Tag Archives: books

I would not want Jung to be my psychopomp

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on the way through the pale trees, although I am naturally gratified to use a recently-acquired word.

The mind of this strange man is worth a visit, however, and demonstrates the truism that images and narratives are diminished by their exegesis; even Jung could only make his stories smaller when he enlarged upon them.

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A matter of routine

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… obviously, as I no longer pause for photographs.  Still, being on the inside of a large damp cloud all day may have had something to do with it; not even the cathedral could manage to be photogenic in the gloom.

It is a great treat to be on the loose in a real library again, though I must say some of these are rather forbidding tomes.  The one I fancied most was entitled Dissenting readers.  Then I looked again and found it was really called Discerning readers, which put me right off.  Very Freudian misreading.  There was also a fat anthology of literature just called DEATH, which looked inviting, but I didn’t have enough borrowing allowance by the time I’d selected the others.  Another time perhaps.

In a way this is the one I’m most looking forward to:

It’s years since I had a Homeric binge, and I’ve heard good things of this translation.  And it doesn’t come with a time limit (apart from good nature on the part of the lending library).

Taking the car for a paddle

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I steadied myself to drive along the exposed coast road, while the car rocked and bucketed around me. At least, I thought, if a freak gust hits the car, it will blow me inland rather than outboard.  Where we dipped down to sea level, the waves were making sudden white walls of their own above the sea wall, and running down to fill the road.  The car obediently paddled.

Back on the clifftops, we sightseers staggered about incapably, breathless and unable to hold our ground in the gale, wrestling for a few moments to pay our respects to the turmoil below.  When this is over, it will be interesting to visit the newly-sculpted beach.

Once home, another book to complete:

Eagleton writes with gusto; he has axes to grind, and the edges are not merely ornamental.  Over an extended period this became a little tiresome, especially when you reach the heading Conclusion and it proves to be far (far!) from the end, but even so there were moments when he managed to crack me up.

The wind is still thumping and booming in the chimney, and all hope of seeing Orionids is pretty much gone.

Not quite incunabula

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I’ve been looking through some photos from last week.  There was little time to go anywhere except the College itself, or a quick doddle round the Close for fresh air.  Luckily, there was a fascinating exhibition in the library, and the cathedral always rewards.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery. If you want to see texts properly, click on link from gallery to full size.)

 

Austerity

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Today I went looking for a quiet place on the stairs in which to find a teasing line.  Instead I found an image, obscure at first but clarifying into black comedy.

I don’t think he or she made it.

So goodbye to the lectures and a brief hello to some nearestsanddearests; full of apple crumble we admired the Close and the cathedral lit by what looked like about seven million lux, killing the stars.

I have swapped my austere hall-of-residence style bed for something even more austere, having no bedstead at all; but the ambience is friendly, and I am cooched up on the sofa with the Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament:

In this boke that cald is Genesis
ther may men see the soth unsoght
How God, that beldes in endlese blyse,
all only with Hys Word hath wroght
Hevyn on heght for Hym and Hys,
this erth and all that ever is oght.
This erth was wyde and wast
and no gud on yt grovyd;
On the heght the Holi Gast
abown the waters movyd.

Milton, eat your heart out.

No … please … make it stop …

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The best thing about this book (as far as I am concerned) it that it has informed me of the existence of Hrotsvit, apparently a tenth-century canoness who referred to herself as the Forceful Testimony of Gandersheim, and wrote sacred dramas in the form of Terentian comedy, redeeming the form (she said) from his pagan smuttiness.  How lovely to imagine her beavering away, and thinking “Ha! Take that, Terence!” every time she finished a good bit.

In spite of some interesting ideas, the rest has been a struggle.  I don’t mind the content, or the slightly experimental form.  It’s mostly because of the English.  The constantly repeated use of favourite words is like squeaking chalk – “profound” and “deep”, sometimes even “deeply profound” and “profoundly deep”, multiple times on what feels like every page.  Other words and phrases were almost equally intrusive.  If only the author had gone through and removed every adjective, the book would be ten pages shorter, and if he had eliminated at least 50% of the repetitions, it would be twenty pages more readable.

So I’ve let myself off the concluding chapters.  I’ll deal with the actual ideas elsewhere, and they’ll probably be useful.  But genuine thanks for Hrotsvit.

Everyone loves an apocalypse

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In a book about apocalypses and endings in fiction, it seemed appropriate to begin with the most recently written segment, which is the epilogue, before returning to chapter/lecture 1, mischievously entitled “The End”.

It was perhaps an error to cook a ginger cake between chapters 2 and 3.  The tin is almost empty.

String follow and gaffle

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No problem about turning to notes and references in this one, because there aren’t any.  It feels as if the book’s origin lies in a collection of slowly accumulated notes, in which the courtesy of accurate referencing was unconsidered until it was far too late to reconstruct the author’s sources.  On the plus side, this gives it a personal and slightly fugitive air.  And at least he can spell mediaeval.

The absence of a glossary presents a challenge to the reader, especially as the collaged quality of the text includes the use of specialist terms many pages before the author indicates their meaning (or occasionally never defines them at all).  This is quite a good deduction game for word-fanciers.   Even more tricky is visualising the complicated manoeuvres of, say, whipping and looping bow strings, although diagrams are added to verbal descriptions.

The moments of personal reminiscence were engaging:

I well recall the months of strain and struggle to master the [replica Mary Rose] bow and eventually, at the very limit of my strength, managed to draw some 95lbs at around 28 inches … I was definitely overbowed and doubtless set my shooting form back several years … drawing and loosing this bow gave the feeling of being caught in an earthquake …  (p 73)

It’s also interesting to learn of the work done by modern archers to repeat the reported performances of mediaeval archers, using replica bows; the modern archers are at a disadvantage as they have not been physically developed since childhood to use a heavy bow.  Some archers have reproduced remarkable feats of shooting distance and accuracy.  Roth notes drily that some of these shots may be lucky – lucky shots do occur, although mostly for excellent archers.  (p 158)

I am, of course, entirely ignorant of practical archery, but it did remind me of another wood-and-missile-related discipline:  the mysteries of knocking in and splices and sweet spots; Chinamen and the back of the hand; giving air and seaming; offs, ons, legs and squares; and the rest of cricket’s paraphernalia.  Ah, these rituals!

Footnotes -> mere notes

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The removal of footnotes from the pages of academic texts has not, I feel, been a good thing for the reader.  I never found it difficult to skim past footnotes if I didn’t want to read them, but easy to pick them up if I did want to.  But it is so awkward to keep flipping to the back of a book that I nearly missed this note, whose lack of explanation I particularly enjoyed.

Chapter 6, note 24:  Volosinov also appears to go by the name of Bakhtin, and there seems to be some confusion in the literature about this…

From An introduction to theories of popular culture – Dominic Strinati  (2nd ed.)