Monday, 25 January 2010

A "Tessering" Type of Weekend. . .

Yes, I just finished reading Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time which I enjoyed very much though it was far darker than I expected, and while I wasn't jumping from planet to planet this weekend, it did feel like I was crossing a lot of cultural borders and travelling back and forth between various books. I got a surprising amount of things accomplished and yet none of it felt rushed. I have a new "slow" strategy for Saturdays and Sundays in which I continue to wake up at 6am as I do on weekdays, but instead of hitting the shower right away, I make a cup of tea, crawl back into bed and read for four hours - purely pleasure reading; whatever takes my fancy. Then I'm up officially at 10am and the whole day still stretches in front of me. Reading children's literature is a particularly delightful way to start a weekend.

But I was also feeling a bit scholarly so I started dipping into a recent anthology that I've acquired - The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry edited by Tim Kendall. I read the essays dealing with women's war poetry, containing some of the usual blather about how women's poetry has been ignored in the canon because most of it wasn't very good and the genre is masculinely predicated on having actually fought at the front etc. etc. Simon Featherstone's essay on Gertrude Stein and Mina Loy was interesting in its argument for expanding the definition of war poetry to include "an exploratory aesthetics and politics that develop through unexpected, often understated experiences of wartime change." And a footnote in Stacy Gillis's overview essay led me scrambling to my WWI bookcase to dig out The Literature of the Great War Reconsidered: Beyond Modern Memory, edited by Patrick J. Quinn and Steven Trout. This is another anthology of interesting essays and Deborah Tyler-Bennett's look at women poets who used myths or folktales to critique the impact of war had me foraging for my Collected Poems 1912-1944 of H.D. (I really need to organize my bookcases) and making a note to find and read Edith Sitwell's poem "Clown's Houses" and the poetry of Iris Tree (who I know primarily as a subject in paintings by Bloomsberries) and Phyliss M'egroz (never previously heard of her). Hours worth of other interesting essays in both anthologies to read, so I'm keeping them at the ready on the bedside table.
I have to thank George at Great War Fiction for this post on Patrick Hamilton's Gorse Trilogy which contains a character who is a WWI poet. This led me to the previously unknown Black Spring Press, which not only publishes the trilogy, but also the works of Julian Maclaren-Ross, a writer I've been interested in since I read he was the inspiration for the writer X Trapnel, in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, one of my favourite books. In addition to ordering the Hamilton, I also bought a copy of Maclaren-Ross's Bitten By the Tarantula and Other Writing which includes short stories, some novellas and unpublished work, and a bunch of literary and film criticism. My books arrived at the post office on Friday night and I read his film essays, including one on the early films of Hitchcock - it has me itching to watch Saboteur and Shadow of a Doubt. From the introduction to this collection, I also learned that Maclaren-Ross married a niece of Leonard Woolf. All roads apparently lead to Bloomsbury . . .
My evenings have been spent at Cinematheque Ontario which is running its Best of the Decade series. I saw three very beautiful films by Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke (Platform, Still Life and The World) and he was actually there in person to introduce them which was a treat. Then today it was a 1954 Italian melodrama, Senso directed by Luchino Visconti followed by Silent Light, directed by Carlos Reygadas, a Mexico/France/Netherland/Germany co-production which was also of interest since it starred Canadian writer Miriam Toews.
Whew. That's enough travelling for the moment. At least I didn't have to pass through "The Black Thing" - just a bit of rain.

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