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The Horse's Mouth (1944)

by Joyce Cary

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: First Trilogy (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,2141916,256 (3.9)57
The Horse's Mouth, the third and most celebrated volume of Joyce Cary's First Trilogy, is perhaps the finest novel ever written about an artist. Its painter hero, the charming and larcenous Gulley Jimson, has an insatiable genius for creation and a no less remarkable appetite for destruction. Is he a great artist? a has-been? or an exhausted, drunken ne'er-do-well? He is without doubt a visionary, and as he criss-crosses London in search of money and inspiration the world as seen though his eyes appears with a newly outrageous and terrible beauty.… (more)
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    shaunie: Cary and Stead's writing styles are quite similar, demanding concentration from the reader but very rewarding.
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» See also 57 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Reading "The Horse's Mouth": hard to get into. I see why it didn't sell much here: too rich a surface, all knots and spurtings of philosophy, but only as emanation from the bumpy colored surface of life, not imposed on it. Plot not spare and obvious, but a spate of anecdotes. Podgy old Sara eternal as Eve, Alison, wife of bath. This old battered hide: needs a brain and a creative verve to make it liveable in, a heater in the ratty house.
  SylviaPlathLibrary | Sep 19, 2021 |
This story is a slice of life of a formerly popular painter. The public has deserted him, the bottle seems a devoted friend, and his current obsession is large wall murals of generously proportioned women. A friend is using him as a house sitter, but, will find a good deal more art in his house than he had when he left. The main character is designed to be charming, and impish (the film cast Alec Guinness in the part), but I was left with a less encouraged view of the bohemian and its role in enlightened British life. ( )
1 vote DinadansFriend | Dec 27, 2019 |
Gully Jimson must go down in the annals of literature of one of the most compelling first person narrators. With all the self-knowledge of a gnat, he reveals the complexity of a narcissistic, degenerate, lovable genius. Rarely have I so wanted to slap a character around the chops (and I am not violent) while simultaneously hugging him and protecting from his insane, creative, compulsive self. I bought the book when it was on my reading list as an undergrad, for a paper entitled "The Twentieth Century Novel," in 1982, but it somehow wriggled out of my commitments for the year and remained, languishing on my shelves, unread until now. Had I read in in 1982 it would have been one of my favourite books for the year and for my entire undergrad reading programme. The question now is whether, forty years later, and as a much slower reader, I should devour more Cary. The Horse's Mouth is sheer delight. ( )
1 vote Michael_Godfrey | Nov 25, 2018 |
Gulley Jimson was quite a character but on the whole I felt that the humor in this book was more of the sort which made me smile inwardly than the sort which make me laugh aloud. ( )
  leslie.98 | Dec 4, 2017 |
That’s it,’ I said. ‘It’s the jaws of death. Look at me. One of the cleverest painters who ever lived. Nobody ever had anything like my dexterity, except Rubens on a good day. I could show you an eye—a woman’s eye, from my brush, that beats anything I’ve ever seen by Rubens. A little miracle of brushwork. And if I hadn’t been lucky I might have spent the rest of my life doing conjuring tricks to please the millionaires, and the professors. But I escaped. God knows how. I fell off the tram. I lost my ticket and my virtue. Why, your ladyship, a lot of my recent stuff is not much better, technically, than any young lady can do after six lessons at a good school. Heavy-handed, stupid looking daubery. Only difference is that it’s about something—it’s an experience, and all this amateur stuff is like farting Annie Laurie through a keyhole. It may be clever but is it worth the trouble? What I say is, why not do some real work, your ladyship? Use your loaf, I mean your brain. Do some thinking. Sit down and ask yourself what’s it all about.’

—The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary

I’ve never read a book so true to the character of a true artist. So scathing of other’s art while damning the whole enterprise and his paltry participation in it. I thoroughly loved this book and its frank appraisal of all things faked, true or, more likely, some combination of the two.

Several pages in, the binding started to crack and I had to tape up the entire side. But tricky, unsticky, recalcitrant page eighty-seven kept popping out the book for the rest of the journey. Like a buzzing fly that’s too savvy or drunk on morning sunlight to land in a suitable place for pestered human hands to swat. And if the physical aspect of this mass market paperback seemed to match the dilapidation of Gulley Jimson’s approach to relationships, art and life, well then, that’s fine by me. This worn-out copy’s got a life all its own. ( )
2 vote ToddSherman | Aug 24, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joyce Caryprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bratby, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was walking by the Thames.
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The Horse's Mouth, the third and most celebrated volume of Joyce Cary's First Trilogy, is perhaps the finest novel ever written about an artist. Its painter hero, the charming and larcenous Gulley Jimson, has an insatiable genius for creation and a no less remarkable appetite for destruction. Is he a great artist? a has-been? or an exhausted, drunken ne'er-do-well? He is without doubt a visionary, and as he criss-crosses London in search of money and inspiration the world as seen though his eyes appears with a newly outrageous and terrible beauty.

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