Saturday, 20 August 2022

GAS LIGHT


I'm not a football fan and probably know more about Ryan Gosling than Giggs, but one aspect of the latter's current trial grabbed my attention: he has been accused of 'gaslighting' his girl friend in addition to battering her, and that term is now to be regularly heard on mainstream TV news.

The term has become part of the lexicon of identity-political complaint in recent years, alongside others like 'doxxing', 'grooming', 'swatting' and many others, but I imagine few people who use it know where it came from. Wikipedia correctly asserts that its current use derives from the 1944 Hollywood thriller 'Gaslight', by George Cukor, in which a villainous husband deliberately tries to convince his young wife she is going mad. It also mentions that that movie was in turn derived from a UK stage play 'Gas Light' written by English novelist/playwright Patrick Hamilton.
Hamilton, who died in 1962 is one of my very favourite authors, though his reputation is sadly depleted nowadays. He was a difficult character, alcoholic and misanthropic, but an excellent prose stylist and a political radical, unlike contemporaries Waugh and Wodehouse who were firmly of the Right (Wodehouse very much so). My favourite of his novels is 'Hangover Square', a grimly comic satire of London bohemian life just before WWII, but closely followed by 'The Slaves of Solitude', which seems rather horribly appropriate to our present situation. It's about an assorted crowd of people evacuated from London during The Blitz and thrown together in a suburban boarding house. Mr Thwaites, perhaps the nastiest creation since Dickens, is in perpetual argument with the heroine Miss Roach.
I'm reminded of Thwaites every time I hear Truss, Sunak, Raab, Shapps or Gove on the box, and find myself thinking Miss Roach's famous closing line, delivered to the sound of falling bombs, which rather surprisingly is a prayer: "at last she put out the light, turned over, and adjusted the pillow, and hopefully composed her mind for sleep - God help us, God help all of us, every one, all of us."

3 comments:

  1. Haven’t seen anyone mention ‘ Slaves of Solitude’ for a very long time. I think I might prefer it to ‘Hangover Square’. It’s just such an unlikely setting for such an acerbic piece of writing.
    As for your conclusion…well…I would go to Marina Hyde’s latest eviscerating piece in the Guardian. There are many choice comments therein: maybe my favourite is this:
    ‘ You might be wondering how much worse our standard of government could actually get, given that we ceded control of the country to a newspaper columnist for almost three years. And in many ways you’d be right. It’s actually quite difficult to find people who are more wrong on a regular basis than newspaper columnists – but it’s possible that economists do edge it. Patrick Minford certainly does.’

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I once had an email tussle with Minford - he wrote a letter to PC Pro complaining about one of my columns in which I dissed free-market economics, and I replied less than courteously

      Delete
  2. I'd long forgotten about Hangover Square which I also read and much liked decades ago, Slaves however escaped me (sic) but given the parlous times we're living in and the unprincipled, incompetent rabble that are supposedly running the country at the moment, then I'm off to the library on Monday to discover how prophetic it may have been!

    ReplyDelete

Add your comment here and then click on the blue 'Publish' link at the right-hand side above

GAS LIGHT

I'm not a football fan and probably know more about Ryan Gosling than Giggs, but one aspect of the latter's current trial grabbed my...