The Card

The Card

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by Arnold Bennett
     
 

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A long-neglected masterpiece, Arnold Bennett's whimsical satire went through over 34 reprints and was filmed in 1922, and again thirty years later starring Alec Guinness as the irrepressible E.H. Machin, known to his very practical washer-woman mother as 'Denry' since she would save "a certain amount of time every day by addressing her son...(this way)...instead of

Overview

A long-neglected masterpiece, Arnold Bennett's whimsical satire went through over 34 reprints and was filmed in 1922, and again thirty years later starring Alec Guinness as the irrepressible E.H. Machin, known to his very practical washer-woman mother as 'Denry' since she would save "a certain amount of time every day by addressing her son...(this way)...instead of Edward Henry."

Bennett's novel, written in 1911, forms part of a loosely-linked body of work set in the Staffordshire Six Towns' Potteries area of England, now amalgamated as the city of Stoke-on-Trent. In his fiction the author renames the area as The Five Towns, and Bursley, the setting of the novel, is based on the actual Six Towns' town of Burslem.

The novel begins "Edward Henry Machin first saw the smoke...(of the potteries)...on the 27th May 1867", the actual date of Bennett's own birth, and follows Denry's improbable rise to success, wealth and love. The word 'card' is a slightly archaic use of a description for a man who goes through life in a good-natured manner, but with a singular focus on 'Number One', yet finds his achievements amiably, to nobodies loss, and so is highly popular.

This raises the question of how 'The Card' reads to the modern ear and the answer is: surprising well. Bennett writes, by turn, ironically and satirically, yet deliveres the laugh-lines in a manner which often approaches modern "California snarky". But sometimes Bennett writes pure comedy: the wreck of the Hjalmar off the Welsh coast of Llandudno, and its aftermath involving a group of non-English speaking Norwegian fisherman, an event that leaves Denry both a hero and a thousand pounds in profit, is hilariously portrayed.

It's no surprise 'The Card' was filmed twice , since the structure of the narrative lends itself to well-defined comedic film-scenes. Bennett's style is derived from that adopted by Victorian authors who serialized their work for newspapers (Charles Dickens being the most notable). Bennett used this most noticeably in his early novel 'The Grand Babylon Hotel'. Each chapter ends with its own cliff-hanger or denouement. Bennett also breaks his chapters into sections. This results in 'The Card' being a light read. It's 77,000 words in length (roughly the size of an author's 'first-book' today) but it has an airy feel to it and a reader is comfortable that the work can cater for any time constraint: read a section, read a chapter, read it on the beach, read in on the loo!

The story of Bennett's hero is concluded in 'The Regent', when Denry Machin goes to London to build a theater in London's West End.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940012616883
Publisher:
Illyria Books
Publication date:
05/28/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Enoch Arnold Bennett (27 May 1867 – 27 March 1931) was an English novelist born in the Potteries district of Staffordshire. At the age of twenty-one, he went to London as a solicitor's clerk.

Bennett had a prodigious output that included 35 novels, 13 works of non-fiction, an opera and one film script.

Bennett won a literary competition in 'Tit-Bits' magazine in 1889 and was encouraged to take up journalism full time. In 1894, he became assistant editor of the periodical 'Woman'. He noticed that the material offered to the magazine was not very good, so he wrote a serial which was bought for 75 pounds. He then wrote another. This became 'The Grand Babylon Hotel'. Just over four years later, his first novel, 'A Man from the North', was published to critical acclaim and he became editor of the magazine.

From 1900 he devoted himself full time to writing, giving up the editorship. He continued to write journalism despite the success of his career as a novelist. In 1926, at the suggestion of Lord Beaverbrook, he began writing an influential weekly article on books for the Evening Standard newspaper.

As well as the novels, much of Bennett's non-fiction work has stood the test of time. One of his most popular non-fiction works, which is still read to this day, is the self-help book 'How to Live on 24 Hours a Day'.

In 1903, he moved to Paris, where other great artists from around the world had converged on Montmartre and Montparnasse. Bennett spent the next eight years writing novels and plays. Bennett believed that ordinary people had the potential to be the subject of interesting books. In this respect, an influence which Bennett himself acknowledged was the French writer Maupassant whose 'Une Vie' inspired 'The Old Wives' Tale'.

In 1908 'The Old Wives' Tale' was published and was an immediate success throughout the English-speaking world. After a visit to America in 1911, where he had been publicised and acclaimed as no other visiting writer since Dickens, he returned to England where 'Old Wives' Tale' was reappraised and hailed as a masterpiece.

Bennett was Director of Propaganda for the French Government during the First World War, but later returned to England. He died of typhoid in London in 1931, and his ashes are buried in Burslem cemetary in Staffordshire, England.

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The Card 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just plain bad!