Christopher Morley’s 1923 tale recounts the adventures of Mr Gissing, a bachelor without many cares in the world. Gissing has not examined his life too closely, and is not over-concerned with much. When he becomes guardian of three puppies, his well-ordered existence is thrown base over apex, but he adapts. Eventually, though, he finds himself in need of greater monetary resources to adequately provide for his new charges, and reluctantly abandons the domestic menage for the opportunities of the big city.
There, Gissing, in a farcical world of dogs (it is never clear if the conceit is simply for fantasy’s sake, or to make some point about the human condition), climbs the ladder of success, becoming first a floor walker, then a general manager at a department store. When he finds this unsatisfactory, he attempts to answer his metaphysical questions by entering the clergy. Failing that, after absconding with a steam-roller, he then stows away on a passenger vessel, eventually finding himself circuitously returned to civilisation and his former life. Has he learned to cease seeking for something which may not be there, “where the blue begins?” One can only hope.
The farce is entertaining, the conceit would probably be beguiling to a dog-lover (but therefore largely fails with me), but Morley is here somewhat too preachy and somewhat too fantastical for my tastes. It is an entertaining tale, and one which remains in one’s mind, so perhaps in that its intent is served. I should like to know more about the circumstances of its composition, as it might lead me to a greater appreciation of the tale. While it doesn’t detract from my opinion of Morley overall, Where the Blue Begins reminds me that even the most reliably solid of authors occasionally follow an idea through to completion which might better have been left in an old notebook, to be puzzled over by scholars at some distant date. Three and a half stars, to be read if you’re a Morley completist or you find the above more intriguing than discouraging.
Originally reviewed 7 July 2012.
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