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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Nigel Dennis (1912 - )

added by joecowley


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joecowley April 25th, 2007 10:25 PM PST

"Cards of Identity" is the only book by Nigel Dennis that I have read. But I just loved it. Wonderful imagination. It spoofs the church, communism, government, and other organizations. I found it very funny and have cherished it ever since as part of my library. I haven't read it again since it first came out, and don't know whether it will still be as amusing, since everything has changed since the 1950's. But it's worth reading just for the wit and the imagination. Joseph Cowley

karlb1940 September 5th, 2007 05:28 PM PST

"Cards of Identity" belongs in the category "underappreciated masterpiece". Like very few books I've ever read, there's not a word in it I would change. For sustained verbal brilliance, wit, and mordant humor, it has few equals. I suspect it doesn't enjoy the reputation it deserves because its humor is very English, especially in the first of the three peculiar case studies that form the core of the book. And like a contemporary film masterpiece "Kind Hearts and Coronets" it is ruthlessly unsentimental.

Some sense of the level of wit and wordplay can be gleaned from two of many quotable passages. Describing the location of an imaginary abbey, Dennis's narrator writes that it might stand on a hill overlooking the Hudson, "where that blue incomparable river nurses the shad in the shade of Sing-Sing." Later in that same section of the book, an ex-Communist turned Catholic priest remarks that among his fellow apostates, each is convinced that he left the Party at precisely the moment "when the eau-de-vie of Communism turned to the ditch-water of absolutism."

The book is long out of print, but worth digging for.


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Nigel Dennis was born in 1912 and spent his early childhood in Northern Rhodesia. At fifteen he went to live in Kitzbuhel in the Austrian Tyrol, and continued his education at a German progressive school. Eventually he went to New York and became a film reviewer and later Assistant Editor and Book Review Editor of the New Republic. He joined the staff of Time magazine and came to England in 1949 as Contributing Editor, writing regular reviews of English and Continental books. From 1960 to 1970 he worked for Encounter, first as a drama critic and later as Joint Editor. Since 1961 he has been Staff Book Reviewer for the Sunday Telegraph (this information as of 1966). He started publishing stories when he was 14, and since then has contributed to many magazines. His books include two novels, Boys and Girls Come Out to Play and Cards of Identity. He has also written plays, poems, and essays.

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