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Everything posted by nonsuch

  1. I tried to watch the first episode of Vanity Fair on ITV last week, knowing I would have to endure commercial intrusions. Who else tried it? I can just about manage to endure the commercials on Sky Sport (cricket, and selected football) but VF last week was hopeless.
  2. Liked All that Man IS and His Bloody Project. Hated the ranting The Sellout.
  3. I don't think one needs to like the protagonist to like the book. Nabokov's Lolita, for instance, is a fascinating read (I've recently re-read it and enjoyed seeing the world through Humbert -Humbert's eyes). As for Wuthering Heights, certainly Heathcliff is at times unpleasant and vicious, but he is in a sense a force of nature and he is the book's centre. I like him when he gets angry and says to Edgar Linton, 'You're not worth knocking down.' I like him when he gets hold of Hindley Earnshaw and takes his revenge for the former's cruelty to him as a child. Yes, I do sympathise with Heathcliff despite his being a bastard (in both senses).
  4. It looks as if, Hux, if you follow all the advice, you've got your work cut out for the next 4-5 years. If you opt for self-publishing you have a mountain to climb, competing with hacks and people who take themselves seriously and watch their ratings. I would say concentrate on writing rather than trying to 'build a platform' that'll likely collapse. First try the traditional publisher. Send out 50 or more well-constructed letters and meanwhile be writing your 2nd or 3rd book/novella.
  5. Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary It took Flaubert five years to write the book, coming after he gave up his law studies and his travels through the Middle East (1849-51). When it first appeared in parts, published in the Revue de Paris, the content shocked so many readers that the government brought the author to trial. But he was acquitted and the storm established his reputation and the book was finally published in 1857. He could be said to have opened the floodgates to the progress of the genre as far as subject matter and treatment are concerned. The cool acceptance of Emma’s adultery was unprecedented at the time. Today, 150 years on, it would be quite normal and it is indeed difficult for us, in the wake of Hardy, DH Lawrence and Joyce to see what all the fuss was about. Emma is seen from her own perspective, while Flaubert himself remains neutral, adopting the oratia obliqua or indirect technique of character portrayal. ‘She kept saying to herself over and over again, “I have a lover, a lover.a lover.” And of the church choir, ‘And their voices, their beautiful voices …’ But between these ecstatic outpourings there’s always the regret, the dullness of life alone with good, simple Charles, the rain, the mud, the sheer boredom, until her schemes, dreams and final recklessness almost drive her into the arms of the cunning linen draper, the repulsive Mr L’heureux. But no, no, no, she would sooner die … As ever precise details convince the reader utterly. Realism was now in the ascendency and Flaubert’s friends - Turgenev, Zola and George Sand - shared this obsession, and would have approved Flaubert-cum-Emma’s fidelity to the way things are: the pampered but neglected dog, the path to the cemetary through the wood, and the only dark place for the lovers, Emma’s garden.
  6. Stay in! We are no longer able to stand alone and should be content to be little British. Culturally and geographically we are (almost) linked. Travel and health services are another link.
  7. DJ Taylor. The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England Since 1918 Although the title of DJ Taylor’s monumental study of writing and publishing is misleading (prose overwhelms other forms, but Auden, Eliot and Spender are pre-eminently poets) this is a thoroughly entertaining and informative account. Until Taylor reaches the contemporary publishing scene, he shows a magisterial grasp of trends in attitude towards literature, his writing peppered with interesting asides, such as that at some point in their careers James Joyce, Viginia Woolf and Joseph Conrad each submitted work to Tit Bits. He is especially good as recovering authorial pronouncements in letters and magazines. In Chapter One, for example, Taylor invokes not only Dickens’ Household Words, but Eliot’s Criterion, JC Squires’ London Mercury, as well as long-forgotten reviews such as the Dome, the Pageant, the Chameleon and the Rose Leaf. We move from the passing of Victorian literature, where Vanity Fair (1847-8) sold only a modest 10,000 copies in its author’s lifetime, through the Georgian era where Frank Swinnerton’s novels ‘sold 20,000 copies a year in the US,’ while Eliot, Joyce and Woolf appealed to only a tiny minority. Taylor gives ample scope to analyses of authorial balance sheets, three of his chapters being entitled ‘Making a Living I 1918-1939,’ ‘Making a Living II 1939-1970,’ and ‘Making a Living III 1970- ’. We follow the Paperback Revolution, and not too exhaustively, The Digital Revolution (to date over a million available titles on Amazon Kindle alone). He quotes Francis King’s forecast, issued 38 years ago: ‘Soon the novelist will find, as the poet has found already, that the majority of people even of ‘educated’ people have become totally uninterested in whatever freakish thing he is trying to accomplish.’ The final chapter, ‘Enemies of Promise’ takes us back to the book’s title with its somewhat menacing emphasis on mass production. Taylor invents Hugo Littlejohn, a young man who thanks to contacts soars up the literary ladder, taking an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Loamshire, and becomes a functionary in the technological machine, a necessary evil, presumably producing novels nobody reads, an ‘enemy of promise.’
  8. The Trial is a haunting story of a near-nameless man struggling to come to terms with bureaucracy. He seems to have no friends, no confidants, and is forced into writing, drawing the reader into his every thought.
  9. I'd be willing to read 10 pages for a free book.
  10. Of course you can always try 'Poetry Please' or whatever its new name is on Sunday afternoon, Radio 4.
  11. Hartley, LP. The Go-Between A hot summer in 1900 and Leo Colston, aged 14, is invited to spend it at his friend Marcus’s house at Brandham Hall, a splendid country house replete with 14 bedrooms, servants, guests galore and for Leo the most ravishing girl, Marian. It should be a happy time and in a way it is, for everyone is excessively polite and concerned for the boy’s welfare, but sadly love enters his consciousness, a growing awareness of the mystery of adult passion, concealed and for the boy wicked and puzzling, and ultimately scarring the boy for life. The book was first published in 1953, over 50 years later than the action portrayed. This gap in time allows for a double perspective on the scene, a time of vast social change, during which country houses became historic treasures open to the paying public, servants a rarity and the world became ruled by the internal combustion engine. More important perhaps, the book is penetrated by a nostalgia for a vanished period. The guilty passion however is seen at one remove, for Leo’s respectful love for Marian is essentially non-carnal; he is simply the messenger carrying love letters between Marian, engaged to be married to Lord Trimmingham, a disfigured veteran who befriends the boy, and Ted Burgess, a farmer, one of the servant class. (The title ‘Mercury’ is jokingly bestowed on Leo by Trimmingham.) The characters and above all the plot of the novel are all finely drawn, the dialogue realistic and the tension almost unbearable, as the reader follows Leo becoming enmeshed in a treachery of which he is entirely innocent. The euphemism ‘Spooning’ puzzling to Leo and used by Ted to refer to the sexual act is exactly right, historically and in the context of the boy’s innocence. This is the story of love, guilt and betrayal that only adults know.
  12. Dawkkins is a little heavy-handed, although we agree with almost all he says. Must read sam harris now.
  13. Marks, Kathy. Trouble in Paradise This meticulously detailed account of Kathy Marks’s six weeks on the Pitcairn island in 2004 is as she says in her Prologue to the book ‘a cautionary tale.’ She first read about the investigation in 2000, when as Asia-Pacific Correspondent for The Independent she read about about the 13 men charged with 96 offences dating back to the 1960s. She was accepted for membership of the media team reporting on the trials that followed, reporting ‘on one of the most bizarre court cases imaginable.’ The Pitcairners themselves were almost universally hostile to the enquiry, the offenders appealing to ‘every court up to the Privvy Council in London.’ It seemed that paedophilia, far from being a hated crime was almost a way of life for almost every man on the island, whose population was numbered at a maximum of 50 people, the island of roughly two square miles, not even having an airstrip, being over 3000 miles from New Zealand and Chile. The book (nearly 400 pages) after relating stories of murder and mayhem on the island, ends on a vaguely optimistic note, for Kathy tells of her encounter with Isobel, an abused child who managed to flee from the ‘Paradise’ that to her was absolute hell. Despite scores of appeals against their sentences the men were eventually convicted and imprisoned, but for Isobel ‘the jail out there, to me it feels like a mockery … that’s paradise, what they’re in, they’re laughing.’ But when told that as convicted rapists the men will never be able to enter New Zealand or Australia, Isobel beams and rejoices: ‘So they’re stuck on Pitcairn? That’s brilliant. That’s a real prison sentence for all of them.’
  14. Is it not about time for websites to allow a modest amount of what used to be called 'Strong Language'? I discover that Amazon has found my latest review of a book about the artist Francis Bacon unacceptable. I presume (as one has to with a conglomerate) that the reason is that in my review I quote the Author's words (who in turn is quoting the verbatim verdict of a thug and professional thief) on which said person uses the expression regarding Bacon's painting of him that it is - wait for it -' f***in' orrible'. This is what was said and I presume faithfully recorded. He did not say 'effing 'orrible' or 'flippin' 'orrible.' I have of course made a reply, but expect no further communication from Amazon.
  15. Absolutely, Romanlike (not that I watched The Borgias). But watching, like reading, as I mention on another thread, is not the same as doing or encouraging. I suspect we all enjoy a bit of blood and sex in our reading, but would not necessarily approve of acts of depravity.
  16. Peppiatt, Michael. Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir In his memoir of Francis Bacon - ‘Artist of the Macabre’ as labelled by the New York Times - Michael Pepppiatt gets right under the skin of his subject. Even when abroad, in Paris or New York, he is forever trying to ‘get more to grips intellectually and imaginatively with Francis’s paintings.’ He sees himself as Boswell to Bacon’s Johnson, or, more revealingly perhaps, as a son seeking a father figure, for Peppiatt was never close to his father, and this memoir is as much to do with the writer as its nominal subject, Peppiatt having already written Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma. So to say that the critic is a mere ‘follower’of the artist would be to make a gross understatement. In this book he in a sense becomes Bacon. He is no mere shadow, but a torch-bearer, never afraid to boast that he belongs spiritually to ‘the greatest living artist since Picasso.’ Of course not everyone would agree that the painter of the grotesquely distorted popes, for example, is in the same league as the Spanish master, and as far as the general public is concerned they would be more likely to agree with George, the subject of so many of Bacon’s most celebrated works - who incidentally gets no mention in the index and eventually committed suicide - that Bacon’s work is ‘f***in’ ‘orrible.’ George is an example of Bacon’s attraction to the ordinary down-and out, a professional thief who finds in his master-painter a convenient source of income and gracious living. Whether the relationship was ever more than a so-called ‘marriage of convenience’ is never made explicit, but from what we know of Bacon’s predilection for sexual partners it seems likely that the artist used his model in the expected way. One might expect Peppiatt’s sexual nature to come under scrutiny as the closest friend of the artist, but he appears to be firmly heterosexual, although his intimate relationships are not part of his story. Bacon in fact accepts his friend’s preference and is perfectly charming to his biographer’s women friends, but when Peppiatt eventually admits to having married and produced an offspring, Bacon is appalled. ‘Just do it in and get rid of it altogether,’ he declares in a fit of anger, as if the joy of becoming a parent is the most obscene folly a human being can commit. The book ends rather sadly with Bacon, the host of so many delightful gatherings, dying while his friend is in New York. Although he said he wanted oblivion and his work destroyed, in fact the reverse has happened: ‘No artist since Van Gogh,’ proclaims Peppiatt, ‘has grown so powerfully in mythical stature from beyond the grave as Francis Bacon.’
  17. I can't care about what 'some people' may find offensive. Reading about something doesn't imply that you approve or disapprove of its subject matter. Bad taste is subjective and you cannot proscribe (in our culture that is) what to write about.
  18. A few strokes on the sand John Heath-Stubbs Old men, as they grow older, grow the more garrulous Drivelling tempores acta into their beards, Argumentative, theoretical, diffuse. With the poet not so. One learns To be spare with words; to make cold thrusts Into the frosty air that comes. The final message - a few strokes on the sand: A bird's footprints running to take off Into the adverse wind.
  19. 2015 Book List 1 Alan Johnson, This Boy 2 Jackie Griffiths, Ox-Herding 3 Leslie Wilkie, The Phoenix Affair 4 JMG Le Clezio, Terra Amata (2nd read. trans) 5 John Updike, Self-Consciousness (2nd read) 6 Mary Webb, Precious Bane 7 Edith Sitwell, I Live Under a Black Sun 8 Peter Cowlam, Who's Afraid of the Booker Prize? 9 Stewart O'Nan, West of Sunset 10 Dom Moraes, Gone Away (2nd reading) 11 Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled 12 Jacob Epstein, A Literary Education 13 Victoria Glendinning, Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn Among the Lions 14 Warren Adler, The War of the Roses 15 Dick Swaab, We Are Our Brains 16 Rosamund Bartlett, Tolstoy 17 QD Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (2nd read) 18 Keith Jahans, Bike Travelling Man 19 Daniel Tammet, Born on a Blue Day 20 Mal Jones, Can Openers 21 David Nicholls, Us 22 Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety 23 Patrick Susskind, The Pigeon 24 VS Pritchett, Midnight Oil (2nd read) 25 Austin Hernon, Robert, the Wayward Prince 26 Enver Carim, The Trouble with Sophie Gresham 27 Patrick Susskind, The Story of Mr Sommer 28 John Carey, The Unexpected Professor 29 ----------, The Intellectuals and the Masses 30 George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia 31 Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests 32 Michael Shelden, Orwell 33 Elizabeth Taylor, The Soul of Kindness 34 Sandra Danby, Ignoring Gravity 35 Samuel Hynes, The Growing Seasons 36 Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes 37 William Zinsser, Writing About Your Life 38 Garry O'Connor, Campion's Ghost: The Sacred and Profane Memoirs of John Donne, Poet 39 Henry Miller, Plexus (2nd read) 40 William A Gordon, The Mind and Art of Henry Miller 41 Frank McCourt, Teacher Man 42 Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie 43 Byron Rogers, The Last Englishman 44 Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle 45 Stephen Crane, The Blue Hotel 46 William Fiennes, The Music Room 47 DH Lawrence, Sons and Lovers 48 Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time for Silence 49 Arnold Bennett, Stories of the Five Towns 50 Alain de Botton, Essays in Love 51 Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower 52 Paul McVeigh, The Good Son 53 Ana Spoke, Shizzle Inc 54 Peter Cowlam, Marisa 55 Michael Kerrigan, The Dark History of the Roman Emperors 56 Stephen O Fletcher, The Disciple of Beauty 57 RC Hutchinson, A Child Possessed (3rd reading)
  20. Like your 'correct usage' point. I always hesitate to say what is 'good' or 'correct' English. One can feel such a fool in a hundred or so years' time when your 'error' becomes the standard.
  21. As far as what is happening today, my view is that none of us really knows the truth of what is happening. Time will have to pass and, hopefully, honest records made of the events, before we are even faintly aware of the truth behind current events. And sometimes, we will never know. And does it matter? If only mankind (and I include women in that word) could learn from history and not make the same mistakes over and over again. Well put, Barbleu! But it would be Utopian to imagine we could not make the same mistakes over and over again. We are programmed to fail. and what does it matter sub species etc?
  22. Better late than never. Or to get in FIRST - Merry Christmas 2016 to all BGO-ers.
  23. Kerrigan, Michael. Dark History of the Roman Emperors What a ghastly crew of robbers, schemers and perverts! Hitler was an angel by comparison. This is a well-illustrated and attractively packaged account of the major Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to the Fall of Rome. It’s Gibbon revisited with a Horrible Histories slant that is the reverse of funny. ‘Never were the stakes higher, the passions fiercer or the politicking more murderous than they were at the imperial court,’ declares Kerrigan. He spares us nothing as thousands of Christians, Jews and Romans are tortured, garotted, raped and mocked for the amusement of the populas and their fiendish masters, the emperors. The term Blood Sports then had an entirely different connotation. The Romans, so it would appear, owed nothing to the Greeks beyond their mythology. Meet Caligula who wants his victims ‘to feel the whole experience of death’so he keeps them alive and suffering. Or the playboy and mother’s boy Nero, legendary for fiddling while Rome burned, who ordered his teacher, Seneca, to commit suicide. Or Commodus, a criminally insane madman who re-ordered the calendar and combed the empire for the most beautiful women for his 300-strong harem. The book’s sordid narrative is punctuated by the most gorgeous artwork, providing a field-day for vulgarians.
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