Sunday, 26 February 2012

T.S Eliot reads The Wasteland

Just LISTEN TO THIS GUY. I know he's a notorious twat, but T.S Eliot is pretty much my favourite poet ever. Sometimes I listen to this and pretend he's reading to me, as a kindly anti-semitic misogynist grandfather would.

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Leda and the Swan by William Butler Yeats

I mark my return to blogging with a disturbing little ditty from Bill Butler Yeats. Recently I've been listening to the Swan Lake soundtrack, because I'm cool like that, and basically realised how amazing it is (thanks, Natalie Portman!).

When you have the two together, the music almost seems to mirror the intensity, horror and excitement that comes across so mightily in the poem. Kudos, Tchaikovsky.

Leda and The Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun by William Shakespeare

I've had a literature blog for six months and not once have I mentioned Shakespeare or school. UNTIL NOW.
This is a beaut of a poem that I first read whilst studying for my GCSEs. I think the fact that it's written by a male for a female, basically telling her that she's brilliant just as she is, really appealed to me at age fifteen. He's essentially the Elizabethan Bruno Mars (though clearly not as talented).

My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

William Shakespeare

Friday, 6 January 2012

Top Five Book Covers

I'm judging books by their covers, because that's just the kind of rebel I am.

Note: It has come to my attention that this post is really quite pretentious. Maybe just ignore the words and concentrate on the pretty pictures.

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I love this cover because it's become an icon in it's own right; there's no way you can see that bowler hat and the cog-eye without thinking of lactose-obsessed, Beethoven aficionado, psychopath Alex and his band of droogs. I fell in love with this book, and I think the cover reflects the tone perfectly. It's a novel which features gang rape, pedophilia, homicide and brainwashing, and the bold, block colours on the front illustrate these booming, intense themes; but the fact it is so bright and vivid, where it could easily be dark and brooding, shows that the book also has a sense of humour and fun - it's a book which doesn't take itself too seriously. The pop art feel is also reminiscent of the era - the sixties - of which novels such as A Clockwork Orange were a quintessential part.

2. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer seems to have a knack for book covers but there is something about this one in particular that really gets to me. There are no pictures. Instead, the words snake round the edges of the book, completely filling up the cover as if trying to break out of it. On the back of the book, there's no blurb - just a mirror image of the front cover, upside down - the claim that "Everything is Illuminated" becomes less of a title, and more an unrelenting promise about the novel itself. The book sprirals from one narrative to the next, linking individual stories together in order to provide one resounding message - the very same that is scrawled, almost frantically, on it's front cover.

3. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

There's something very "Being John Malkovich" about this, and if you have read Borges, you'll know that this surreal cover perfectly illustrates the stories he creates. "Labyrinths" explores alternate universes, the differing perceptions of time, the nature of dreams and crises of identity. The identical men suggest that the labyrinth Borges is most focused on is that of the human brain; and that, despite the fact people may differ in terms of dreams, everyone is inexorably fascinated with the nature of our their realities. Oh God, I really am pretentious today. I'll dumb it down for the next one.

4. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Nice one right? I really like how Niffenegger makes a story about a forty year old man travelling back in time to make his five year old wife fall in love with him, seem absolutely fine and not pervy or weird at all. The cover illustrates the same thing. It's immediately intriguing and, once you finish the book, really quite heartbreaking as it both reflects the start and the end of the story. I hoped that the film would strike the same kind of chord, but due to to a shite script writer and some unfortunate casting, it was not to be.

5. The Trial by Franz Kafka

A cover that I maybe don't fully understand, but I think it reflects the content of The Trial so perfectly for that reason; it's quite a complex narrative, full of twists an turns, some of which are pretty inexplicable. It also seems appropriate that the man on the cover is blindfolded; throughout the novel, the protagonist K is completely bewildered by the events that surround him. A bit like the strange contraption that is wrapped round the head of the front-cover man; part torture device, part bird costume, it dehumanises him and makes him entirely vulnerable, prime themes featured in The Trial.

Alas, this blog is limited to "Five Easy Steps", but here are a few others that I'm very fond of:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

To A Mouse by Robert Burns

Right. 1st of January. I've got tons of plans for this year, one of which is to blog like the absolute shitters. I'm starting off the year with an appropriate, if not terribly optimistic poem by Robert Burns, the same man who wrote Auld Lang Syne. The line "and forward though I cannot see, I guess and fear" might not indicate that I'm terribly enthusiastic about 2012's prospects and my "best laid schemes", but let's be realistic; the world's probably going to end this year anyway.

To A Mouse

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!
You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Robert Burns

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

This Is Just To Say

That I'm not dead, and will resume the blogging in due course.

This is also just to say....

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Unknown Citizen by W.H Auden

Oh HI blog. I temporarily forgot you existed.

I wish I could come up with some fabulous excuse for my absence - like I've spent the last week and a half in the New York office, working on some incredibly important papers, nicotine and coffee-filled to my eyeballs, ordering interns to "bring me those files, stat!" before firing someone in a violent fit of efficiency.

Actually I've spent most of my week making photocopies. Hurrah.

And in the light of this, here is a somewhat appropriate poem by the always excellent Auden.

The Unknown Citizen

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in a hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

W.H Auden