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His charming style, his resolute meliorism, his careful excision of anything remotely unpleasant or for good reasons to do with sex: these all improved his popularity. Some of these ideas been echoed by Reading group contributors. TimHannigan , who first nominated the book for discussion, wrote:. Often this discourse is simply risible — see John Major's cricket grounds. It is not, however, entirely unrelated to toxic talk about 'our way of life'. I love all those 'winter-smelling mornings'.

There are some wonderful set-pieces — especially the cricket match and the point-to-point. And the restrained handling of the annihilation of everything at the end. It's very funny in places too.

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Funny because Sassoon wants it to be, not because he is lapsing, DH Lawrence-style, into absurd nature-fetishism. Green's Cold Comfort Farm analogy is unfair. Sassoon's evocation of the English countryside is so lovely partly because it is gentle give or take a few too many references to Elysium — even when he is writing with emotion:. As I was carried past it all I was lazily aware through my dreaming and unobservant eyes that this was the sort of world I wanted.

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For it was my own countryside, and I loved it with an intimate feeling, though all its associations were crude and incoherent. I cannot think of it now without a sense of heartache, as if it contained something which I have never quite been able to discover. I also choose that passage because it might be seen as characteristic of Sassoon's longing for the past, his unwillingness to progress into the modern age. One of the most obvious symptoms of this ambivalence about the new world is Sassoon's dislike of modernism in literature. He especially disliked TS Eliot , mocking him as "Towering Tom" and enthusiastically endorsing Max Beerbohm's description of him as a "dried bean" sitting "in a melancholy back-yard … analysing an empty sardine tin".

On the Radio 4 In Our Time programme about Sassoon , there's a really good and admirably brief discussion of this animus. Fran Brearton says that Sassoon's career travels in reverse: "He becomes less modern as he goes on. Robert Graves had said that he and Sassoon and Owen were destined to revolutionise English poetry.

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Instead, Owen died, Graves started ploughing his own singular muse-obsessed furrow and Sassoon retreated into the past. It was people who didn't fight, like Eliot and Pound, who changed English literature. And they did it by bringing chaos. Sassoon wanted none of that; as Max Egremont explains on the same programme, Sassoon actually wanted "order".

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He had seen enough of life in lived fragments, of things being blown to pieces. You can understand why he might resent the disorder of Eliot and his "heap of broken images". It's tempting, then, to regard Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man as an attempt to put things back together, to reclaim youth and vigour Sassoon was in his 40s when he wrote it , to help a lost world live again not to mention the men killed by war and to fight the tide of modernism.

It's a perfectly valid interpretation. So too is the one that sees Sassoon in love with this golden age for his class and kind.

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But, as usual, things aren't quite that simple. The trouble with the anti-modern narrative, as I mentioned last week, is that Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man is so clearly influenced by that other great towering figure of the modern movement, Marcel Proust. Before embarking on Fox-Hunting Man, Sassoon wrote: "A few pages of Proust have made me wonder whether insignificant episodes aren't the most significant". This line is echoed in the book itself. There's a simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking scene where the young narrator is moved to "discomfort and disapproval" by his aunt's attempts to make tea in a train carriage, in front of other smart passengers, on a "patent spirit lamp … apt to misbehave itself and produce an unpleasing smell.

It is, he says: "One of those outwardly trivial episodes which one does not forget. The Proust connection goes even deeper, since the scene has an almost direct emotional parallel in In Search Of Lost Time, where Marcel is rude to his grandmother in her final days and subsequently haunted by remorse. So much for the anti-modern. Another similarity is the transactionality of so much social interaction.

There is a strong black market economy in the town adjacent to the Zone and it is deeply imbricated with the academic research establishment that has grown up around the Zone to study it. Stalkers often work for the Institute by day, and at night run freelance incursions into the Zone for people who are willing to pay top dollar for certain items.

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Great minds think alike! You probably would have had some great conversations with the brothers Strugatsky if you had had the chance. This book is now at the top of my 'Must get Now' list. Thanks for introducing me to the work of these guys. What I've seen so far is amazing. Very pertinent to my interests Thursday, October 24, Hell Slime.

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Within a few minutes of our post, our friend Porky posted his own review of the film. With this kind of synchronicity; we think something is definitely in the air. Or in the ether. Perhaps someone has come back for another roadside picnic, and new Zones are forming? So where do we go from here? This is a creative exercise, though, so we'll be doing things inspired by the book and film, as well as striking out in new directions, using the source material as a jumping off point for extrapolation and divergent exploration. We're making a Zone of our own. Today's post deals with one of the Zone's most ubiquitous, insidious, and deadly menaces, as featured in the novel Roadside Picnic.

One of the ever-present dangers of the Zone is hell slime. It's a sometimes viscous, sometimes runny, always drippy substance that burns through organic materials. One reason that Hell slime is so insidious is because it is difficult to discriminate from other goopy agrottments in the Zone. Another reason that hell slime is so insidious is that it sometimes drips up , climbing up a boot and ducking under a pant leg until it finds exposed flesh.

Hell slime is commonly found in pools of water or other moist areas on the lower levels of structures such as basements, tunnels, sludge channels, and wells. But it can be found in any damp area, even on walls, so caution is always advisable. Look for accumulations of scum or dark fluids on floors made of concrete, wood, and tile. Be wary of open containers such as paint cans, corroded steel drums, and cracked plastic drums, as well as uncapped bottles and jugs. Any of these are likely places where hell slime readily congregates. The extremities are usually the first part of the body infected with hell slime.

The stuff is invasive, able to penetrate through clothes, shoe leather, and cracks in boot heels to reach exposed skin. Once on the skin, it quickly gets into capillaries and pores, and begins to burn away subcutaneous tissues. Within a few minutes, it can dissolve connective tissue, muscle, cartilage, and bone.

What's left is a gooey slurry that eventually bursts through the skin and leaves a new puddle of slime below the victim. Immediate amputation of the infected limb is the best course of action to avoid losing the entire patient within a few hours. The tragedy of hell slime is that many stalkers in the Zone are victims of their own greed. Outside forces commission stalkers to go into the Zone and collect hell slime. It fetches a good price on black market. The substance is opening up new avenues of basic research and development for chemical and biological weapons.