Books 2010

Books 2009

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Sunday, 03 February 2008


Have finished Temporary Kings and only one left to go. Will have to start again at the beginning, but first want to go on to the Non Dance novels and memoirs. TK is wonderful, I think. I loved the way the whole thing is coloured by that Tiepolo ceiling in Venice. And nice to see how Powell loosens up as the Sixties approach. Terrific stuff. And btw, I was the Ritz the other day (what a lovely sentnce that is to write!) and the whole thing is straight out of Dance, still! I saw several of his protagonists having lunch there...

Interesting echoes of Larkin's stylised disillusion in the latter passage e.g. from 'Send No Money'

Standing under the fobbed
Impendent belly of Time
'Tell me the truth' I said...


So he patted my head, booming 'Boy
There's no green in your eye;
Sit here, and watch the hail
Of occurrence clobber life out
To a shape no-one sees...'

I love that 'hail of occurrence' image; it reminds me of what Larkin said in an interview of how the novelist had a much harder job than the poet, who only has to summon up 'a spearpoint of emotion' while the novelist has to create a landscape and people it with believable characters. Perhaps 'A Dance...' is the hail of occurrence...

One more thing... Don't miss 'The Essay' on BBC Radio 3 this coming week (4-7th February), it's about English essayists.

Jane Austen challenge completed!
I have finally finished reading Pride and Prejudice and enjoyed the very fine writting of Miss Austen, although the novel is not perfect in all aspects. Nevertheless, both the writting and the interest improve as you keep reading.

The first volume is not the best and is clearly different from the rest of the novel. The second volume (which contents the whole story of Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins) is better than the first one although it seems too long and a bit boring - and so gossipy. The third volume is really the highlight of the book, the novelist has now a real command of both the craft and the story. I'll tell you more as soon as I can write down a full report about it.

But for now here is one fine quotation that you probably noticed too:
'Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure'.(Volume 3 chapter 16)

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  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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