BBC Radio 4 Extra, 10-11 October 2011
Three stories of bad manners: "Portrait of a Young Man with Career,"
"The Sympathetic Passenger," and "The Cruise." Set in the late twenties and early thirties, they evoke aspects of life that
the author obviously could not bear. Read by Crawford Logan, "Portrait of a Young Man ..." was a cautionary tale of what one
Oxford undergraduate would like to do to his friend, when the friend invades the student's room just before dinner and prattles
on about his forthcoming speech to the Union. The student listens patiently enough, but wishes the friend would leave so that
he can take a bath. Logan's voice remained deadpan as he recounted how the student beat his friend around the head with a
poker, before informing his scout in matter-of-fact tones that he had just committed murder. Eventually we discovered that
this was nothing but a fantasy: the student is too hidebound by convention to adopt such a radical course of action. But the
thought remains ...
Logan's reading of "The Sympathetic Passenger" contrasted the protagonist, a recently
retired man in his mid-fifties with a pronounced loathing for the radio, with a psychopath who shares the retired man's taxi
and pronounced that he will kill the Director-General of the BBC. The retired man remained calm throughout - unlike the psychopath
who became more and more unhinged as he outlined his plans. Eventually the police arrested the psychopath, leaving the retired
man to return home to his wife ... and the radio. This story is something of a morality-tale - although you might hate something,
it's wise not to voice your opinions too loudly in case people start to take you seriously.
Read by Abigail Doherty. "The Cruise" is a misogynist piece written in the form of
a series of postcards sent by an air-headed young woman to her friend in England, recounting her experiences of an Egyptian
cruise. Doherty's voice gushed with wide-eyed enthusiasm as she recalled the pleasure of making and breaking engagements,
viewing nude sculptures in the Cairo museum, and taking in the odd historical site or two. Written in breathless style, full
of meandering sentences comprised of multiple subordinate clauses and rapid changes of subject, "The Cruise" gave the impression
that the girl was simply spilling her thoughts on to paper with little concern for organization. In Doherty's performance
she seemed like a slightly deranged ingénue, recounting her impressions without in the least understanding the
impressions she made on those closest to her.
Whereas "Portrait of a Young Man ..." and "The Sympathetic Passenger" showed
the potential for violence lurking beneath the male psyche, "The Cruise" that some young women actually bring this violence
to the surface in men, particularly when the women pick up and drop men at will with little concern for their feelings. As
in the Fall, it is women who corrupt men (poor things!). The producer of this Afternoon Reading series was David