10 Birthdays and A Funeral

'We have to make a birthday tea for 10 and a funeral tea...'

20 March – a big day in cultural history: 43 BC – Ovid “Take your fill of amusement, but cast the veil of modesty over your peccadilloes. Never make a parade of your good fortune, and never give a woman a present that another woman will recognise.” [The Art of Love] “Death is not accustomed to injure genius, and greater fame arrives after we have become ashes…” [Epistle to an Envious Man]. 1828 – Henrik Ibsen “SOLNESS: Human beings haven’t any use for these homes of theirs. Not for being happy in. And I shouldn’t have had use for a…

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Those Barren Leaves

By Aldous Huxley (1925) “Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books; Or surely you’ll grow double: Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks; Why all this toil and trouble? … Enough of Science and of Art; Close up those barren leaves; Come forth, and bring with you a heart That watches and receives.” [William Wordsworth, The Tables Turned (1798)] Huxley’s sojourn among the leisured and treasured and their hangers-on, impoverished chancers all, stationed above the Tyrrenhian Sea, whilst as “clever but ephemeral”* as all his books, is still a hoot, a wiry satire of cultural elites who talk…

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Venetian Voices

Photo by Jörg Bittner (Unna)

(by Christine V. Courtney) (2017) Venice is of a set, in that it is a Great City, but it is also sui generis, a brilliant bauble set amid a swamp, a rococo castle in the air, an ornate pagoda floating on water. Venice and its inhabitants, whether citizens or arrivistes, spell romance on a myriad levels, and pose a historical jigsaw of massive scope and complexity, so it makes sense to wander its narrow streets and sail its intricate waterways clutching some sort of evocative Baedeker.  Our favourite Venetian history is the massive Folio tome (merging two volumes) by John Julius Norwich…

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A Fatal Interview with Edna St. Vincent Millay

February 22, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Born 22 February 1892 (died 19 October 1950) TVC: Do you regret meeting George Dillon? E: He was such a gentleman.  He glowed and glowered, like a candle.  I blew him out but the moon lit up his face again. TVC: Er, ye-es.  I gather that throughout the affair, however, you never lost your love for your husband, Eugen? E: That’s right. But I was obsessed with St. George. I’m glad that most of our correspondence is lost.  There is nothing more tedious than curators poring over old love letters. TVC: Your long sequence of sonnets, Fatal Interview, sets out…

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Watership Down by Richard Adams

Nuthanger Farm. Visited by the rabbits on their odyssey.

“Bright eyes, burning like fire…” O sorry, where were we?  I was lost in contemplation of the ugly film animation of this story – I don’t think that the term “bright eyes” appears at all in the classic children’s book. And these rabbits wouldn’t like the fire simile at all. The rabbits of Sandleford Warren have got to get out of there.  Led by intrepid Hazel and little Fiver (a seer, no less) a small but feisty party sets off for a new home which is way way too far off, across too many hazards.  On the way we learn that pet rabbits become lazy and dull, that to…

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