Pride With Prejudice

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Jane Austen (16 December 1775 to 18 July 1817) “Her acute sense of character, her bland irony, her exquisite powers of organisation and presentation, turned the uneventful lives of well-fed people in quiet corners into enchanting novels.”* She may have belonged, as Edward Said claimed, ‘to a slave-owning society,’ but Jane Austen was a great writer – one of the very greatest – of small things, and the interior of the provincial English mind. She wasn’t so fussed about ‘themes.’ She wrote about girls looking for a man to marry, which was of prime importance then; today, 200 years after her premature…

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Dante Defeats Disappointment

Image of Dante by Agnolo Bronzino

Image of Dante by Agnolo Bronzino

Giosuè Carducci (27 July 1835 to 16 February 1907) refused the Dante Chair in Rome because, among other things, he feared its politicisation, no doubt correctly. Yet it must have rankled because Carducci knew what many of the wise knew: that the life and work of Dante Alighieri is a miraculous example to all. In these times of artistic, financial, intellectual and moral bankruptcy, verged on a new theocratic age, it is salutary to consider this extract of Carducci’s poem to Dante: “Dante, how comes it that my vows I pay To thy proud image? Still I meditate The verse…

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Vladimir, you’re needed!

July 2, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Books, WRITING & LITERATURE |
Nabs

Vladimir Nabokov died 2 July 1977.  Forty years later, his crisp, lush, exquisite prose, his deep insight and weirdness, as well as his celebrated courage in tackling the extremely tacky in a highly sophisticated way, is needed more than ever, in the face of what some like to call ‘contemporary literature’.  There’s no need to buy brick walls of modern novels – go into a decent second hand store (if you can find one) or Kindle up a copy of, say, Despair, Lolita, Pale Fire, Pnin, Transparent Things, etc., or his great memoir, Speak, Memory. Our appreciation of Nabokov was written…

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Bloomsday

June 16, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Books, LIFE, WRITING & LITERATURE |
UlyssesCover

June 16 (1904) June 16 is the day we commemorate Ulysses, the massive novel by James Joyce (2/2/1882 to 13/1/1941) which turns on events on that day in Dublin. It is structurally based on The Odyssey, a work written a few thousand years ago (Leopold ‘Poldy’ Bloom is Odysseus, or Ulysses in Roman parlance; Marion Bloom is Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus is Telemachus), so that episodes, action (if you can call it action – not a whole lot happens) and characters follow, roughly, Homer’s book.  Psychologically, Joyce adds the modernising shade of Hamlet. For The Varnished Culture, the novel is too big and ragged,…

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House of Names by Colm Toibin

"I don't know why everyone is SHOUTING..." (Orestes pursued by the Furies - William Adolphe Bouguereau,1862)

"I don't know why everyone is SHOUTING..." (Orestes pursued by the Furies - William Adolphe Bouguereau,1862)

Irish novelist Colm Tóibín’s 2016 re-imagining of the sacrifice of Iphigenia by her father, Agamemnon,  his return from Troy and the bloody aftermath, starts well. The longest, first part is narrated by Agamemnon’s enraged wife, Clytemnestra, and her ghost narrates the shortest, part five. Clytemnestra’s voice is the best, capturing something of the remote, wild affect of the ancient Greek verse we know:- “We are all hungry now.  Food merely whets our appetite, it sharpens our teeth; meat makes us ravenous for more meat, as death is ravenous for more death. Murder makes us more ravenous, fills the soul with satisfaction that is fierce and then luscious enough to create a…

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