The battle now oscillated between the two fighters like two storm fronts swirling around each other - hurling and deflecting lightning bolts, towering above and rearing below the crack of heavy thunder.
Monday, 29 August 2011
Sunday, 28 August 2011
Here's the CN Tower all lit up in orange last night in tribute to Jack Layton. I listened to his state funeral on the radio and was very moved. From Stephen Lewis's powerful and touching eulogy calling Layton's letter to Canadians a "manifesto for social democracy" (which caused a huge round of extended applause and a standing ovation that even Stephen Harper had to participate in), to Steven Page singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", to Lorraine Segato's rousing "Rise Up", it was a very beautiful and fitting tribute. As were all the amazing messages chalked on the sidewalks, up the sides of the ramps and on all conceivable surfaces in front of City Hall.
I spent part of this weekend just walking around this great city feeling very grateful to live here. Lots of people were wearing bits of orange in remembrance of Jack. I don't actually have any orange clothing but I did have a ball of orange wool, so having already started the beekeeper's quilt, I decided to just knit orange hexagons while listening to the funeral. It is a great, happy, hopeful and optimistic colour.
Thursday, 25 August 2011
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
You don't have to be familiar with all the writers that Proust is imitating in this entertaining pastiche in order to enjoy reading this novella. Another way to view this story is as a exercise in the art of examining (or explicitly avoiding doing so) one basic story from many different, creative angles. The simple framework concerns a man named Lemoine who, claiming to be able to manufacture diamonds from coal, swindles a large amount of money, is caught and subsequently put on trial. Proust pays homage to (or skewers) writers including Balzac, Flaubert, Saint-Simon (who I now have no interest in reading) and the Goncourt brothers. My favourite chapter was the "critique" following Flaubert's account, in the voice of Sainte-Beuve. It was extremely funny. Many of Proust's own literary preoccupations are present, particularly the meticulous and exhausting detail paid to the endless rankings of aristocratic society and the artifice of that empty world. He also has a bit of gleeful, immature fun in his chapter devoted to Henri de Régnier, where, rather poetically, the discharge from a runny nose momentarily becomes an apt symbol of Lemoine's diamond scam.
So that makes four novellas read out of the nine I am aiming for this month. The final five will be the "Duel" books by Chekhov, Conrad, Casanova, von Kleist and Kuprin. We'll see which duellist is left standing.
Absolutely my type of reading!
You can read his essay here. And he's also included a list of Fifty Essential Works here. I've read only seven of the titles but all were completely original and memorable. And now I've quite a few more to add to the reading pile. Thanks to Literary Saloon for the link.
Monday, 22 August 2011
Saturday, 20 August 2011
5. There's a tiny street called The Land of Green Ginger said to be the inspiration for Winifred Holtby's novel of the same name.
Thursday, 18 August 2011
I was reminded of Spurious when I saw Michael Winterbottom's latest movie The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. They also play two friends driving around the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, ostensibly to review pretentious food for a newspaper. They instead spend most of their time affectionately bickering about their lifestyles, their careers, ABBA lyrics, and who has the better Michael Caine impersonation. And the scenery is just gorgeous! If you like the sarcastic, self-deprecating, taking-the-piss humour of the Brits (and who doesn't?) then I can highly recommend all of the above.
Then it was off on a short tram ride to Salford Quays and The Lowry, a complex that has a theatre and a gallery with a continuous exhibition of the paintings and drawings of L.S. Lowry, a painter I've encountered in books numerous times (my mum has a framed reproduction in her living room), but whose actual work I'd never seen before. It's a great collection and I particularly liked his simple but moving sea paintings, so different in style and subject from his better known depictions of urban and factory life in the English north.
Across from The Lowry is the Imperial War Museum North, a unique building designed by Daniel Libeskind to represent shards of the earth, shattered and then put back together. Inside, it's a very large, open space, with various side pods hosting themed exhibitions. I spent some time wandering through their War Correspondents display that featured among others, the work of Martha Gellhorn. I also went up the observation tower, and here's a warning to those who suffer from vertigo - the platform is made up of a steel walkway that is see-through. Even though the staff warned me not to look down, of course I did (it's actually hard not to) and got quite giddy. There's a good view of the city though.
Last stop was at the museum's gift shop where I bought Art From the First World War. It features many of the works and artists I was already familiar with - Paul Nash, William Orphen, Wyndham Lewis, CRW Nevinson - but introduced me to some paintings I had not seen before, such as Henry Lamb's "Irish Troops in the Judean Hills Surprised by a Turkish Bombardment, 1919", which is painted from the perspective of looking down at the ground from quite high up, and Walter Bayes' "The Underworld: Taking Cover in a Tube Station During a London Air Raid, 1918". There are also entries by women war artists Anna Airy and Flora Lion, who painted women doing war work in factories and canteens. A nice addition to my growing collection of books on the First World War.
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Off next to the beautiful Walker Art Gallery where again, another interesting exhibit was on display. Art in Revolution: Liverpool in 1911, juxtaposed post-impressionist paintings that were originally shown in 1911 (following the famous 1910 exhibit curated by Roger Fry that caused so much controversy in London) with footage and commentary about the labour strikes and demonstrations that occurred in the city (just outside the gallery) leading to several deaths. A lovely blend of art and history, questioning the multiple meanings of "revolution".
Finally, I was in the city on the opening day of the new Liverpool Museum. It was packed and not all of the rooms were yet open but what I saw, I really liked. I mostly focused on the exhibits dealing with the city's artists - poets, playwrights, actors and yes, of course The Beatles. You also get some great views of the waterfront from its windows. And there's a Canadian connection. This photo was shot from the museum (sorry - not the greatest shot; it was raining) of Canada Boulevard. That line of maple trees represents every Canadian ship that was lost during the Second World War.
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Now, I'm not a masocist. The square above was knitted with 4.5mm needles and measures about 9.5 inches square. It would take forever to knit a blanket. So I decided to double up the wool, which gives it the extra warmth I know I'll want in the dead of winter, and knitted a few swatches with different size needles, finally settling on using the 7.5mm. I stayed up far too late finishing my first square which measures about 15 inches square.
But I'm pretty pleased with the results. I decided to use seed stitch for the middle to make the red pop out and give it a bit of extra texture. If I complete a couple of squares a week, I might even be able to finish this before the first snowfall.
Thursday, 11 August 2011
I could not put this little gem down; Simenon is just so good at narrative voice. The Germans have invaded Belgium and are advancing on Northern France. Marcel Feron, a married man with a small daughter and another child on the way, lives very simply with his wife in a small French town, fixing radios and raising chickens. He says he is perfectly happy. But as the Nazis advance, the people in the town start packing up to try and catch one of the last trains leaving the area. Marcel suddenly decides to join them, not so much out of concern for his family's safety, but through a nagging premonition that this is his opportunity to encounter Fate:
I wasn't responsible anymore. Perhaps that's the word, perhaps that's what I was trying to explain just now. Only the day before, it had been up to me to manage my life and that of my family, to earn a living, to arrange for things to happen in the way things have to happen.
But not now. I had lost my roots. I was no longer Marcel Feron, radio engineer in a newish district of Fumay, not far from the Meuse, but one man among millions whom superior forces were going to toss about at will. . . From now on, decisions were no longer any concern of mine. Instead of my own palpitations, I was beginning to feel a sort of general palpitation. I wasn't living at my tempo anymore, but at the tempo of the radio, of the street, of the town which was waking up much faster than usual.
At the station, the men are separated into different carriages from the women and children, and Marcel completely loses track of his family when his freight car is uncoupled during the night. Strangely calm and nonplussed, he continues his long rail journey, forming a relationship with Anna, a mysterious young woman, reticent about her past, who climbs into the train without any luggage. The story follows their affair as they travel towards a refugee camp in the south of France, and these portions reminded me very much of the similar chaos described in Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. Marcel is narrating this episode from a period many years in the future. His voice has a calm wistfulness about it but his detachment is his undoing. This is very much a tale of lost opportunity, both for happiness and a self-redeeming and self-esteeming decency. Here, Fate is not going to trump personality and cowardice. The ending was just superb. I will be thinking about this book for quite a while.
Monday, 8 August 2011
Sunday, 7 August 2011
Friday, 5 August 2011
The book sounds wonderful and I'll definitely be buying a copy. Reading about it sent me scurrying to my shelves in search of Elected Friends: Robert Frost & Edward Thomas To One Another, edited by Matthew Spencer. It's a collection of their letters which should be the perfect companion read. I've just opened it up near the end to read Frost's letter to Helen Thomas after hearing about her husband's death. It includes this bit:
I knew from the moment when I first met him at his unhappiest that he would someday clear his mind and save his life. I have had four wonderful years with him. I know he has done this all for you: he's all yours. But you must let me cry my cry for him as if he were almost all mine too.
William Dean Howells' A Sleep and A Forgetting, first published in 1907, was probably not the best choice for a commuter read. I'm often a bit sleepy on the bus to work and frequently tired and eye-strained on the way back; the constant references to naps taken by the heroine and the rather languid prose didn't help. This is the story of thirty-year old Dr. Lanfear, the nephew of a famous psychologist, who is also fascinated by the workings of the mind. He's on holiday in Italy and stopping in San Remo to do a favour for a friend, he encounters an elderly man whose beautiful daughter has been traumatized by witnessing her mother's death and subsequently has lost both her long and short term memory. She'll meet someone and completley forget the encounter the next day. Beguiled and intrigued by her beauty and personality, Lanfear agrees to help Nannie, and through a series of walks and conversations in the surrounding countryside, she slowly grasps fragments of her past - vague perceptions more than solid facts - until a trip to the ruins of a town devasted by an earthquake and a subsequent shock bring the story to its conclusion. There are some big ideas being explored here about time, memory and ontology, such as in this passage where Lanfear ponders on his patient's state of consciousness:
He had always said to himself that there could be no persistence of personality, of character, of identity, of consciousness, except through memory; yet here, to the last implication of temperment, they all persisted. The soul that was passing in its integrity through time without the helps, the crutches, of remembrance by which his own personality supported itself, why should not it pass so through eternity without that loss of identity which was equivalent to annihilation?
That passage also gives you a sense of the style which just wasn't suited to my reading mood on a crowded bus. I also found the ending rather weak and predictable. I think a second and closer reading would do this work more justice, but I think I'll keep moving on with the challenge.
Monday, 1 August 2011
Curious – Read 1 novella
Fascinated — Read 3 novellas
Captivated – Read 6 novellas
Passionate — Read 9 novellas
Mesmerized – Read 15 novellas
Obsessed – Read 21 novellas
Fanatical – Read 27 novellas
Unstoppable — Read 33 novellas
Bibliomaniac — Read all 42 novellas
I'm rooting for her! And a novella is perhaps just the perfect thing to tackle on this holiday Monday. I'd love to try and attempt the Bibliomaniac level myself, but I know there's a ton of work waiting on my desk tomorrow. Still, they are the perfect commuting reads so I'm also going to see how many I can read this month. Having just spent the last week in Cornwall, I'm up for a sea adventure, so I'm starting with Joseph Conrad's Freya of the Seven Isles, first published in 1912.