This touching memoir of Beach's years as proprietress of the infamous Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris deserves a place of honor on the booThis touching memoir of Beach's years as proprietress of the infamous Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris deserves a place of honor on the bookshelf next to Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." Any fan of early 20th Century literature and art will be delighted by her intimate reminiscences of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Valéry, Fitzgerald, and especially James Joyce. Her long years' friendship with the latter author and her indefatigable labors on his behalf makes up about a half of this short book, and it is a vital source of insight on his life and character.
It is filled with unforgettable anecdotes, such as her work with Hemingway to find and fund a compatriot to operate out of Canada and smuggle first-edition copies of Ulysses across the border into the US, literally in his pants, so they could be shipped to subscribers without being confiscated and burned.
The brief account of her harrowing years living under the Nazi occupation and the end it brought to her wonderful bookstore may well bring a tear to your eye. Beach emerges as a tireless, heroic, kind, perceptive, and altogether wonderful woman who had the great good fortune to be at the center of one of the high watermarks of European art and literature, and fully knew and savored it. ...more
I have many times experienced a pronounced cognitive dissonance in approaching the Norse religious and mythological material, as the summary literaturI have many times experienced a pronounced cognitive dissonance in approaching the Norse religious and mythological material, as the summary literature tends to present the various gods and legends as if they form a more or less well-ordered pantheon, analogous to the clean structural lines one finds in Homer's Olympians.
But when I turn to the matter itself, I find a source literature that is deeply bewildering - weird heterogeneous composites of Christian and pagan beliefs, fragmentary and elliptical poems, and dense, difficult narratives.
This close study of the evolution of a handful of key Norse symbols and constructs, tied to careful reading of the archaeological material, was enormously helpful in clarifying why I always find the source material so confusing - because it IS confusing, and these "Myths and Legends of the Norsemen" type books deeply obfuscate the profoundly problematic nature of the source material.
In reality, as Andren points out, we don't even know in the Prose Edda alone if we're reading of one cosmic tree or several trees. Are the tree of Mimir's well, the tree upon which Odin hung, and the World Tree one and the same? It's impossible to determine from the literary evidence, though it's often taken for granted that they are.
As an aside, I would note that it was typical of Wagner's genius that he maintained precisely that ambiguity with respect to the World Tree by making the foundation of Sieglinde's home an ash. But I digress.
The picture that Andren gives of Norse mythology is a shifting constellation of key images that are exalted, forgotten, rediscovered, lost again, and recovered from the outside over the long centuries. Some of the key symbols, such as the enigmatic divine twins that appear on a great deal of rock art, seem to be rooted in the same ubiquitous Proto-Indo-European motif that was known to the Greeks as the Dioscuri. Other symbols, such as the sun, may have originally come from the same root, only to be forgotten, and then restored to centrality after being reintroduced from without by the Roman legionaries and their cult of Sol Invictus.
The literary and historical evidence is so fragmentary and problematic that one can only sift carefully through the rubble, trying to contextualize as best one can the various meanings ascribed to different images, which may or may not persist over time, depending on how the material is read. For example, there appears to be a great cycle involving the cycle of the sun, as it travels through the sky by day, descends under the earth, and moves through the antipodes of the netherworld by night, only to re-emerge each dawn.
Can that cycle truly be read from apparently cosmological drawings showing a sun-like object at the apex, and flanked by twin figures? It is extremely hard to say.
All Andren can do is speculate, and if at times he perhaps makes more than is strictly possible from the skeletal evidence, at least he continually foregrounds the problems of evidence and interpretation, unlike many unwary practitioners of the archaeology of religion who are dead certain that the spiral is a symbol of the generative powers of the earth.
This book primarily centers on three close studies - of the world tree, the cosmological organization of rock forts, and the transformation of the solar myth. It's stiff academic writing and I wouldn't recommend it to a reader who lacks a significant appetite for that kind of prose, but I found it extremely enlightening on the whole. ...more
One of the great ironies of world literature is that the sole extant novel by the Greek author Longus is actually quite short.
Okay, now that I've gotOne of the great ironies of world literature is that the sole extant novel by the Greek author Longus is actually quite short.
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system ....
"Daphnis and Chloe" is one of the quintessential works of the Hellenistic period, and it's tempting to conclude with the classicists of the 19th century, reading this trifle, that Hellenism was a period of decadence in Greek culture. We've come a long way from Aeschylus and Homer, to this artful pastoral diversion written for city-dwellers who had never set foot in the country. In Longus' idyllic vision of the rural world, bees are all honey and no sting, and even the fearsome god Pan has been reduced to a character from the Beethoven sequence of Disney's Fantasia.
The plot, such as it is, involves the star-crossed lovers Daphnis and Chloe as they stumble their way into love's mysteries and each others' arms, faced with minor trials of sub-Herculean scope, such as not understanding how one is to comport one's self in satisfying the needs of the body.
I couldn't help but think of the glorious pediment statue of the Archaic precursor to the Parthenon, housed in the Acropolis museum - a vivid and enormous depiction of a lion bringing down a bull. It remains one of the most powerful images of religious art I've yet seen, and I can only shake my head at the decline of insight and intensity that wound Greek culture down from that searing encounter with the heart of nature to this mere ornament, which has the insight and profundity of one of Mozart's comedies.
I was strongly reminded of von Eschenbach's Parsifal in his fool state, reading of Daphnis' proclivity to burst into tears whenever frightened or confused, and his stone-dull inability to reason through the basic facts of life.
That said, it is a piece of its time, and reflects the anxieties and outlooks of the leisure class of late-period Hellenistic culture. It is one of the world's first novels, and it attempts a psychology of sorts which is more amusing than persuasive. I can't speak for the quality of the translation, other than to my ears it landed as vernacular and a little clunky throughout. If there is lyricism in the original, that's where it mostly stayed. ...more
Excellent collection of essays, interviews, and short poem-like writings by Heiner Müller - very illuminating to the author's work. Otherwise valuableExcellent collection of essays, interviews, and short poem-like writings by Heiner Müller - very illuminating to the author's work. Otherwise valuable for his important and thought-provoking views on history, politics, and the theater. Müller was an Eastern European intellectual of no mean intellectual powers, and it's quite interesting to hear the story of the Cold War years narrated by a privileged individual living in the DDR by choice, and not for any lame ideological reasons. I was particularly engaged by his analysis of the separation between real life and work in capitalist countries, and the degree to which East Germany is weak in comparison to the West primarily with respect to categories that the East rejects. ...more
Stopped reading this book on page 29, when I encountered this gem:
"Celt, Saxon, and Dane came over to slaughter or expel the inhabitants and settle iStopped reading this book on page 29, when I encountered this gem:
"Celt, Saxon, and Dane came over to slaughter or expel the inhabitants and settle in their place, but the Romans came to exploit and govern by right of superior civilization. In this they resembled the Europeans in Africa rather than the Pilgrim Fathers in America. Yet the natives of Britain were white men, capable of adopting Latin ways more fully than most Africans are capable of adopting the ways of Europe."
Yeah, no thanks, I'll leave this in the dust bin of history where it belongs.
And you many Goodreads reviewers who awarded this book an average of four stars - there are histories of England out there that aren't permeated by racist models of the biological and cultural superiority of the white man. ...more
An interesting but disjointed and exceedingly uneven presentation of reminiscences by Oliver Gogarty, most often remembered as the inspiration for JoyAn interesting but disjointed and exceedingly uneven presentation of reminiscences by Oliver Gogarty, most often remembered as the inspiration for Joyce's Buck Mulligan in Ulysses, but an intriguing figure in his own right. A brilliant and accomplished doctor, poet, and senator, Gogarty knew everyone on the Dublin scene, from Lord Dunsany to Lady Gregory, and famously escaped being shot by British soldiers in the 1916 uprising by jumping into the Liffey and swimming to escape.
This book is organized as a collection of topical vignettes in which he reflects on his encounters with various personages. Of chief interest to me is his self-defense against his presentation in Ulysses, which he entirely misunderstands. His extremely critical appraisal of Joyce's personality does have the ring of truth to it, however, and he excuses what Joyce would pillory as superciliousness in his character as his attempt to get the withdrawn and sullen genius to lighten up and stop being so Jesuitical about everything.
This book contains something for anyone interested in the period and milieu, though its wide and uneven range of concerns and the precious quality its prose will probably prevent most readers from calling it a classic. ...more
Kenner's focused and scintillating analysis of James Joyce's Ulysses is primarily devoted to an extremely close reading of the text, reconstructing thKenner's focused and scintillating analysis of James Joyce's Ulysses is primarily devoted to an extremely close reading of the text, reconstructing the events, and analyzing how the language and style function to create the impression and experience of the book's universe. Even after several close readings of Ulysses with various commentaries, there were still some big surprises for me in this volume, simply on the level of the book's action, and for that alone the book is worth a read for serious Joyce enthusiasts.
I wish Kenner had spent more time - or any time, really - on the book's meaning. His analysis is somewhat narrow in scope, but the key difficulties that occupy my relationship to the book are on the level of what we are to make of its ambiguous actions. Central questions that Kenner does not address include "What is the sense in which the mythopoetic patterns of Homer govern the action in the book, and what was Joyce trying to say in using them? What is the sense of Stephen's breakthrough in the brothel, and how are we to take it? What degree of atonement occurred between Bloom and Dedalus? Why were the key moments of connection between the two central characters intentionally buried in obscure language?"
These questions don't seem to concern Kenner, but they concern me, rather more than knowing that the catechismic method of the Ithaca chapter was inspired in part by a popular Q&A column in Dublin daily newspapers.
I didn't know that it was possible, but at times I think Kenner actually over-thinks Ulysses, as when he theorizes that Dedalus has punched Buck Mulligan off-stage on the basis of his complaints of a hurt hand. Clearly this would fly directly in the face of everything we know about Dedalus and the weapons that he will allow himself: silence, exile, cunning.
So this impressive book does not precisely focus its considerable energies in the directions of greatest interest to this reader. It's still probably the best analysis of Ulysses that I've read. Probably worth noting in passing that despite the cover description, this book is in no sense an "introduction," and depends on thorough familiarity with the novel. ...more
Outstanding basic collection of material from two extremely witty and influential dailies from London of yore, superbly annotated and amplified by extOutstanding basic collection of material from two extremely witty and influential dailies from London of yore, superbly annotated and amplified by extensive essays and contemporaneous material. Undoubtedly the best small collection currently in print - highly recommended for fans of Richard Steele and Joseph Addison. ...more
It's difficult to assess Giblert's classic study of James Joyce's novel. On the one hand, one can't help but value its key role in the history of JoycIt's difficult to assess Giblert's classic study of James Joyce's novel. On the one hand, one can't help but value its key role in the history of Joyce scholarship. For decades, this was universally praised as the best-available work on Joyce's enigmatic masterpiece. It allowed two generations of readers to get enough of a foothold into its structure and method that they could derive pleasure from this mighty work. And some of its less-fortunate tendencies, such as Gilbert's proclivity for stringing together a great many very long quotations, result precisely from its age - modern critics must remember that it was first published in 1930, when the work that it treats would have been unavailable to most of the book's readership.
These excuses only go so far, however. This book belongs to a different age, and while we can still value his excavation of Joyce's schematic structure, we are still compelled to snort contemptuously along with Nabokov, who castigated Gilbert for his conspicuous over-enthusiasm for these schema, as though the deep meaning of the book is best recovered through decoding its most obscure and tangential Homeric parallels, or understanding that the organ symbolized by the Circe episode is "locomotor apparatus."
My rating of this book wandered throughout between two stars and five, depending on my mood. I inclined toward charity because of its historical role, but was forced to settle on three by the dispiriting and inept handling of the Penelope chapter that concludes the book. Even the most generous forgiver of the values of another era will be challenged by his imbecilic conceptions of the universal feminine as so masterfully rendered by Joyce, such as Gilbert's piquant observation that "The next phase of her monologue, equally feminine, reveals her cult of personal beauty and fine raiment and leads one to a characteristic homily on the nuisance a husband can be when one goes out shopping."
Suffice to say, Joyce himself uttered no such nonsense, and in fact showed himself to be constitutionally averse to theory mongering on the whole, preferring to show glimpses of the universal through the particular. His sense of that relationship was altogether more subtle than Gilbert's excavations would suggest.
Nonetheless, I would be an ingrate if I didn't note that he does make numerous exceedingly useful observations about various themes and ideas which I have not seen echoed in other commentaries. One such observation was his persuasive argument that the section of the "Oxen of the Sun" chapter which is universally described as a satire of Tacitus is no such thing. This misconception, he believes, arises from an early scheme Joyce described in a letter and subsequently abandoned, but anyone who has read both Tacitus and Joyce, as I have, can only be puzzled at this supposed relationship. The passage in question does not sound remotely like Tacitus.
All in all, I found it worth skimming for its gems, though the entire introduction and large portions of the commentary are useless and tedious to plow through. Still, its crucial role in the history of Joyce scholarship must be acknowledged and appreciated. ...more