2007: 92. The Man Who Would Be King & Other Stories


“One of the few advantages that India has over England is a great Knowability.  After five years’ service a man is directly or indirectly acquainted with the two or three hundred Civilians in his Province, all the Messes of ten or twelve Regiments or Batteries, and some fifteen hundred other people of official non-caste.”

    ~ The first sentences of "The Phantom ‘Rickshaw"

The Man Who Would Be King & Other Stories, Rudyard Kipling

This collection of Kipling stories was pretty enjoyable - much more enjoyable than Kim.  Rip-roaring, even.  Wee Willie Winkie is a pretty trite tale of a brave young man - very L.M. Montgomery, if I am to be perfectly honest, but I think about Kipling’s son dying in the trenches at Loos*, and I guess I can’t help but think of Willie.  And the other stories - Without the Benefit of Clergy, The Phantom Rickshaw, The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes, and most of all, the Man Who Would be King -  these stories are page turners, and, I thought, surprisingly sympathetic to their female characters.  So, I quite enjoyed them, despite the elephant in the room.  Which is, of course, the racism.  I mean, it is clear that Kipling was of his time, and I’m not here to argue whether or not he was a racist - I’ll leave that to the English majors.  Kim is quite respectful of other cultures, under the non-PC veneer.  But there is some pretty bad stuff - I mean, consider the sentence quoted above! If there is one thing you can say about India, is that it is infinitely unknowable.  Bad call, Rudyard.


Recommended for: People who like adventure stories, and can overlook authentic period racism, people who want to read about Willie and think about where he probably ended up (i.e., the maudlin, like me!)

*And he wrote, "If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied."


Date/Place Completed: 6/27/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Commuting Book 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017