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[ Read eBook ] The Good SoldierAuthor Ford Madox Ford –

A Tale Of Passion, As Its Subtitle Declares, The Good Soldier Relates The Complex Social And Sexual Relationships Between Two Couples, One English, One American, And The Growing Awareness By The American Narrator John Dowell Of The Intrigues And Passions Behind Their Orderly Edwardian Facade It Is The Attitude Of Dowell, His Puzzlement, His Uncertainty, And The Seemingly Haphazard Manner Of His Narration That Make The Book So Powerful And Mysterious Despite Its Catalogue Of Death, Insanity, And Despair, The Novel Has Many Comic Moments, And Has Inspired The Work Of Several Distinguished Writers, Including Graham Greene This Is The Only Annotated Edition Available We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist This novel is so stunning Oh my god I did not expect it to be this good.After reading this a second time for my term paper, I m still in awe of this book I ve never read anything quite like it First of all, I m glad I picked this up We were supposed to read this for a literature class and if it wasn t for this seminar, I would never have picked up this novel in the first place, because it s 1 old and 2 that title sound super boring Well, the title is just as misleading as this books narrator.In the end, I should have known Should have known that repeating I don t know 500 times is a good sign for a narrator s unreliability Should have noticed the obvious mix up of dates Should have recognised a liar when he s right in front of me But all in all my ignorance did result in a fantastic read Cause I never saw the many turns of events coming Classics can be surprisingly exciting This book which has the subtitle A Tale of Passion certainly is that It has dark desires, hidden affairs, disturbing deaths and lots and lots of despair and madness It s fantastic I d love to see it adapted as a modern film, preferably by Darren Aronofsky I already told you enough, now it s your turn to read this book Have fun and don t let yourself be fooled.Findof my books on Instagram In all matrimonial associations there is, I believe, one constant factor a desire to deceive the person with whom one lives as to some weak spot in one s character. page 86 Where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise Most of us aspire to knowledge and perhaps we hope it will lead to wisdom But we make exceptions Sometimes major ones.Wilful ignorance of some dark behaviour of another or even oneself an affair, addiction, abuse, debt, or fraud, for example.The layers of deception and self deception build up The higher the walls, thedamage if they come tumbling down.And acknowledging the possible wrongdoing of a friend, lover, or child raises doubts about our own judgement.If we dare think of it at all, we defend denial as self preservation.But sometimes the outcome of inaction is the opposite for others, if not ourselves That is what s at the weak heart of this novel.Similar themes are explored in ainteresting way, in John Williams early novel, Nothing But the Night, which I reviewed HERE Presumed innocent until proved guilty It is the bedrock of our justice system, coded as article 11 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.That s fine in a court of law, but doesn t always work so well in personal relationships.Doubt gnaws away, from inside, to outside We believe or invent excuses It was only once I didn t realise what I was doing I was a bit drunk Everyone else was doing it I can t help it Maybe it s in my genes I was only looking I didn t actually do anything But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5 28 KJV The saying doesn t mean what I thought it didI knew the phrase about ignorance being bliss, but didn t know the source It s the closing stanza of Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, written by Thomas Gray in 1742.Rather than celebrating wilfully spurning knowledge and ignoring truth, it s a nostalgic recollection of the innocence of childhood That doesn t make it any less relevant to this book, just differently so middle aged people, acting like children Real knowledge is to know the extent of one s ignorance ConfuciusQuotes An acquaintanceship as loose and easy and yet as close as a good glove s with your hand Our intimacy was like a minuet, simply because on every possible occasion and in every possible circumstance we knew where to go, where to sit, which table we unanimously should choose His face hitherto had, in the wonderful English fashion, expressed nothing whatever Nothing He wanted to preserve the virginity of his wife s thoughts My recollection of that night is only the sort of pinkish effulgence from the electric lamps of the hotel lounge x was a personality of paper that she represented a real human being with a heart, with feelings, with sympathies and with emotions only as a banknote represents a certain quantity of gold Fighting a long duel with unseen weapons against silent adversaries They had settled down into a model couple and they never spoke in private to each other Skilled servants whose mere laying out of my dress clothes was like a caress For praise, look elsewhereI started this with high hopes a well regarded classic, about a small group of people with somewhat dark and twisted lives I often enjoy curmudgeonly old men narrating unreliably, even if there s casual misogyny I don t like them as people, but I m entranced John Banville writes them well, for example see my reviews of some of his novels HERE But I found John Dowell irritating, and utterly lacking in charm He chats away about himself, his wife Florence , the Ashburnhams Edward and Leonora , and otherslike a mildly inebriated old codger than the mid forties man he says he is There are diversions, curious euphemisms education , wink wink , and hints of what s to come who will die Worse, he didn t make me care about any of the people in the story, not even those he repeatedly claims to admire For what the book is about, look elsewhereIf you want a plot summary or character descriptions, GR and Google are your friends The gist is two thirty something couples, shortly before WW1, and the consequences of their various affairs and cover ups One person quitely notes and knows almost everything another, nothing Catholicism features strongly, along with differences between Brits and Americans.RatingEnjoyment 1 Objective quality 2 Thought provokingness 3 Favourite part the illustration on the cover, which is uncredited, and seems unique to this bookRandom fact the original tile, mentioned several times in the text, The Saddest Story The Good Soldier I found to be a difficult book to grasp, at least to begin with I felt the need to go back over the first 40 pages or so, just to try and accustom myself to it Things paid of in the end, but it really did require patience, a quiet room, and reading big chunks at a time, rather than just picking off a few pages here and there The theme is a strong one, that being marriage and adultery, with a narrator who you feel in the dark about, going over the events of two couples, one American, one English, the Ashburnhams, with whom they first meet at a German spa town early in the 1900 s, thus they strike up a comfortable friendship The story is told in a non chronological way, playing around with the memories of time And there is one thing that struck me that I didn t first realize, the narrator the American husband didn t hear the story, he was a participant, and an arrogant one at that The two couples would meet abroad for a month every year, and it transpires that one from each couple have been having a clandestine affair You get the sense everything is drenched in misery, worry and panic the longer it goes on, even a partial happy ending feels false In fact the very first line reads This is the saddest story I have ever heard Love here is most certainly a battlefield, through deception, contradiction, blind ignorance and sheer horror, the reader is taken over a threshold into an unsavoury world of troubling passions There is an air of unreliability in it s fashion, in terms of the narrators voice As if the beginning wasn t hard enough, he relates his tale jumping around in the middle of flashbacks, this would lead to things feel out of sequence, and leaving gaps that we are supposed to decipher, it s not a long novel, but does take a large dollop of grey matter, even as the full realization of what takes place gradually emerges, it s a story that calls for the attentive reader, but there were rewards as I tried to unpick all the fine details, as the narrator s unfolding interpretation of the passionate emotions manifested here are in very small gestures or brief remarks This didn t always suit me, but Ford Madox Ford has written a clever and unique book that does at no time fall into your lap comfortably, but it s his style that ultimately gives it it s power, in turn I felt pity but also disgust at those involved He paints the four portraits exceptionally well, Edward Ashburnham, the owner of a large estate in England his wife, Leonora, daughter of impoverished Irish gentry, Florence, heiress to a New England fortune and Nancy Rufford, Leonora s ward, who has lived with Edward and Leonora from the age of 13 And all at some point are plagued with melancholia and unsteady minds It is clear as the novel proceeds we learn Edward and Leonora have no idea what intimacy is, and they also have no way of finding out, for one thing, nither read , and Leonora consults priests and nuns for marital advice Edward consults no one, and there seems to be no structure in his life Others of his class tell dirty stories, perhaps as a form of sharing information, but these only make Edward uncomfortable Both the American and English marriages suffer from the emasculation of the husbands, and I think there is an element of unfair failures on behalf of Leonora and Florence, but Ford depicts the husbandscomplexly and with a clearer eye I have to say on the whole I am very impressed, the psychologies of his characters, the interweaving of memories that are done intentionally, and the sadness that echoes throughout, gets the thumbs up from me I guess the overwhelming question is this, what do we truly know about the people we are supposed to know inside out A gracefully forlorn and beautifully explored read 4 5 Oh Propriety Nowadays there s a word for Edward Ashburnham And I don t mean some modern vulgarity, unavailable to the Edwardians, something like emotional fuck up, appropriate as that may be or not No, I m thinking serial monogamist The term is new, because the concept is new At the turn of the 20th century there was monogamy Or there was promiscuity casual couplings with seamstresses, milliners, laundresses or the convenient and pliable housemaid A taboo subject, to be spoken of in hushed tones in polite society These affairs were of necessity casual, because the women, by succumbing to the blandishments of their suitors, had turned themselves into fallen women, immediately and irretrievably Business partners, the only question being that of remuneration or pay off when favours were no longer required So in an age when women were thought of as either Madonna or Magdalene, in matters of the heart, Edward is a modern man, one who sincerely believes himself in love with the object of his desire His laughable disconnect with conventional attitudes is portrayed in grotesque mode in his dealings with La Dolciquita, the mistress of the Grand Duke of Nauheim Schwerin With a passion that had arisen like a fire in dry corn Ashburnham is ready to declare his undying love after a single night The Spanish lady s passions however are of thecommercial kind With all the romanticism of a risk assessment manager, she details for him the precise financial condition twenty thousand that might induce her to service him as well as the Duke Premiums, policy, twenty per cent risk stand in sharp relief to Edward s discovery that he was madly, was passionately, was overwhelmingly in love with her Poor Edward Poor noble, heroic, respectable, stupid man, to believe in true love John Dowell, the narrator, has a word for him Sentimentalist A prey to his imagined sentiments.Serial monogamy, thus the Spanish lady is the first in a series As one might imagine, the world of 1904 does not see this as a valid lifestyle choice Nor does his wife truly embrace the situation, but rather tries to manage it, even anticipating his desires, arranging, paying expenses pimping for him She is certainly not of the disposition or religious convictions that would allow her to discreetly claim sauce for the goose as well as the gander, nor is divorce even thinkable And like any society, the decorous world of 1904 exacts a price for aberrant behaviour The price is high, and cannot be paid in hard currency, and will not be paid by Edward aloneSociety must go on, I suppose, and society can only exist if the normal, if the virtuous, and the slightly deceitful flourish, and if the passionate, the headstrong, and the too truthful are condemned to suicide and madness. What I ve said so far might make this look like a fairly ornery melodramatic expos of hypocritical Edwardian sexual s, the story of an unhappy marriage Complexity is added by John Dowell, our narrator, being one half of a second couple, who dance an intricate minuet with the Ashburnhams But what makes this so powerful, so mysterious, so haunting is the method of narration Ford was a friend of Joseph Conrad Both of them championed the technique that Ford called progression d effetas the story progresses it should move forward faster and faster and withandintensity Well, I can testify to unmitigated success there The start was slow, and demanded a little back and forth and round about, but from part 2 onwards the pages seemed to turn themselves, and from part 3 I d have robbed myself of any amount of sleep to finish it.In my recent review of Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me gad that sounds soooo pretentious I mused a little on how a first person narrator could be an encumbrance or limitation But here the opposite is the case John Dowell s apparently haphazard way of telling this sad story adds layer upon layer First there is the challenge of working out the chronology of events, then there are those puzzling enigmas whose true significance only becomes apparent much later, and, most engaging of all, there is the much debated question of how much we can trust John Dowell at all Is he disingenuous, or deliberately manipulative, or simply ignorant as he claims This may be the saddest story he s ever heard heard But he s telling it but is he aware how funny he sometimes is The delicious irony before La Dolciquita, Edward gave himself a nasty jar when he found himself comforting a weeping nursemaid in a third class railway carriage, and went a little too far in his half fatherly concern The result The Kilsyte Case Not quite Dreyfus material, but nasty for him all the same Multiple ironies he was travelling third class to please Leonora see I can economise and would never even have met a nursemaid in first class this, the most innocent of his affairs had the gravest of judicial consequences, and the final irony is that his brush with the law did not discourage him fromflirtation, but in fact opened up the country Oh, and it brought him closer to his wife.There is , so muchthan the question of marital fidelity social classes, America and England, deception ah deception Dowell s wife But I won t spoil it for you Impressions and ideas Our first impressions of people, how reliable are they And Dowell disconfirms the first impressions he gives us over and over and over Ideas, concepts can we experience a feeling before we know intellectually that such an emotion exists Can we feel anything that hasn t had a name put to it I m certain that I will read this again, and if I wrote another review after the second reading it would probably be totally different And again after the third Is there any higher praise Re read in July 2019 this time it s all the stuff about religion that struck me hardest It is a queer and fantastic world Why can t people have what they want The things were all there to content everybody yet everybody has the wrong thing Perhaps you can make head or tail of it it is beyond me. Storytelling is about as much an art as is writing Any piece of paper can have beautifully constructed sentences, impeccable prose, dazzling verses, yet when there simply is nothing to tell all those words are moot The alarming strength of the Good Soldier can be found in its maze like narration that starts off with an innocent consciousness that through the pages, like a survivor seeing a massacre unfold as a blinding mist slowly recedes, realizes one by one the sins of the world he once thought blameless Most novels take a linear approach to storytelling, which, if anything, makes it easier to follow But Ford Madox Ford s novel is unbridled both by the restraints of time, and the compunction to resist the temptation of misleading his audience Certainly there have been a whole score of writers who have attempted to untangle the deathly winding strings of chaotic storytelling, but it is Madox Ford who truly succeeds in this aspect, if not the first to render it so masterfully And so with this novel, it is no great wonder that he deeply influenced a bevy of wordsmiths who went on to become master storytellers themselves from Graham Greene to Julian Barnes On the surface, the Good Soldier is a tale about two couples, one American the Dowells, one English the Ashburnhams, whose interconnected lives head towards a collision that would leave each of them devastated and shatter the perfectly fragile image of marriage in their souls However upon closer inspection one realizes that this novel is truly centered on just one of them This person, I won t mention which, is the driving force that changes the direction of the haunted lives of the two couples Of course, the somewhat unreliable narrator in John Dowell whose shifting account is responsible for the novel s mysterious atmosphere is the observer whose feelings one directly learns But as soon as the journey starts and things go on their way, one learns that his truth has always been missing a significant piece of information enough to contaminate the assumptions one holds And thus, even though a lone figure is moving the story, each character gradually adds a distinct element of their truth to the pot of truths that will eventually reach its desolate perfection We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist This novel opens saying this is the saddest story I have ever heard And, yes, there certainly is a sentimental sort of sadness that affects this work However, frightening seemsapt to describe the sensation grasping my heart as this story progresses It does not only depict the horrifying life of marriages tainted by infidelity but mulls over the different kinds of individuals that exist within its exclusive walls, painfully hidden from the world, all searching for redemption in a sacred union which yields only torture Through this novel, Ford Madox Ford shows us the terrifying reality of veiled innocence and the impending tragedy that awaits us as we learn of the horrible truths that are looming over us undetected, like a lost sheep unaware of a pack of wolves surrounding it waiting for the right moment in which lies certain death. Wow, was this well done I almost wrote fantastic , but that didn t seem appropriate to the mood of the piece It is also throughly soul crushing, of course, but that shouldn t affect your reading plans in favor of it It really is a must read, I think The book is a thorough condemnation of the principles of Edwardian society and the Victorian society that came before it, made all theeffective by the fact that it comes from the most unlikely source, a timid, quiet American man who has happened to fall into this drama that he never wanted to be a part of He is a throughly unreliable narrator, telling the tale as one would to a friend by the fireside, jumping back and forth in time and giving one opinion of a person, place or event, and then remembering something else and adding in details on that later His own personal feelings on situations also come into play, in the background, affecting his judgement in a really heartbreaking sort of way I got as interested in the silences of the narrator as his retelling of the tale of the others around him I think really that his is the saddest story ever told, or at least on par with the story that he is telling The unreliable narrator convention works brilliantly here, drawing the reader into the story with a sympathy for the narrator Mr Dowell , as well as easily listening to the tale as if they were that friend by the fireside I will say that it may get a bit confusing for some people, due to its rambling, wandering structure, but honestly, it is worth it in the end It really makes it all come out beautifully One really does end up rooting for characters that in the conventional sense, would range from vain to mildly despicable to foolish, if all we got was their most basic actions and story I don t think I have ever rooted for a man s infidelities that much in a novel But never unambiguously He does not allow one s opinion to be that simple on either side Novels that are grey are always the best ones Ford Madox Ford was in the thick of the Lost Generation when he wrote this, so his very bleak outlook on life, and disllusionment with society is not an usual attitude to find He was friends with Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, after all It was interesting to me to note, however, the parallels between his statements on pre World War I society and those of the primordialists, who were the primary intellectual advocates for change , and saw Victorian Edwardian society as inwardly rotting, full of ennui, stuck in a rut, essentially Which is what Ford undubitably belives here However, it is the primordiailst attitude that promoted the crowds wild reception of World War I, the cheering masses that came out in support of it, despite how easily it could have been avoided And yet this book supports all those passions that were a part of that movement I cannot tell if there is some condemnation of himself in there, some self hatred, for believing this He asks of his reader at the end of the novel, Who really is the villain of the piece He has his narrator change his opinion on that several times, and mine also changed I m still wrestling over it a bit.Anyway, read it This is a story of two marriages, a philandering husband, a controlling wife, living lies, keeping up appearances, misusing religion and pursuing happiness in all the wrong places It is told by an unreliable narrator who scarcely seems to understand the import of the story himself It is wonderfully constructed, gloriously convoluted, and amazingly misdirected The narrator tells us,I have stuck to my idea of being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between the gusts of the wind and amidst the noises of the distant sea, the story as it comesHe bounces back and forth and reveals in increments and as he does, your view of the people and events changes and changes and changes again It is a queer and fantastic world Why can t people have what they want The things were all there to content everybody yet everybody has the wrong thing Perhaps you can make head or tail of it it is beyond me. Indeed, it is beyond them all, because none of them seems to know what they want or what they feel, and the not knowing is a trap with serious consequences.I liked this book tremendously Muchthan I thought I was going to when I began it Ford almost does magic, because he makes you shift your perspective and your view and your understanding of the characters until you have flipped your impressions on their heads, but he does it without making you feel cheated or misinformed And, so it is in life We often form opinions on too little information First impressions are often wrong A small bit of information can make us see everything in a different light And, placing blame is not always easy. What a sick, rotten, depraved society we re treated to, populated by liars and knaves, and yet I found myself heartbroken by the end, wondering what kind of magic spell Ford had cast on me Ford is an absolute master of technique in this case the use of flashbacks and an unreliable narrator and I found myself riveted throughout The novel begins with one of the most famous opening lines in literature This is the saddest story I have ever heard That may well be true. Today s special from the bill of fare Crow Market Price Served with a complimentary slice of stale pumpernickel and a glass of river water.I really did not think I was going to enjoy this book one bit I also erroneously believed it was included in the collection of crap known as Time s 100 Best 20th Century Novels , and the fact it isn t is probably why it was actually enjoyable This is, however, included on several other hits lists , such as the ridiculous 1001 Books to Read Before You Die which is basically 901 lame entries longer than Time s list and Another Preposterous List of Over Hyped Books by Some Barmy Old Codgers Adorned With Glowing Accolades For Their Thorough Understanding of Meritorious Literature After reading The Good Soldier , I have no problem offering my own totally unfounded pronouncement that this book should be considered for inclusion on any such list This is the second story in a row for me following Martin Amis s Success in which the central gimmick of the tale is unreliable narration and point of view and while the p.o.v and narration are always a key factor to a story, in both of these cases the importance and bearing is decidedly pronounced, every event must be considered and weighed in light of the narration before attempting to discern its ultimate reality I tend to look at these stories in the light that the author knows that the fibers of the yarn they re spinning aren t unique nor profound, but the way in which it is spun is compelling thus to me it sof an exercise in writing than captivating storytelling Narrating The Good Soldier is Captain Oblivious, better known as John Dowell to his extremely small group of friends, who readily admits that he isn t a very perceptive fellow, nor is he very good at getting across a story in a straightforward fashion, so he begs that the reader understand that his intention is to lay this saddest of stories out in a fashion as though he was sitting by the fire with a close and attentive confidant and a bottle of brandy , simply discussing any pertinent events as they come to mind regardless of their rightful chronological juxtaposition I actually found the technique effective at making John Dowell an extremely likeable character, but at the same time it does completely strip away much of the oomph which should be imparted by any event that might be seen as pivotal or climactic by page ten you already know the unfortunate outcome of the story, all that is left is to get the details, a difficult feat when your narrator has powers of perception trumped by those of an aardvark in a sensory deprivation tank There is no way you can really create a spoiler for this work, at least not for anyone who has so much as begun reading it Capt Oblivious has to get this story off his chest, and so he s telling it to you, dear reader It concerns his deceitful trollop wife, Florence, and the couple which they are best friends with, the well shod Edward and Leonora Ashburnham The foursome meet for the first time in Nauheim, Germany, at a spa reputed for their effectiveness in combating cardiac problems, which is required for the well being of Florence Dowell and Edward Ashburnham, and proceed to accompany each other for the next decade to Nauheim, outwardly portraying the ideal friendship of two affluent, successful, and loving couples Little does anyone know that beneath this veneer, things are worse than can even be imagined, and interestingly enough, Captain Oblivious seems to be on the outside looking in as well, clueless as to what transpires after his nightly blackout from overindulgence of gin But, it s been some time since the blinders were removed from our narrator, who has taken his time to collect his thoughts and connect the dots, and he can now make some sort of sense of the proceedings Both couples are of good social standing in polite society, or Good People , as John Dowell assures us often Both men proudly hail from old, established wealth, and Edward ended up with Leonora due to an arranged marriage of sorts, and John pursued Florence for what seems like no better reason than to acquire a trophy wife while shirking anything resembling employment or social responsibility had World of Warcraft existed at the time, he d probably never have bothered, and would have set a Guiness World Record for most hours logged of online play The couples share one very interesting aspect in their unions it appears that neither has ever consummated their marriage The reasons for this strange lack of passion are similar Edward Ashburnham is an english Adonis whom women clamor for the attentions of, and he makes sure to perform the gentlemanly duty of never denying a lady, and Florence Dowell was unbeknownst to Captain Oblivious quite the tramp before John ever made her acquaintance John, who has absolutely no clue as to what is going on, is under the belief that Flo has a heart condition, and that the act of lovemaking might potentially sound her death knell, thus the trips to Nauheim and other strange facets of her behavior, which all reek of subterfuge to the normal human Leonora is completely aware of Edward s infidelities, which have all taken the form of long term ordeals with increasing passion for his partners, but in order to maintain the fa ade of Good People, she dutifully covers these transgressions up, while also taking over her husband s business affairs to prevent them from financial ruin due to his nature as a wastrel As absurd as it may seem, the easiest time that Leonora has ever had keeping the rest of society s upper crust from discovering her husband s true nature is in suppressing the trysts which Edward and Florence have been continuing for years Naturally, if this knowledge never saw the light of day, there wouldn t be a story There isn t a whole lot that keeps me from giving The Good Soldier a full five stars I ll say this is a four and a half, but will round it down, for the following reasons First, the end of the novel seems to taper off I understand that there is a lapse in the amount of time that has passed in the narration itself when John Dowell resumes to tell Part IV, and I interpreted this to be representative of his preoccupation with changes in his lifestyle most notably Ms Rufford s presence , a marked descent into melancholia, and generally a lack of enthusiasm to find the right fit for the remaining puzzle pieces This is all good and well, but the first three parts are so ecstatically told, that I couldn t really enjoy his festering ennui Secondly, his continuous praise of Edward Ashburnham The way Ford approaches the narration manages to make even despicable frauds like Edward and Florence likable, no easy feat, and Dowell s conviction even made me like the guy But his praise was incessant, and left me wondering which of the Dowells Edward was actually buggering.Lastly, one thing which I still haven t quite wrapped my head around so I don t know whether to call this a positive or a negative It is mentioned repeatedly that prior to his ugly demise, Edward went on a long winded speech apology rant to John As I was personally craving to hear it, it was a tremendous let down that it is completely left out of the story Or is it cue Twilight Zone music Sure, Dowell admits to having skipped many significant details from lack of proper recollection, but he does make reference to Edward s Grand Pronouncement about 30 times, and each reference connects it to some event or sentiment Could this great confession be surreptitiously dispersed throughout the novel, and one could go back and reconstruct the gist of it themselves If so, it s possible that this might be the cleverest trick in storytelling I ve personally been subjected to Or I suppose I could just be really baked.