Fast cars and the open road: Reading speed in Dornford Yates

Dornford Yates by Bassano, 18 February 1935 copyright The National Portrait Gallery
Dornford Yates by Bassano, 18 February 1935 copyright The National Portrait Gallery

Brief toot on my academic trumpet here: I had another article published, on how the intensely middlebrow and thriller / comedy novelist Dornford Yates used techniques and ideas from avant garde thinking when writing about fast cars, car chases, driving at speed, and the thrill of speed on the open road (clue: it’s all from Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto). You can read it as an open access pdf on Advanced Access for a little while here.

I started talking about these ideas in a paper to the Modernist Studies Association back in 2013, had written the article by June 2014, and then spent a long time trying to get an academic journal to pay it any attention. One US journal, which shall be nameless but it specialises in modern fiction, had me rewrite the thing three times before they finally rejected it. I’m not sure what I feel about that now. At the time, I just had my head down, rewriting and rewriting, and was happy to have their feedback. Now, while I’m still grateful for the process that made a better article, and made me tackle what I mean by ‘modernist’ properly, I’m bemused as to why they strung me along for so long, if they didn’t want the article in the first place. Perhaps the thought of publishing work on an author not considered modernist was too much for them. In the meantime my book on Yates, Buchan and Thirkell came out, which might have given my ideas more respectability.

The Review of English Studies, a much more open-minded journal, also put me through three revisions, but these were straightforward, and led to the article they wanted to publish, so I’m very happy with that. Perhaps they were more open to the subject because they’re published by a British publisher, and Yates is a British author. Whatever: it’s finally out and I can file that research under ‘published’. I’ve posted reviews of a couple of Yates novels elsewhere in this site: find them via the Search box at the top right.


One thought on “Fast cars and the open road: Reading speed in Dornford Yates

  1. And there was me thinking your piece would be about Mr Toad! I’m not equipped to comment on the underlying framework, but I’ve always found his speed-passages very convincing, less idealised than some other aspects of his narrative. And of course extremely funny on the trials and tribulations of being an early motorist, with a puncture every few miles and no petrol stations. His road-hogs are wonderful and I loved it when Berry faced one of them down in court, only to reveal afterwards that he had himself been driving dangerously.


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