My rating: 4 of 5 stars
what a weird and unexpected book!
first published in 1947, it has (through its satirical bent) a remarkably modern outlook: environmentalist, feminist, anti-racist, etc etc. it’s very odd to look at this book from 2012 and think how very, very far ahead of his time Moore was.
the book also has a vicious antagonist, the worst antagonist humanity has ever faced: genetically modified, voracious blind Bermuda grass.
any california gardener who has ever fought against this vicious predator knows that the Bermuda always wins. i once laid thick black plastic sheeting over a huge swath of Bermuda in the summertime (90+ degree temperatures). i left it on for 30 days. when i took it up, the Bermuda looked dead, a state which lasted for about 4 days before it began to green up.
the Bermuda is actually one of the finest characters in this book. Moore’s descriptions of it make it painfully clear that he has fought his own pitched battles against Bermuda and lost. his descriptions of it are menacing and hilarious, and sometimes deeply, deeply creepy.
this being satire, other characterizations are necessarily shallow. so there’s not much to say on that score, except that the publisher Le ffacase (i’m sure there’s a joke in the name, but i’m not getting it) is magnificent at insults and diatribes, and the utter failure by Miss Francis to respect authority is a refreshing joy.
satire is a wondrous tool when wielded by a sharp mind, and Moore definitely has that. the book does go on a bit long, though; satire is best kept short. still, a little judicious skimming won’t kill the experience. on the whole, it’s an experience worth having; you’ll certainly never look at a patch of Bermuda grass the same ever, ever again.