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Archive for the 'Authors and Books' Category

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 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 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 8th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Belgian Fathers and English Mothers

Georges Simenon ‘fathered’ the French Inspecteur Maigret, while

 Englishwoman Agatha Christie ‘mothered’ the Belgian inspector Hercule Poirot. 

August 7th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books


La Coupee, Sark. Credit: Clemensfranz

When I was a young boy we went to live on the island of Sark. We stayed for almost a year. 

Visits to Sark gave Victor Hugo material for his novel Les Trailleurs de la Mer. The book put octopi (okay, octopuses) on the map, to such an extent that octopus hats were worn at the sea-side and octopus dishes filled beach resort menus. 




July 10th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio: David Mason talks about his memoir The Pope’s Bookbinder

David Mason, with boss in the foreground.

I met with David Mason recently to talk about his memoir The Pope’s Bookbinder. As the Biblioasis website wordsmiths have it:

“From his drug-hazy, book-happy years near the Beat Hotel in Paris and throughout his career as antiquarian book dealer, David Mason brings us a storied life. He discovers his love of literature in a bathtub at age eleven, thumbing through stacks of lurid Signet paperbacks. At fifteen he’s expelled from school. For the next decade and a half, he will work odd jobs, buck all authority, buy books more often than food, and float around Europe. He’ll help gild a volume in white morocco for Pope John XXIII. And then, at the age of 30, after returning home to Canada and apprenticing with Joseph Patrick Books, David Mason will find his calling.”

“David Mason boldly campaigns for what he feels is the moral duty of the antiquarian trade: to preserve the history and traditions of all nations, and to assert without compromise that such histories have value.  The Pope’s Bookbinder is an engrossing memoir by a giant in the book trade—whose infectious enthusiasm, human insight, commercial shrewdness, and deadpan humour will delight bibliophiles for decades to come. “

Listen to Part l of our conversation here:


July 3rd, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Brilliant Ads


June 22nd, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Authors are particularly candid in admitting the faults of their friends

“And pray,” said I, “how is a man to get a peep into those confederacies you speak of? I presume an intercourse with authors is a kind of intellectual exchange, where one must bring his commodities to barter, and always give a quid pro quo?

“Pooh, pooh! how you mistake,” said Buckthorne smiling; “you must never think to become popular among wits by shining. They go into society to shine themselves, not to admire the brilliancy of others. I once thought as you do, and never went into literary society without studying my part beforehand; the consequences was, that I soon go the name of an intolerable proser, and should in a little while have been completely excommunicated, had I not changed my plan of operations. No, sir, no character succeeds so well among wits as that of a good listener; or if ever you are eloquent, let it be when tete-a-tete with an author, and then in praise of his own works, or, what is nearly as acceptable, in disparagement of the works of his contemporaries. If ever he speaks favorably of the productions of a particular friend, dissent boldly from him; pronounce his friend a blockhead; never fear his being vexed. Much as people speak of the irritability of authors, I never found one to take offence at such contradictions. No, no, sir, authors are particularly candid in admitting the faults of their friends.

from Tales of a Traveller, by Washington Irving – the uber literary tourist – chapter entitled Literary Life.