedness!
(Anonymous) on December 27th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)
An in depth look at the n-word.
Black America and the N-word:

(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: swingscoradh on December 29th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and it's like ... I hate 'abridging' and the idea of messing around with books after they've been published, but. I wonder if this isn't one case where an exception could be made.
vickyduckyvickyducky on December 27th, 2008 12:35 pm (UTC)
I always thought that the point about Flashman was that he was a black hearted, cowardly, utterly selfish rake and scoundrel but that circumstances (often in extremely unlikely ways) seemed always to conspire so that he appeared to be the very model British Gentleman always winning medals and being praised for his courage. That's the basis of the humour isn't it? I have to admit I loved all the books and I wouldn't condone or excuse any of his behaviour, but I don't think Fraser was either. I've a feeling Elspeth gets her own back a bit in some of the later ones.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: maskscoradh on December 29th, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah; he's kind of like a reverse Blackadder. And I would have been delighted with the funny if it wasn't for his attitude towards women; it's just not something I can overlook for any quantity or quality of humour.

Elspeth already PWNs in this book, when she controls his purse strings and he's smart enough not to confront her on her affaire. Now that's an attitude I like to see. :D