scribbles tagged ‘book’

Reading Man not quite the stranger

Sunday, June 8th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

The Stranger in Reading is a 2005 Two Rivers Press edition of an  original 1810 book.   It contains  7 letters written, supposedly  anonymously, by Reading long-time resident John Man.   The book documents Man writing  as if a stranger in Reading to a friend in London and includes  a modern preface and editorial provided by  Adam Sowan.   Despite painting a not-quite desirable-place-to-live view of Reading Borough two centruies hence, the book  is a thoroughly enjoyable read that has lead to the Wendy House strapline being updated.

The orginal book is prefaced by  Sowans description of John Man and then by light, within-letter,  explanatory annotations.   The main text maintains the original creative punctuation and spelling.    Sowan cites one example sentence as containing:

 three colons, five semi colons and no fewer than thirty-two commas; yet it is surprisingly readable.

A theme throughout the book is the poor state of the contemporary paving,   depite the Reading paving act providing the following penalities:

ten shillings, by every person leaving any carriage in the street,   except whilst loading or unloading;   driving a wheelbarrow on the footways; throwing dust, dirt, or rubbish in the streets.   Five shillings, by all persons neglecting to sweep the foot-paths before their houses every morning (Sundays excepted) before 10 O’clock. pxxx

An enjoyable glimpse into history that has value beyond people who may be interested in Reading’s history alone.   I discovered  how MP’s were renumerated and elected to parliaiment  and how ‘the corporation’ helped run Reading Borough.

Reading Man not quite the stranger
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moden interactive museums

Monday, February 25th, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

The Victora and Albert Library is a living piece of history.   A free piblic library where the resources themselves are artefacts of beauty.

The internet provides information,   sometimes that information is beautifully packaged in ‘media experiences’.   The internet has not yet managed to add to its experience the package offered by old libraries of:

book scent

aging parchment texture

atmosphere of being surrounded by ancient books

the sound of librarian moderated silences

moden interactive museums
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small press

Monday, February 4th, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

Not an affectionate hand gesture,   a book press.

Small press’ such as Reading’s own ‘Two Rivers Press’  can  target selling their publications to interest groups,   niche markets.    Two Rivers probably refers to   the river Kennet and Thames that meet in downtown Reading.  

It publishes works that  have general intereast and  local significance,  for example,  Adam Sowan’s history of street names ‘Abbatoirs Road  to Zinzan Street’,   the works of the Reading local, international, performance poet (AFH),   and historical treasures such as history and analysis of  what is thought to be the  oldest written song in English (circa 13th century).   The  manuscript of the song, a ‘rota’,  was found in Reading Abbey and now lives in the British Museum.  

A wonderful pocket-sized book with many thematic  block-prints and ebulant multilayered interpretations of the meanings of the rota.   A rota is a song intended to be sung in a round of several people….     Wikipedia describes the Reading Rota in a rather dull descriptive manner,   the author of the Two Rivers book explores possibilities with a cheeky enthusiasm and passion that makes the book a pleasure to read,   its style is  pixie-years  beyond Wikipedia.

Sumer is icumin in….     there has been much singing in a broad Bristolian burr in the Wendy House recently,   though I haven’t managed to do the minimum 2 or three voices required for a rota.   I am,   at least,   not scaring the cats who defintiely prefer me not to sing in their presence.

 How apt that a small press based in Reading should publish a book about a hand written document found in Reading long ago.

small press
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street names

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

Off to the shops.    The shopping tortutre.   Ick.    Luckily I was  armed with a set of seasonal shopping lists from those short-people*  that must be obeyed because of their lung, pout, and innovative-torturing-technique, capacity.

Toddling home  armed with short-people pacifiers and a book.   A book that lists Reading street names,   almost but not quite, alphabetically as it outlines the significance of the names.

Here’s an excerpt from my current Reading, reading, material (my emphasis):

The Reading Paving Act of 1827 – a splendid document written in legalese that never uses one word where three, or better still nine, will do – talks only of ‘streets, Lanes, public passages and Places’. (It also says that occupiers have to sweep the pavement outside their houses, and specifies when they should remove Night Soil or filth from the Necessaries or Boghouses.)

street names
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whow will I play with?

Friday, November 2nd, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

Christmas day 1999

After christmas I found this note from my 6yr old niece  tucked in the cover of a book I’d been reading.   It now marks a poem  drawing parallels between life and staying on a hospital ward where we do not make our beds but we do lie in them by Roger McGough in his  book “The way things are”.

The note cleverly demonstrates that the word hasea hoase house, unlike home,  is terribly tricky to spell.   Probably because there are three of those infamously tricky vowels  conglomerating in ‘house’.

whow will I play with?
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dolmen

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

Megalithic    graves across Europe.   Populated, or not, 3  to 4 thousands  of years Before Christ.   While in Ireland I toured the Burren and stopped at the Paulnabrone dolmen.   Very atmospheric.   “The Modern Antiquarian” a fabulous book by Julian Cope lists megalithic sites throughout Europe.    The book is one of my most treasured possessions.   Websites selling the book under-detail the sheer volume and depth of research that Julian put into constructing this fabulous book.

Before the advent of anti-aging products these dolmen represented the celebration of aging,  death,  and life beyond.   Julian Cope is  one of the most  influential celebrity individuals in my formative years,   I blame him alone for a pair of black leather jeans being a main stay of my wardrobe and, or  course, my RAF orignial flight jacket.

dolmen
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A spot of bother

Friday, October 12th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

By Mark Haddon.

Highly recommended to anyone who gains pleasure from social  dynamics  or is an  Anglophile.

:-)   :-) :-)

review ratings explained

Lots of positive reviews of the book available  on metacritic.     The Daily Telegraph provides a succinct summary that maps to my experience.

“A spot of bother” is a phrase that I understand as being used to play-down the severity of a problem.   It’s like saying,   “yes there is a nasty problem but really you shouldn’t worry because we’ve got it all under control, lets not pay it any more attention“.    It’s not a phrase or technique for managing conversational distance that I’ve encountered in the US.

The story is of  family dynamics across generations situated around an impending Wedding.   Everyone has  an opinion on whether the wedding should happen and why,   and different ways of expressing their opinions,    or not.     The book touches on themes such as prefering silence to talking,   social intelligence versus academic intelligence and the bounds of realism and paranoia.   Some reviews talk about it as a black comedy or farce.   My impression is that it is something other than either genre,    neither funny nor melancholic despite the topics and events.

Thoroughly enjoyable, I felt right at home.

A spot of bother
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novel opening sentences

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

The first sentence in a novel.  

An excellent writer alludes to the fundamental themes and tone of the book within a simple and provocative first sentence.      This opener from Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs  captured me:

Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight,   I have had my eye on other people’s parents.”

.

novel opening sentences
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Quitese la ropa, por favor

Sunday, August 12th, 2007 | tags:  |

Sat at SeaTac airport with an hour or so before my flight to Madrid I ordered a nice pint of Bass and started studying my pocket-sized English Spanish conversation guide.  

Questions  

Do you speak Spanish?”   I don’t think I’ll need that,   I will need “Do you speak English?” but it  is not listed.     The book does provide this question ‘what are you saying?” but without the ability to understand the answer this question would merely be digging myself a confusional hole.   There is  no book  section on useful  ‘Answers’ or a  translation of the ever-useful phrase:  

I’m really sorry,   I can’t speak your language can we use pointing and acting instead?”  

The Doctor

What about when I fall-over?   If I need a doctor for a broken bone?   The cartoon with the Doctor section is intriguing.   What excatly is the Dr. doing?   I looked for the “I think I’ve broken my arm” phrase but got no further than “Undress please” which seems a bit of a premature suggection for diagnosing a broken arm.   Though,   obviously,   as a single girl,   I need to memorise the phrase:

Quitese la ropa, por favor

Quitese la ropa, por favor
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of bartering books and buses

Friday, July 27th, 2007 | tags: , , , ,  |

Fifteen more books successfully released to the safety of half-price books.   In Exchange, three books paroled to the comfort of my handbag   No cash changed hands.   Bargain,   I gained book-shelf space  and topically useful books…  ..I feel a few more books coming on….

Libraries are fabulous social resources whose being is radically changing nature with the emergence of the Internet as an archive and social resources.   This Library,   Escorial, near Madrid has just made it onto my list of way-too-many-places I hope to visit.   I’ll have to use the bus* or train to get there   Brrrrrrmmmmmmm….Brrrrrrmmmmmmmm…..

Without even leaving Madrid I may get to see an Eygyptian temple,  a Palace where the Spanish Inquisition did some of its inquisiting,   fabulous deliberately leaning buildings, a very ornate post-office, a stadium  bull ring, a crystal palace inspired by the London Crystal palace,   bars that Earnest Hemmingway drank in (not all of them),   graveyards, and of course the essential  very tall thing for tourists to go to rather like Seattle’s Space Needle and Portsmouth’s Millenium tower.

Then there are castles to be checked out,   like the Alcazar…   just outside Madrid…   more buses!!

* I  like  riding on  buses

of bartering books and buses
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uninvolved

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Forty-eighth post in a Wednesday  series where Wendy fails to meet  someone that  drives singleness out of the House

Reason #48: uninvolved

 When I saw the title of this book,   I suspected that I needed a book on  how to ‘get things done when people are involved’ because:

Firstly,   I have noticed that people can stop me from getting things done.   For example,   the bus driver stopped me from driving my car,   the lady in the Diner stopped me from cooking my breakfast,   and other more shocking things

Secondly, being single is being uninvolved so this book might help me to get involved.

Meetings  are much more complicated than I realised.

uninvolved
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Making the cat laugh (1995)

Sunday, May 27th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

Making the cat laugh.   One woman’s Journal of single life on the margins.   (1995) A book by Lynne Truss,   then chief  TV critic of The Times more recently famous for writing the ambiguously titled “Eats shoots and leaves“.

The book felt like a collection of paragraphs pulled together in no particular order.   Well written,   entertaining and suitably  trivial to qualify purely as light entertainment.   A gift from a friend.   It failed to engross me, enlighten me,  or make me laugh out loud.    Despite the obvious superficial similarities (English girl, single, has cats, her paragraphs like blog posts) I did not find the stories personally relevant.  

Making the cat laugh (1995)
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books in nooks

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Unreasonably long sentence warning.   Take a deep breath now,   go:

I adore bookshops for many obvious reasons including the way  books magnificiently overcome the merchandising trends of other products by being  mixed irrrespective of colour,   size and pattern.

Hoorah!

I feel at home amongst the visual ecclectic of a book store.

books in nooks
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furry friends

Saturday, May 12th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

Mr. AFHarrold’s recent book contains hand drawn pictures of animals doing surrupticious animal things  and  real handwriting to explain thier naughty subversiveness in a child-friendly manner.   It’s also quite funny.   AFH has a talent for insight into the secret lives of furrifriends,   rhyming words and prompting a giggle.   But best of all,   for me,  this book sneaked into  my mailbox on a grimm drizzly evening and is making its way to my handbag for those emergency, on the road, poetry moments.

furry friends
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did you decide to stop reading that book?

Monday, April 23rd, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

 Yes

Book:   Tis. A Memoir.   Frank McCourt

Franks use of plain language, provides a raw, powerful, funny and poignant walk through the experience of emigrating to America.    It’s an impressive book.      I’ve finally given up trying to read it  half way through.   I’ve no stamina,   I got bored.   The story simply wasn’t gripping enough to make me drool over what might be on the next page.     The rest of this  review is based on  the first  half of the book.  

🙂

Ratings explained

Synopsis:

In 1949 a nineteen year old boy, the  author,  from Limerick (Ireland) emmigrates to his dream city,  New York.      The book is a sequel to Angela’s  Ashes that easily stands alone.  

“that’s what you’re faced with when you come to America, one decision after another” p54

Themes:

  • Immigrants: Everyone is American and something else laden with prejudices.   Spicks,   Mickeys, Polacks, Pueto Ricans, Natives, Greeks, Swedes, Chinks.   Rather than an absence of prejudice the book paints  a complex, explicit and diverse prejudices.  
  • Poverty:   America’s not like you expect it to be after watching films,   there is poverty here too.   The book makes explicit comparisions between poverty in Limerick, Ireland, and New York.    
  • Health: nealry every character’s health is vividly  described,  conjunctivitus,  arthritus, blood infections,  alcoholism.   How these conditions effect their ability to  earn money and pay for  health care  et.
  • real Americans:   just like you see  in the movies.   We see these  people from a  distance as they go to church or stay in hotels.   These people go to college,   have blond blue-eyed girlfirends,   are healthy, smell clean have  amazingly white aligned teeth,   always  have food available and warm homes:

“they can afford to smile because they all have teeth so dazzling if they dropped them in the snow they’d be lost forever” p59

did you decide to stop reading that book?
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A fabulous day indeed

Friday, March 16th, 2007 | tags: , , , , ,  |

March 15th 1984

It  will take several months to read the varied  scrawl of miss-spelt ramblings in my early diaries.    Mumzie recently  discovered these diaries in a  dark corner of her home.    The diaries stop in 1984 when I switched to letter writing…

A second sheet was added to this  1984 entry during my first year at University.     The day went something like this:  

A morning of contemplating whether  a fascinating but somewhat screwed-up boy  should have the benefit of my influence in his life.    

An  afternoon  sketching portraits of 2 handsome boys while they supplied me with lots of tea.   The tea taking isn’t explicitly mentioned because it is  understood as a part of  the ‘spending an afternoon with a handsome fellow’ process.   The boys  had the afrontary to  keep the sketches.   Sadly,   I don’t actually have copies of any of the portraits I used to produce.   I was fairly prolific with my sketch-book as well as in my diaries.    

The evening involved drinking ‘side cars’ in a disco and  helping a girl-friend disrupt the dancefloor during some of those slow girl-boy cuddling dances by jumping around between the soppy-people.    

A  fabulous day indeed.

A fabulous day indeed
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electricity

Sunday, December 17th, 2006 | tags: , , , , ,  |

For a  photo-story of the Wendy House, 24hr Power outage, click this picture of my reading a book by candle-power:

The Wendy House was lucky,   only 24 hs without electricity and a gas-fire for warmth.   The Seattle PI reports that more than 1 million Washingston State residents lost power. The all to frequent sound of siren’s passing the Wendy House re-inforced the risks associated with a suddent lack of traditional power sources.   The smell of woodsmoke, prevalent in the air, took on an ominous tone.   Did it  herald a burning home?

Memories of my childhood:  

January 1974,   11yrs old, the UK was suffering from a power crisis.   The Conservative government under Prime Minister Edward Heath introduced a ‘3 day week’ to conserve power.   At that time the UK’s main source of electrical power was the National Coal industry,   electricity from coal.   The country was suffering from extreme inflation.   To try and curtail inflation the government introduced wage-capping.   The Miners were not happy about their wage cap.   The Miners union introduced a ‘work to rule’,   they only followed the detail of the job description nothing above and beyond.   This severely curtailed coal production and reduced the power available to the country.   Unable to negotiate a solution with the Coal Miners representative,   the Union, the government introduced a 3 day week.   Power was only available on 3 consecutive days in a week.

To  an 11yr old this  is exciting and  fun.   4 days a week where the evenings were by candle-light and no hot-water for bathing.   As a family we would play cards by candle-light. It was like camping inside home.    We wore several layers of woolly jumpers and fingerless gloves indoors.   We used a camping gas stove to brew tea and make the occassional hot meal.  

After the Heath Conservative government was replaced by  Harold Wilson’s  Labour government the normal working week returned.   Wilson was a working-class boy who excelled in English the educational system.   A Yorkshire boy,   like Wallace, with a quick wit.   The last great intellectual Prime Minister that lead Britain.   The last true Labour Prime Minister.   With some impressive political thinkers in his cabinet such as  Tony Benn  and my personal favourites Denis Healey and Micheal Foot.

The exploitation of  oil  from the North Sea helped Britain to avoid severe economic disaster,   and assured that Scotland would not gain independence before its natural resources ran out.   That would be approximately…. ….now.   Britain is begining to face a renewed energy crisis and despite a thrashing by Thatcher the National Union of Miners is still a voice at the lobbying table.   The fancy new Labour party, Blair’s government, is being criticised for its lack of long term planning.

In my ‘retirement’ I  want to live in, or below,  a Windmill, to  be self-sufficient then sell extra power back to the country in  an emergent decentralised power system.  

electricity
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unfinished read #1

Saturday, September 16th, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

A poetry book, like a dictionary, is a book I never finish reading.   Unlike dictionaries I will voraciously read all the words in a poetry book  cover-to-cover upon first discovering them.   Obviously this is after having removed my stickly little digits from the tea mug.    Both are reference books,   pulled from the shelf again and again.  

The dictionary gets pulled when I’m unsure of a word’s meaning,   range of meanings,   origins,   relationship to other words.    Assured of  discovery, my question promptly answered.  Inevitably a rewarding experience,   how can anyone fail to fall in love with dictionaries?   I’m very loyal to my one paper dictionary, it cannot be replaced.    The  Collin’s Concise (1983) was  a present from an elder brother.   When I look at its faded binding  I see my 21 year old brother standing  at the top of Park Street outside Georges with a white plastic bag in his hand held out towards me saying

you’re leaving home?   You’ll need your own dictionary“.  

A very different experience from pulling one of the several poetry books from the shelf, floor, table, chair, cooker, mantle, washing-machine.    The favoured  books are scattered around the Wendy House where they afford the opportunity of unpremeditated rediscovery in a moment of undirected reading.   Picking up a book,   flicking through the pages to a title that catches some thought  and reading that poem.     One book purchased in a tizzy in 1989 insists on falling open to specific pages,   poems I found powerful in the early 1990s.  I have to fight against its insistence on taking me to specific emotional places.  

Poetry book use  is  not all so sporadic.  There are specific places I’ll go  when I’m happy,   because I’m sad,   or I want to find the words that describe what it is that I’m feeling because I just don’t know.   They are often there,   wrapped in the ambiguities and soothing rythms, but one can never be sure of Dictionary-like success.  

With that thought I’ll return to the vacuuming

unfinished read #1
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curious incident

Friday, September 15th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. Mark Haddon.   This is an outstanding first novel.   Recommended  

3 smiles:   ratings explained

 

Reviewed by charlotte Morre in the Guardian.   The numerous reviews I’ve read are full of praise for this novel.

Christopher, 15yrs, is writing a murder mystery novel.   This is Christopher’s Novel.   Christopher’s presentation is a carefully contructed stream of consciousness.   He provides details about each character,   something interesting or different, to describe the character.   What Christopher finds interesting or different does not follow common patterns of describing a person.   The jacket cover descirbes Christopher as being autistic,   this is an artistic construction of the writer,   the contents should not be taken as representative of Autism.  

goodness discovered:

  • Christopher as author:   works exceedingly well to carry the reader through seeing the world through the authors eyes and allowing the reader to have  a privileged view of dramatic irony. As reader we can see the impact of Christophers behaviours and understand these behaviours in a different value-set from Christophers.  
  • Christopher describes and demonstrates  his values.   Clearly,   entertainingly.   Christopher attributes values and priorities to events in a different way than is generally socially acceptable.   I found some of his reasoning clearly descibed,  easy to follow,   consistently applied thoughout the story.   For example the meaning of specific groups of different car colours.  
  • innovative illustrations.   The book is illustrated,   not with ‘pictures’ provided by an illustrator, with pictures from Christophers perspective.   As pictures per-se they provide little extra information.   As choices of important information selected by Christopher they are powerful story enhancers.

not so goodness

  • lack of empathy with other characters.   This is a by-product of working with having Christopher as the protagonist.     There is insufficient detail to build empathy with any other character.   I suspect this was an explicit decision made by the author.   I would have valued the opportunity for a deeper understanding of some of the peripheral characters.   It’s not clear how the author could have achieved this connection within the books clearly implemented perspective.
  • Inconsistency.   I found it difficult to follow why  Christopher made some, plot-critical, decisions  and did not become distressed by events that had already been established as distressing to him. For example, it is established early  in the book  that he does not like people shouting.    Later he witnesses shouting without any documented personal reaction.   As if the author temporarily forgot his protagonist in favour of placing  plot manipulating events.  

Aside:

  • There are plausible rumours that people who exhibit symptoms of Aspergers syndrome and Autism experience successful application of their strengths in the software industry.   A quick search of the internet finds no real evidence,   just plausible arguments.   Software developers are able to procreate and this ‘syndrome’ is genetically conveyed to offspring.   Evidently,   in December 2000 “Microsoft became the first major US corporation to offer its employees insurance benefits to cover the cost of behavioral training for their autistic children.”    (Wired Magazine).  This could easily just reflect the excellent pro-active healthcare provision by Microsoft as a company.   As a Seattle local,   this Wendy  wonders….
curious incident
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Saturday. Ian McEwan

Sunday, September 10th, 2006 | tags: , , , ,  |

Saturday gets  a self confessed McEwan addict rating of

4 smiles.   ratings explained

 Highly recommended for people who like Ian McEwan stories where  everday life is intertwined with the exceptional in a suspense drama,   or is it?   For a well thought out and written analysis read this  review by Mark Lawson in the Gaurdian.   Review excerpts:

  • Saturday catalogues the local only in order to focus on the global
  • By recording with such loving care the elements of one rich Englishman’s life, Saturday explores the question of to what extent it is possible to insulate yourself against the world’s concerns
  • One of the most oblique but also most serious contributions to the post-9/11, post-Iraq war literature, it succeeds in ridiculing on every page the view of its hero that fiction is useless to the modern world.
  • The most recurrent theme in McEwan’s 10 novels is the sudden ambush of the safe and smug.

We follow the protoganist,   a neuro-surgeon Henry Perowne, through 24 hours set in London, 2003, on the day of a major Anti-war (with Iraq) rally.   Through his recollections we succinctly cover the last 20  years  of significant family events as he prepares for a special evening.   Through conversations,   news broadcasts and the anti-war rally we learn about different perspectives towards Britians engagement in the Iraq war.   His job centres on diagnosing complex human physical disorders,   then fixing them,  saving lives.   Analogous to governments diagnosing world problems and attempting to fix them,   saving lives.    McEwan’s writing style is captivating.   In this single sentence he conveys so much about the   old people in a ‘home’:

They stir,   or seem to sway as he enters, as if gently buffeted by the air the door displaces

I read the first half of the book sporadically,  reverently, on a Saturday.     The first half focuses on detailed,   relevant,  scene setting with events.   The home,   the car,   the family,   the health activities,   the job,   the friends,   the colleagues, the rally, the news, the values.   The second half of the book was so gripping I couldn’t bear to put it down,   my evening stretched into the early hours of the morning.          

 

Ian McEwan addict confesses
Saturday. Ian McEwan
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bullies and tricksters

Friday, August 11th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Seventh post prompted by the provocative    ‘England and the English: from an American point of view”   book by Price Collier.  

Though England may be fighting somewhere in her vast dominions all the time, she is also playing somewhere all the time.   Unless the war is a very  important one, there is more itnerest taken in the playing than the fighting” p231

For his chapter on sport Price’s  basic theme appears to be that the English spend a lot of money and time watching and playing sport.   They  have dedicated papers to sports and columns in newspapers.    This interest  helps to keep the English sufficiently fit to be good fighters.     As in previous chapters,   Price’s position is liberally littered with plausible, but unsubstantiated  insults.   This chapter easily rated two pots of calming breakfast tea.  For example

Sport as a profession, I quite agree, breeds more bullies, boasters and tricksters than anything else I  can name.” p244

I’m beginning to tire of Prices persistent ‘analysis’ and may relegate this book to my oversized pile of ‘started but not finished’ books  while I get dressed in a low-budget,   bad-taste, outfit to swear at some people playing a sport  in this fabulous, large, US stadium:

   Other posts prompted by Price’s analysis of the English:  

packed sports stadium

 

 

  1. Heavy
  2. fashion-failed females
  3. provincially bumptious
  4. the finest of all German tribes
  5. mens club
  6. Steady, illiterate, profane
bullies and tricksters
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steady, illiterate, profane

Thursday, August 10th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Sixth post prompted by the utterly outrageous  ‘England and the English: from an American point of view”   book by Price Collier.   This chapter required 2 tea-pots full for me to maintain composure (that’s a lot).

Price asks are the English dull?   He concludes that the English are dull because they are stable, steady in their resolve, quoting the contemporary (circa 1900)  British soundbite “England expects every man to do his duty” p178.   He follows this by briefly mentioning that the English have a  highly developed sense of humour quickly counters by unfavourably comparing their use of the English language to that of Americans.   He find’s the English use of their language  lacking  because of overuse of profanities (the bugger!),  poor sentence structure and lack of mass education.   Am I taking this all too personally?   Of course I am!   Yet he doesn’t mention spelling atrocities because most  English people can’t even write.  He cites this convincing statistic as evidence of lack of ability to write:

Ten years after the beginning of the reign of queen Victoria, not only the children of England, but practically one half of the adults, could neither read nor write… ..only sixty-seven men in one hundred, and fifty-one women in an hundred, could even sign their names.” p183

This statistic is based on people that could sign thier names on a marriage register,   it is likely that some could sign their names and nothing else,   hence it is an over-estimation of actual literacy.   On profanity Price writes:

A charming English lady returning from the golf links on a wet day remarks that she is ‘in a nasty mess!’.   The English man of a certain class uses ‘bloody’, ‘beastly’, ‘rotten’, ‘bloomin’, and ‘go, on you brute’. p186

SHOCKING!   They didn’t say “bollocks’ or “bugger’ as frequently  as  I do  😉  I find it extremely hard to believe that these profanities are worse than those used by his American contemporaries.   Can you feel the tension rising,   I’m on tea-pot number 2 already!

Price suggests that this  lack of formal education is counterbalanced by the English having a focus on commerce:

‘Lud’ was the God of commerce, who was worshipped in England in Pagan times.   Ludgate Hill is a remainder, or reminder, or Lud.   The Welsh still call London ‘Caer Ludd’, or Lud’s town.   Thus it is seen how deep are the roots of their commercial supremecy.” p195

In summary, the English are illiterate, swear a lot, but in their favour  they stay focussed on achieving  a goal if they think it will make them money.    It is difficult to believe that Price likes the English,   his affection does not shine through.   He does say in his defence that he “numbers many Englishmen among his friends” p14   Pah!   Do they count him amongst their friends? Probably only if he gives them a cut of the royalties from his book…..

Can you guess what the next chapter is about?   Sport!   Will he rail on fox hunting,   what does he think of Football and Rugby?   He’s already made copious references to golf.   I use the golf references  as time to make my next pot of tea….   ….I’m not sure if I will be able to finish this book because it’s a tad insulting and its not going to make me any money…..

Other posts prompted by Price’s analysis of the English:

  1. heavy
  2. fashion-failed females
  3. provincially bumptious
  4. the finest of all German tribes
  5. mens club
steady, illiterate, profane
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

mens club

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Fifth post prompted by the cheeky little book  ‘England and the English: from an American point of view”   by Price Collier.  

The construct Price uses to (uncritically)  analyse differences between English and American home’s is….. ……male influence.   You didn’t see that comking did you!   Here are the main points of his position in his own words:

In England, the establishment is carried on with the prime view to the comfort of the man, and this applies to rich and poor alike and to all the conditions of society. In America the establishment is carried on with a prime view to the comfort and the exigencies of the woman” p133   “An English man is continually going home, an American is continually going to business” p134 “It is a matter of course in the English Parliament that Mr. Balfour should object strenuously to a plan for a Saturday’s sitting which debars Englishmen from Saturday and Sunday at their own firesides” p135 “a bitter attack in the American Congress on the topic of the dinner hour would scarcely be listened to, and would certainly delegate its champion to the realms of crankdom and ridicule” p136 “In England men have more avocations, more amusements, more interests outside of the daily round of pressing business than us” p147

Apparantly this means that English homes are more comfortable than American homes because they are controlled by men who demand more for their money.   Those darn well dressed American women making American homes uncomfortable and the govenrment for not taking their lunch hour seriously!   English men have more engagements in leisure activities.   England is just one big men’s club!      It normally takes about 4 cups of calming Tea and half a dozen cries of “How did he get that through an editing review  process?!” before finishing a chapter.  That said, many of his descirptive observations have a strong face validity.   Here’s an example of a description  of and Englishman that I recognised as topical and personally relevant, if you ignore the gender role:

An Englishman’s holiday is looked forward to, planned for, and provided for with some care; while all too often in America a Holdiay to a busy man over thirty-five is a white elephant, which he ends by turning over to his wife and daughters as a mount” p148

His next chapter asks ‘Are the English Dull?”  Do you think Price finds the English dull?   How  many cups of tea will I have to drink to quell chapter-based spontaneous outrage?

Other posts prompted by Price’s study of the English:

  1. Heavy
  2. fashion-failed females
  3. provincially bumptious
  4. the finest of all German tribes
mens club
rate wendys scribble

1 wonderful musing »

finest of all the German tribes

Monday, August 7th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Fourth post prompted by ‘England and the English: from an American point of view”   a more than cheeky little  book by Price Collier.  

Price cites the Italian  Tacitus on English characteristics that play a  significant role in  government:

They are the finest of all the German tribes, and strive more than the rest to found their greatness on equity… …A passionless, firm and quiet people, they lead a solitary life, and do not stir up wars or harass the country by plunder and theft… …and yet they are always ready to a man to take up arms and even to form an army if the case demands it” p45

According to Price the English (actually Germans)  are well behaved, focussed on being productive, with a strong sense of fairness based on common sense.   English government had its origins in  Witenagemot, a ‘gathering of wise men’.  

The present House of Lords itself is the direct result of the Saxon’s unwillingness to bother with government, and his willingness to leave such matters to those of most leisure and most wealth” p47

The Witenagemot  chooses a ruler (monarch) from appropriate families,   the role does not automatically go to the next in an hereditary line.   Price provides several examples of English government choosing a preferred monarch over the direct hereditary line.    Price   is keen to illustrate that handing down of power in non elected institutions is not a strictly hereditary affair.   He provides some interesting examples to illustrate that the House of Lords has a high turn-over of family-line peers,   then asserts

The present House of Lords is conspicuously and predominantly a democratic body, chosen from the successful of the land” p56

Price trusts in competency being moderated by social processes and effectiveness:

God and nature turn out the incompetents” p60

Interesting perspective.   The house of Lords could represent a form of natural democracy when considered as a situated social process across Centuries rather than decades.   He appears to approve of the British governmental processes.   Can you guess what perspective Price will take  in his chapter on  English ‘home life’?   I’m riveted…..

Other  posts prompted by earlier book chapters:

  1. Heavy
  2. fashion-failed females
  3. provincially bumptious
finest of all the German tribes
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

provincially bumptious

Sunday, August 6th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Third post prompted by ‘England and the English: from an American point of view”   a book by Price Collier.   The quotes below use Price’s words to illustrate his first impressions of the English.   He uses such a wonderfully rich  and concise turns of phrase that I couldn’t bear to summarise in my own words.   Excerpts:

On faces & food

here the features of the women, even the features of the beautiful women, are moulded; while the features of our beautiful American women are chiselled.” p.12

To those who have given some attention to gastronomics either for the stomach’s or the pocket’s sake, the food provided here is… …a thrice daily bugbear.” p.12

On climate & criticism:

is a climate where the warmly dressed, agreeably exercising, comfortably housed male flourishes like a green bay tree” p14

these pages are not written in criticism but as a study” p14

On Harlotry and bumptiuosness:

Only here in London does one see, or rather it is held under your nose, the most shameless parading of Harlotry… …so too may one drink – men women, and even children – at almost every corner.” p.27

an attitude of provincial bumptiousness and imprudence unequalled in the world” p30

Can you guess Price’s perspective on Royalty,  The House of Lords,  the Aristocracy?   Hold on to your seats because there’s a post on this very topic being brewed….

Other posts prompted by Price’s  study of the English:

  1. Heavy
  2. fashion-failed females
provincially bumptious
rate wendys scribble

1 wonderful musing »

fashion-failed females

Saturday, August 5th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

Second post prompted by ‘England and the English: from an American point of view”   a book by Price Collier.  (Post #1 – Heavy)

Price doesn’t much care for the fashion sense of his contemporary English women.   He blames English men for not adequately adorning their females.   Excerpt  (my bold emphasis):

“But the women!   What hats,   what clothes, what shoes, what colors, what amorphous figures!  Who permits that nice-looking girl to wear a white flannel skirt, a purple jacket, and a fur hat with a bunch of small feathers sticking out at right angles?…     …The gortesque costumes of the women would make one stop and stare, were it not that they are so common one ceases at last to notice them

No mistaking Price’s attitude!   A fur hat with small feathers sticking out at right angles sounds absolutely gorgeous to a Hat fettishist such as myself.   I wonder if Price was wearing the 1909 equivalent of khaki cargo pants?  Would that I could “cease at last to notice them“.   I do enjoy Price’s turn of phrase and emotive expression.      He later explains at some length  that the bad dress sense of the women is the fault of selfish men who don’t give their women enough money to construct fashionable and versataile wardrobes.  

Stay riveted to the edge of your seats… ….what will offend Price next?

fashion-failed females
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

Mrs Dalloway

Monday, July 17th, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

Recommended reading for people who want to familiairise themselves with an influential  Virgina Woolf book.  

2 smiles.   ratings explained

I am not planning to read another Virginia Woolf book.  Probably because I am turning into a Philistine.

Mrs. Dalloway is  the Virgina Woolf book that inspired the beautiful yet disturbing film ‘The hours”.   At first I found the book a tad boring.   Then I realised that Virgina was carrying me between scenes as if in one uninterupted camera-shot.   Visualising the scenes helped the dialog gain life and vibrancy.   My familiairity with the London landmarks cited helped make the visualisation rich.   I pictured an Ivory and Merchant production with a re-casting of the cast from the Hours.   Meryl Streep as Mrs. Dalloway.      This helped but I never bulit any strong connection with the book.   I found it difficult to empathise with the characters’ interests,   obsessions,   ways of being.    Here’s a sentence that  illustrates how I found the book:

going and coming, beckoning, signalling, so the light and shadow which now made the wall grey the banana’s bright yellow, now made the Strand grey, now made the omnibuses bright yellow”   p139

strength: comparing the buses on london’s strand to banana’s is visually clever and  humerous.

weakness:   ‘going and coming, beckoning, signalling’ the words that failed to show me anything of value about either this  character or the storyline.   I don’t see why this charater rather than any other  compared buses to bananas and used these descriptive terms.   I failed to recognise the significance of this and many of the sentences.

Mrs Dalloway
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

releasing books

Monday, May 1st, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

I’m forcing myself to release the books I’ve been holding hostage in my home for years.   Todays escapees:  

Books about to be released into the wild

Fabulous public librarys and internet access remove  the  ‘need’ to own many books.     Despite this lack of ‘need’ it is very painful  to let books leave.   I haven’t managed to release my 16th Birthday present from my brother – The Concise Oxford English Dictionary.        

What books would you have difficulty releasing?

releasing books
rate wendys scribble

1 wonderful musing »

Descartes body… separate from his… ….skull

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |
1650 11th February:   It is fairly consistently reported that at age 54 Descartes dies of pneumonia in Stockhom while employed by Queen Christina.   A ‘conspiracy’ theory web site provides slightly more information with an ominous  perspective on his death:
“One secret enemy, a physician named Weulles, secretly poisoned Descartes, under the cover of medicine. The great mathematician was buried in Sweden, but his head was severed from his body.(Source)

 

There is even a book that refers to the missing skull as part of a conspiracy that isn’t called “The Descartes Code”…     Lets put the Skull on hold for a moment and follow the body’s journey as detailed on internet pages:

 
Burial # 1:   Stockholm
As a Catholic in a Protestant  nation, he was interred in a graveyard mainly used for unbaptized infants in Adolf Fredrikskyrkan.(source)
Burial # 2:   Paris, St. Genevieve-du-Mont

“In 1667, his remains were taken to Paris and buried in the Church of St. Genevieve-du-Mont.” (source)

 

Burial # 3:   Paris, Pantheon

“During the French Revolution, his remains were disinterred for burial in the Pantheon among the great French thinkers.” (source)

 

“The French treasurer general, who supervised the move of the body,  kept the bones from Descartes’ right hand as a personal souvenir. About this, the great mathematician Jacobi said, “It is often more convenient to possess the ashes of great men than to possess the men themselves during their lifetime.”   (source)

 

Burial # 4:   Paris, St. Germain-des-Pres

“His tomb is now in the church of St. Germain-des-Pres.” (source)

Museum of Natural History in France.”   (source)

“they lie in separate locations: his body in a crypt and his skull on display in a tawdry museum.”     (Source)

 

There is a macabre irony in the possibility that since death his  head has never been united with his body.  

 

This entry was inspired by a marvellously entertaining (fictional) discussion in the excellent  novel I’m reading;  Malcom Bradbury’s ‘The Hermitage“.  

 

W

Descartes body… separate from his… ….skull
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

The Plato Papers. Peter Ackroyd

Saturday, January 7th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |
I will wander and wonder” p169
 
Synopsis:
Set in a future,   Plato, and orator tells stories of the different ages of the worlds’ existence.   Ackroyd paints a picture of some of the ‘current’ world  understandings.   An ingenious possible world.   We follow the character of Plato as he uses stories and rhetoric to encourage the inhabitants to question their own, current, understandings.   To question their ‘truths’.   We see the societal implications of his questioning the current dominant world view within this fictional future.  
 
Recommendation:
A quick,   deeply entertaining read for people with a passing knowledge of greek mythology,   philosophy,   E A Poe, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Sigmund Freud and London’s geography/districts.   Without this knowledge the book is still brief and good with a little more proactive reflection on the readers part and lacking some of the referential humour and colourful decoration that this prior knowledge affords.
 
Strengths:
Excellent plot.   Ackroyd creatively re-interprets history using deliberate misunderstandings based on inferences from incomplete information.   For example,   the only copy of ‘The origin of the species’ has the authors name partially destroyed,   as Charles D….     They assume the author is Charles Dickens and read the book as if it is a Novel with colourful characters.   “May I recommend ‘the origin of the species’ to you then, as a comic masterpiece“p10.      
 
For the Plato  character there is clearly sign posted character development.
 
Weaknesses:
Despite my strong affection for Ackroyd’s previous works that I have read –  Hawksmoor, Chatterton,  and Dan leno and the Limehouse Golem  the Plato papers reads as a self-consciously clever novel.   That is A LOT more than most writers produce but not sufficient for me to recommend it as a generally good,   entertaining, read.    
 
To fully enjoy the book you need some cursory  knowledge of   British authors and London’s geography.     The characters other than Plato appear merely instumental in telling the main plot; no character development.   Some points are laboured,   for example the glossary of ancient terms that Plato is writting serves its purposes of illustrating misunderstandings and the perspective of this future world well before Ackroyd finishes it.  
 
 

The Plato Papers. Peter Ackroyd
rate wendys scribble

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