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About jfp

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  • Birthday February 20


  • Biography
    jfp = John from Paris [where I've now been "from" for over 28 years]
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    Reading (mainly fiction, in English and French...); baritone in semi-professional choir; pianist.
  • How did you hear about this site?
    Thanks to my Aussie friend Kimberley

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  1. [...] How is it, Shadows! that I knew ye not? How came ye muffled in so hush a mask? Was it a silent deep-disguisèd plot To steal away, and leave without a task My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour; The blissful cloud of summer-indolence Benumb’d my eyes; my pulse grew less and less; Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower: O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense Unhaunted quite of all but—nothingness? [...] John Keats - "Ode on Indolence"
  2. David Mitchell

    I agree with both MisterHobgoblin and Grammath. Slade House is an offshoot - which I none the less found compelling (in parts). But for a writer who has demonstrated such versatility in his other novels, it has to be considered a relative failure.
  3. Ali Smith

    I totally concur with MisterHobgoblin's assessment of this neither-one-thing-nor-the other hotchpotch. Ali Smith is a great observer of the humdrum minutiae of ordinary, everyday life, but this collection of stories, or essays, or whatever it purports to be, reads like a series of jottings which could/should have been developed into something more ambitious and substantial. The narrative drive is glaringly absent. Public library is the polar opposite of a page-turner. It confirms what I have consistently found: Smith is a first-rate novelist (Hotel World and The Accidental are among my very favourite contemporary novels), but she doesn't know how to handle shorter forms.
  4. I work all day, and get half-drunk at night. Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare. In time the curtain-edges will grow light. Till then I see what's really always there: Unresting death, a whole day nearer now, Makiing all thought impossible but how And where and when I shall myself die. Arid interrogation: yet the dread Of dying, and being dead, Flashes afresh to hold and horrify. The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse — The good not done the love not given, time Torn off unused — nor wretchedly because An only life can take so long to climb Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never; But at the total emptiness for ever, The sure extinciton that we travel to And shall be lost in always. Not to be here, Not to be anywhere, And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true. [...] Philip Larkin - "Aubade"
  5. IAGO King Stephen was a worthy peer, His breeches cost him but a crown; He held them sixpence all too dear, With that he call'd the tailor lown. He was a wight of high renown, And thou art but of low degree: 'Tis pride that pulls the country down; Then take thine auld cloak about thee. Some wine, ho! Shakespeare, Othello II.iii.
  6. ÆNEAS Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarm'd, As bending angels; that's their fame in peace: But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls, Good arms, strong joints, true swords; and, Jove's accord, Nothing so full of heart. But peace, Æneas, Peace, Trojan; lay thy finger on thy lips! The worthiness of praise distains his worth, If that the praised himself bring the praise forth: But what the repining enemy commends, That breath fame blows; that praise, sole sure, transcends. Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida I.iii. (apparently the only occurrence of debonair in the whole of Shakespeare...)
  7. Nymphs of all names, and woodland Geniuses,

 I see you, here and there, among the trees,

 Shrouded in noon-day respite of your mirth:

 This hum in air, which the still ear perceives, 

Is your unquarrelling voice among the leaves;

 And now I find, whose are the laughs and stirrings

 That make the delicate birds dart so in whisks and whirrings. From "The Nymphs" - Leigh Hunt
  8. Réparer les vivants, which I read in the original French, is a marvellous novel. The initial premise (the story of a heart-transplant...) is not at first sight appealing, but Maylis de Kerangal has turned it into something very special. The prose is often highly poetic, and translating it must have been an arduous task indeed. Translating the title indeed poses a problem... Mend the Living sounds uncomfortably like someone issuing an order, whereas in French the verb réparer is in the infinitive, which is different from the imperative. "Mending the Living" might be preferable... Incidentally I found the film version rather disappointing. The emotion is distinctly lacking, and the complexity of the book has been drastically simplified. (The novel was also turned into a play in Paris, but I skipped that.)
  9. [...] She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine, Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine; His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, And be among her cloudy trophies hung. John Keats, Ode on Melancholy (3rd stanza)
  10. We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun, And bleat the one at the other: what we changed Was innocence for innocence; we knew not The doctrine of ill-doing, nor dream'd That any did. Had we pursued that life, And our weak spirits ne'er been higher rear'd With stronger blood, we should have answer'd heaven Boldly 'not guilty;' the imposition clear'd Hereditary ours. Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale I/ii
  11. Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy! For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood Upon our side, we who were strong in love! Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!—Oh! times, In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways Of custom, law, and statute, took at once The attraction of a country in romance! When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights, When most intent on making of herself A prime Enchantress—to assist the work Which then was going forward in her name! Not favoured spots alone, but the whole earth, The beauty wore of promise, that which sets (As at some moment might not be unfelt Among the bowers of paradise itself ) The budding rose above the rose full blown. [...] (From: William Wordsworth, "The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement")
  12. I was distinctly disappointed by You Don’t Have To Live Like This, and wished I hadn’t been taken in by the hyperbolic plaudits (‘profound’, ‘gripping’, ‘engrossing’) on the back cover, and particularly by the suggestions that the novel ‘contains multitudes’ and is even reminiscent of JM Coetzee… It sounded like a good idea to explore the upsides and the downsides of gentrification in Detroit, but the different aspects of this so-called ‘multistranded’ novel never really cohere; the strands get all tied up in knots. The ideas are potentially interesting, whereas the writing is often rather a mess. Markovits’s idea of characterisation is to repeatedly say “he was one of those people who…” “she’s one of those teachers who…” – with an annoying singular verb after “those people/teachers who…” (the correct form is “one of those who are…”)) Beyond the infelicitous syntax, this is tantamount to saying that every one of those characters is no more than a type, and that there are no really original people in the world of this novel. (I was also not a little perplexed by the scene in the showers at a squash club, where the narrator watches his father as he “soaped himself off with pleasure”. What on earth is that supposed to mean? Surely people rinse themselves off… so as to get the soap… off?) Markovits isn’t very good with opening sentences either. The first sentence of chapter 27 is “Detroit’s got a nice airport.” Chapter 32 kicks off with: “Nolan turned out to be okay—medically, I mean.” But, stylistic shortcomings aside, it was at the start of chapter 26 that I suddenly understood clearly why I considered the novel to be a mess. This time the first sentence is “Meanwhile, my life went on.” And I thought, yes, Greg Marnier (he’s the first-person narrator…), you’ve never been quite sure how to combine talking about yourself and talking about social and political problems… (And lives do tend, by definition, to go on, without this inevitability needing to be pointed out.) I don’t imagine that the reader is even supposed to consider the question of how reliable a narrator Marnier may or may not be. Nor do I imagine that Markovits ever considered the question. Marnier is no Nick Carraway, and Markovits is certainly no Fitzgerald. As I said earlier, the strands get all knotted up. A one-word summary: hotchpotch. **000
  13. Shakespeare - Sonnet 32 If thou survive my well-contented day, When that churl death my bones with dust shall cover, And shalt by fortune once more re-survey These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover, Compare them with the bett'ring of the time, And though they be outstripped by every pen, Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme, Exceeded by the height of happier men. O then vouchsafe me but this loving thought: 'Had my friend's Muse grown with this growing age, A dearer birth than this his love had brought, To march in ranks of better equipage: But since he died and poets better prove, Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love.'
  14. 01 Catherine Cusset, Amours transversales (Fr) 02 Benjamin Markovits, You Don't Have To Live LIke This 03 Hilary Mantel, Vacant Possession 04 A.M.Homes, This Book Will Save Your Life 05 Philippe Besson, « Arrête avec tes mensonges » (Fr) 06 Michel Eltchaninoff, Dans la tête de Marine Le Pen (Fr) 07 Kate Atkinson, Life after Life 08 Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1 09 Claude Simon, L'Herbe (Fr) 10 Jonathan Safran Foer, Here I Am [ABANDONED] 11 Rose Tremain, The Gustav Sonata 12 Pierre Lemaitre, Trois jours et une vie (Fr) 13 Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time 14 Jérôme Ferrari, Il se passe quelque chose (Fr) 15 Jérôme Ferrari, Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome (Fr) 16 Ali Smith, Public library and other stories 17 Laurent Binet, La septième fonction du langage (Fr) 18 Patrick Gale, A Place Called Winter 19 Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone 20 Jean-Noël Orengo, La fleur du capital (Fr) (ON HOLD) 21 Kent Haruf, Our Souls At Night 22 Tim Murphy, Christodora RR Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter RR Alan Hollinghurst, The Spell 23 Emmanuel Macron, Révolution (Fr) 24 David Szalay, All That Man Is RR Paul Bailey, Gabriel's Lament RR John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman 25 Philippe Djian, Dispersez-vous, ralliez-vous ! (Fr) RR Jonathan Keates, Smile Please 26 Simone Veil, Une vie (Fr) 27 Laurent Binet, HHhH (Fr) 28 Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness (Fr) = read in the original French
  15. The eye can hardly pick them out From the cold shade they shelter in, Till wind distresses tail and mane; Then one crops grass, and moves about - The other seeming to look on - And stands anonymous again Yet fifteen years ago, perhaps Two dozen distances sufficed To fable them: faint afternoons Of Cups and Stakes and Handicaps, Whereby their names were artificed To inlay faded, classic Junes - Silks at the start: against the sky Numbers and parasols: outside, Squadrons of empty cars, and heat, And littered grass: then the long cry Hanging unhushed till it subside To stop-press columns on the street. Do memories plague their ears like flies? They shake their heads. Dusk brims the shadows. Summer by summer all stole away, The starting-gates, the crowd and cries - All but the unmolesting meadows. Almanacked, their names live; they Have slipped their names, and stand at ease, Or gallop for what must be joy, And not a fieldglass sees them home, Or curious stop-watch prophesies: Only the grooms, and the groom's boy, With bridles in the evening come. Philip Larkin, "At Grass"