Wednesday, June 22, 2016

nectar for food

a rabbit speaks:

he wrote poems about me
before i was kitten-born
black ink, no taste, smell
on paper, tree-like, thin
rustles beneath feet.

i did not hear them.
i lived, green fields
field banks
burrows dark, warm.

but i sensed what he said
he gave us names, lives
singled us to
within our kind.

now i am alone
live lone life.
myxie, he calls me
poem words
rabbits sniff, smell
butt blind, sickened
rabbit from my home.

i will die.
i eat bright colours
garden dark, dawn
petal flavoured scent
i am king, god
nectar for food.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Room With a View - E.M. Forster

It's a novel I aspire to.  It begins with a babble, Miss Honeychurch at table, her aunt in attendance; and it continues as such - a minimum of Forster comment and all narrative.  Of course, it would have been wonderful if Forster had come out, told life, love as he really saw it.  But he didn't, and we must live with this.  He tells the tale of girl expecting boy, not expecting the boy who turns out to be her true love.  And that is what is fantastic - the eternal love that is proclaimed.  And truth.  The girl belongs to boy.  And boy to girl.  The narrative entertains, and confirms this as it progresses.  Love is wonderful - the best we can get, if we can get it.  Read this, and read it again - if you believe in love (or maybe more so if you don't).  Each reading is an assertion of achievable purpose and hope.

I Sing To The Air - Padraig De Brun

A bird speaks:

I slouch, some beggar starved of hope,
Feasted on the stale discards of past,
Towards dawn. I am wing-tired, slow,
A body, prime-passed, not now dead,
Long dying. I think morning thought,
What birds do, their always living,
Being, since the hour birth begins.
And other thoughts come, as thoughts must:
"Remember soon!" I do no know
As day arrives what this day is.

'Round me - again I do not know -
I live it now - it is just there -
Are roof-tops, grey, acute, spartan,
Dense, green bush, barbed as dwellings are,
My dwelling, my unwelcome hearth.
And then wires, black, unearthed wires
Hum beneath feet, chanting on, on.

Others stand as well - I know this.
No need for thought as I awake.
They wait. I wait. There is stillness.
We watch the ever-present night.
It is tense now, alert, frozen,
The movements of creatures, studied,
Preyed upon. And it is soon dead -
Night must know this - the lamb of dark -
Night risen, always daily dead.

And without a sound, new doom falls,
Rises with seeing, sight of things.
The sun comes from the east, jewelled
Like Juliet - a star of day.
It slaughters what it finds, rest's sleep,
Scavenges the corpse it kills, dark.
And night, recently gloried, fat
Is gone. All dreams, shivering, pass.

And then the song. Others sing first.
I wait. I will remember. Day.
Until a voice - I know that voice.
There is a sweet, butterfly sound,
And notes, bright-coloured, gambolling,
Caressing thoughts as new lambs do.
And there is joy-ordinary
All about. The very air breathes
Delicious life, speaks memories,
High shrilling, not now forgotten.
And I reply, gladly reply,
Remember the known, always known,
And I sing to the air, loudly,
I sing day's coming to the air.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Endless Night - Agatha Christie

Okay, she can write.  That's how she made her name, I suppose - sold a few books.  And as ever there's an economy of style - "it's the narrative, Stupid".  Christie doesn't waste words; she keeps us on the action.  I was surprised in a "that's interesting way" to find myself making a link between Agatha Christie, The Doors and William Blake.  After that came a slight disappointment.  Endless Night, as expected, is rich with fantastic characters and intrigue.  To resolve her complex mystery, however - no, I didn't guess who did it - Christie does a complete character make-over towards the end; the villain suddenly acquires qualities, a history that had not been there before.  This left me imagining that the villain was a convenience - someone had to be guilty; and more importantly I imagined that like me Christie did not know who did it until she had invented her convenience.  The novel then loses its sense of being crafted from the start, clever clues and distractions woven into the plot - there were none.  As a result I will take a pause from her mysteries for now.  I will only return when I have forgiven her.  This should not take too long.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bambert's book of missing stories by Reinhardt Jung

I fell up on this book, quite by accident, in the The Cook Book St Just, a treasure trove of second hand books. I have never heard of Reinhardt Jung, an Austrian author, before, but the story was translated by Anthea Bell, and I am a huge fan of hers, as she translates all the Asterix books, which I have loved since childhood.

Bambert's book of missing stories is about a writer who lives on his own, in the attic above a grocer's shop. Bambert is vulnerable, not able to be very active because of the pain he suffers, so he stays at home and writes stories, while the grocer makes sure that he gets everything that he needs. Bambert likes to sit and talk to the moon at night, and he has written a book called the Book of Wishes, which is made up of 11 stories. He decides to send them out, via balloon, into the world to see where they will land, and he asked the finders to return them to him, telling him where the stories have landed. Those locations then become the settings for those stories. Story titles include:

  • The Waxworks Cabinet - the story of a boy who was rewarded by the waxworks he cleaned up. This was one of my favourites.
  • The Strange Game - so moving as it was about a child living in Sarajevo during the war.
  • The Flight of the Dolls from Paris - a mysterious story about a little girl who found lots of doll parts on the beach.
  • Red Stocking, Black Coat - a story of a child living in a village ruled by a greedy count, and how the boy used cunning to make sure he was fed. It reminded me of an Aesop's fable.

This book is aimed at children, but the stories can be enjoyed by all. They are beautiful, and magical, some sad, but all hopeful, thought-provoking, and full of wisdom. I loved this book. It feel's like a treasure, and reminds me of other books, particularly Michael Ende's Neverending Story, or The Little Prince. Stefan Zweig, another favourite author of mine, is also Austrian. I love Austria, so it is a wonderful surprise to discover they have such fabulous authors. If you can recommend any more, please let me know!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Jerusalem Maybe" - A poem by Padraig De Brún

Jerusalem Maybe 
"I wrote some of this on a ladder. It didn't wobble."

I made Britain from what I saw,
Sanding paint, breathing toxic dust.
It shaped before me by chance hand,
Stubborn remains of what had been.
And its edges, coloured and ragged,
Jutted from land into a sea 
Of cold, clean, sand-smooth, grey plaster.

And then the island shape was gone,
Cleansed from sight, like imaginings.
And I painted anew, slow, white,
Deliberate strokes, spread even,
Equally flat, smooth edge to smooth.
And what I created as God,
King, painter, was a plain, white wall.

I wondered then, my labours done,
If this new land, formed above dust,
Perfect, Jerusalem Maybe,
Was the space we might occupy,
If one day, all that makes us real,
Different and original,
Is allowed forever to pass.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lady Windermere's Fan - Oscar Wilde

I read Lady Windermere's Fan because I was going to audition for a part - that of Lord Darlington.  As I see it Wilde never quite decides whether he is writing a comic satire, or something more serious - even realist in nature.  The result is a delightful play, nonetheless - Mrs Erlynne is a fantastic character, Lord and Lady Windermere as well.  Supporting them, more typically Wilde - The Importance of Being Earnest - are an array of idle rich caricatures who say clever things that are ultimately meaningless, or meaningless things that are contradictory and are comic because they are expressed with such seriousness.  The character of Darlington, however, reminds me of a 'piece of ill-digested cheese', as Scrooge might say.  Darlington had two key scenes.  In the first he is a fop, flattering Lady Windermere and courting a bad appearance so that people will not take him seriously.  In the second he is serious, no explanation given, proclaiming love and determined to leave the country if Lady Windermere will not have him.  I did not go for him then, imagining Darlington a shoe-in, a convenience to hold together a too-complex plot, one that Wilde - to return to the cheese - did not fully digest.  I imagine too that this is why Darlington - unlike the other serious characters - did not receive a fitting comic closure - he just disappears.  Finally, I imagine that Wilde might have made this a fantastic comic satire, or realist drama, if he had properly thought it through.  As it is Lady Windermere's Fan is delightful and flawed.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Beware of Pity - Stefan Zweig

Brilliant and dreadful; I imagine that Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel) does him best - intense and parodic at once.  Zweig is insistently 19th century - I am reminded of Turgenev, slow detailed, soft - with moments of high, almost too high drama.  He is also informed by 20th century thinking; an acquaintance of Freud, he believed that the sexual liberation taking place around him was actual and transformational liberation.  I have read a novel, Beware of Pity, two novellas - Chess and Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman, and an extract from his autobiography - The World of Yesterday.  At times I was amazed - this guy really understands stuff; wow!!!!!!, that is exactly what should have happened, how did he do that.  At other times, labouring in details that might have been skipped, condensed, I was genuinely bored - "got the message, Zweig; get on with it."  Zweig made his early reputation translating the work of poets.  My temptation then is to recommend his work to up-and-coming writers who will translate his writings into good, solid, masterpiececal brilliance.  Alternatively, just have a go; at the end of each book, I felt that the time allowed to reading it had been rescued, made worthwhile.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book or film - Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

So, which is better, the book or the film. Personally, I love them both. I love reading Agatha Christie's books. She had four series - Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence, and the stories with no leading person. Agatha Christie is such an amazing person besides being such a creative author. She lead a very exciting life, learning to surf, accompanying her husband on archaeological digs, and she shares her experiences in her books. She is total genius, and it is so interesting reading her books through her whole history of writing, because you can see the changes in time and lifestyle, the decadence of the twenties, through the austerity of wartime, followed by the new freedoms discovered in the 50s. And her ideas for murder, so creative, and while the Poirot and Miss Marple, have a certain light-heartedness, the ones without a leading character, are altogether rather sinister, and sometimes quite macabre.

I have seen five films, and I like all of them, although The Mirror Crack'd with Elizabeth Burton, Rock Hudson, and Tony Curtis, was a bit too showy for me. I think I like the films, because they introduce me to a time which I will never experience. Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express are both so decadent, and beautifully shot. I cannot imagine travelling through Egypt or Europe at such an elegant pace, drinking cocktails, admiring the scenery without the crowds, and experiencing it all without social media. I do love my gadgets, but I would also like to travel in a slower world. And the actors chosen for the roles are superb. Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney as Poirot, Bette Davies as a cantankerous old spinster, and Angela Lansbury in several different roles...just divine. I find that often, films with many famous actors, can detract from the story, but the casting choices hugely enhance these productions.

The story told in Death on the Nile is just fabulous, and only slightly different in the film, which loses three of the book's characters, or rather integrates them with the remaining ones. Nothing is lost. It is almost as though the book is being read to you, enhanced by the most beautiful scenery following alongside. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about a couple on their honeymoon, being tormented by a former lover. The plot is laid as each character's juicy background and potential motive, is described and you just get engrossed in all the connections and scandal, and the varying characters of all the people participating in this exotic trip. And, while we know there will be a murder, it doesn't actually occur until almost half way through the book. I won't spoil it, but it is a jolly fine read, and quite unputdownable!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Ian Fleming

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is realistic in places.  It concerns a family, the Potts, who have a much-loved car that makes an unusual sound Chitty, Chitty - Bang! - Bang!; so they name the car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  After this moment of realism the novel becomes quite bizarre.  I am reminded firstly of the Famous Five - they say 'Golly' a lot, and they are frightfully hungry after life-threatening adventures.  Then, as might be expected from Ian Fleming, there are clear hints of James Bond narrative-types - taking on a gang of international criminals and maybe escaping (I don't want to give the plot away) at the point of greatest peril.  Only, to complete this reference to James Bond, having defeated (or maybe defeated) a criminal mastermind - casually risking the lives of his wife and two children along the way - James Bond is jolly pleased with himself and sets off on a new adventure - 'the children aren't scared', he explains to his wife, 'so it must be alright.'  The novel is written for children, of course - though I can't imagine children reading it.  The story is just too something - I can't quite put my finger on it - to suit the child audience that I imagine.  What I love, however, is its period-pieceness.  It comes from an age when driving at 100mph (or flying, or speed-boating) with your simply adorable children sitting in an armchair seat behind - no seat belts - is an example of ordinary, if quirky family fun; and where the everyday maternal care of Mum (Mimsie) is demonstrated by her cautioning of her children to be careful when examining the crates of dynamite they have just discovered.  (Fleming then endorses this by reminding his child-readers that they should listen to the cautions of their mothers; but worthy of note is the fact that he doesn't seem to have his tongue anywhere near his cheek when offering this writerly advice - he means it.)  Anyway, for most of this novel I didn't know whether to laugh or exclaim in a 'what!'-like manner; so if you would like to experience a similar reader-response this might be the book for you.  If not, try the film - much more straightforward and 'truly scrumptious'.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Neverending Story - Michael Ende

It was my second time to read The Neverending Story; and like the best of books it suggested itself, grabbing my attention as I stared hopefully at the bookshelves.  I was duly prepared for Fantastica, a land populated by stories and under threat from the 'nothing'.  At its best this book is sublime - a real treat for the imagination and fantastically written; it even tops Momo, another Michael Ende favourite, in places.  In other places, however - about half-way through, when Bastian Balthazar Bux began to create his own world, it slumped a little, reading like a book with fillers.  But I won't knock it for long about that; I thoroughly enjoyed it, flew through it and would happily have read more.