I just finished The Masters by C.P. Snow. I enjoyed, I’m glad that I read, but I also can’t say that there’s a particularly good reason to read it except as an artifact of mid-century England.
The story is all about the election of a new Master at a(n apparently minor) college of Cambridge. The current Master is slowly dying and Fellows of the college strategize and campaign for their chosen candidate.
The narrator teaches law, but it’s not consistent narration. When he speaks in his own voice, he’s a little dense, but when (and it’s still, technically first person) the account switches to a more fly on the wall view, he’s surprisingly perceptive.
The events begin in 1937, but with one exception, there is little recognition that incredibly important stuff is happening in Europe.
The two candidates are someone who does something in the humanities named Jago and a scientist named Crawford. The narrator is a supporter of Jago.
The key here is that Snow delivered a famous lecture called the ‘Two Cultures’ where he laments the state of science education in England, which he feels has been neglected in favor of pointlessly old fashioned humanities. Crawford is Snow’s vision of the future.
I’m not really on Snow’s side here, as you might imagine. Check out this article about the dust up surrounding the lecture and guess who best represents my view.
On another note, I found this book at the annual Flower Mart at the National Cathedral. They always have a tent with books for sale that are cheap and they always have some great, under appreciated classics. I will probably sell this book, though – see what the owner of Capitol Hill Books will give me in terms of credit. It’s a good book. It’s not exactly a classic, but it is something to have read and perhaps even to own, but I’ve got to make space and decisions. I mean, let’s be honest – when would I read The Masters again?