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This review is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

THE DANGEROUS EDGE OF THINGS A Choice of Kipling's Prose, Selected with an introduction by Craig Raine (Faber and Faber) £12.50

Kipling, according to Craig Raine, 'is our greatest story-teller', recording and creating with a Dickensian range and abundance, extending our sympathies to the lowly and unlovable, and all the while refining his technique to an 'almost Joycean meticulousness'. 'We need to think again about Kipling': Raine's A Choice of Kipling's Prose is designed to make us do so.

Raine has two sorts of arguments: his own essay, and the twenty-eight stories which follow - for this is a generous selection, generously priced and presented. Even so it does not pretend to be fully representative. There is for example nothing from The Jungle Books, which is a pity, and nothing from Stalky & Co.; nor has Raine included any of the farces, which is perhaps less of a pity, necessary though they were to Kipling. The only farceur here is Apis in 'The Bull that Thought', whom Raine rightly considers as an avatar of the artist; Apis, like Kipling, enjoys demonstrating his ability to work with unpromising material, and tolerantly creates for a mediocre bullfighter one afternoon of greatness. What Raine does not sufficiently acknowledge is that Apis' true genius is revealed in his mastery of the 'adorable assassination', where brutality is masked by farce and murderous design presented as accident. Kaa mesmerising the Bandar-log is also an artist: so too is the Head when he flogs Study 5 with 'thoroughness, efficiency, and a certain clarity of outline that stamps the work of the artist'; so to is ...


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