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I Can't Stay Long
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Buddy Reads > I Can't Stay Long by Laurie Lee (November/December 2019)

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message 1: by Nigeyb (last edited Sep 18, 2019 11:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
A discussion thread for....


I Can't Stay Long (1975) by Laurie Lee

This discussion will open in mid-November 2019



'They are memorials to times and countries whose best is probably past and gone . . . I was lucky to have known them when I did, before darkness began to fall from the air.'

In this much-loved volume, a mature Laurie Lee returns to the Gloucestershire childhood familiar to readers of Cider with Rosie, a world lost even at the time of writing to the march of twentieth-century technology. Lee also explores the post-war travels that took him to, amongst others, the Netherlands, Tuscany, Mexico and the West Indies. With pieces dating from the 1940s and 50s, Lee captures a world now for ever changed by war and mass tourism, 'when to be a traveller was not yet to be just a labelled unit'.




Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
This buddy read is now open for your comments


Have you read I Can't Stay Long?

Do you plan to read it?

What do you think of Laurie Lee's writing more generally?

Here's to another wonderful discussion about I Can't Stay Long




Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
I read this a week or so ago.


One of my frustrations was that none of the articles were dated. It seems a crazy omission - and inexplicable. Every time I read one I was left wondering when it was written, particularly the travel articles in the final section of the book.

Does anyone, by any chance, have a edition with the dates? Or know how it is possible to find out this information?


Tania | 919 comments I have started this, but slowly. I'm still on the chapters in the village. I don't have any dates in my copy either.


message 5: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I have got hold of a library copy of this one, luckily, as it was in the county store, but I have not read much of it yet. A quick check for dates does not give any fixed ones, but the introduction from 1975 says some were written twenty to thirty years earlier, so I would guess that the travel pieces are post-war (approximately 1945-1955) and the village pieces were written once he returned to live there in the 1960s, although they do include memories of his childhood.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Thanks Val.


Yes, that's pretty much what I had concluded but I still find the lack of dates, and other background informtion, a tad frustrating


message 7: by Judy (last edited Nov 17, 2019 12:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I've just downloaded this but haven't started reading it yet. No dates in the Penguin edition on Kindle - I imagine the problem with dates is probably because Laurie Lee put the collection together himself and didn't include them.

It would be nice if someone could research them and add the dates in. In the meantime, it's possible to find out when at least some of the articles were originally published by searching for "the article title" and "Laurie Lee" - I've just tried this with the first piece, True Adventures of the Boy Reader, and found that it was originally published in the New York Times on November 12, 1961, so probably also published in the UK around the same date.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
That's a very helpful tip Judy - thanks


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
The early pieces in I Can't Stay Long are my favourites. The adventures of the boy reader - Laurie’s early forays into reading - was enjoyable. I was amazed that when the vicar discovers him reading Brave New World he takes it away and burns it.

Was Brave New World particularly sacreligious? Or do you suppose any book that was not religious would have been frowned upon by the vicar?

The Whitsuntide treat, a vivid recollection of a village treat from Laurie's boyhood, was another stunning piece.


message 10: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments The vicar's objection could be to the author rather than the book.
https://infidels.org/library/modern/m...


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
That's fascinating Val - I had no idea Aldous H has coined the word agnostic. I can quite see how that might upset a man of the cloth. Although burning his books appears a tad draconian.


Tania | 919 comments Well I never. I had no idea that it was such a recent term. I had thought it rather strange, but in this context, not so much.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Has anyone else read the piece entitled...


A drink with a Witch

I thought it was a wonderful tale. One of my favourites.

What did you make of it?

How true do you think it was?


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I've read the first couple of pieces in this collection now, both great. In Adventures of the Boy Reader, it is fascinating to watch Lee's development as a reader, and I must agree Whitsuntide Treat is a stunning piece - very much in the vein of Cider with Rosie.

I did quickly search to try to see when this piece was written - I drew a blank on that, but did discover an interesting blog called 'Stories from Slad', which has historical snippets about the village, including this angry exchange (in a local paper or church magazine?) about the children of Liberals allegedly being excluded from the Whitsuntide Treat in 1874:

https://storiesfromslad.wordpress.com...

The front page of the blog has a postcard of Slad from the 1920s, and a caption wondering whether the two little boys in the photo could be Laurie and his brother.

https://storiesfromslad.wordpress.com/


message 15: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I also enjoyed the introduction to the Penguin Kindle edition by Simon Winchester, with his account of visiting The Woolpack and being allowed to sit on "your man's stool".


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
A couple of great finds there Judy. Thanks. I especially appreciated the postcard.


Sadly my copy does not contain the Simon Winchester introduction. I have visited the Woolpack though - and hope to go back again very soon.


Tania | 919 comments I enjoyed 'A Drink with a Witch' too. A favourite so far. I didn't really know what to make of it, really and just enjoyed the writing. I'm sure we are not meant to take it literally, just a story about a meeting with an odd character.


Tania | 919 comments Judy, that blog looks rather interesting. I'd like to read the book when it comes out too.


message 19: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments The 'stories from Slad' blog is interesting, thank you for finding and sharing it Judy.

I don't think we are supposed to take the 'witch' story too seriously, but it may have some basis in a meeting and with two similar looking cows.


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "Sadly my copy does not contain the Simon Winchester introduction. I have visited the Woolpack though - and hope ..."

Nigeyb, I think you should be able to read the short Simon Winchester introduction if you "look inside" the Penguin edition at Amazon. It's very interesting, so hope you can access it.


message 21: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
Tania wrote: "Judy, that blog looks rather interesting. I'd like to read the book when it comes out too."

So would I, Tania. I will look out for it.


message 22: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I meant to add that I am jealous of you having visited The Woolpack, Nigeyb.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Thanks Judy.


The Woolpack is still a great little pub although as much a gastropub as a local hostelry now. It's also something of a shrine to Laurie Lee too. Well worth a visit.

Is anyone onto part two yet?

That's where things started to unravel from my perspective.


message 24: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I started reading a few of the essays in part two and none of them grabbed me until the last one, when he really had something to write about.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Is that one about the birth of his daughter?


message 26: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments It is the one about Aberfan, which was a coal-mining village in the Merthyr Valley. A slag tip collapsed and buried a school and several houses in 1966. Laurie Lee visited a year later and spoke to residents.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Ah yes, of course. That is a very powerful piece that does justice to the enormity of the tragedy.

I was stunned to read Laurie state that, soon after the disaster, day trippers were turning up and taking photos of each other on top of the slag heap. Unbelievable.


message 28: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments This is a BBC report made 50 years later: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/...


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
That's incredibly powerful Val - thanks.


Tania | 919 comments A coincidence but in work I was asked if I watched 'The Crown', (I don't) but I was told that one of the things the Queen most regretted was not going there immediately. Apparently she went a week later.


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
In answer to Nigeyb's question earlier in the discussion, I've now found a list of when most of the pieces in the book were written/first published.

It is in the 'Laurie Lee Papers', which is a list of material held in the British Library Manuscript Collections. If you look in the 'table of contents' on the right-hand side, and click the various links below the heading 'Papers for I can't stay long', it lists the various essays and gives original publication details.

https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search...

A few of them were originally radio talks - for these it just says 'originally a broadcast' and does not give the date (though I'm sure the information is somewhere in these papers.)

I've just googled one of these, Eight-Year-old World, separately, and Lee read this in the BBC Home Service series Imaginary Journeys in July 1954:

https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/d002a83c3...

I would love to hear him read it.


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I have just read A Drink with a Witch and enjoyed it too - very strange, more of a short story than an essay. This is one of the earlier pieces in the book, dating from 1949.


message 33: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I have skipped to part three and started reading his short travel pieces. So far he has been for a long walk in northern Italy soon after WWII, revisited Spain fifteen? years after the Civil War and flown to Mexico. Some of his later travels must have taken place when he was supposedly settled back in his idyllic village with his family, I wonder whether they were with him or not; his wife has not been mentioned as accompanying him so far.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
I don't blame you for skipping part two, it was not a patch on part one.


There's one story - The Firstborn - which describes the birth of his daughter and all the love and hopes he has for her. I was curious about what became of her so searched online and came across a newspaper article from 2013 which states.... Lee was controlling, tormented and with a love of alcohol and young women, his behaviour led to the teenage Jessy having a drug-fuelled breakdown.

All of which suggets, and this touches on your point about whether he travelled alone, that he might not have been the easiest person to live with.

Back to the book, the more general articles in part two are far less successful. I would rather be back in the small Gloucestershire village of his childhood which we revisit in part one.


message 35: by Val (last edited Nov 19, 2019 02:01AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I didn't find that report, but I did find this interview with her from 2013:
https://www.cotswoldlife.co.uk/people...

and this from 2015:
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-en...

then I searched on the book (also from 2015):
https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Thanks Val - that's very helpful


This was the (somewhat sensationalist) article I was referring to...

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/ar...

Sorry for linking to the Mail


message 37: by Val (last edited Nov 19, 2019 05:25AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Only somewhat sensationalist?

The Telegraph has copied the interview from Cotswold Life, but given a different headline (which changes the emphasis):
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/heal...
but also has this more positive piece:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...

Only the Mail has any mention of a mental breakdown, drug fuelled or otherwise, apparently based on that same interview.

Jessy Lee does say,
'But it has been tricky,' she understates. 'I embarked on my training [as a psychotherapist] in 1998, the year after Laurie died, because I found myself in therapy and discovered the value of it. I'm sure that's true of most people who train as therapists.'
'I didnt know my place in the world and it really came to a head when Laurie died. It was through psychotherapy that I began to integrate these two aspects, difficult as it was. Its 15 years on and I'm still working at it, but I'm now nearly 50 and I can see how I can take value from both parts of this existence.'
'It was very difficult, being his daughter, and he did suffer with his epilepsy.'
'His moods could be extreme and, of course, he liked a drink or two, so I never knew how he was going to be from one minute to the next. When you're younger, you tend to think, What have I done to provoke this?'

She does not say,
This week, 16 years after her father’s death, it emerged Jessy had given an interview to the Cotswold Life in which she spoke frankly of how she had been left needing psychotherapy after a difficult childhood with a father prone to unnerving mood swings.
That is a very selective reading of what she said.

It is what an author of a biography says, but that may be a sensationalist take as well.
I haven't read that book, so can't decide how accurate the quotes from it are.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Yes indeed Val, always hard to know what to make of tabloid stories as they gravitate towards the lurid and so distort words and events.


message 39: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments The 'liking a drink or two' is borne out by his sampling of the local alcoholic produce on his travels.


message 40: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
Nigeyb, I don't know if you saw that I found an online list of Laurie Lee's papers including dates for most of the essays in the book - if you are interested, see message 31 above.

It soon got overtaken by fascinating discussion about the book and Lee's life - thank you to both of you for the links, which I will explore. I do remember reading an interview with his daughter in the past.

The introduction by Simon Winchester to the Penguin edition also mentions that Laurie Lee was drinking a lot and at a low point at the time when he put this collection together, and bet the publisher £25 they would only sell a small number of copies - a bet he was delighted to lose.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Thanks Judy. That’s exactly what I was looking for.


message 42: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I have now read to the end of part 1. I was very interested in his piece about writing autobiography, where he discusses the writing of Cider with Rosie, and also in the rather wistful piece about how he can't really get used to life in London but has resigned himself to living there forever. Nice to know that in fact he moved back to Slad!

His description of shop-bought vegetables compared to those grown in his mother's garden struck a chord with me as I also grew up in a small village and as a child mainly ate home-grown produce (except in school dinners etc).

Now on to part 2, with some trepidation...


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Now on to part 2, with some trepidation.."


Good luck Judy. I await your reaction with great interest


message 44: by Judy (last edited Nov 25, 2019 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I've read most of part 2 now, and feel it has improved after a dull start. The two articles about Love and Appetite seem rather waffly to me and deal with too many abstractions, as well as containing a lot of casual sexism (of his era of course) which also crops up in his other work but is perhaps easier to overlook there. I think Lee is such a wonderfully visual, tactile writer, but doesn't write this type of thing nearly as well as his autobiography.

I thought the article on Charm was going to be more of the same, but here the writing really lives up to the title and I found myself charmed, as I also was by his enjoyably silly piece about Paradise. The Firstborn, the piece about his daughter, has a lot of lovely and moving passages about his hopes for her, although again some of the attitudes about women's lives are rather dated now. I'm plucking up the courage to read the Aberfan piece next, which I'm sure will be very powerful.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Thanks Judy - I agree with all of that


This bit particularly resonated....

Judy wrote: "I think Lee is such a wonderfully visual, tactile writer, but doesn't write this type of thing nearly as well as his autobiography."

Good luck with Aberfan


Tania | 919 comments Judy wrote: "I have now read to the end of part 1. I was very interested in his piece about writing autobiography, where he discusses the writing of Cider with Rosie, and also in the rather wistful piece about ..."

I have finished part one, now and agree with all you said. I loved the one about the writing of 'Cider with Rosie', also agree that veg fresh from the garden are far tastier than shop-bought veg. Of course he'd miss it.
Hoping to have more time for this book now.


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
Thanks Tania - I look forward to more thoughts as you work your way through the book


message 48: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I've read the Aberfan piece now, which is very powerful and haunting.

Looking forward to moving on to his travel pieces. I'm glad to hear you are enjoying it too, Tania.


message 49: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4292 comments Mod
I'm into the travel section now, and really enjoyed his piece about Tuscany, where he sets off to walk 50 miles and sleeps in woods and hedges, as he did in the long trek through Spain recalled in his masterpiece As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning.

But here he is at least a decade older, not so used to this lifestyle, and clearly finds the going a bit tougher.

This piece, Hills of Tuscany, was originally published in 1949, 20 years before As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, although the actual journey was later than the one in that book, so it is a little confusing!


Nigeyb | 8572 comments Mod
I agree Judy, it is confusing and, I thought, frustrating not to have more dates


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