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Archive for August 10th, 2009

August 10th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

How to Watch Barry Lyndon

The stars aligned in just the right way the day this teenager went to see Barry Lyndon at the Paramount Theatre in Saskatoon in 1975. I walked on my own for the two-three miles it took to get to the cinema; arrived relaxed, slightly melancholic, pensive, clear headed: the perfect mood in which to watch with enjoyment, listen with full appreciation to, and bathe in the drawn out delights of this Kubrick masterwork:


The film won Oscars for, among other things, best music and best cinematography

August 10th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Why Piony’s Journal is one of the best websites on the Internet

Here’s a selection of words and sounds and images selected from one of my very favourite sites on the Internet.

Watercolours by Kieron Williamson, aged six.

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863 – 1923)

24 hours in pictures – Guardian


 "His struggle with words was unusually painful and this for two reasons. One was the common one with writers of his type: the bridging of the abyss lying between expression and thought; the maddening feeling that the right words, the only words are awaiting you on the opposite bank in the misty distance, and shudderings of the still unclothed thought clamouring for them on this side of the abyss. He had no use  for ready-made phrases because the things he wanted  to say were of an exceptional build and he knew moreover that no real idea can be said to exist without the words made to measure.  So that ( to use a closer simile) the thought  which only seemed naked was but pleading for the clothes it wore to become visible, while the words lurking afar were not empty shells as they seemed, but only waiting for the thought they already concealed  to set them aflame and in motion.  At times he felt like a child given a farrago of wires and ordered to produce the wonder of light."

from "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight"  V.V.Nabokov

The Consolations of Pessimism

We should instead remember the great pessimistic voices of history… One is Seneca: “What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.” The other is the French moralist Chamfort: “A man should swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more revolting in the day ahead.

The Consolations of Pessimism Alain de Botton


Ian McKellen in King Lear

August 10th, 2009 • Posted in Literary Criticism

25 Books on the Novel

Some months ago Mark Thwaite asked his readers to supply him with the titles of some books on the history of the novel. As a result, I went overboard, pulling together a comprehensive list of books not just on the history of the novel, but about the practice of literary criticism generally. One obvious recommendation was Walter Allen’s The English Novel. In its preface, I now note, the author in fact lists ‘the classics of criticism of the novel’:

The introductory chapters to the eighteen books of Tom Jones;
Sir Walter Scott’s Lives of the Novelists
William Hazlitt’s The English Comic Writers
Anthony Trollope’s Autobiography
relevant essays in Walter Bagehot’s Literary Studies and Leslie Stephen’s Hours in a Library;
Henry James’s prefaces collected in The Art of the Novel, with R.P. Blackmur’s introduction
the relevant essays in James’s Partial Portraits and Notes on Novelists; and
the correspondence on fiction between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, edited by Janet Adam Smith.

"Then the books on what may be called the theory of the novel:"

The Craft of Fiction, by Percy Lubbock;
Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster
The Structure of the Novel by Edwin Muir
Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘Notes on Writing a Novel’ in Collected Impressions
A Treatise on the Novel, and Some Principles of Fiction both by Robert Liddell.

And finally, "A few collections of essays on novelists or various aspects of fiction have been especially valuable because of the attitudes torwards fiction that subsume them:"
The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf,
Early Victorian Novelists by David Cecil
In My Good Books, The Living Novel, and Books in General, all by V. S. Prichett;
The Great Tradition by F.R. Leavis
The Liberal Imagination by Lionel Trilling
Axel’s Castle and The Wound and the Bow, by Edmund Wilson; and
An Introduction to the English Novel, by Arnold Kettle.