April 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
And to celebrate, a second quotation today, because the beauty of the world is something worth remembering and being grateful for. And not just today. Most poets will tell you that.
“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility. ”
~ Rachel Carson
April 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
Last week was unfortunately too busy for any moments of being. It was brilliant and happy but also stressful and sad.
It was the kind of week that is lived with no time to be reflected on. So some catching up is in order, with a Top Ten list and a book that, despite the madness, was finished and needs talking about.
It is strange how well this quotation applies both to the tragedies we all witnessed this week and my own personal life. Thanks perhaps to the all-inclusive, yet personal ‘you’. Words have a way sometimes… As if they had a depth we can’t quite understand or control. It makes for their greatness.
So in the meantime, somewhere, despite the distance, I am thinking… And Duffy’s words make it all so much more bearable.
April 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s been a while since I posted anything in the Book Cover category so it was about time I should ‘break the silence’. And what better way to do so than with a Faber & Faber.
Everyone knows these recognisable covers, always in the same font, size and contrasting colours. They feel nice, a bit like a thick, soft craft paper you would use for present wrapping and they are the right mix of rigid and supple. They are Faber & Faber.
I’ve always admired English publishers for their capacity to come up with new aesthetics for their covers: new series, new formats, inventive artwork for every single new book. But I have to say I like it that these poetry volumes have become a bit of a classic; they have their own character, like a signature. Closer to French publishers like Folio or Gallimard I suppose. Understated in their predictability so that only the content matters. But elegant enough that they are worthy of their content.
I particularly like this one for its vibrancy And its title. If I’m completely honest, that’s why I bought it. It was one of those spontaneous buys. But I didn’t regret it. You only have to look at the first poem, ‘Engineers’ Corner’ to realise that Wendy Cope is a talented poet indeed.
And of course there is the last one entitled ‘Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis’:
It was a dream I had last week
And some kind of record seemed vital.
I knew it wouldn’t be much of a poem
But I love the title.
April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
Inspired by The Broke and the Bookish.
This was a very hard list to compile. It probably wouldn’t be exactly the same on a different day. Today, this is what it looks like.
1. Ma vie a changé, Marie-Aude Murail ~ Yes, you’ve realised by now that I think Marie-Aude Murail is great. Some people learn French to read Victor Hugo, but really they should consider learning the language to read her fiction. This particular book is about a single mum and her son having to deal with a cheeky elf playing little tricks on them. I have read this book more times than I can count. And, actually, I should have mentioned last week, I am completely in love with Timothé (the elf).
2. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman ~ I’ve talked enough about these books on here I think.
3. Antigone, Jean Anouilh ~ This is a twentieth century re-writing of Sophocles’ famous play of the same name. It is about duty, happiness and being brave. And it was written in France during World War II. A real masterpiece. And I use the word sparingly.
4. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen ~ For months after reading this classic I collected facts surrounding both the book and the author (I know. But come on, who didn’t?). His first name is Fitzwilliam, after his mother’s last name, in case you’d like to know.
5. L’Enchanteur, René Barjavel ~ A very poetic re-writing of Arthurian legends and if you don’t know that by now then I’ll just state my undying love of medieval knights again. There.
6. The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa ~ I wrote about that one recently. Beautiful prose, beautiful themes and a wonderful setting.
7. Tales of the Otori, Lian Hearn ~ Medieval Japan and the characters kind of have super powers. Enough said.
8. Tom’s Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce ~ Another children’s book. I’m starting to think I should dedicate a list to those sometime. A little boy with measles goes to stay with his uncle and aunt in order not to contaminate his brother. He wakes up in the middle of the night when the clock strikes thirteen and makes a wonderful discovery in the old building’s garden. It is a lovely little book about chance encounters, flowers and the beauties of childhood.
9. Paradise Lost, John Milton ~ I didn’t expect to love this one so much when I read it for my degree. A real epic if ever there was one. And Satan is so likeable, you have to admire Milton for his so very modern vision. Not to mention his incredible writing skills.
10. La Prose du Transsibérien (Prose of the Trans-Siberian), Blaise Cendrars ~ Technically, this is a very long poem. I discovered it thanks to a friend’s art project, and what a discovery it was. If I’m completely honest, it’s a tie between this and Beaudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil.
April 8, 2013 § Leave a comment
Well, it happens. Even to the best of us apparently.
If you are in the mood to read however, take a look at Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey: the short and whimsical ramblings of a man of sensibility describing Europe, women, and his delicate soul. Also worth a look:
An interview with Nabokov (for those of you who didn’t know about my interest in the character, now it’s official)
The French case, apparently (anyone care to react?)
Have a great week!
April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
Inspired by The Broke and the Bookish.
Let’s not kid ourselves. No need to be a fictional character to love these guys.
1. Will – His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman ~ Like last week, at the top of the list! I love Will for his independent soul but also his great sense of duty towards Lyra and towards his task. He is brave, bold and kind. Unassuming, honest and calm. He is the one that is loved amongst all the worlds and galaxies. He is the one to be trusted. ‘Because he’s Will’.
2. Nil Hazard – Dinky Rouge Sang et al., Marie-Aude Murail ~ Probably a tie with No.1 but French, yes. One of his many faults. But still, we love him. A French Sherlock Holmes of modern times I suppose. I fell in love when I was about 13 and it has lasted ever since.
3. Arthur - The Morte D’Arthur, Thomas Malory ~ Well, probably not very original. I say Arthur but it could be any of the others for their tragic beauty, their belief in ideal values, their courage and moral strength, but also their fatal weakness.
4. Tancredi - The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa ~ I’ve just mentioned this book here, incidentally. Tancredi is bold, sensual, Italian and has a true mind of his own.
5. Hugh O’Farran – Les Dames a la Licorne, René Barjavel & Olenka de Veer ~ Another book in French. Imagine this – Griselda, who lives on an Irish island with her family and her four sisters dreams of escaping into the world. This escape is materialised in the person of Hugh, an Irish rebel who teaches her about love and adventure. We love Hugh for what he represents. Add to this the myths and legends of the unicorn, Anglo-Irish ancestry and the beauty of a wild island: of course my 15-year-old self would fall in love with this book.
6. I would add Darcy and Mr. Tilney but that would be boring so we’ll stop with a top 5.
*To add onto last week‘s Top Ten, the play Antigone by Jean Anouilh has definitely been one of the works I have recommended the most. It’s very short and wonderful. Take a look at it.
April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
The Leopard, for me, was one of those books that awakens you to a new way of perceiving life. Decadent, sensual, nostalgic, whimsical – I couldn’t believe it was written in the twentieth-century; and yet, aspects of its philosophy are indeed very modern. This quotation isn’t particularly poetic but the dichotomy is adequate to describe the work: the idealised present is blown to ashes by its cruel reality so that only the dream of what was remains.
I think about this voluptuous, incomparable book because its warmth and character is what I need. I dream of its Sicilian names, exuberant garden smells and sense of sacred ritual, where sermons rather than clock chimes mark the rhythm of life.
It is July, it is hot in my long-sleeved dress, the dog follows me into the orchard and I can hear people laughing and whispering on the terrace. Soon it will be evening, the stars will replace the frescoes of the living room over my head and I will lean from the balcony to smell the night.
This book is an atmosphere. A political manifesto that should not be forgotten – but Lampedusa succeeds in showing that this manifesto is really a way of life. Beautiful in its tragic finality. I wouldn’t mind embracing it just for today.
Anyone with me?
More on the book and its author here.