27 September, 2011

Been too long; i'm not really much good at regular updating, which is silly, as i have a backlog of reviews that could be posted. Oh well, here's one now...

Are God and the Gods Still There? How Poetry Matters

John Newton

This is the most recent book i bought, about six weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to read it, as opposed to the average of under four days per book over the past twelve years. Of course, i have been reading other things at the same time (it’s very rare for me not to have two or more [frequently up to half a dozen] books going at the same time), but i’m not claiming that as the reason; it is, rather, that i have taken my time to try and more fully understand what this book of criticism is about: If i want to write effectively, and oh i have longed for that most of my life, then it behoves me to pay attention to what people who read and think about what they’ve read for a living say. And so, what does this critic have to say about writing poetry and its place in the world?

Well, if i have understood correctly, Newton is saying that poetry (or perhaps all beauty; he may not wish to be restricted) is linked within us to the religious feeling or aspiration; tis is not to say that it is religious in origin, nor that the proper subjects of poetry are religious in nature, but that the impulsion towards religion in (at least some) people’s make up is similar, even related, to that towards poetry and beauty. He also argues, and this may be a different facet of the same point, that good poetry ought to be accessible to and appreciated by everyone, not just the special few: In fact, he is quite strongly against the current world of poetry ~ he calls it the poetry “scene”, with scathing quotes (those quotes are almost the only point of Newton’s style i disliked) ~ implying that it is incestuous, tasteless, and of no quality, or at very best, little quality. I have to say, i was quite happy as i read, as much i have read scarcely seems worthy of the name poetry, and i found on the couple of occasions when Newton compared various works that my judgement coincided with his prior to his giving his; of course, that could just mean that the two of us are wrong, but i enjoyed the feeling of being a bit vindicated with regard to my views of poetry.

Whether or not, of course, mine own poetry (as opposed to my views) meets Newton’s criteria of beauty is an entirely different matter. One with a resolution i’m not sure i’d be happy with ~ maybe one day i’ll get an objective view on it!

17 September, 2011

The Wicked Son

by John Wardroper

What an interesting book. I am unable, unfortunately, to judge just how speculative it is, as i have read nothing else on this Ernest (or Ernest Augustus, as he seems sometimes to have used both his given names). Whatever the truth, and i’ll look at that in a moment, Ernest seems to have been an appalling character, even by the extraordinarily low standards set by George III’s sons; i should think it must probably be universally acknowledged that the UK was quite fortunate that, for all her flaws, his older brother’s daughter Victoria was born and survived her uncle William to become monarch on his death. What would the Ernestian age have been like, with such a model as he, rather than Victoria for the Victorians? An age of open and complete depravity, perhaps; certainly a reactionary age, perhaps even the repeal of the Great Reform Act, and without any doubt no passage of further reform until substantially later in the century than it did occur, possibly even not until the next century.

So, on to the specifics of Ernest’s character and actions. Wardroper’s central contention is that the rumours which have swirled about Ernest for over two centuries are, in fact, more likely than not, true; in particular, the two rumours which state that he fathered his sister Sophie’s child, Thomas Garth, and that he was actively involved in the death of his valet Senlis, not subject to attack by him immediately prior to his committing suicide. I cannot possibly evaluate these claims, i haven’t the knowledge of either the facts or the current status of interpretation of those facts. All i can do is record that, in mine opinion, Wardroper seems to have done his research and not to be ashamed of it (a dozen pages of notes and bibliography) and, again simply my view or assumption, any future work about Ernest will have to take his research into view and answer the allegations.

08 September, 2011


For some years now i've been picking up quotes from various places and saving them. Wanna see a couple?

There never was a good war or a bad peace.

Benjamin Franklin

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

Albert Einstein

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges

02 September, 2011

At 50+, i find a new author...

The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula le Guin

For no reason that i can fathom, i have never previously read one of le Guin’s novels. I remember her name, probably from back in the day, when i was reading Asimov and Heinlein daily, rather than going to classes, and in the process failing Grade Ten at UHill. Despite my being aware of her, however, i didn’t read any, and i don’t know why. It certainly wasn’t for gender reasons, though generally men are better at the science fiction i have enjoyed, because Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series was one of my greatest loves. Not being able to pin down my motives then, some thirtyfive years later, i’ll put it down to the fact that she had an odd name that didn’t appeal to me ~ i mean, what else can i do?

So, having established my complete lack of experience with le Guin, what do i make of this, the first of her novels i’ve read? I picked it up in the library, i think, because i recognised it as one of the 501 Must-Read Books, and was ready to read another of them. And i am glad i have now done so. Pity i waited this long? Well, no, because now i have the option of finding and reading more of her work and developing an attraction towards a new author (new to me only, of course! She started writing back in the Sixties) is a great pleasure. It may not be immediate, but i reckon i will read more, perhaps from the same series, perhaps not; i don’t know enough about her work to know the ratio between the two categories, so i’ll just take them as they come, i suppose.