Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for May, 2006

May 30th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

We cannot control Time

I’ve been thinking lately about living with uncertainty…without the frustrating need to know why things are, what others are thinking,what will happen; without the need to plan everything.

Given that change is the constant, that things don’t stay the same, that we can’t control what happens to us or how others behave, it is fruitless to yearn for certainty…and yet we spend so much time trying to create it, to putting the future in concrete, nailing moths down. Learning to love uncertainty, to revel in negative capability, to accept all that comes with equanimity, and without fear…this is where it’s at…in the positive uncertainty of poetry.

When I arrived in my hotel room (see view from, above) here in Ischia with Gianni and Alessandra I opened my suitcase 1) To show them the pair of Shakespeare boxing shorts I’d purchased at the Folger Institute in Washington to prove to them that I was indeed a bilbiophile, 2) To present Alessandra with the pancake mix and maple syrup I’d brought, I noticed that my laptop was gone…and my camera…and my notepad…all valuable tools of the trade…necessary to the smooth operation of my assigned task.

What the fuck: the kindly wind that carried me here also blows cold? Instead of being unsettled and angry that, though caught in a whirlwind, I persist in ignoring the important details necessary to efficient functioning in this world, I will chillax. As Gianni puts it: things belong to us until THEY want to leave. We can buy them, but they decide how long they want to stay with us. We humans cannot control time.

Now I will fully appreciate my time here in Ischia, as it happens, during the coming days, without the distracting requirement to record. And the result will be better.

May 29th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Here at the beginnings of the Western Canon

Whilst in Washington last week doing what I love doing best: connecting with book people and documenting their thoughts and ideas, I receive an email from a friend who lives in Ischia, Italy, inviting me there to participate in and report on Pesce azzuro & Baccala , a first annual tourist festival celebrating the island’s ancient food and fishing tradition.

I tell him that books are my singular obsession, and that they, if anything, will be the focus of any journalism produced. He bites, and so I’m here, swept over by a fair wind, living the maxim that like attracts like, experiencing bibliophilic synchronicity as never before:

Not only did W.H. Auden, a favourite poet whose work I collect, live here for a decade and write a poem called Ischia, some of the earliest found examples of Greek alphabetic writing, scratched and painted on broken pottery, dating to the last half of the eighth century B.C., have been found off the coast of this Eden island. Nestor’s Cup, mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, also just happens to be housed here too at The Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae.

So, from books to books, all to all, serendipity blows me smack into the cradle of Western Civilization and the start of humankind’s written storytelling tradition.

May 29th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

Life Lesson #1: Recognize the monstrous, glorious nature of life

Kirttimukha “Face of Glory” image from here

This from the great student of mythology Joseph Campbell in Myths to Live By:

“…the first step to the knowledge of the highest divine symbol of the wonder and mystery of life is in the recognition of the monstrous nature of life and its glory in that character: the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed.”

(This is close to the Japanese Wabi Sabi, that says nothing is complete, perfect or permanent. As Andrew Juniper puts it “If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.”)

Understanding this is more challenging than I think most realize. Many of us are fairy tale programmed with beliefs that true permanent love/bliss on earth can be found, that it is in fact our birthright. Journeying on this quest as opposed to accepting “the joyful sorrow” of life as it is, pretty well guarantees an absence of peace.

I stumble over “…and its glory in that character”…but think it refers to the lesson residing in our glorying in the monstrous nature of life…it can be terrible, this is the way it is… celebrating this great fact can be life affirming.

Buddha says the world is an ever burning fire, and Campbell suggests that this is what one has to affirm, with a yea! a dance! a knowing, solemn, stately dance of the mystic bliss beyond pain that is at the heart of every mythic rite.

May 28th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Ginestra: A Tribute to Ischia and Auden

Ginestra: A Poem

Soft canary fleur-de-lis
on Ischia’s sunshined mountains
Were your lemoned swords unsheathed
when Achilles strode these shores?
Saw you Homer and the poets,
as I rejoice with friends?
Tell me the story I live, and stay alive
To translate my heart’s language.

Pierce this Goddess,
her perfect watered image, 
And heal a happy stranger’s eyes

Copyright Nigel Beale 2006

May 24th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

Lord give me strength

Image from here
I’ve just been handed this bitch of an assignment by the Ischia tourism commission: spend an all expenses paid week on this paradisical island off the coast of Naples and write an article about it.

There was an Old Person of Ischia
by Edward Lear

There was an Old Person of Ischia,
Whose conduct grew friskier and friskier;
He danced hornpipes and jigs,
And ate thousands of figs,
That lively Old Person of Ischia.

This from Ischia by W. H. Auden June 1948

…I am presently moved
by sundrenched Parthenopea, my thanks are for you,
Ischia, to whom a fair wind has
brought me rejoicing with dear friends

from soiled productive cities. How well you correct
our injured eyes, how gently you train us to see
things and men in perspective
underneath your uniform light…

W.H. Auden rented a house in Ischia in Italy every summer from 1949 till 1957, marking his departure with “Good-Bye to the Mezzogiorno� a poem weighing the differences between northern and southern cultures.

Gianni! Alessandra! Here I come with pancakes and maple syrup!

May 24th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Smitten – A poem

I’m smitten, an old romantic

You’re not ’cause you’re young and come and go

But if you’re human you’ve been love sick

And lo could still be so

Smitten’s not a foreign berry

You’re just not by me I know

I should unsmitten be

Now take my love away from thee

But maybe you plain don’t do smitten

And maybe I’m by lust just bitten

Oh ‘smitten”s funny repeated-ly

But not so fun a place to be

Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale.

May 23rd, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Jamie Byng, Canongate Publisher by Nigel Beale.


Please don’t take my f—ing photograph…

Jamie Byng appreciates and understands that myth and The Bible lie at the core of creative imagination and the Western Canon. He marries this knowledge with a skill for presentation and promotion that few other publishers can match. I met with him at BookExpo in Washington D.C. recently. We talk here about how he does it, about ambiguity, about the responsibility we parents have to make the lives of our children interesting if not easy, and about living without fear. Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale.

May 23rd, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Stephen Weiner author of The Rise of the Graphic Novel

Ironic that a leading champion of the graphic novel would be a librarian: an articulate, committed knowledgeable librarian. Stephen Weiner is Director of the Maynard Public Library in Massachusetts and author of, among other books, 101 Best Graphic Novels and Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: the Rise of the Graphic Novel. Stephen provides here a concise description and history of the Graphic Novel, the role it can play in helping young people to read, its increasing popularity, and the inherent quality of Maus and other leading titles. In fact, he’ll go to the mat defending the literary merit of the best graphic novels against anything written in the 20 Century. We met and spoke in Montreal last month at the Blue Metropolis Writers Festival.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale.

May 23rd, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Abebooks Moves into New Territory: Boris Wertz COO: Bookseller Audio Interview with Nigel Beale.

Victoria B.C. image from here

Abebooks is a great Canadian company, one that monitized the Internet early on in grand fashion. Although its founders were bought out by German interests several years ago I am assured by Chief Operating Officer Boris Wertz that it will remain headquartered happily in Victoria, British Columbia for years to come.

Boris and I met recently at BookExpo 2006 in Washington. We talk here about recent changes in Abe credit card policies and charges, efforts to expand both supply of esoteric new titles and markets for Abe booksellers, improving ‘findability’ and recent investment in librarything, a social networking site for bilbiophiles.

Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale.

May 23rd, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Greg Greely, Vice President Amazon Worldwide Media Products, only. Audio Interview with Nigel Beale.

Self Publishers and Back lists win big with new Amazon services

During the recently attended BookExpo in Washington D.C. launched/promoted some extraordinary new sales/marketing/search/print-on-demand services for budding writers and existing publishers that will vastly expand the number of titles available to readers. New books that wouldn’t necessarily see the light of day, and old ones that are currently hidden away from it.

Here’s my conversation with Greg Greeley, Vice President of Amazon’s worldwide media products. We talk about Amazon, now. Not Sony, not Google, not the future, but Amazon, now. And at the moment, it’s a very exciting place to be.

Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale.