Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Selected Stories of H.G. Wells

Let me recount to you a tale I was told by a Mr. Jones of the Antipodes. I have verified as much of it as I could, corresponding extensively with the eminent Dr Whately of Crouch End, the expert in the field. I digress, my apologies, I will proceed directly with this shocking tale.

Mr. Jones claimed to have picked up a collection of absurd tales from his local library, "Selected Stories of H.G. Wells". This much I can vouch for: the library exists, and does indeed contain a volume under that name. The librarian would not tell me if Mr. Jones had indeed borrowed it, and rightly so. Down that road lies anarchy. Jones told me that the volume consisted of about two dozen short stories. The majority are recounted in a journalistic style: a tale told by an otherwise sensible person, to a writer, who supplies background checks to provide an element of verisimilitude to an otherwise fantastical story.

That these stories were a little dry, repetitive, but showing occasional flashes of wry humour, I have had to take Mr. Jones' at his word. My attempts to find this collection have been fruitless. While the library lists the book on their modern calculating catalogue of electric ledgers as being on their shelves, neither myself nor Miss Withers the librarian could find it. I have enquired extensively of the booksellers of Charing Cross Road, including Mr Croxcombe the foremost dealer in rarities, but thus far my search has proved futile.

As for Mr. Jones, he has not seen the volume since, inexplicably, succumbing to a curious ennui; a listlessness that even my medicinal application of cocaine (as every gentleman carries with him) failed to improve on. He remembers the tales as strange, well-written, but empty. Perhaps, lacking life of their own, they imbibed some of Jones' own. He no longer has any interest in the work of this Mr Wells, and I would caution any gentleman that finds the volume to keep it away from children, women and servants lest they succumb to its influence.

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