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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. Parting they seemed to tread upon the air, Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart Only to meet again more close, and share The inward fragrance of each other's heart. She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair Sang, of delicious love and honey'd dart; He with light steps went up a western hill And bade the sun farewell, and joy'd his fill. John KEATS - "Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil" (stanza 10)
  2. HORATIO And then it started, like a guilty thing Upon a fearful summons. I have heard The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat Awake the god of day; and at his warning, Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air, Th' extravagant and erring spirit hies To his confine; and of the truth herein This present object made probation. MARCELLUS It faded on the crowing of the cock. Some say that ever, 'gainst that season comes Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated, The bird of dawning singeth all night long; And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad, The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, So hallow'd and so gracious is the time. William SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet I/i
  3. No, I think you're absolutely right to insert a comma, given the possibility of paraphrasing by "a place which was both small and isolated", etc. It doesn't always work, though. "A nice hot shower" is not a shower which is both nice and hot, but rather a shower which is satisfyingly hot. (I think there may also be a number of cases where the presence/absence of the comma would be difficult to justify one way or the other.)
  4. Autumn

    Is she? In what way(s)? I don't remember anything at all specifically Scottish about the setting of Autumn (such as it is), and was strongly aware of the book's Englishness. (There is, you will agree, no such thing as "Britishness", especially just now.)
  5. Climbing the hill within the deafening wind The blood unfurled itself, was proudly borne High over meadows where white horses stood; Up the steep woods it echoed like a horn Till at the summit under shining trees It cried: Submission is the only good; Let me become an instrument sharply stringed For all things to strike music as they please. How to recall such music, when the street Darkens? Among the rain and stone places I find only an ancient sadness falling, Only hurrying and troubled faces, The walking of girls' vulnerable feet, The heart in its own endless silence kneeling. Philip LARKIN - "Climbing the hill within the deafening wind"
  6. Swing Time

    @MisterHobgoblin, I'm pretty much with you on this one, you'll be interested (maybe even pleased) to hear... I initially liked the structure, and the retrospective viewpoint (my students would write "the beginning of the story is the end of the story"), I thought, was initially well-handled, the words "my humiliation" in the first sentence clearly signalling that we are in for a pride-before-a-fall story, and thus setting up suspense. I also agree that the Gambia bits were tedious. I got over thinking Oh, maybe it's because I don't know enough about Africa, and came to conclude that it was Zadie Smith being somewhat self-indulgent. But I thought the two symmetrical (black father/white mother v white father/black mother) families were well drawn and well contrasted, and I found the narrator's mother a very sympathetic character indeed. And yes, quite clearly, this needed some more rigorous editing. It would have been better with about 100 pages chopped out. (I didn't feel that with On Beauty, which is about the same length as Swing Time. And NW, which is about a hundred pages shorter, is far more effective for that, I felt.) I gave up star ratings a long time ago, but between you and me I'd give this four stars - and four to Ali Smith's Autumn and Auster's 4 3 2 1. And two stars to The Underground Railroad. I'm hoping to be able to give the full five to Solar Bones, which will be my fifth and final Booker longlist read before the shortlist is published.
  7. MALCOLM We shall not spend a large expense of time Before we reckon with your several loves, And make us even with you. My thanes and kinsmen, Henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland In such an honour named. What's more to do, Which would be planted newly with the time, As calling home our exiled friends abroad That fled the snares of watchful tyranny; Producing forth the cruel ministers Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen, Who, as 'tis thought, by self and violent hands Took off her life; this, and what needful else That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace, We will perform in measure, time and place: So, thanks to all at once and to each one, Whom we invite to see us crown'd at Scone. William SHAKESPEARE - Macbeth V/viii
  8. Last year's Booker-winner, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, divided opinion on the UK amazon site and, while over 40% of contributors have so far given it five stars, 20% have given it only one star. Personally, I found it highly perplexing, and put this down to the fact that there were too many allusions and references which, as a British reader, I just did not get - or which, when I got them, I didn't relate to easily. I found The Underground Railroad more accessible, but consider it a mediocre novel. In my younger years I had a very literal understanding of "underground railroad" (in the same way that, at the age of fourteen, I naïvely thought the O'Jays' "Love Train" was a real train, choochooing its way from continent to continent...). But for Colson Whitehead to have reliteralised the metaphor in his novel strikes me as slightly preposterous. It's a potentially interesting conceit, but he never manages to make it convincing. But there is worse: Cora's experience as a woman escaping from slavery on a southern plantation, and killing someone in the process, owes such an outrageously obvious debt to Toni Morrison's Beloved, that I couldn't quite believe that Whitehead had actually dared to do it. What was The Underground Railroad supposed to be? A homage, or a rip-off? I would say the latter. A puny offshoot, at best. I bet anything that Toni Morrison has a pretty low opinion of this. And quite rightly so.
  9. Autumn

    I love Ali Smith, but would admit that her most recent novels are less satisfying than the earlier ones (the Booker-shortlisted Hotel World and The Accidental, and, before those, the astonishing and underrated Like). I would also admit that her short stories are virtually all disappointing. I understand when people don't like her at all, because they tend to be people who expect a novel to provide more narrative thrust - and who would defend E.M.Forster's "Yes - oh dear yes - the novel tells a story." Although I sympathise with MisterHobgoblin's criticism that "none of it seems to be taking us anywhere", it might also be pointed out that a novel is not necessarily a means of transport. In a (deliberately) desultory way, Autumn tells us all sorts of things about living in England right now, and is a (deliberately) curious combination of prose and meditative poetic asides. It won't be everyone's cup of tea - but the tea (to extend the metaphor) has such a very English flavour (Autumn is definitely a book about Englishness) that it can be savoured without it really mattering whether there is any point to it.
  10. [...] Forlorn! the very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf. Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades Past the near meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep In the next valley-glades: Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep? John KEATS - "Ode to a NIghtingale" (last stanza)
  11. CLAUDIUS O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon't, A brother's murther! Pray can I not, Though inclination be as sharp as will. My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent, And, like a man to double business bound, I stand in pause where I shall first begin, And both neglect. What if this cursed hand Were thicker than itself with brother's blood, Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy But to confront the visage of offence? And what's in prayer but this twofold force, To be forestalled ere we come to fall, Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up; My fault is past. Shakespeare - Hamlet III/iii
  12. But as the earth doth weep, the sun being set, Each flower moisten'd like a melting eye; Even so the maid with swelling drops gan wet Her circled eyne, enforced by sympathy Of those fair suns set in her mistress' sky, Who in a salt-waved ocean quench their light, Which makes the maid weep like the dewy night. Shakespeare - The Rape of Lucrece
  13. Nutshell

    The novel is indirectly inspired by both Hamlet (cf. Claude = Claudius, Trudy = Gertrude) and Macbeth. It is strewn with allusions to both plays. If you don't pick up on that, then Nutshell probably doesn't make a great deal of sense. But if you do, it's a treat.
  14. ARVIRAGUS With fairest flowers Whilst summer lasts and I live here, Fidele, I'll sweeten thy sad grave: thou shalt not lack The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor The azured harebell, like thy veins, no, nor The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander, Out-sweeten'd not thy breath: the ruddock would, With charitable bill,—O bill, sore-shaming Those rich-left heirs that let their fathers lie Without a monument!—bring thee all this; Yea, and furr'd moss besides, when flowers are none, To winter-ground thy corse. Shakespeare - Cymbeline IV/ii
  15. [...] 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"