Archive for literature

Happy Birthday Thomas Hardy!

Posted in Authors Birthdays, Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by echostains

tess_oxford220px-Thomashardy_restored

English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (2nd June 1840 – 11th January 1928) Dorset, England focused his work on the decline of rural society. He was a great fan of Charles Dickens and George Elliot. His romantic poetry was influenced by William Wordsworth. Hardy regarded himself foremost as a poet. His first poetry collection was published in 1898.   ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’  was published in 1874, – his first literary success  through his writing.

His novels, which include ‘Far from the Madding crowd ‘ (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895) were set in his semi fictional region of Wessex, based on an old medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the South West of England.

Hardy’s father Thomas was a stonemason and builder. His mother Jemima was a well read woman.  She educated young Thomas at home before he went to school aged eight years old in Bockhampton. He learned Latin and acquired academic potential at Mr Last’s Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester. When his  formal education ended at age 16 when he was then apprenticed to a local architect James Hicks in Dorchester where he trained as an architect before moving to London in 1862 and enrolling as a student in Kings College London.

Hardy, aware of class divisions and his own social inferiority, was never comfortable in London society and returned to Dorset five years later.

He met his future wife Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1870 whilst engaged in the restoration of the parish church of St Juliot in Cornwall and he married her in 1874. She died in 1912, and although he became estranged in life, he revisited Cornwall after her death visiting places they went to during their courtship.   Poems 1912-13 reflect upon her death. He married Florence Emily Dugdale (his secretary, nearly 40 years his senior) in 1914.

Hardy died at Max Gate on 11th January 1928 after becoming ill with pleurisy the year before and his funeral was held at Westminster Abbey. This proved to be controversia,l as Hardy and his friends and family wished him to be buried with his first wife Emma in Stinsford Dorset. It was insisted upon by his executor Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell that he be buried in the famous Poets Corner in the abbey.  A compromise was reached:  Hardy’s heart was buried with his first wife in Dorset and his ashes in Poet’s Corner Westminster Abbey.

Hardy has many admirers, among them were Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, John Cowper Powys and Robert Graves. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1910.

Although I have not read all Hardy’s novels, I have enjoyed the ones I have read ( Under the Greenwood tree (1872) Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), Jude the Obscure (1895),- I have not enjoyed them equally. The Woodlanders, left me somewhat unsatisfied with the ending which resulted in  the heroine Grace Melbury returning to her unfaithful husband.

But a happy ending does does always result in a good story.  Jude the Obscure, in my consideration – a masterpiece, left me with such an uncomfortable feeling that I have only been able to read the novel once and watch the well acted 196 film.  The story is about humble village stonemason Jude Fawley whose dream is to be educated., He studies Latin and Greek in his spare time whilst dreaming of going to university. Jude_PosterManipulated into a loveless marriage with a coarse and nasty local girl, who soon leaves him, Jude still dreams of entering the local University. He falls in love with his cousin Sue Brideshead. But although she is in love with the married Jude, she marries his former teacher and is very unhappy. Jude and Sue eventually set up house together and have children. Their life together is dire: ostracised by the villagers for not being married and having children out of wedlock, Jude loses his job and the poor family  travel from town to town seeking employment. The end of the story is really disturbing. there are no happy ending here. It is a fantastic novel, but is really emotionally heavy going.

Hardy is considered a Victorian Realist writer and his writing reflects the social restraints and limitations which ultimately lead to unhappiness (in his novels). My favorite novel is ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ which tells the story of shepherd Gabriel Oak and Bethsheba Everdean. Fate and bad choices interweave to construct a story of pride, betrayal and tragedy. Far-From-The-Madding-Crowd-Thomas-HardyLove wins out though and there is a happy ending, but that is not arrived at until Bethsheba herself has changed her attitude and her outlook.  Oak remains as steadfast to the end as from the beginning of the novel. The dastardly character is Sergeant Francis “Frank” Troy who is a flamboyant gambling show off with a cruel streak towards his wife Bethsheba. He loves another – the hapless and sweet Fanny Robin whose death is heartbreaking. In the middle of the storyline stands middle-aged Mr Boldwood, a rich farmer whose obsession with Bethsheba also leads to tragedy. Fate plays a massive part in this novel; throwaway gestures like the sending of a valentine fire up a strait laced bachelor to behave with passion and abandonment of reason. A flattering remark and a wild display of dashing swordsmanship persuade a young vain Bethsheba that she is in love. Situations and accidents all contrive to elevate Gabriel Oak into hero of the hour and prove his quiet devotion and steadfastness.

More information on the Poet/Novelist from here and The Thomas Hardy Society Thomas Hardy portrait from here Far from the Madding Crowd image from here  Jude the Obscure image from here Tess of the d’Urbervilles image here

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Well Read?

Posted in Authors I've read with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by echostains

It’s the third day of the ‘blog every day for a whole week on bookstains challenge’ and I’ve been wondering which is the worlds most best-selling book..  The answer is surprising.  I would have thought it was the bible –  but it isn’t.  The sales of these  best-selling books are over 1 million copies.  They are-

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens  1859 sold over 200 million

The Lord of the Rings by J RR Tolkien  1854-1855 sold 150 million

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien 1937 sold over 100 million

 (Dream of the Red Chamber) Cao Xuegin  1759 -1791 sold over 100 million

And then there were None by Agatha Christie 1939  sold over 100 million

Heidi

You could say that I have contributed to those sales, having bought and read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.  Also rans  (between 50 million and a million) are;-

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’  by C S Lewis

She by H Rider Haggard
Le Petit  Prince (The Little Prince) Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

Steps to Christ by Ellen G White

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Heidi’s years of wandering and learning by Johanna Spyri

The Common Sense book of baby and Childcare by Dr Benjamin Spock

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

SHE is Ursula Andress

Out of those, I’m surprised to find that  I’ve actually read The Lion the Witch and the wardrobe, The Little Prince, Heidi, Catcher in the Rye,  Lolita, Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty and The name of the Rose.    I might add, that most of these books were read years ago  and of my choosing –  not through required reading.  My relationship to Dr Spock is a bit tenuous.  I am a product of his advice 😀 

Well how many of these particular books have your read?  More than me I bet 😀 – and what did you think of that list?

List from here and includes other interesting book lists

Heidi Book image from here
She image and book review here

Annabel Lee

Posted in Inspiring poetry with tags , , , , on July 28, 2011 by echostains

It’s the second day of my ‘post each day on Bookstains for a week’ challenge.  I came across this poem by Edgar Allan Poe, (1809 – 1849) the American mystery and horror writer.  The poem is about Poe first love Annabel Lee and is the last completed poem Poe wrote.  The subject, as well as being about lost love is also about death.  The poem was written in 1849 and published that same year – which coincidently was also the year the writer died.  The poem speaks of a love that can transcend death.  No one really knows who the woman  was, though some think that lady may have been  his wife Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe.

If the poem seems a little familiar to you, that may be because it featured in the 1971 film Play misty for me which starred Clint Eastwood as the unwitting Radio DJ who got himself embroiled with one of his listeners who turned out to be a demented mad woman.  Annabel Lee was the woman’s favorite poem and it is quoted in the film.  Dangerous love.

One of Poe’s favorite themes was the death of a beautiful woman and this one fulfills the criteria.  the poem is about an ideal love – a love that not even death can break.  Here’s the poem in its entirety-

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
 Poem from Poemhunter with thanks

More about this poem  and its possible source here

Play Misty image here

Poe poster from here

All Behind – and a personal challenge – Day one

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 27, 2011 by echostains

You have heard the expression ‘getting ahead of yourself?’ Well I am getting all behind with myself – especially as far as my Bookstains blog is concerned.   I’ve been so busy with other stuff.  I have book reviews to post, films to mention and there’s a couple of new poetry challenges to be posted.  All these posts have been started – and lie in various states of incompletion.  I shall have to get myself more organised as  the future looks to be even busier.

One year I spent every day blogging for the entire year.  I still don’t know how I did it really.  That was on echostains, I have never tried that on Bookstains.  However, I intend to post a post on here each day for one week as a personal challenge to myself (and because I feel guilty for leaving it for a couple of weeks. 

I can’t promise an in-depth post every day, but I may even get round to finishing some posts that really need to be posted – that will be an achievement in itself for me.  So what you may expect? (though it’s probably more likely not to expect) book reviews;- Notebooks of a Naked Youth by Billy Childish, Grayson PerryPortrait of the artist as a young girl by Wendy Jones, among others. 

32 Brinkburn Street

Also 32 Brinkburn Street (a  period drama shown on TV) Dexter (also televised) and at least one poetry challenge.  Now lets see if I can deliver for one week 😉

Cartoon from here with thanks

Grayson Perry book image here

Brinkburn Street image here

Billy Childish book image here

Happy Birthday William Butler Yeats!

Posted in Inspiring poetry, POETS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , , , , on June 12, 2011 by echostains

Today is the birthday of the Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats (b. 1865 – 1939).  He was the brother of the artist Jack Butler Yeats (see my post on him over at echostains) Dublin born and educated, the poet spent his childhood in Sligo.  Yeats was to become a real driving force behind the Irish Literacy revival.

William Butler Yeats

 

Yeats interest in Irish folk law and the occult resonate throughout his earlier poetry which is  tends to be slow-paced and shows the influences of Percy Byshe Shelley, the Pre Raphaelite poets and Spencer. His later poetry tends to be more physical but I feel that although the poetry it is perhaps more earthed, the poet still ponders the question of mortality and seeks to reach fundamental truths.

Yeats has the honour of being the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He was one of the original founders of the Abby Theatre and at one time, also served as its chief.

Yeats own family

Yeats came from a very artistic family.  His brother Jack was a highly regarded painter and his two sisters, Elizabeth and Susan Mary became involved with the Arts and Crafts movement. 

Jack Butler Yeats

Much has been written about this fascinating poet and his interesting life, but his poems speak for themselves.  They still stand today as some of the most lyrical, imaginative poetry ever written, in my opinion.

Here is a short film of four short poems by William Butler Yates;-

The Converstaion

Never give all the Heart

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

The Irish Airman Forsees his Death

 All four are read very movingly in the rich accent of Quincy Dubois and accompanied by the beautiful music of Colin Reid (who I have just discovered).  I was transported by the unique combination of poem, voice, music and images in this video.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

More about the life o f William Butler Yeats here

Poems by William Butler Yeats here 

Video by   – with thanks!

The National Library Of Ireland which features an interactive online exhibition of the poet and where you can hear his poems read is brilliant! Here

Images from here and here, also from here and here

Titus Groan – Fuchsia’s attic and adventures with cake

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by echostains

Fuchsia played by Neve McIntosh BBC adaptation

Fuchsia has gone on an adventure.  She has pulled back her bed, opened a cupboard door and ascended into darkness with only a candle to lead her.  This is Fuchsia’s secret world – her attic:-

One of these narrow beams lit Fuchsia’s forehead and shoulder, and another plucked a note of crimson from her dress.  To her right was an enormous crumbling organ.  It’s pipes were broken and the keyboard shattered.  Across its front the labour of a decade of grey spiders had woven their webs into a shawl of lace.  It needed but the ghost of an infanta to arise from the dust to gather it about her head and shoulders as the most fabulous of all mantillas.

What wonderful imagery!  Peake is so descriptive with his words – he paints with them.  This attic is filled with all sorts of junk – some of it very strange indeed, for example;-

Within reach of her hand the hide and head of a skinned baboon hung dustily over a broken drum that rose behind the dim ranges of this attic medley.

Now where did the skinned baboon come from?   Did an ancestor actually leave Gormenghast to acquire it?  Was an ancestor in touch with other countries, other lands?

I am alone,’ she said, her chin in her hands and her elbows on the sill.  ‘I am quite alone, like I enjoy it.  Now I can think, for there’s no one to provoke me here.  Not in my room.  No one to tell me what I ought to do because I’m a Lady.  Oh no.  I do just what I like here.  Fuchsia is quite alright here.  None of them knows where I go to.  Flay doesn’t know.  Father doesn’t know.  Mother doesn’t know.  Even Nannie doesn’t know.  Only I know.  I know where I go.  I go here.  This is where I go.  Up the stairs and into my lumber room.  Through my lumber room and into my acting room.  All across my acting room and up the ladder and on to my verandah.  Through the door and into my secret attic.  And here it is I am.  I am here now.  I have been here lots of times but that is in the past.  That is over, but now I’m here it’s in the present.  This is the present.  I’m looking at the roofs of the present and later on when I’m older, I will lean on the window- sill again.  Over and over again.

I too used to have an attic that I used to escape to.  An attic full of what most people would perceive as junk or rubbish.  But I didn’t, it was a secret world to escape to – indeed a place to think and talk to myself (I still do that – with no attic).  Every so often I would think ‘I must remember this moment and this scene when I am grown up’  And I do sometimes.  At least I think that I do – memory can play strange tricks.

Further on, perhaps we have a clue to the adventurous ancestor:-

The other walls were less imposingly arranged, fifteen pictures being distributed among the three.  The head of a jaguar, a portrait of the twenty-second Earl of Groan with pure white hair and a face the colour of smoke as a result of immoderate tattooing, and a group of children in pink and white muslin dresses playing with a viper were among the works which pleased her the most…..

She instinctively knows that there is something afoot in the castle, something that they are not telling her.  I had the same sort of feeling when I was eight and my mother was expecting my sister.  I don’t remember how I felt exactly – but I remember that I wasn’t exactly pleased at the time.  With typical childishness my brother and I felt very much left out of things and isolated.

Another revelation is in this book is the wonderful poetry of Peake – unexpected.  The style, I feel,  is a cross between Lewis Carol and Edward Lear;-

The Frivolous Cake

A freckled and frivolous cake there was

That sailed on a pointless sea

or any lugubrious lake there was

In a manner emphatic and free.

How jointlessly, and how jointlessly

The frivolous cake sailed by

 On the waves of the ocean that pointlessly

Threw fish to the lilac sky.

Oh, plenty and plenty of Hake there was

Of a glory beyond compare,

And every conceivable make there was

Was tossed through the lilac air

Up the smooth billows and over the crests

Of the cumbersome combers flew

The frivolous cake with a knife in the wake

Of herself and her curranty crew.

Like a swordfish grim it would bounce and skim

(This dinner knife fierce and blue),

And the frivolous cake was filled to the brim

With the fun of her curranty crew

Oh plenty and plenty of hake there was…..

As usual, it is up to poor Nannie Slagg to spill the beans about the prospect of Fuchsia’s brother.  Needless to say, the girl does not take the news at all well:-

“No!’ shouted Fuchsia, the blood rushing to her cheek.  ‘No! no! I won’t have it.  Oh no, no, no!  I won’t!  I won’t!  It mustn’t be, it mustn’t be!’  And Fuchsia flinging herself to the floor burst into a passion of tears.

 Here is a wonderful detailed extract about the attic by Sebastian Peake, and The Gormenghast website

 The whole of The Frivolous Cake poem HERE

Authors I’ve read: Daphne Du Maurier ‘Rebecca

Posted in Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by echostains

 

rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I’ve read such a lot of Daphne Du Maurier books – some good and some better,  If I had to rate them, number one would surely be Rebecca.  The  first line sets the mood  of the book, as we are whisked away back in time to the mysterious Manderley and the equally mysterious Max De Winter.  The story reads like Cinderella, where poor servant (well, rich woman’s companion) wins wealthy prince (De Winter) and goes to live happily ever after in his palace (Manderley).  However, the ‘Happy ever after’ is a long time coming –  something keeps getting in the way. 

 

Manderley

 There’s another fairytale in here, if you think about it.  The handsome Prince kisses the beautiful princess who turns into a frog (Rebecca).  Max’s second wife (we never do learn her name?) is also awakened by her prince but not to a life of pleasure (like her predecessor) she inherits a nightmare – the ruin and devastation that Rebecca has left her.  I have only just thought about the fairytale aspect of Rebecca.  When  the poor woman (encouraged by evil Danvers) dresses  unknowingly in a fancy dress costume that Rebecca wore and confronts her portrait, it is so ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall’ (Snow White) with Rebecca winning again by being the fairest of them all.  In the end though, all that glisters is not gold and the real beauty shines through –  not the supercilious veneer that is Rebecca – the beautiful frog triumphs and  marries the prince.

 

Beauty is only skin deep

I shall go through these books separately in other posts.  The list below is not in particular order of preference.

Jamaica Inn

Frenchman’s Creek

My Cousin Rachael

House on the Strand

The infernal world of Branwell Bronte

Don’t look now

The Birds