Tuesday, January 04, 2011


The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, Evelyn Waugh, Little Brown and Company, 1957, 232 pp

 This book falls into my personal category of odd stories. Gilbert Pinfold is an English novelist, a sort of country gentleman whose wife does the farming. He is more than a bit of a stodgy fellow. His middle-aged body is giving him trouble, causing insomnia with twinges of rheumatism. He adds some large drab pills prescribed by his doctor, as well as sleeping powders provided by his druggist to his usual generous consumption of alcohol. We thought self-medicating was a recent phenomenon?

  Soon enough Pinfold is majorly hallucinating, hearing voices and suffering from deep paranoia. As a cure he decides on a sea voyage, during which he plans to complete his latest novel. But his troubles only magnify at sea. There follow a series of  ridiculous incidents which have a slight Kafka flavor mixed with images from an LSD trip gone very wrong.

 My father would have called this a shaggy dog story. It is one of my least favorite types of story to read. But Evelyn Waugh can't help being humorous and the book is short. I made it through and so did Gilbert Pinfold. (Odd coincidence: Also in 1957 Muriel Spark published The Comforters, in which a novelist heard voices.)

(The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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