Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts
August 27th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Anyone know where this is?

Displaying unnamed

August 26th, 2014 • Posted in New York

What’s Written on the Statue of Liberty, and what it means to Americans

Source: Elcobbola

“The New Colossus” is a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–87), written in 1883. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Here it is:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And here’s Brooks Atkinson on what the Statue of Liberary has come to mean for Americans:

“On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled on Bedloe’s Island in the Bay. Like the Judson River and teh Palisades, it is now acceptaed as one of the natural glories of New York. We who are used to it seldom see it consciously, but it is in our souls and governs our attitude toward the contemporary world, It is a word of art beyond criticism now, for no one knows how deeply it has penetrated into the life of America and of the world nor how much it has strengthened the ideal of liberty by standing there year after year and holding a lighted torch in the sky. The Constitution is no more explicit than this silent colossus that risses three hundred and five feet, eleven inches abot the low water in our harbor and greets every ship that steams through the Narrows…

Everything about the Statue of Liberty is enlightening, honest and noble. It has become everything it was intended to be. It is the Statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World,” to use Bartholdi’s original title for his heroic work. Out of good will and imagination some French people created a statue that has become one the most precious of our natural resources. 

From Once Around the Sun by Brooks Atkinson (1951, Harcourt, Brace & Co.)

August 26th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Literary Centenaries coming up in 2015

Here are some literary centenaries coming up in 2015

August 25th, 2014 • Posted in Paris

Literary Tourist: Did you Know

Did you know that Voltaire was imprisoned in the Bastille for the first time when he was twenty-three, in 1717, for having written libellous verses about the allegedly incestuous relations of the Regent with his daughter.

Check out Voltaire in person, at these fascinating literary destinations.

August 25th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Sleeping Beauty’s real Castle

This castle, the Château d’Ussé, located in the Loire Valley overlooking the Indre River near the towns of Chinon and Azay le Rideau, is said to have been the one that Charles Perrault used as a model for his famous fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. In addition to the castle you’ll find a beautiful exhibit of period costumes depicting castle life, and a delightful garden designed by Le Nôtre. Here ‘dream, reality, history and legend intertwine.’ 

Here François-René de Chateaubriand worked on his Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe as the guest of duchesse Claire de Duras. Here too was where Walt Disney came to get inspiration for the design of his many Disney Castles.

August 25th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

The Guy who brought us Mother Goose, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood

I know. It’s getting tiresome, my constant marvelling at Wikipedia. Still, what an headshakingly impressive resource. Here’s where Mother Goose et al came from: 

Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) was a French author and member of the Académie française. He laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from pre-existing folk tales. The best known of his tales include Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), Cendrillon (Cinderella), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots), La Belle au bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty) and La Barbe bleue (Bluebeard). Many of Perrault’s stories, which were rewritten by the Brothers Grimm, continue to be printed and have been adapted to opera, ballet (such as Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty), theatre, and film (Disney). Perrault was an influential figure in the 17th-century French literary scene, and was the leader of the Modern faction during the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.

In 1695, when he was 67, Perrault lost his post as secretary. He decided to dedicate himself to his children. In 1697 he published Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals (Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé), subtitled Tales of Mother Goose (Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye). Its publication made him suddenly widely known beyond his own circles. He is often credited as the founder of the modern fairy tale genre, yet his work reflects awareness of earlier fairy tales written in the salons, most notably by Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy, who coined the phrase “fairy tale” and was writing tales as early as 1690.Even so, many of the most well-known tales that we hear today, such as Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, are told as he wrote them. He had actually published his collection under the name of his last son (born in 1678), Pierre (Perrault) Darmancourt (“Armancourt” being the name of a property he bought for him), probably fearful of criticism from the “Ancients”. In the tales, he used images from around him, such as the Chateau Ussé for The Sleeping Beauty and in Puss in Boots the Marquis of the Château d’Oiron, and contrasted his folktale subject matter, with details and asides and subtext drawn from the world of fashion. Following up on these tales, he translated the Fabulae Centum (100 Fables) of the Latin poet Gabriele Faerno into French verse in 1699. 

August 25th, 2014 • Posted in Tours

La Grenadiere by Honore de Balzac

At Saint-Cyr, just across the river from Tour, you can visit La Grenadière, the house that Honore de Balzac rented and described in his novella of the same name. Here’s how it starts:

“La Grenadière is a little house on the right bank of the Loire as you go down stream, about a mile below the bridge of Tours. At this point the river, broad as a lake, and covered with scattered green islands, flows between two lines of cliff, where country houses built uniformly of white stone stand among their gardens and vineyards. The finest fruit in the world ripens there with a southern exposure. The patient toil of many generations has cut terraces in the cliff, so that the face of the rock reflects the rays of the sun, and the produce of hot climates may be grown out of doors in an artificially high temperature.

A church spire, rising out of one of the shallower dips in the line of cliffs, marks the little village of Saint-Cyr, to which the scattered houses all belong. And yet a little further the Choisille flows into the Loire, through a fertile valley cut in the long low downs.

La Grenadiere itself, half-way up the hillside, and about a hundred paces from the church, is one of those old-fashioned houses dating back some two or three hundred years, which you find in every picturesque spot in Touraine. A fissure in the rock affords convenient space for a flight of steps descending gradually to the “dike”—the local name for the embankment made at the foot of the cliffs to keep the Loire in its bed, and serve as a causeway for the highroad from Paris to Nantes. At the top of the steps a gate opens upon a narrow stony footpath between two terraces, for here the soil is banked up, and walls are built to prevent landslips. These earthworks, as it were, are crowned with trellises and espaliers, so that the steep path that lies at the foot of the upper wall is almost hidden by the trees that grow on the top of the lower, upon which it lies. The view of the river widens out before you at every step as you climb to the house.

At the end you come to a second gateway, a Gothic archway covered with simple ornament, now crumbling into ruin and overgrown with wildflowers—moss and ivy, wallflowers and pellitory. Every stone wall on the hillside is decked with this ineradicable plant-life, which springs up along the cracks afresh with new wreaths for every time of year.”

Read the rest here.

August 24th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Oscar Wilde, Literary Tourist

Reading with pleasure Thomas Wright’s Built of Books, How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde.  Pretty clear early on that Oscar was a hard core Literary Tourist. And I quote:

Wilde believed that the external world became more significant and familiar when viewed in a ‘mythopoetic’ rather than an objective fashion. Nature, he claimed, is brought to life, and becomes identifiable to us, through the stories we tell about it: thus the Greeks, in their myths, ‘peopled the grove and hillside with beautiful and fantastic forms ‘in order to make Nature one with humanity.’ The folk tales that cradled Wilde performed precisely this function. Some of the legends in his parents’ anthologies inspired the place names of modern Ireland; they include stories in which the deeds of the little people leave indelible marks on the Irish landscape, such as the hollows that are still known in Ireland as ‘fairy glens. Most of the tales are attached to a particular place: it is as though they have grown up, irresistibly, form their native soil.  An inspired amateur archaeologist [Sir William Wilde, Oscar's father] was able to identify the land’s characteristics with the help of an ancient manuscript account of [the legendary Battle of Magh-Tura. On one occasion, wandering over the hills near their home with a copy of the manuscript in his hands, he suddenly stopped and ordered his labourers to dig. Buried beneath the earth they found a square chamber made of flagstones, with a small ornamented urn inside containing human bones, which Sir William believed to be those of a heroic Fir Bolg youth… Poetry and nature werre married in Wilde’s mind and, from a tender age, he believed that words might exercise a supernatural power over the material world. 

Later on we learn that one of Oscar’s tutors at Trinity College in Dublin, John Pentland Mahaffy, traveled extensively in Greece in order to acquire an intimate knowledge of the land and its peoples…

In Wilde’s eyes, the fact that Mahaffy had visited Greece, ‘and saturated himself there with Greek thought and feeling’ elevated him above the other dons. 

Later Wilde went to Greece with his tutor, and despite being penalized because of it by the College, he never regretted his decision. The trip animated Greek art and literature for him, infusing it with a ‘living reality.’

August 24th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Great doc on the Bard

Muse of Fire: A Shakespearean Road Movie

About the video:

“This unique documentary follows two actors, Giles Terera and Dan Poole, as they travel the world to find out everything they can about tackling the greatest writer of them all. Together they have directed and produced an inspiring film that aims to demystify and illuminate Shakespeare’s work for everyone: from actors, directors and students of all disciplines, right through to the person on the street. Denmark with Jude Law, Baz Luhrmann in Hollywood, Prison in Berlin, and on the street with Mark Rylance. Featuring: Dame Judi Dench, Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellen, Jude Law, Tom Hiddleston, Sir Derek Jacobi, Julie Taymor, Dominic West, Fiona Shaw, Alan Rickman, Baz Luhrmann, Zoe Wanamaker, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Christopher Eccleston, Simon Russell Beale, Sir Nick Hytner, Peter Hall, Melvyn Bragg, Toby Stephens, Frances Barber, Rory Kinnear, Dominic Dromgoole, Sandy Foster and many more.”
August 21st, 2014 • Posted in Lourdes

Enough to make one pause

Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879), the daughter of a miller, didn’t write, but will probably be written about for centuries to come. Lourdes is the leading place of pilgrimage for Catholics around the world.

The earliest writing about her of any literary merit is probably Emile Zola’s Lourdes, written in 1874. After the usual practice of meticulous observation Zola arrived at the conclusion that everyone in this pristine mountainous region was likely to see visions!

Huysmans wrote a book called The Crowds of Lourdes. Late in his life,Huysmans visited Lourdes. As a fairly recent Catholic convert, he was drawn by the area’s spirituality, while at the same time repulsed by the way Bernadette’s vision had been commercialized. The book records his time in Lourdes, his visits with doctors who verified miracles, his watching the pilgrims immerse themselves in the water and his reflections on the theology of suffering. In 1903 one Dr. Alexis Carrel wrote an account of his visit to Lourdes, in which he describes having seen a miraculous cure. It wasn’t published until 1949, well after his death. 

Despite all of the souvenir selling, which is likely to disgust the Literary Tourist, believer or not, the plethora of ‘miracles’ having occurred in the place is at least enough to make one pause.