Robert Louis Stevenson

November 13, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Books, WRITING & LITERATURE |
Painting of RLS by Count Girolamo Nerli (1892)

Painting of RLS by Count Girolamo Nerli (1892)

Born 13 November 1850 Stevenson went from the writer of ‘Boy’s Own’ stories and developed into an accomplished and beloved writer who is likely to have got better and better had he not died from chronic ill health aged 44. J. P. Priestey wrote in Literature and Western Man (1960) “Stevenson’s enormous popularity, partly the result of his narrative gift but also the reward of his style, which has an unusual and very personal grace and charm (and some of his sourer critics might try to learn something from it before dismissing it as a mere trick), has now lasted…

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Veronica, by Nicholas Christopher

Waverly Place, Manhattan.  (Image by Beyond My Ken)

Waverly Place, Manhattan. (Image by Beyond My Ken)

The cover of Nicholas Christopher’s A Trip to the Stars bears the fiat, “A novel by the author of Veronica“, as if that were an enticement. Had I read Veronica first, I would not have read A Trip to the Stars, which is a literary proof of the fact that fate is fickle. Veronica commences thus – “In lower Manhattan there is an improbable point where Waverly Place intersects Waverly Place.  It was there I met Veronica, on a snowy, windy night. She was looking for her keys on the sidewalk in front of a brownstone beside the Convent of…

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Taming Toxic People (by David Gillespie)

Psycho!
(Image by Suma Iyer)

Psycho! (Image by Suma Iyer)

(The science of identifying & dealing with psychopaths at work & at home) (2017) David Gillespie is neither a dietician, nor a psychiatrist.  And yet he warns us against sugar* and against psychopaths, the latter being the slightly less dangerous of the two, it seems. Gillespie points out that the term “psychopath”  is not defined in DSM, (the book of psychiatric diagnoses), “Antisocial Personality Disorder”  being the closest thing to it, a term which makes one think of Banksy, rather than Ivan Milat.  But Gillespie likes the word ‘psychopath’ – it’s colourful and it’s useful shorthand for “Someone Like Ted Bundy or Idi Amin But Not Necessarily a Murderer”. A psychopath, Gillespie says,…

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Being Wagner

BW2

(by Simon Callow) (2017) Wagner was the Richard Nixon of Art: Revered, and reviled. Hugely accomplished and hugely flawed. Shining Knight and Scaly Dragon. So many words have been written by him, about him, for him and against him that when our literary friend Janelle sent us this book as a gift, it evoked a wan sigh – another Wagner book by an enthusiastic amateur, you might say!  Quelle Horreur you might say! Well, you all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!  This is a lovely book, full of sound insight and as easy to slip between its sheets as…

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Xanadu

October 21, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |
Portraits_of_Jade_Emperor_and_the_Heavenly_Kings

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (born 21 October 1772) I don’t blame the anonymous person from Porlock who interrupted S.T. at Ash Farm during the composition of Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment.  (It may have been an opium trip in any case.) But the point is that Coleridge’s ‘fragment’ is perfect and needs no further embellishment. Richard Holmes, in his insanely detailed biography of Coleridge (1989), observed “His myth of creativity contains both these elements, which like Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”, implies both destruction and preservation of a poetic paradise…“Kubla Khan” is a pagan celebration of creative…

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