A lot odder than I was expecting. A very interesting book that I think I need to reflect on more before I can review it properly. I see that the GoodrA lot odder than I was expecting. A very interesting book that I think I need to reflect on more before I can review it properly. I see that the Goodreads description describes the ending as 'almost surreal'. The 'almost' is misleading there....more
Very impressive. Half of the story is told through the eyes of Anna, a terminally ill young woman at the very end of her life. Alone in an isolated coVery impressive. Half of the story is told through the eyes of Anna, a terminally ill young woman at the very end of her life. Alone in an isolated cottage on a winter's night, she reads through, and then burns, all the letters she ever received from her lover, Z. These letters provide a framework upon which she hangs the history of their relationship. The other narrator is Anna's sister Arnþrúður, who is sitting up with Valgeir (her husband) and Z as they worry about Anna's disappearance from the hospital. Z recites the poems that Anna wrote for her, one for each letter, and shares fragments of her own version of the love story. Meanwhile, Arnþrúður reflects on her relationship with Valgeir, and her mad, unpredictable jealousy that threatens to drive him away. The multiple viewpoints and filtering effect of the letters and poetry create a sort of hall of mirrors. The reader is shown many different distortions of the webs of love and jealousy that connect the characters. These combine to produce a complicated, fractured but coherent whole. The reader is privileged with a depth of understanding and a truth that could not come from a single perspective, and which indeed the characters themselves are denied. It is a novel as much about the difficulties of communication and interpretation as it is about the tragedy of terminal illness. This is a moving and thoughtful novel, executed with rare skill....more
Hmmm, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand I agree with him wholeheartedly that science and a scientific understanding of natural pheHmmm, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand I agree with him wholeheartedly that science and a scientific understanding of natural phenomena is a source of wonder. BUT, I think Dawkins throws the baby out with the bath water to a certain extent. To think of the rainbow in terms of water drops and light waves evokes one sort of beauty. But to think of the rainbow in terms of mythology, as something mysteriously wonderful, evokes quite another, one that is infinitely more suited to literature. Because all literature is, in one way or another, about human beings. Dawkins argues that literature would be much greater if it approached the rainbow in terms of its literal truth. Well, I certainly don't agree with that. Perhaps Keats was foolish to criticise Newton's 'unweaving of the rainbow', but he would have been equally foolish to write a poem devoid of humanity. A myth about a rainbow isn't about the rainbow at all, it's about the people that created the myth. It is perfectly possible to know what a rainbow really is and wonder at its complexity, whilst still being able to switch focus and approach it from a poetic angle, in which the rainbow will mean whatever the author wants it to mean. And that absolutely doesn't mean believing a myth to be TRUE in a real sense....more
Fun! Reading this from the classic 'spies and Cold War shenanigans' author Desmond Bagley has reassured me that we didn't always live in a Dan Brown aFun! Reading this from the classic 'spies and Cold War shenanigans' author Desmond Bagley has reassured me that we didn't always live in a Dan Brown age. This has a fast-paced, complex and exciting plot AND (shocker) Bagely writes well. Of course, it's all a bit silly, but in a good way....more
An enjoyable and occasionally very witty read. It's a shame Auden didn't really seem to have a lot of fun, or to like Iceland all that well. Since itAn enjoyable and occasionally very witty read. It's a shame Auden didn't really seem to have a lot of fun, or to like Iceland all that well. Since it was his love of Norse literature in part that drew him to Iceland, it would have been nice if he'd given some idea of how it felt to be in the land where the events took place, whether it was disappointment or whether there was some satisfaction in the pilgrimage. I think overall from inference Iceland was a disappointment to Auden. Journey to Iceland (the poem) expresses a longing for the isolation and 'non-Europeanness' of Iceland, and a deeper understanding of Grettir, Egil Skallagrímsson, Guðrún Osvifsdóttir et al. He either fails to find these things, or does find them and wishes he hadn't. Most of his bits are him complaining about the soup (which, in fairness, does sound a bit odd - hot marzipan flavour?)....more
Erm... I actually found this quite dull. The 'messages' were too obvious and the characters didn't feel all that real to me. It's technically skilfulErm... I actually found this quite dull. The 'messages' were too obvious and the characters didn't feel all that real to me. It's technically skilful but I couldn't connect with it somehow. Maybe it could have done with being longer to allow more room for characterisation? I don't know, lots of people seem to think this is the best thing ever, but 'overrated' was the word that sprang to my mind. Also, maybe it's because I don't have one, or maybe I just have defective empathy skills, but I found it quite off-putting the way the magistrate will NOT shut up about his penis. It's practically the third most important character. ...more
You see the words 'WWI' and 'poetry' together and the mind inevitably turns to Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Isaac Rosenburg and soYou see the words 'WWI' and 'poetry' together and the mind inevitably turns to Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Isaac Rosenburg and so on. You know the sort of thing. Now, I very much enjoy this sort of WWI poetry, but a lot of people are unaware of this richer offering from the Welsh artist David Jones, which really challenges. The work operates outside of the received clichés that had, before I read this, seemed inextricable from the WWI experience. In Parenthesis is something that Owen or Sassoon could not have written - their poems are the railing of the soul against the injustice and the tragedy of what they had been through, the pain was still too fresh for them. Not that there isn't beauty in that, but David Jones has taken the same subject matter and mastered it, rather than allow it to master him. The result is far more moving and thought-provoking than any instant emotional payoff that you get with the usual WWI canon. Jones' language, mixing the rough colloquialisms of the soldiers with the ennobling imagery of mythology, is just phenomenal. Here's an example:
Childs-bane! - old wall-eye sees your dirty billikin through your navel. She'll nark Gertie's grubby shift. He smells your private ditty-bag from afar. Amanuensis Nancy can't jot his damaging hogs-wash fast enough. Cotsplut! there's bastards for you. They'll feel the pinch alright at Daffy Shenkin's Great Assize. Roll on the Resurrection. Send it down David. Rend the middle air. Send it down boy. ...more
A good compilation from a variety of sources. Sometimes the bits added in by Crossley-Holland annoyed me, as there was no basis for them in the myths,A good compilation from a variety of sources. Sometimes the bits added in by Crossley-Holland annoyed me, as there was no basis for them in the myths, such as the fact that Loki's eyes kept changing colour... that was just weird. Generally the dialogue was OK, though, and Crossley-Holland does a good job of translating the humour and mood. When all's said and done, the stories are very entertaining so it would be difficult to ruin them. The introduction and the notes are excellent, lending a more scholarly air than you get with a lot of mythology compilations. ...more
This is my very favourite volume - apart from perhaps Time Regained because... well, you know, that ending just raises the entire thing from great toThis is my very favourite volume - apart from perhaps Time Regained because... well, you know, that ending just raises the entire thing from great to so astronomically great it's impossible to put into words. But generally, if we consider this as a second reading, one in which the effect of Time Regained is felt over the entire novel, then The Guermantes Way would be my choice. I have just discovered the joys of re-reading Proust, which if anything is even more delicious than the first reading. Two years after my first Herculean struggle I suddenly realised that never again need I spend six months reading the same novel - I can pick any volume and enjoy them separately thanks to my knowledge of the whole. So I jumped straight in at number three, and later on in the year perhaps I'll revisit 1 or 4. Proust is my oyster. Having more of a handle on the plot and all the characters leaves you freer to just wallow in Proust's genius. And of course, I reckon you could read the whole thing ten times over and you'd still find little bits that you had forgotten about. Remembrance of Things Past (or whatever you care to call it) would be my desert island novel for sure.
P.S. For anybody who read my original review of the whole six volumes (which wasn't particularly insightful, more just an inarticulate expression of awe) - I have now persuaded Tim Baycroft to put this volume on the syllabus for our Fin de siècle module. Now he has to read it. It's all coming full circle.
P.P.S. I am still finding the seemingly interminable Guermantes dinner party something of a drag....more