Ere it had yet stopped the door of one carriage flew open and from it in a white travelling dress in a toque a-twinkle with fine diamonds a lithe and radiant creature slipped nimbly down to the platform.""
This is a classic. But, for many of today's readers who were born after the demise of the phonograph, they may find the eccentricity and cliches of this book both awkward and disingenuous. We have always heard the expression "I would die to be with that `woman.'" This book parlays that statement into a novel as one, then some, then almost all, of the male students of the elite institution of Oxford take this cliched saying to a literal demise. Satire abounds. At one time the Duke decides to renege on his promise to die for the title character (because she will not marry him), and she audaciously responds that he is a coward and not a man of his word. He is then stuck with the greatest of all decisions: live and be found not to be a man of his word about suicide, or die and be a man of his word. The dialogue is tightly written. Curt and very different from our 21st century patois, the reading is both fun and sometimes difficult. It is more Shakespearean than not. You can see that this author read, and probably reread, that 16th century author as did most men of his educational and geographical background. Humor is even directed to the author. At one time the Duke notices that Zuleika may not be well read, but she is well spoken. This amazes him - it adds to her attraction. She explains that she became well spoken as she once sat next to a bright young man named Beerbohm - who apparently in one night made her able to delight even the Oxford-educated man with her repertoire. If you think discussion about suicide for a woman (whom you have only met within a day) is a boring or ridiculous subject, you may want to stay away from this weird story. If you wish to have some inner visions of the pre-WW I British elite males of Oxford, this book offers you plenty. If you just like reading good prose, this book is much more than adequate.
A Willing Suspension of Sanity
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 15 years ago
A gay exercise in the writing of the most purple of prose? A parable of great cosmic truths and little human lies? Or a satire that would gladden the cold heart of Jonathan Swift? Beats the dickens out of me.. "The Great Max" has written one 'snorter' of a novel here. The entire premise is absurd, the characters totally ridiculous and the outcome is totally mad. Yet I was swept up in the whole crazy affair of Zulieka coming to Judas. Every mad action is made both insane and somehow totally believable in the whirlpool that is her beauty. And so hangs the story... Is this book "great" literature? That I can't answer. But boy it sure was a heck of alot of fun to read!
A bizarre and wonderful book
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 17 years ago
Zuleika Dobson must be one of the strangest books ever written. Beerbohm's ornate prose cloaks a bizarre story that, while it starts innocently enough, marches toward its surreal fate with the same determination as the Oxford undergraduates it depicts. But that isn't to say it isn't a marvelous satire. Beerbohm caricatures immature love by pitting a mysteriously alluring woman, Zuleika, who loves no man foolish enough to love her, against a pretentious nobleman known only as The Duke, who never thought himself capable of loving anyone but himself. Somehow, the author manages to tell their perverse story even as he reveals himself to be the servant of the Greek muse Clio; and the work loses nothing as it spirals into a comic fairy-tale featuring cameos by animated statues, supernatural apparitions--even Beerbohm himself!This particular edition is (at least as of right now) my favorite. It is wonderfully printed, and the text is peppered with Beerbohm's original illustrations. He never meant to include them in the book, but they seem only fitting in a work that refuses to be categorized as a serious novel, or a typical satire, or a children's fairy-tale. Strongly recommended for serious readers with senses of humor who aren't disturbed by unexpected flights of fancy.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
I have to admit that when the Top 100 list came out, I had never heard of this book or it's author. And yet, by itself, the revelation of this satirical baroque masterpiece justifies all the wretched dreck I've waded through on the List. Zuleika Dobson is the beautiful young granddaughter of the Warden of Judas College at Oxford. She's been earning a living as a conjurer and is the toast of France and America. But Zuleika has never loved a man. She has determined that a woman of her superior beauty can only love a man who is so superior as to be oblivious to her charms. Thus far, there has been no such man. Immediately on her arrival on campus, the entire student body falls madly in love with her. However, at dinner her first night the young Duke of Dorset seems indifferent. Could he be the man? Alas, it turns out that he too is smitten and when she discovers this she spurns him. Unused to such a dismissal, the Duke decides that he must kill himself & soon the whole College is ready to follow his example. The book is a shrieking hoot from start to finish & the whole thing is rendered in an ornate prose that is wholly unique. Take this description of the Duke & his troll like flat mate Noaks: Sensitive reader, start not at the apparition! Oxford is a plexus of anomalies. These two youths were (odd as it may seem to you) subject to the same Statutes, affiliated to the same College, reading for the same School; aye! and though the one had inherited half a score of noble and castellated roofs, whose mere repairs cost him annually thousands and thousands of pounds, and the other's people had but one mean little square of lead, from which the fireworks of the Crystal Palace were clearly visible every Thursday evening, in Oxford one roof sheltered both of them. Furthermore, there was even some measure of intimacy between them It was the Duke's whim to condescend further in the direction of Noaks than in any other. He saw in Noaks his own foil and antithesis, and made a point of walking up the High with him at least once in every term. Noaks, for his part, regarded the Duke with feelings mingled of idolatry and disapproval. The Duke's First in Mods oppressed him (who, by dint of dogged industry, had scraped a Second) more than all the other differences between them. But the dullard's envy of brilliant men is always assuaged by the suspicion that they will come to a bad end. Noaks may have regarded the Duke as a rather pathetic figure, on the whole. Or this passage describing the suicidal yearnings of the student body:
Z MARKS THE SPOT
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
Denmark's the spot, the exact spot, where, having been spotted eloping from Paris, thus spotting my reputation for spotlesness, I threw myself, over-bored, into swift-flowing prose exquisitely rendered unsound for lovers who--plash, splash, or should I say "splash, plash"? [I don't know. You're the author]--glimpsing themselves unglimpsed (and deservedly so, for "a glimpse is neither a perception nor an observation," she over-heard herself saying to no one in particular ear-shot--Shot? Who's been shot?--Not shot, drowned, drowned in the depths of my bed, mattress-side in the third degree of questioning why a single hotel room should exert such a singular fascination on so many under-graduated though possibly (whether permitting) over-educated young men, myself among them because somebody's got to hold the book while they read abed to sleep. Hans Christian Andersen--come out, come out, wherever you are, wherever you've been. Here I am, and I've been to Paris. Didn't you spot me there? No? Well, I spotted you. Ah, love! C'est la no more. That's enough. I've lost count, and I'll bet my boater you have, too, worn your boater out to see who's accruing who's crewing who. (Never mind the whys and wherefores. Just dip your oar, deep as it'll go, but not a wit deeper.)
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