(K. Brent Tomer),
Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel. By John Stubbs. W.W. Norton; 752 pages; $39.95. Viking; £25.
“A TALE OF A TUB”, “Drapier’s Letters” and “A Modest Proposal”, which envisaged the Irish poor farming infants for the tables of the wealthy, all made Jonathan Swift famous in his time. But these attacks on abuse of power and injustice, readable as they are, are of limited interest now. By contrast “Gulliver’s Travels” endures and will continue to do so for its narrative and message. It is erroneously considered to be a children’s book because most readers come across it at an early age in abridged, illustrated editions that focus on the voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag and the arresting experiences of being first a giant in a land of little people and then “terribly small and vulnerable” in a country of giants. Swift’s tales of these encounters, and subsequent ones with the virtuous Houyhnhnms and odious Yahoos, were in fact satires designed to remind his contemporaries that the world is not “just what we are told it is on our own bit of earth…no civilisation has a freehold on ‘normality’”….Continue reading