Tag Archives: books

Recent intermission

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Reading time has been rather gobbled up.

I may have selected this based on a subconscious connection with grass and the breaking of impenetrable sod:

Somehow I have managed to miss reading it down all the years; meeting as an adult, it raised quite a few questions.  One concerns the apparently reckless way the father takes his family off on a dangerous journey.  We have gone soft now.  Or perhaps it didn’t seem as dangerous, when any life was dangerous – even staying tucked into the most secure and prosperous home could not protect you from the epidemics of infectious disease which cut swathes through many a family.  Or perhaps pressure of poverty was strong enough to drive the migrants on. Then there’s the way Ingalls apparently makes the decisions without input from his wife (ah the good old days – ‘she for god in him’ etc.) And worst, of course, are the passages dealing with the native Americans.  Ingalls is portrayed as liberal, humane, but assumes that the western country is his to take because the inhabitants “weren’t using it”, and he is furious when, having illegally moved into Indian reservation land, he and other settlers were required to leave “their” farms. Ugly.

Then there is this delicate little sippet of a book.

Ah, the pure sensory pleasure of its satiny dust jacket, the smooth crispness of the coated paper, the careful balance of text and image, the reposeful colours, the spine coherent without wilful springiness, the clean smell rising from every page turn. This made it quite difficult to concentrate on the actual subject matter, but it too was charming in its miscellany of science, technology, art and history, and although the coverage is very slight, there’s a further reading list handy at the back.

One phrase, though originally intended to be satirical, spoke truth to me as an observer:  Thomas Tomkis in 1615 characterised a telescope as “an engine to catch starres”.

Remnants

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Reindeer and the garden have cut severely into reading time.  In a remnant, I have caught up with one of my Bargains.

Reading about the ancient games was a strange mixture:  some aspects so familiar, and most so entirely alien.  I offer one quotation.

Kleomedes of Astypalaia, though denied victory in the boxing at the 492 BC Olympiad – because he killed his opponent – and despite a subsequent fit of madness that caused the deaths of sixty schoolchildren, … was likewise paid heroic honours, sanctioned by the Delphic oracle.  (p 168)

Hmmmm.

Elsewhere, I stole some time from the garden to go shopping.  Prize of the day was buttons.  Not quite sure what to do with them, but buttons always come in.  (Don’t they?)

 

Conquest

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The outlines are familiar enough, but good to revise the detail, though it will be forever unknown who exactly lied what, who betrayed whom, and which ennobled thug possessed the highest ruthlessness quotient.  This was a good, solid and satisfying read, suffering a little from the disadvantage of being read in bedtime-sized chunks.  The take-home message appears early in the book:

These early knights did not see it as their responsibility to protect the poor and weak.  On the contrary, a large part of their job was to terrorize the lower orders, persuading them to accept the authority and the material demands of the new castellan lords.  (p 47)

Alas, “protection” only in the context of “racket”.  Merrie Englande!

And then there is the curious history of the embroidered (lit. and fig.?) story of the Conquest.  Most of the book is about the travels and interpretation of the Tapestry, and the heirs and successors it spawned.  I would have liked a little more about its physical attributes, but couldn’t really expect it in a general book like this.

And even better – both of these were Bargains, so I hardly have to feel guilty about my expanding bookshelf at all 🙂

Placid day

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Well first, there were two slow-worms in the compost bin, basking under the heat-trap plastic covers.  This is the younger of the two.

Then the violets are spreading ever further about the grass at the back – fully justifying my failure to mow regularly, as evidently they are having the chance to set and distribute seed.  The camera even caught some of the colour today, instead of rendering it a mere blue.

And I settled down to a treat.  I saw a copy of this at Sarum College and became both besotted and acquisitive.  (Thank goodness for online second hand bookshops.)  Not a facsimile, of course, just a reprint; coping with all that black letter would be a challenge too far.  We owe some wonderful English to Tyndale as his work was so extensively pinched for the Authorised Version not many years later,

but the prologues are improbably fascinating in themselves, documents to the fermenting Reformation then in progress.  You can quite see why prologues, marginalia, and glosses were subsequently forbidden to be included, and are still omitted from most Bibles to this day.

I haven’t managed to catch Fluffers getting on to this perch, and I want to know how she does it.  She doesn’t have normal feathers and hardly any wings; when she gets down from the chair she falls more than flies, landing with a big dump; how does she fly up accurately and perch?

Nonetheless: there she is.  Sleep well, Fluffers.

“Suddenly” we are GOING to *emphasise* and ‘use’ speech marks FOR no *apparent* reason as “if” we were randomly *shouting*

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Hmm.  Seems you can’t use italics in a blog post title.  Please take them as read between * and *.

See?  They are even on the cover.

It’s a long time since I was so comprehensively annoyed by typography.  The excessive use of inverted commas sometimes makes it difficult to tell if they are random noise or indicate a genuine quotation.  And then there are the italicised words plopped without apparent purpose into every sentence.  And the capitals.  Add to this the authorial voice, at once matey and preachy….  all so distracting that I found it almost impossible to grasp the content.  Whatever happened to formal prose?  I wish he had had a strong-minded editor.

I developed a technique for following the argument, in the end.  This consisted of hopping briskly from one quotation to another, like stepping from tussock to tussock in a bog.  Luckily the quotations were numerous and often full, so I read a certain amount of Buber, Tracy, Arendt, Schillebeeckx, Derrida, and such, and the merest modicum of Veling.

The prose came alive once, though.  Veling gives an account of a time when he attempted to actually apply his practical theology in a tricky social situation.  “No miracle of peace occurred”, he notes sadly.  Yep.  Ain’t that the truth.

The march of the blue labels

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They have reached W now.  Hurray!

In another vein, I found this little treasure.

I expect everyone else knows about Tan, but I didn’t.  Grandpa’s story had great charm, and Night of the turtle rescue was brief and bold (and tough).  But I think my favourite was Distant rain, about the reciprocal gravity of unread poems; close to my heart.

Books and legs

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Oh – and choirs and fudge.

Sitting between Salisbury cathedral choir on one side and a powerfully-singing companion on the other was a novel experience.  I squawked away happily under cover, as it were, only to have companion tell me later that he could hear every croak. Sigh.

Then legging it round the city so other companion could get her bearings. And tea. And a couple of happy hours in the Sarum College library. We had it to ourselves, spreading strange items out on tables, crawling about on the floor in the darker corners, reading out good bits to one another, and finding bizarre treasures in the bargain sale box.

My suitcase is going to be heavy tomorrow.

Photo update:  from the Chapter House.  I am usually so wowed by the ceiling I forget to take notice of the Genesis story.

I procrastinate

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I procrastinate before jumping, but, once in, the water is fine.

judith

Returning to Treharne’s lovely fat anthology, I’ve reached the Old English Judith.  It took a while to read this relatively short poem.  I’m not fluent enough to cope on my own, but have to crib from the parallel translation, which requires protracted eye-swivelling between pages (ow!).  Also, there is not always a one-to-one verbal correspondence between each line of the two renderings, so if it isn’t obvious which OE word means what, one must have recourse to a dictionary. Luckily there are several online, though not always easy for a novice to find what is required.

Worth the bother?  Oh yes.  Especially if you like alliteration and onomatopoeia and polysyllables. And sounding the final e.

bealde byrnwiggende        bold mail-coated warriors

hloh ond hlydde,   hlynede ond dynede    he laughed and got loud, roared and clamoured

wundenlocc    braided hair

Obviously from now on part of my morning routine will involve doing my wundenlocc; but top favourite today was hildenædran.  Turns out that nædre means snake or viper, so perhaps we should say ‘a nadder’ rather than ‘an adder’.  Also turns out that hildenædran are war vipers = arrows.  Got to love those Anglo-Saxons.

And the poem?  Well, there’s a splendid dramatic irony as the Assyrians booze themselves drunk and incapable, while Judith, decorated with bracelets and rings, is brought to the intending rapist’s bed; and yes, a certain admiration, as she coolly arranges Holofernes’ neck so she can take a really good swing at him.  So I read Judith once, and then went to Michael Drout’s Anglo-Saxon Aloud website, following the written poem again while he pronounced it, with the thespian relish those lovely vowels deserve.