The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season — Task the First: The Winter Wonderland; and Task the Seventh: The Christmas

Dylan Thomas Reads a Child's Christmas in Wales and Five Poems/Cd - Dylan Thomas The Nightingale Before Christmas (Meg Langslow Mysteries) - Donna Andrews

Task the First:
– Read a book that is set in a snowy place.

Dylan Thomas: A Child’s Christmas in Wales

 Thomas’s lyrical memoirs of his childhood Christmas experience, read by himself … truly magical.  One of the books (or CDs) that I revisit every single holiday season.

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Task the Seventh:
– Read a book set during the Christmas holiday season.

 Donna Andrews: The Nightingale Before Christmas

 The year before last’s entry in Donna Andrews’s Meg Lanslow series: An uninhabited  Caerphilly house has been turned into a show house for the local interior designers’ pre-Christmas competition, which Meg has agreed to organize (her own mother being one of the contestants, and Meg’s involvement as an organizer having been the price for their own house not to be used as the scene of competition) — as a result of which Meg is having to constantly mediate between the contestants, who keep going at each others’ throats hammer and tongs and are, as a whole, more unruly than a bag of wriggling kittens.  It doesn’t particularly help, either, that there’s a student hanging around the place doing research for an article on the competition that she’s writing for the local university newspaper, that moreover, packages containing the contestants’ orders of items needed in their decorative arrangements keep disappearing, and that at last someone even takes to vandalizing the house and some of the half-arranged rooms, with merely a few days to go to Christmas (and to the advent of the judges).  When the most unpopular of the contestants — whom the others also hold responsible for the disappearance of their packages and for the vandalization of their rooms — is found murdered, there doesn’t seem a shortage of suspects … except that every single one of the other designers seems to have a credible alibi.

 A more than solid, tremendously enjoyable entry in the series … having read Duck the Halls just before Christmas last year, I’m seriously tempted to hunt down all of Andrews’s holiday books and read them, one at a time, before Christmas each year!  She truly has a knack for combining a hilarious storyline with fully-rounded characters (howevver unusual), a homely and comfortably-feeling small-town setting and a lot of warmth, humor, and common sense.  Highly recommended!

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 Task the Seventh:
– Grab your camera and set up a Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations. Possibly also a cat. Post it for everyone to enjoy!

Well, the cat preferred to watch the setup from atop the half-empty box of Christmas decorations instead of being part of the picture, but anyway … here we go!  (And yes, that’s a real candle again. 🙂 )


 

Snow Globes: Reads
Bells: Activities

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1504759/the-twelve-tasks-of-the-festive-season-task-the-first-the-winter-wonderland-and-task-the-seventh-the-christmas

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REBLOG: 15 authors to read based on your favorite drinks

Reblog of a July 2015 BookLikes post.

 

 

No matter if it’s a cup of tea or coffee, lemonade or a glass of wine, books and drinks go well together. This universal truth has been discovered not only by avid readers but also writers, some of whom became as well known for their drinking habits as for their literary achievements. Taking advantage of the summer time and the permanent feeling of thirst, we’ve gathered light-hearted recommendations of 14 well known and read authors and their drinks. Find your match, sip, read, and enjoy the summer reading time.

 

 

Truman Capote called this cocktail his special “orange drink” so if you share his taste for upgraded orange juice, go for a screwdriver drink with one of Capote’s books in your hand.

Truman Capote
In this profession it’s a long walk between drinks.

 Truman Streckfus Persons, known as Truman Capote, was an American author, screenwriter and playwright, many of whose short stories, novels, plays, and nonfiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966).

 

Truman Capote’s most popular books on BookLikes:
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories - Truman Capote Other Voices, Other Rooms - Truman Capote The Grass Harp, Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories - Truman Capote Music for Chameleons - Truman Capote

 

 

Ernest Hemingway is known for his love for cocktails: Mohito, Martini, vermouth… Living in Havana, though, must have left a trace in his preferences and we bet Mojito was hight on the author’s top drinks list. If it’s also on yours, have a sip.

Ernest Hemingway
My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.
– Quote on the wall of La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana, Cuba

Ernest Hemingway ranks as the most famous of twentieth-century American writers. Hemingway has been regarded less as a writer dedicated to his craft than as a man of action who happened to be afflicted with genius. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1954, Time magazine reported the news under Heroes rather than Books.

Ernest Hemingway’s most popular books on BookLikes
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway

 

 

Asked by a translator to explain his text William Faulkner said:
I have absolutely no idea of what I meant. You see, I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey within reach; so many ideas that I can’t remember in the morning pop into my head.

If you’re fond of whiskey, try Faulkner’s favorite drink: mint julep.

William Faulkner's favorite drink  William Faulkner

William Faulkner
Civilization begins with distillation.

His first poem was published in The New Republic in 1919. His first book of verse and early novels followed, but his major work began with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929.

 

William Faulkner’s most popular books on BookLikes:
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner Light in August (The Corrected Text) - William Faulkner Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner Sanctuary: The Corrected Text - William Faulkner

 

 

Martini IS James Bond. James Bond IS Ian Fleming. If you like martini, you ARE James Bond for us. 

 

Ian Fleming
Never say ‘no’ to adventures.
Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.

His first job was with Reuters News Agency where a Moscow posting gave him firsthand experience with what would become his literary bête noire — the Soviet Union. During World War II he served as Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence and played a key role in Allied espionage operations. After the war he worked as foreign manager of the Sunday Times, a job that allowed him to spend two months each year in Jamaica. Here, in 1952, at his home Goldeneye, he wrote a book called Casino Royale — and James Bond was born.

 

Ian Fleming’s most popular books on BookLikes
Live and Let Die - Ian Fleming From Russia With Love - Ian Fleming Goldfinger - Ian Fleming Doctor No - Ian Fleming On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming

 

 

Cosmo was named the sexiest drink thanks to Candace Bushnell who popularize the drink in her Sex and the City series. If you adore Carrie Bradshaw, the Sex and the City’s main character, grab cosmo and read/write on!

  Candace Bushnell

Candace Bushnell
I make mistakes. That’s what I do. I speak without thinking, I act without knowing. I drink so much that I can barely walk… I’m a fantastic lover though, and an amazing friend. God knows I mean well.

– Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

Candace Bushnell is the critically acclaimed, international best-selling author of Killing Monica, Sex and the City, Summer and the City, The Carrie Diaries, One Fifth Avenue, Lipstick Jungle, Trading Up, and Four Blondes. Sex and the City, published in 1996, was the basis for the HBO hit series and two subsequent blockbuster movies. Lipstick Jungle became a popular television series on NBC, as did The Carrie Diaries on the CW.

 

Candace Bushnell’s most popular books on BookLikes
The Carrie Diaries - Candace Bushnell Sex and the City - Candace Bushnell Four Blondes - Candace Bushnell Lipstick Jungle - Candace Bushnell Summer and the City - Candace Bushnell

 

 

If you like Margarita, read Jack Kerouac who developed his love for this drink during his trip through Mexico. 

 

Jack Kerouac
Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.

Jack Kerouac’s writing career began in the 1940s, but didn’t meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. His parents had immigrated as very young children from the Province of Quebec, Canada, and Kerouac spoke a local French Canadian-American dialect before he spoke English.

 

Jack Kerouac’s most popular books on BookLikes:
On the Road - Jack Kerouac The Dharma Bums - Jack Kerouac Big Sur - Jack Kerouac, Aram Saroyan The Subterraneans - Jack Kerouac Desolation Angels - Jack Kerouac, Joyce Johnson

 

 

Raymond Carver was Hemingway’s mate not only in writing but also boozing. Some of the records reveal that Bloody Mary cocktail, which he named “heart starter”, made his hangover breakfast. We definitely do not recommend this kind of diet but if you’d like to give the tomatoes a good stir, choose Bloody Mary.

 

Raymond Carver
Drinking’s funny. When I look back on it, all of our important decisions have been figured out when we were drinking.
Even when we talked about having to cut back on drinking, we’d be sitting at the kitchen table or out at the picnic table with a six-pack or whiskey.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. His father was a saw-mill worker and his mother was a waitress and clerk. He married early and for years writing had to come second to earning a living for his young family. Despite, small-press publication, it was not until Will You Please Be Quiet Please? appeared in 1976 that his work began to reach a wider audience.

 

Raymond Carver’s most popular books on BookLikes 
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - Raymond Carver Cathedral - Raymond Carver Short Cuts: Selected Stories - Raymond Carver, Robert Altman The Best American Short Stories of the Century - John Updike, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Martha Gellhorn, Vladimir Nabokov, Gish Jen, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Cynthia Ozick, Tim O'Brien, Harold Brodkey, Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, William Saroyan, Saul Bellow Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? - Raymond Carver

 

 

If you like gin and tonic read J.K. Rowling or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. Both authors highlighted this drink as their favorite.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

J.K. Rowling
JK Rowling grew up in Chepstow, Gwent where she went to Wyedean Comprehensive. Jo left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, and where her course included one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London to work at Amnesty International, doing research into human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel.

 

J.K. Rowling’s most popular books on BookLikes:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling The Silkworm - J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith The Tales of Beedle the Bard - Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald
First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of the major American writers of the twentieth century — a figure whose life and works embodied powerful myths about that nation’s dreams and aspirations. Fitzgerald was talented and perceptive, gifted with a lyrical style and a pitch-perfect ear for language. He lived his life as a romantic, equally capable of great dedication to his craft and reckless squandering of his artistic capital. He left us masterpieces such as The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night; and a gathering of stories and essays that together capture the essence of the American experience.

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most popular books on BookLikes:
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald Tender Is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald The Beautiful and Damned - F. Scott Fitzgerald The Love of the Last Tycoon - F. Scott Fitzgerald Gatsby Girls - F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Jane Austen was well known for her feminist life approach, her language was witty, actions full of determination and books ground-breaking. This also refers to her culinary preferences. She adored ices and red wine.

 

Jane Austen
But in the meantime for Elegance & Ease & Luxury . . .
I shall eat Ice & drink French wine, & be above Vulgar Economy.

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature.

 

Jane Austen’s most popular books on BookLikes
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen Emma - Jane Austen, Fiona Stafford Mansfield Park - Jane Austen Jane Austen's Letters - Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice: The Wild and Wanton Edition - Michelle M. Pillow, Annabella Bloom, Jane Austen

 

 

J.R.R. Tolkien admitted to be a beer lover. C.S. Lewis is known for his love to this golden liquor as well. Not so strange then that those two spent enjoyable time in pubs reading and discussing their writing, having several pints and paying close attention to what they were drinking. Reportedly, Lewis liked a good draft bitter off the wood, disliked bottled and hated canned beer. 

J.R.R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

 

J.R.R. Tolkien’s most popular books on BookLikes
The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien, Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien The Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, Alan Lee

 

C.S. Lewis
I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.

Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year.

 

C.S. Lewis’ most popular books on BookLikes
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis The Magician's Nephew - C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis The Silver Chair - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes

 

 

Honore de Balzac’a coffee addiction may be too much even for a hard-core coffee lover — the author is believed to drink up to 50 cups a day! L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was much more moderate coffee drinker with four or five breakfast cups of sweet white coffee a day. How about you?

 

Honoré de Balzac
As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion.
Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered.
Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.

Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.

 

Honoré de Balzac’s most popular books on BookLikes
Père Goriot - Honoré de Balzac Cousin Bette - Francine Prose, Honoré de Balzac, Kathleen Raine Eugénie Grandet - Christopher Prendergast, Honoré de Balzac, Sylvia Raphael Lost Illusions - George Saintsbury, Honoré de Balzac, Ellen Marriage The Unknown Masterpiece; and, Gambara - Richard Howard, Arthur C. Danto, Honoré de Balzac

 

 

If you prefer a hot aromatic tea than cocktails or coffee, make sure to follow George Orwell’s golden rules of making a perfect cup of tea

 

George Orwell
One strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.

Eric Arthur Blair who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism. Commonly ranked as one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century, and as one of the most important chroniclers of English culture of his generation, Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction, and polemical journalism. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945).

 

George Orwell’s most popular books on BookLikes
1984 - George Orwell, Erich Fromm Animal Farm - George Orwell The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever - John Updike, George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hobbes, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Carl Sagan, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Christopher Hitchens, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Conrad, Ibn Warraq, Martin Gardner, Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell, A.C. Grayling, Pe Homage to Catalonia - Lionel Trilling, George Orwell Shooting an Elephant - George Orwell

 

Sources:

 

Original post: 15 authors to read based on your favorite drinks – Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books — reblogged from BookLikes

Merken

Merken

Summer Splurges (AKA: Be Good to Yourself)

The Colour of Poison: A Sebastian Foxley Medieval Mystery (Volume 1) - Toni MountWars of the Roses - Charles RossLast White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors - Desmond SewardBlood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses - Sarah GristwoodMary Tudor: The First Queen - Linda Porter

Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen - Anna WhitelockThe Sugar Planter's Daughter - Sharon MaasThe Princes of Ireland - Edward RutherfurdThe Rebels of Ireland - Edward RutherfurdThe Chronicles of Narnia CD Box Set: The Chronicles of Narnia CD Box Set - C.S. Lewis, Kenneth Branagh

Largely inspired by Samantha Wilcoxson’s recommendations following up on my read of her books Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen and Faithful Traitor – as well as looking forward to book 3 of her Tudor Women trilogy – I’ve been on a minor shopping spree lately. Not all of these are Samantha’s recommendations, but that’s the way book browsing goes … one thing leads to another!

  • Toni Mount: The Colour of Poison – actually ordered already before my exchange with Samantha on which books she recommends in connection with her own novels, though another recommendation of hers, too; what a pity I probably won’t be receiving it before the end of its “book of the month” status in More Historical Than Fiction.
  • Charles Ross: The Wars of the Roses – though I’ve already got Trevor Royle’s book on the same subject, but it can’t hurt to get another one just for comparison’s sake;
  • Desmond Seward: The Last White Rose – since, after all, the Yorks didn’t just die out all at once together with Richard III at Bosworth in 1485;
  • Sarah Gristwood: Blood Sisters, The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses – since women played an important part during that period and it’s time we finally took note of them … and not just Margaret of Anjou, either (which is why Samantha’s books on Elizabeth of York and Margaret Pole are such a welcome read);
  • Linda Porter: Mary Tudor, The First Queen – since there’s more to Mary I than is hidden behind her epithet “Bloody Mary”;
  • Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor, Princess, Bastard, Queen – ditto (and two books are always better than one, see above)

 … and while I was at it, I also did a bit of wish list cleanup, ordering:

  • Sharon Maas: The Sugar Planter’s Daughter (book 2 of her Winnie Cox trilogy; fresh from the publisher’s press);
  • Edward Rutherfurd: The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland;
  • David Suchet: Poirot and Me (since my reviews of some of the Poirot dramatizations starring Suchet are up next for copying over to my WordPress blog)
  • … and then I also found a dirt cheap (used, but near new) offer of the Chronicles of Narnia audiobook set read by Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, Michael York, Alex Jennings, Lynn Redgrave and Jeremy Northam – which I of course had to have as well.

 And look, the first lovely books already made it to their new home, too:

 

But anyway, I obviously also needed to make space on my wish list for all the other books I found when following up on Samantha’s recommendations:

  • Lisa Hilton: Queens Consort, England’s Medieval Queens (which I hope is going to live up to Helen Castor’s She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth I);
  • Dan Jones: The Hollow Crown (since I’ve already got his earlier book on the Plantagenets …);
  • Charles Ross: Richard III (by all accounts still the standard biography);
  • Chris Skidmore: Richard III (the most recent incarnation of Richard III biographies);
  • Amy Licence: Richard III, the Road to Leicester (I guess there goes my resolution not to give in to the publicity craze of the recent[ish] discovery of his bones);
  • Amy Licence: Elizabeth of York, Forgotten Tudor Queen (and really, I swear it was this book and the RIII bio by Charles Ross that led me to Licence’s book on RIII in the first place);
  • Alison Weir: Elizabeth of York, the First Tudor Queen (one of Samantha’s major “go-to” books for background information on Elizabeth; also, I own and rather like Weir’s bio of Eleanor of Aquitaine);
  • Hazel Pierce: Margaret Pole, 1473-1541, Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership (on which Samantha says she relied substantially in writing Faithful Traitor) and
  • Susan Higginbotham: Margaret Pole (brand new and due out in August 2016).

And then … well, there’s this absolutely gorgeous and super-nice tea and spice store in Frankfurt that my best friend and I discovered when I was living in Frankfurt way back in 2003.  Shelves crammed with goodies from all over the world and an amazing staff … even after I moved to Bonn, we just kept going there; and we still try to make it down there at least once or twice a year.  So last Saturday we decided another splurge was overdue, took to the road – and returned home late in the afternoon laden with delicacies.  This was my share of the bounty:

  • A small bag of Nanhu Da Shan Qinxin Oolong (the prize catch of last Saturday’s shopping trip; and yes, they do actually let you try all of their products in their store);
  • * A foursome of Kusmi tea blends (Kashmir tchai, ginger lemon green, and a double serving of spicy chocolate);
  • One of their homemade rice & spice mixes (in this instance, a blend of Indian basmati rice with currants, cashew nuts, coconut flakes, lemon pepper, cinnamon, sea salt, cardamom, ginger, and pieces of dried mango, apricot, papaya, and cranberries, going by the fanciful name Maharani Rice … one of my absolute favorites);
  • A bottle of Stokes Sweet Chilli Sauce (my kitchen just isn’t complete without this stuff, it goes on practically everything);
  • A bottle of Belberry Spicy Mango Ketchup (new to me, tried it in the store and instantly loved it);
  • A duo of Sal de Ibiza (green pepper and lemon, and ginger and lemon grass);
  • A lidded Chinese dragon tea mug that will go well with the two (differently-colored) mugs in the same style that I’ve already got
  • … and a collection of their very own recipes, all of which they also serve up (though obviously not all at the same time) for tasting purposes in their store.; this particular collection being recipes created by a charming lady from Sri Lanka named Rajitha who has been part of their team since practically forever.

 Alright, so I guess I did splurge.  In my defense, though, I’ll mention that I won’t be able to travel at all this year, nor actually take a whole lot of vacation time or other time off work, so I’m having to make to with what’s available by way of compensation … and is there any better compensation than books and food?

The countdown has started! — Pencils and What-Not [REBLOG]

Just six days to go till publication day!Here’s a Goodreads review:Excerpt: The Sugar Planter’s Daughter by Sharon Maas is a deep and heartrending story of love and loss; betrayal and forgiveness; secrets and lies. I felt deeply involved in Winnie’s and George’s lives; the lives of George’s family and their encompassment of Winnie into their hearts. But…

via The countdown has started! — Pencils and What-Not

 

SMerken

Merken

Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton – A Memoir

Joseph Anton: A Memoir - Salman RushdieDear Mr. Rushdie,

Belated Happy Birthday. I don’t know how much satisfaction there is to you, these days, in having reached an age which the Ayatollah Khomeini and his acolytes never wanted you to reach, but anyway, since I happen to have been reading your memoir of the fatwā years while you were celebrating your 69th, wishing you well on the occasion of your birthday just seemed in order.

 Now having said that, could you please enlighten me as to just what the flying f*ck is up with that third person narrative voice of Joseph Anton? The book is subtitled “a memoir,” for crying out loud, and that’s precisely what it is – the memoir of one Salman Rushdie, author, of the years when he had to deal with a death order issued against him, for having written a book allegedly offensive to Islam, issued by the supreme religious leader of Iran (notice my not putting that in caps, as a title is wont to be) and loudly propagated throughout the entire Islamic world. It is not, in other words, the would-be memoir of one Joseph Anton, like the characters of the much-maligned Satanic Verses a figment of their author’s imagination; an alias composed from the names of two of your own favorite novelists (Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov) and slipped on like an ill-fitting glove that you couldn’t get rid of again soon enough, or would have, if Special Branch and the Home Office had let you. It is not the memoir of “Rushdie,” the maligned author, separated in public opinion – who for obvious reasons were widely ignorant of the mere existence of Mr. Anton – from the Salman you were privately struggling to remain. It is the memoir of precisely that last person: You, Salman – Salman Rushdie –, proud bearer of a last name that your father had intentionally styled on that of the 12th century sage Ibn Rushd (Averroës) for his enlightened views on religion, and on the world in general. And that being the case, the third person narrative voice of your memoir startled the hell out of me right from the very beginning and remained the one jarringly discordant note until the very end.

 Oh, I get it:

“When a book leaves its author’s desk it changes. Even before anyone has read it, before eyes other than its creator’s have looked upon a single phrase, it is irretrievably altered. It has become a book that can be read, that no longer belongs to its maker. It has acquired, in a sense, free will. It will make its journey through the world and there is no longer anything the author can do about it. Even he, as he looks at its sentences, read them differently now that they can be read by others. They look like different sentences. The book has gone out into the world and the world has remade it.”

 

Very astute: Once a book has been published it no longer belongs to its author alone, but to all of us readers, too. (I actually wish there were more authors, particularly these days, who share that feeling.) But that’s not really the point here, is it? Because the story doesn’t change. And the story isn’t that of Mr. Anton, publisher of vaguely international extraction (as his landlords in London would be told by his representatives), nor of “Rushdie,” the first-nameless author of “that terrible book,” but – pardon me for harping on it – it’s your own story. And to be told that story in the third instead of the first person just didn’t feel right, however much you may be distancing yourself in your own mind from the “Joseph Anton” as who you had to accept being addressed even by the protection officers with whom you interacted daily, so as to make it easier for them to think of you as Joe and not accidentally slip in a “Salman” when speaking of you. It seems to me that writing this book actually played a large part in your personal reconciliation with those years. Even more so would it have made sense, then, to be written in the first person: which I suspect (and conjecture from at least one instance of a perceivable slip-up in the transition from “I” to “he”) it actually has been, initially. Then why, in the name of everything that is precious (I won’t use the word “holy” around you), the switch back to a third person narrative perspective that is so clearly in discord with the narration itself?

 It’s a heartfelt book, full of the wit, sense of humor, passion and irony, and the trenchant analysis that I’ve come to love in everyone of your works, fiction and nonfiction alike. I won’t even try to imagine what daily life during those years must have been like for you, because I’m pretty sure whatever I can conjure up will still be woefully short of the real thing. (For some reason, probably because of the framework setting of The Moor’s Last Sigh, I’d always vaguely imagined your hiding place to be somewhere in Spain. Should have figured it had to be somewhere where the British authorities actually had the power to protect you, which obviously meant somewhere right in Britain.) It was also tremendously enlightening to read about the important role that some of the leading lights of the British and international literary scene have played in, variously, shielding you and supporting your cause for well over 10 years; even if I do admit to considerable envy of your ability to name-drop the likes of Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt, Bruce Chatwin, Günter Grass, Václav Havel, Harold Pinter, Antonia Fraser, Martin Amis, J.M. Coetzee, Robyn Davidson, Carlos Fuentes, Ian McEwan, John Irving and plenty of others, not merely repeatedly but sometimes even in the same sentence or paragraph. My envy is even greater, though, for the fact that you actually have read, and are able to discuss in the most everyday, matter-of-fact tone, more than half of the literary masterpieces that are still languishing on my TBR shelf, which I know I should have read ages ago, too, and am promising myself to do just that on a regular basis – without however actually making much progress in the matter.

 So yes, I certainly am glad I have read Joseph Anton: It answered a lot of questions I would have had of you if I ever had the privilege of meeting you in person, it shed light on plenty of things that wouldn’t even have occurred to me but for your discussing them, and it reinforced my belief that, albeit on the grounds of circumstances that I personally wouldn’t wish on my very own worst enemy, yours is one of the most important voices to be heard these days, on the issues of religious fundamentalism, racism, and freedom of speech, as well as the state of the world at large.

I still would have wished for your memoir to be written in the first person, however. That third-person distancing, to me, made the experience just that tiny fraction of a degree less than it could, and absolutely should have been.

 

Favorite Quotes:

 “Nobody ever wanted to go to war, but if a war came your way, it might as well be the right war, about the most important things in the world, and you might as well, if you were going to fight it, be called “Rushdie,” and stand where your father had placed you, in the tradition of the grand Aristotelian, Averroës, Abul Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd.”

“This was what book reviewing did.  If you loved a book, the author thought your praise no more than his rightful due, and if you didn’t like it, you made enemies.  He decided to stop doing it.  It was a mug’s game.”

“This was the literature he knew, had always known.  Literature tried to open the universe, to increase, even if only slightly, the sum total of what it was possible for human beings to perceive, understand, and so, finally, to be.  Great literature went to the edges of the known and pushed against the boundaries of language, form, and possibility, to make the world feel larger, wider, than before.  Yet this was an age in which men and women were being pushed toward ever-narrower definitions of themselves, encouraged to call themselves just one thing, Serb or Croat or Israeli or Palestinian or Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Baha’i or Jew, and the narrower their identities became the greater was the likelihood of conflict between them.  Literature’s view of human nature encouraged understanding, sympathy, and identification with people not like oneself, but the world was pushing everyone in the opposite direction, towards narrowness, bigotry, tribalism, cultism and war.  There were plenty of people who didn’t want the universe opened, who would, in fact, prefer it to be shut down quite a bit, and so when artists went to the frontier and pushed they often found powerful forces pushing back.  And yet they did what they had to do, even at the price of their own ease, and, sometimes of their lives.”

“When a book leaves it’s author’s desk it changes. Even before anyone has read it, before eyes other than its creator’s have looked upon a single phrase, it is irretrievably altered. It has become a book that can be read, that no longer belongs to its maker. It has acquired, in a sense, free will. It will make its journey through the world and there is no longer anything the author can do about it. Even he, as he looks at its sentences, reads them differently now that they can be read by others. They look like different sentences. The book has gone out into the world and the world has remade it.”

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1430390/dear-mr-rushdie

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HOWARDS END

Howards EndHomecomings

Most of us connect the notion of “home” or “childhood home” with one particular place, that innocent paradise we have since had to give up and keep searching for forever after. In Ruth Wilcox’s world, Howards End is that place; the countryside house where she was born, where her family often returns to spend their vacations, and which, everyone assumes, will pass on to her children when she is dead.

And it is through Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave)’s eyes that we first see Howards End; approaching the house after an evening walk through her beloved meadow, her long dress trailing in the grass, as she goes nearer, we see the open windows letting out warm light from inside, and hear the voices and laughter from the family’s dinner table. And while Mrs. Wilcox returns to join her family’s company, two others are leaving the house and its serene world: Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter) and Paul Wilcox, embarking on a passionate romance which is not even to survive the next morning – not before, however, Helen has informed her sister Margaret (Emma Thompson) that she and Paul are “in love,” and thus set in motion the first of a series of confusing and controversial meetings between their families.

While both families belong to the middle class, they are nevertheless separated by several layers of society and politics – the Wilcox, led by pater familias / businessman Henry (Anthony Hopkins), rich, conservative and without any sympathy whatsoever for those less fortunate than themselves (“It’s all part of the battle of life … The poor are poor; one is sorry for them, but there it is,” Henry Wilcox once comments); the Schlegels, on the other hand, with just enough income to lead a comfortable life, brought up by their Aunt Juley (Prunella Scales), supporting suffrage (women’s right to vote) and surrounding themselves with actors, “blue-stockings” (feminists), intellectuals and other members of the avantgarde. Further complexity is added when Helen brings to the Schlegel home Leonard Bast (Samuel West), a poor but idealistic young clerk who loves music, literature and astronomy – and with him, his working class wife Jacky (Nicola Duffett), the embarrassment of having to interact with her, and the even more embarrassing revelation she has in store for Henry Wilcox; eventually leaving her disillusioned husband to comment that “books aren’t real,” and that in fact they and music “are for the rich so they don’t feel bad after dinner.”

E.M. Forster‘s novel on which this movie is based is a masterpiece of social study and character study alike; with empathy and a fine eye for detail, Forster brings his protagonists and their environment to life, and James Ivory matches his accomplishment in this screen realization, finding the perfect cast and production design (Luciana Arrighi) to reproduce the novel’s Edwardian society; although he superstitiously declined the offer to film at Forster‘s boyhood home Rooks Nest, the model for the fictional Howards End. The movie brings together many of Britain’s best-known actors, all trained in the English school which, as Anthony Hopkins once explained, unlike Lee Strasberg’s Method Acting, is primarily based on restraint: there are no outbursts of emotion, self-control reigns supreme, and even a simple word like “yes” is reduced even further to “hmm,” leaving it to the actor’s intonation alone to convey the word’s (or sound’s) deeper meaning in a given context. And yet, vocal intonation, looks and little gestures often speak louder than dramatic actions ever could, and they are as essential to the movie’s sense of authenticity as are production design, cinematography (Tony Pierce-Roberts), soundtrack (Richard Robbins) and the selection of the movie’s non-scored music: excerpts from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a favorite with the “educated” Edwardian middle class, and pieces by period composers Andre Derain and Percy Grainger.

The story centers around Margaret (Meg) Schlegel, who is “filled with … a profound vivacity, a continual and sincere response to all that she encounter[s] in her path through life,” as Forster described her, and portrayed to perfection by Emma Thompson. Meg’s friendship with Ruth Wilcox brings the families back together after Helen’s near-scandalous episode with Paul; and the two women become so close that Ruth eventually decides to give Meg “something worth [her] friendship” – none other than Howards End, a wish that has her panicking family scramble ungentlemanly for every reason in the book to invalidate the codicil setting forth that bestowal, from its lacking date and signature to the testatrix’s state of mind, the ambiguity of the writing’s content, the question why Meg should want the house in the first place since she already has one, and the fact that the writing is only in pencil, which “never counts,” as Dolly, wife of the Wilcox’ elder son Charles is quick to point out; only to be reprimanded by her father in law “from out of his fortress” (Forster) not to “interfere with what you do not understand.” And so it is that Meg will only see the house (and be instantly mistaken for Ruth because she has “her way of walking around the house,” as the housekeeper explains) when she and her siblings have to look for a new home and Henry Wilcox, who has started to court her after Ruth’s death, suggests that the Schlegel’s furniture be temporarily stored there – a fateful decision. And while Meg and Henry slowly and painfully learn to adjust to each other, the complexity of their families’ relations, and their interactions with the Basts, finally come crashing down on them in a dramatic conclusion.

Howards End deservedly won 1992’s Academy Awards for Best Actress (Thompson), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction; and it was also nominated in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Redgrave), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design categories. Unfortunately, its subtle tones have recently been muted somewhat by the louder sounds now filling movie theaters. I for one, however, will take this sublime movie over any summer action flick anytime.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Merchant-Ivory (1992)
  • Director: James Ivory
  • Executive Producer: Paul Bradley
  • Producer: Ismail Merchant
  • Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
  • Based on a novel by: E.M. Forster
  • Music: Richard Robbins
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Tony Pierce-Roberts
  • Art Direction: John Ralph
  • Costume Design: Jenny Beavan & John Bright
  • Production Design: Luciana Arrighi
  • Set Decoration: Ian Whittaker
Cast
  • Emma Thompson: Margaret Schlegel
  • Helena Bonham Carter: Helen Schlegel
  • Anthony Hopkins: Henry J. Wilcox
  • Vanessa Redgrave: Ruth Wilcox
  • Prunella Scales: Aunt Juley
  • Samuel West: Leonard Bast
  • Nicola Duffett: Jacky Bast
  • Adrian Ross Magenty: Tibby Schlegel
  • Joseph Bennett: Paul Wilcox
  • James Wilby: Charles Wilcox
  • Jemma Redgrave: Evie Wilcox
  • Susie Lindeman: Dolly Wilcox

 

Major Awards and Honors

Academy Awards (1992)
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role: Emma Thompson
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium:
    Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Luciana Arrighi and Ian Whittaker
Golden Globes (1992)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama: Emma Thompson
National Board of Review Awards (1992)
  • Best Picture – English Language: Ismail Merchant
  • Best Director: James Ivory
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
BAFTA Awards (1992)
  • Best Film: Ismail Merchant and James Ivory
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
Evening Standard British Film Awards (1992)
  • Best Film: James Ivory
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
    – Also for Peter’s Friends (1992).
National Society of Film Critics Awards (1992) (USA)
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (1992)
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards (1992)
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
Boston Society of Film Critics AwardS (1992)
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
Cannes Film Festival (1992)
  • 45th Anniversary Prize: James Ivory

 

Links

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T.S. Eliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats: Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (Audio) - T.S. Eliot, John Gielgud, Irene WorthFor “cats are very much like you and me” …

Based on works such as the poems “Prufrock” (1917) and “Ash Wednesday” (1930) and the drama “Murder in the Cathedral” (1935), American-born and naturalized British poet and future Nobel laureate T(homas) S(tearns) Eliot – also founder and editor of the literary journal Criterion – was already an established writer when, in 1939, he came up with this series of poems for children, which due to their timeless charm and humorous insight into the feline nature had long become literary classics for the young and old alike before Trevor Nunn and Andrew Lloyd Webber used them as a basis for their award-winning musical “Cats.”

My favorite rendition of these poems, which were originally a gift from “Old Possum” Eliot to his godchildren, is the 1983 recording featuring Sir John Gielgud and his recurrent stage partner Irene Worth, who alternatingly read the poems and bring to life the likes of Jennyanydots the old Gumbie Cat (who at night displays a show of unexpected zeal in training mice and cockroaches in the art of keeping a clean house), the old “bravo cat” Growltiger (who, already having lost one eye and one ear in battle, one balmy night has “no eye or ear for aught but [the lady] Griddlebone,” thus at last making himself vulnerable to his many enemies and “forced to walk the plank”), Rum Tum Tugger, the “curious cat,” who very much has a mind of his own and always seems to want exactly the opposite of what you have given him (“For he will do as he do do, and there’s no doing anything about it”), and Macavity, “the Napoleon of crime,” who controls even notorious scoundrels like Mungojerrie and who is fatefully remeniscient of Berthold Brecht’s Mac the Knife in rhyme, metre, name and character.

Sir John Gielgud and Irene Worth bring not only their entire impeccable theatrical training to the project but, more importantly, a great sense of humor and a true feeling for the nature of each feline protagonist – and for their canine adversaries; because, as nobody can seriously doubt any longer by the time when we have reached the last poem, “a cat is not a dog!”

So you truly hear that Chinese vase go “bing!” when Irene Worth tells the story of the eternal pranksters Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer; you see them turning the basement into a “field of war,” and you hear the cook’s desperation when she has to inform the family that there will be no meat for dinner because “the joint has gone from the oven – like that!” You can picture Old Deuteronomy sleeping or sitting in the sun, and see his slow, ponderous movements as you hear John Gielgud’s rendition of the oldest village inhabitant’s ever-unchanging comment: “Well, of all … things … Can it be … really! … No! … Yes! … Ho! hi! Oh, my eye!” Reading about “the Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles,” Irene Worth does not merely give you the dogs’ various kinds of bark; true to character she moreover endows them with their respective Pekinese, Yorkshire and Scottish accents. Similarly, hearing John Gielgud read the story of the great conjurer Mr. Mistoffelees (whose name is another one of the numerous literary allusions hidden in Eliot’s verses – and of course this particular cat is “black from his ears to the tip of his tail”), there can be no doubt about the degree of amazement in which he holds his audience (“Oh! Well I never! Was there ever a cat so clever as Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!”); and of course it also falls to none other than great Shakespearean actor Gielgud to tell us about Gus, the old “theatre cat,” and his thespian exploits, endowing the four-pawed stage veteran with a dignity that would do any of his human colleagues proud. Irene Worth does much the same for the St. James Street club-going, pompously condescending (and shall we say it? remarkably fat!) Bustopher Jones, whereas Gielgud’s voice finally assumes a hurried, but regular pace – much like a train rattling down its tracks – as he reads the story of Skimbleshanks, the “railway cat,” who keeps the train in order from luggage car to passenger compartments, always ready to assist personnel and travelers alike.

The first and last poems, “The Naming of Cats” and “The Ad-dressing of Cats” are read by Gielgud and Worth together, both in turn taking a verse at a time – and unflappably pronouncing tongue-twisting, “peculiar” cat names such as Munkustrap, Bombalurina and Jellylorum, and lines like the closing of the first poem, which refers to a cat’s meditation on his “ineffable effable effanineffable deep and inscrutable singular Name.” – You can, of course, always pop in a video or DVD and watch the musical based on T.S. Eliot’s poems – but for a closer interpretation of the originals, few versions are as enjoyable as this classic recording featuring two of Britain’s all-time greatest actors, at the end of which you truly “should need no interpreter to understand [the cats’] character.”

 

Favorite Quotes:

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, or George or Bill Bailey –
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter –
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum –
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover –
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
The Naming of CatsOf the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

The Ad-dressing of Cats
“You’ve read of several kinds of Cat,
And my opinion now is that
You should need no interpreter
To understand their character.
You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are sane and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse –
But all may be described in verse.
You’ve seen them both at work and games,
And learnt about their proper names,
Their habits and their habitat:
 : But
How would you ad-dress a Cat?
So first, your memory I’ll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.
Now Dogs pretend they like to fight;
They often bark, more seldom bite;
But yet a Dog is, on the whole,
What you would call a simple soul.
Of course I’m not including Pekes,
And such fantastic canine freaks.
The usual Dog about the Town
Is much inclined to play the clown,
And far from showing too much pride
Is frequently undignified.
He’s very easily taken in –
Just chuck him underneath the chin
Or slap his back or shake his paw,
And he will gambol and guffaw.
He’s such an easy-going lout,
He’ll answer any hail or shout.
Again I must remind you that
A Dog’s a Dog – A CAT’S A CAT.
TS Elliot, The Ad-dressing of CatsWith Cats, some say, one rule is true:
Don’t speak till you are spoken to.
Myself, I do not hold with that –
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
But always keep in mind that he
Resents familiarity.
I bow, and taking off my hat,
Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!
But if he is the Cat next door,
Whom I have often met before
(He comes to see me in my flat)
I greet him with an OOPSA CAT!
I’ve heard them call him James Buz-James –
But we’ve not got so far as names.
Before a Cat will condescend
To treat you as a trusted friend,
Some little token of esteem
Is needed, like a dish of cream;
And you might now and then supply
Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,
Some potted grouse, or salmon paste –
He’s sure to have his personal taste.
(I know a Cat, who makes a habit
Of eating nothing else but rabbit,
And when he’s finished, licks his paws
So’s not to waste the onion sauce.)
A Cat’s entitled to expect
These evidences of respect.
And so in time you reach your aim,
And finally call him by his NAME.”

“Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door.
His name, as I ought to have told you before,
Is really Asparagus. That’s such a fuss
To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
His coat’s very shabby, he’s thin as a rake,
And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats
But no longer a terror to mice or to rats.
For he isn’t the Cat that he was in his prime;
Though his name was quite famous, he says, in his time.
And whenever he joins his friends at their club
(which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub)
He loves to regale them, if someone else pays,
With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days.
For he once was a Star of the highest degree
He has acted with Irving, he’s acted with Tree.
And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.
But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.”

Macavity
“He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!
And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair
But it’s useless to investigate Mcavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
‘It must have been Macavity!’ but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long-division sums.
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spaer:
At whatever time the deed took place MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!”

Cats: Old Deuteronomy: Old Deuteronomy‘s lived a long time;
He’s a Cat who has lived many lives in succession.
He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme
A long while before Queen Victoria’s accession.
Old Deuteronomy’s buried nine wives
And more – I am tempted to say, ninety-nine;
And his numerous progeny prospers and thrives
And the village is proud of him in his decline.
At the sight of that placid and bland physiognomy,
When he sits in the sun on the vicarage wall,
The Oldest Inhabitant croaks: “Well, of all …
Things … Can it be … really! … No! … Yes! …
Ho! hi!
Oh, my eye!
My mind may be wandering, but I confess
I believe it is Old Deuteronomy!”
Old Deuteronomy sits in the street,
He sits in the High Street on market day;
The bullocks may bellow, the sheep they may bleat,
But the dogs and the herdsman will turn them away.
The cars and the lorries run over the kerb,
And the villagers put up a notice: ROAD CLOSED –
So that nothing untoward may chance to disturb
Deuteronomy’s rest when he feels so disposed
Or when he’s engaged in domestic economy:
And the Oldest Inhabitant croaks: “Well of all …
Things … Can it be … really! … No! … Yes! …
Ho! hi!
Oh, my eye!
My sight’s unreliable, but I can guess
That the cause of the trouble is Old Deuteronomy!”

Cats: Rum Tum Tugger: The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat –
And there isn’t any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

Mr. Mistoffelees from Cats: The Musical: Magical Mr. Mistoffelees
“He is quiet and small, he is black
From his ears to the tip of his tail;
He can creep through the tiniest crack
He can walk on the narrowest rail.
He can pick any card from a pack,
He is equally cunning with dice;
He is always deceiving you into believing
That he’s only hunting for mice.
He can play any trick with a cork
Or a spoon and a bit of fish-paste;
If you look for a knife or a fork
And you think it is merely misplaced –
You have seen it one moment, and then it is gawn!
But you’ll find it next week lying out on the lawn.
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!

Bustopher Jones - CATS: Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones –
In fact, he’s remarkably fat.
He doesn’t haunt pubs – he has eight or nine clubs,
For he’s the St. James’s Street Cat!
He’s the Cat we all greet as he walks down the street
In his coat of fastidious black:
No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers
Or such an impeccable back.
In the whole of St. James’s the smartest of names is
The name of this Brummell of Cats;
And we’re all of us proud to be nodded or bowed to
By Bustopher Jones in white spats!

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer were a very notorious couple of cats.
As knockabout clown, quick-change comedians, tight-rope walkers and acrobats
They had extensive reputation. They made their home in Victoria Grove –
That was merely their centre of operation, for they were incurably given to rove.
They were very well know in Cornwall Gardens, in Launceston Place and in Kensington Square –
They had really a little more reputation than a couple of cats can very well bear.
If the area window was found ajar
Cats: Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer: And the basement looked like a field of war,
If a tile or two came loose on the roof,
Which presently ceased to be waterproof,
If the drawers were pulled out from the bedroom chests,
And you couldn’t find one of your winter vests,
Or after supper one of the girls
Suddenly missed her Woolworth pearls:
Then the family would say: “It’s that horrible cat!
It was Mungojerrie – or Rumpelteazer!” – And most of the time
they left it at that.
Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer had a very unusual gift of the gab.
They were highly efficient cat-burglars as well, and remarkably smart at smash-and-grab.
They made their home in Victoria Grove. They had no regular occupation.
They were plausible fellows, and liked to engage a friendly policeman in conversation.
Edward Gorey Practical Cats (Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot) 1982: When the family assembled for Sunday dinner,
With their minds made up that they wouldn’t get thinner
On Argentine joint, potatoes and greens,
And the cook would appear from behind the scenes
And say in a voice that was broken with sorrow:
“I’m afraid you must wait and have dinner tomorrow!
For the joint has gone from the oven-like that!”
Then the family would say: “It’s that horrible cat!
It was Mungojerrie–or Rumpelteazer!” – And most of the time
they left it at that.
Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer had a wonderful way of working together.
And some of the time you would say it was luck, and some of the time you would say it was weather.
They would go through the house like a hurricane, and no sober person could take his oath
Was it Mungojerrie – or Rumpelteazer? or could you have sworn that it mightn’t be both?
And when you heard a dining-room smash
Or up from the pantry there came a loud crash
Or down from the library came a loud ping
From a vase which was commonly said to be Ming –
Then the family would say: “Now which was which cat?
It was Mungojerrie! AND Rumpelteazer!” – And there’s nothing
at all to be done about that!

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Emma Thompson: The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries – Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film

“Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?”

When Emma Thompson was approached with the suggestion to write a screenplay based on Jane Austen‘s first novel Sense and Sensibility (1811), she was somewhat doubtful because, as she explains on the DVD’s commentary track, she felt that other Austen works, like the more expressive Emma and Persuasion or the sardonic Pride and Prejudice (already the subject of several adaptations) would have been more suitable. Four years and 14 screenplay drafts later (the first, a 300-page handwritten dramatization of the novel’s every scene), Sense and Sensibility made its grand entrance into movie theaters worldwide and mesmerized audiences and critics alike, resulting in an Oscar for Thompson‘s screenplay and six further nominations (Best Picture, Leading Actress – Thompson –, Supporting Actress – Kate Winslet –, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Score – for all of 20 minutes’ worth of composition – and Costume Design); and double honors as Best Picture and for Thompson‘s screenplay at the Golden Globes.

More than simple romances, Jane Austen‘s novels are delicately constructed pieces of social commentary, written from her rural Hampshire perspective. Substantially confined to life in her father’s parish, she was nevertheless well aware of early 19th century England’s society at large, and fiercely critical of the loss of morals and decorum she saw in its pre-industrial emergent city life. Moreover, experience and observation had made her acutely aware of the corsets forced onto women in fashion terms as much as by social norms, confining them to inactivity and complete dependency on their families’ and their (future) husbands’ money. And among this screenplay’s greatest strengths is the manner in which it maintains that underlying theme of Austen‘s writing and brings it to a contemporary audience’s attention. “You talk about feeling idle and useless: imagine how that is compounded when one has no hope and no choice of any occupation whatsoever,” Elinor Dashwood tells her almost-suitor Edward Ferrars in Emma Thompson‘s screenplay, and when he replies that “our circumstances are therefore precisely the same,” she corrects him: “Except that you will inherit your fortune – we cannot even earn ours.” Jane Austen may not ever have phrased things in exactly the same way, but the screenplay’s lines here perfectly encapsulate one of the great underlying themes of virtually all of her books.

Rescuing much from the first draft dramatization of Austen‘s novel and amplifying where necessary, Emma Thompson and director Ang Lee (“who most unexplainably seems to understand me better than I understand myself,” Thompson said in her mock-Austen Golden Globe speech) produced a movie scrupulously faithful to what is known about Austen‘s world and at the same time incredibly modern, thus emphasizing the novel’s timeless quality. Paintings were consulted for the movie’s production design, and indeed, almost every camera frame – both landscapes and interiors – has the feeling of a picture by a period painter. Thompson cleverly uses poetry where the novel does not contain dialogue; and again, she does so in a manner entirely faithful to Austen‘s subtleties – most prominently in the joint recital of Shakespeare‘s Sonnet 116 by Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby, where an ever so slight inaccuracy in his rendition of a sonnet that he claims to love foreshadows his lacking sincerity.

Sense and Sensibility revolves around Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, their quest for suitable husbands, and the sisters’ relationship with each other. Emma Thompson maintains that she did not write the screenplay with herself as Elinor in mind and would not have been accepted for that role but for the success of her previous films (Howards End, The Remains of the Day); yet, it is hard to imagine who could have better played sensible Elinor: “effectual, … [possessing] a coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen [and thus considerably younger than Thompson], to be the counselor of her mother.” (Austen.) And real-life 19-year-old Kate Winslet embodies sensitive, artistic Marianne: “eager in everything; [without] moderation … generous, amiable, interesting: … everything but prudent.”  An early scene in which Marianne recites Hartley Coleridge’s Sonnet VII (“Is love a fancy or a feeling? No. It is immortal as immaculate truth”) succinctly symbolizes the sisters’ relationship and their personalities, as Marianne mocks Elinor’s seemingly cool response to Edward’s budding affection: “Is love a fancy or a feeling … or a Ferrars?” (Mostly taken from the novel, the scene is embellished by the screenplay’s sole inexactitude, as Coleridge’s sonnets were only published 22 years after Austen‘s book). Yet, when all her hope seems shattered, Elinor, in a rare outburst of emotion, rebukes her sister: “What do you know of my heart?” – only to instantly comfort her again when she sees that Marianne is equally distraught.

Indeed, the two sisters’ relationship is so crucial to the novel that in his 2012 deconstruction of Austen‘s writings, Bitch in a Bonnet, Robert Rodi argues that the real love story with which the book is concerned is not at all that involving the sisters and their respective suitors but, rather, that arising from the growing mutual appreciation of Elinor and Marianne. And as Emma Thompson‘s screenplay shows – in and of itself, but even more so, when amplified by the diary she kept while the movie was produced – there is yet another love story going on here; that involving the novel’s screen adaptation: Not in the sense of a self-involved project existing primarily for its own sake, but in Emma Thompson‘s appreciation of Austen‘s novel and her dedication to its screen adaptation; a dedication shared by everybody else involved with the project.

Thompson‘s Sense and Sensibility was released at the height of the mid-1990s’ Jane Austen revival. Of all the movies of that era, and alongside 1996’s Emma (which has “Hollywood” written all over it) and the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (which, to more than just one generation of fans, established Colin Firth as the embodiment of Mr. Darcy once and for all), Emma Thompson‘s Sense and Sensibility has long become one of the keystone Austen adaptations and will continue to be one of those that moviegoers will likely turn to in years to come. And it is truly an experience not to be missed.

 

Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood
(Jane Austen Centre, Bath; photo mine)

 

Favorite Quotes From the Diaries:

[Golden Globe acceptance speech in the style of Jane Austen‘s letters:]
“Four A.M. Having just returned from an evening at the Golden Spheres, which despite the inconveniences of heat, noise and overcrowding, was not without its pleasures. Thankfully, there were no dogs and no children. The gowns were middling. There was a good deal of shouting and behavior verging on the profligate, however, people were very free with their compliments and I made several new acquaintances. Miss Lindsay Doran, of Mirage, wherever that might be, who is largely responsible for my presence here, an enchanting companion about whom too much good cannot be said. Mr. Ang Lee, of foreign extraction, who most unexpectedly apppeared to understand me better than I undersand myself. Mr. James Schamus, a copiously erudite gentleman, and Miss Kate Winslet, beautiful in both countenance and spirit. Mr. Pat Doyle, a composer and a Scot, who displayed the kind of wild behavior one has lernt to expect from that race. Mr. Mark Canton, an energetic person with a ready smile who, as I understand it, owes me a vast deal of money. Miss Lisa Henson – a lovely girl, and Mr. Gareth Wigan – a lovely boy. I attempted to converse with Mr. Sydney Pollack, but his charms and wisdom are so generally pleasing that it proved impossible to get within ten feet of him. The room was full of interesting activitiy until eleven P.M. when it emptied rather suddenly. The lateness of the hour is due therefore not to the dance, but to the waiting, in a long line for horseless vehicles of unconscionable size. The modern world has clearly done nothing for transport.
P.S. Managed to avoid the hoyden Emily Tomkins who has purloined my creation and added things of her own. Nefarious creature.”
“With gratitude and apologies to Miss Austen, thank you.”

“Very nice lady served us drinks in hotel and was followed in by a cat. We all crooned at it. Alan [Rickman] to cat (very low and meaning it): ‘Fuck off.’ The nice lady didn’t turn a hair. The cat looked slightly embarrassed but stayed.”

“Got up this morning and could not find my glasses. Finally had to seek assistance. Kate [Winslet] found them inside a flower arrangement.”

“Paparazzi arrived for Hugh [Grant]. We had to stand under a tree and smile for them.
Photographer: ‘Hugh, could you look less — um –‘
Hugh: ‘Pained?”

“I ask Laurie if it’s possible to get trained fish. Lindsay says this is how we know I’ve never produced a movie.”

“Up 5.15 a.m. thinking, packpackpack. I appear to have accumulated more things. How did this happen? I haven’t shopped. Think my bath oils have bred.”

“Jane reminds us that God is in his heaven, the monarch on his throne and the pelvis firmly beneath the ribcage. Apparently rock and roll liberated the pelvis and it hasn’t been the same since.”

“I seem finally to have stopped worrying about Elinor, and age. She seems now to be perfectly normal — about twenty-five, a witty control freak. I like her but I can see how she would drive you mad. She’s just the sort of person you’d want to get drunk, just to make her giggling and silly.”

“We’ve hired the calmest babies in the world to play the hysterical Thomas. One did finally start to cry but stopped every time Chris [Newman (assistant director)] yelled ‘Action’. … Babies smiled all afternoon. Buddhist babies. They didn’t cry once. We, however, were all in tears by 5 p.m.”

[On period costume posture coaching:]
“We all stand about like parboiled spaghetti being straightened out.”

“Quick dinner with … Ang [Lee] and his wife Jane who’s visiting with the children for a while. We talked about her work as a microbiologist and the behaviour of the epithingalingie under the influence of cholesterol. She’s fascinated by cholesterol. Says it’s very beautiful: bright yellow. She says Ang is wholly uninterested. He has no idea what she does.
I check this out for myself. ‘What does Jane do?’ I ask.
‘Science,’ he says vaguely.”

“[Over breakfast] We discussed the ‘novelisation’ question. This is where the studio pay someone to novelise my script and sell it as Sense and Sensibility. I’ve said if this happens I will hang myself. Revolting notion. Beyond revolting.
Lindsay [Doran] said that the executive she had discussed it with had said ‘as a human being I agree with you — but …’ I laughed until my porridge was cool enough to swallow.”

“Hugh Laurie (playing Mr. Palmer) felt the line ‘Don’t palm all your abuses [of language upon me]’ was possibly too rude. ‘It’s in the book,’ I said. He didn’t hit me.”

“Our first point of discussion is the hunt. (…) My idea is to start the film with an image of the vixen locked out of her lair which has been plugged up. Her terror as she’s pursued across the country. This is a big deal. It means training a fox from birth or dressing up a dog to look like a fox. Or hiring David Attenbrorough, who probably knows a few foxes well enough to ask a favour.”

Sense and Sensibility signs litter Devon — arrows with S & S on. Whenever Ang [Lee] sees a B & B sign he thinks it’s for another movie.”

“Edward finds Elinor crying for her dead father, offers her his handkerchief and their love story commences. Ang [Lee] very anxious that we think about what we want to do. I’m very anxious not to do anything and certainly not to think about it.”

“Lindsay [Doran] goes round the table and introduces everyone — making it clear that I am present in the capacity of writer rather than actress, therefore no one has to be too nice to me.”

“Difficult for actors to extemporise in nineteenth-century English. Except for Robert Hardy and Elizabeth Spriggs, who speak that way anyway.”

“The fire alarm went off. Fire engines came racing; we all rushed out on the gravel drive, everyone thinking it was us. In fact, one of the elderly residents of Saltram had left a pan on the oven in her flat. Apparently this happens all the time. The tenant in question is appearing as an extra — playing one of the cooks.”

“Press conference [on the movie Carrington] yielded the usual crop of daftness. I’ve been asked if I related personally to Carrington’s tortured relationship with sex and replied that no, not really, I’d had a very pleasant time since I was fifteen. This elicited very disapproving copy from the Brits … No wonder people think we don’t have sex in England.”

“Shooting Willoughby carrying Marianne up the path. They did it four times. ‘Faster,’ said Ang [Lee]. They do it twice more. ‘Don’t pant so much,’ said Ang. Greg [Wise (playing Willoughby)], to his great credit, didn’t scream.”

“Shooting Willoughby carrying Marianne up the path. … Male strength — the desire to be cradled again? … I’d love someone to pick me up and carry me off. Frightening. Lindsay assures me I’d start to fidget after a while. She’s such a comfort.”

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Reginald Fleming Johnston: Twilight in the Forbidden City

Twilight in the Forbidden City - Reginald Fleming JohnstonA compelling (if biased) account reflecting unique insights

You may have heard that “Twilight in the Forbidden City” is the book that Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie “The Last Emperor” is “based” on. If at all, however, this is true only with regard to the first part of the movie (the book was published in 1934, just as Pu-Yi had ascended the throne of “Manchukuo”), and actually, the book should not be read or understood in this limited sense at all. Primarily, this is the personal account of a British diplomat and scholar of the Chinese history, society and culture who, at some point in his career, was appointed to the (for a Westerner: unprecedented) position of tutor to China’s last monarch. True, those who have seen Bertolucci’s movie will recognize individual events described in this book, such as the Emperor’s birthday and wedding ceremonies (Bertolucci obviously used Johnston’s description of the birthday rituals as a model for the spectacular coronation ceremonies at the beginning of the movie – as Johnston had not yet been made tutor at that point, he could not give an eyewitness account of that event), and Johnston’s constant battle with the corrupt and reactionary palace eunuchs, as best exemplified by the fight over the emperor’s glasses (without which Pu-Yi arguably would have lost eyesight before long).

But Johnston’s book is not merely a biography of the Emperor. Rather, it is an account of the last period of the Manchu empire, and of the Chinese society in the second half of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century. In addition to the author’s personal impressions gained inside and outside the imperial palace, up to and including Pu-Yi’s dramatic flight from the Forbidden City in 1924, which ultimately ended in the Japanese legation, the book also renders Johnston’s view of the role of the major foreign powers at the time (Japan, Russia, the U.S., Germany and, of course, his native England), and the Emperor’s predecessors and their politics, such as the powerful Empress Dowager Tzu-Hsi (named “the Venerable Buddha”), the reform attempts of the unfortunate Emperor Kuang-Hsü (which earned him, at the age of 28, lifelong humiliation, imprisonment and ultimately death in a tiny and windowless building within the imperial palaces), the Boxer Movement, and the brief and likewise unlucky interlude of the reign of Pu-Yi’s father (Kuang-Hsü’s brother), Prince Chun.

Johnston was a monarchist and fiercely loyal to Pu-Yi personally, so don’t expect him to treat any of the popular movements which ultimately brought the monarchy to an end with much sympathy or at least, objectivity. He probably also underestimated the dangers to China (and the Manchu dynasty) growing out of the Emperor’s re-installment as ruler of “Manchukuo” at the behest of the Japanese. In fact, the very title of this book is designed to reflect its author’s hope that, like the “Rising Sun” symbolized by the Japanese emperor, the Chinese monarchy would soon rise and shine again, too. Equating the 12 years between the establishment of the Chinese republic in 1912 and the Emperor’s expulsion from the Forbidden City in 1924 to a “twilight” period and the 10 years following it to the night, Johnston dedicates the book to Pu-Yi “in the earnest hope that, after the passing of the twilight and the long night, the dawn of a new and happier day for himself, and also for his people on both sides of the Great Wall, is now breaking.” In the book’s introduction, he again emphasizes that “there is a twilight of the dawn as well as a twilight of the evening” and that the dark period witnessed by China might “be followed in due time by another twilight which will brighten into a new day of radiant sunshine.”

This, of course, is not the only prediction where history has proven Reginald F. Johnston wrong. His analysis of the role of some of the key players of the time, for example that of the Empress Dowager Tzu-Hsi, is likewise not undisputed; and he himself has not remained without criticism, either (even at the time of its publication, a major purpose of the book was to defend his own actions and view of the facts). The book must therefore be read with a certain grain of salt. But few Westerners of his time had a knowledge of China equaling his, let alone his opportunities to observe and gain insights within the imperial palace. That, in itself, makes his account a compelling read.

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