Unauthorized version of me

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Durham, United Kingdom
An avid bibliophile who all too often uses the words of others in place of the incredible difficulty of creating new ones that will not carry half the depth. Putting to use my degree in 'yeah, but what are you going to do with that?' with a minor in 'it cost how much!'

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

La Vita Nouva by Dante

I know it's a few days late for a Valentine's post, so instead think of this as a love poem for any day.

So gentle and so pure appears
my lady when she greets others,
that every tongue trembles and is mute,
and their eyes do not dare gaze at her.
She goes by, aware of their praise,
benignly dressed in humility:
and seems as if she were a thing come
from Heaven to Earth to show a miracle.
She shows herself so pleasing to those who gaze,
through the eyes she sends a sweetness to the heart,
that no one can understand who does not know it:
and from her lips there comes
a sweet spirit full of love,
that goes saying to the soul: ‘Sigh.’

La Vita Nouva is a collection of poems that Dante wrote about his love for Beatrice, perfect and unspoiled with daily life.

Along with the poems are Dante's commentaries on poetry in general, which are worth looking through, he has a few beautiful memories that obviously triggered the poems, but mostly he talks about skill and form of poetry. We tend to think of poetry springing fully formed out of our head like Athena, but Dante talks about the hours of moving one word, changing one line, and perfecting the feeling. Most interesting for me is when he speaks of dulling the emotion so that the art shines through better.

This poem in particular poem is perfect in it's description of innocent but knowing beauty. The lady knows she is lovely and distributes it as a gift rather than hoarding it for one person or debasing it with sexuality. If only people were able to have this confidence all the time. To bring light without darkness and give without losing or taking.
The top picture is of Dante's tomb in Ravenna, a lovely little town with few tourists, a great bakery and lots of mosaics. The bottom picture is little reader and I watching a carousel in Florence, sadly there were no brass rings.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

I am currently in the middle of several novels, namely The two pound tram, This Present Darkness, Middlemarch, The Humbling, Club Dead, Mort and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. This in itself it not particularly unusual, but the fact that I have no desire to finish any of them is. It’s not that they are all bad books, although some of them are, make no mistake, it’s just that I’m not attached to any of them. None of them have reached into my soul and pulled me forcefully into their respective worlds. I realize that escapism isn’t the only reason to read, but it never hurts.

This brings me to the book that I did manage to finish, which is all about popping in and out of books not in the manner that I just haven’t managed recently, but in a much more literal, literary way. Lost in a Good Book is the second in the Thursday Next series about the literary police both inside and out of novels that keep books from being vandalized. It isn’t so much crayola on the covers that they are worried about but the changing of plot or pagesurfers who take up residence in the background.

It started with the Eyre Affair, a lovely and clever book that sets to correct the ending of Jane Eyre without even knowing that it has gone wrong. The Eyre Affair is linguistically clever and has a fully immersive world that shares more in common with Alice in Wonderland than anything found on this side of the novel. While the world is the same, Lost in a Good Book loses all the forward movement for nearly the first half, where those who haven’t read the prequel, or like me haven’t read it in a while stutter and stall feeling like we jumped in mid-shelf. This might be exactly what Fforde wanted though; that shock of not knowing, with the narrator assuming that you do.

In fact most of the book reads like one long inside joke, making me feel clever when I got it and plebeian when I didn’t. The main character doesn’t manage to escape this feel either, sometimes she just doesn’t get the joke, for course, they aren’t meant for her so that should come as no great surprise. What she believes is the real world is in the midst of the Crimean war, and has been for 20 years, although she does occasionally make trips into our ‘real world’

There are some wonderful secondary characters that inhabit all, some, or one of the worlds. Miss Haversham from Great Expectations is wonderful both in and out of her own book, and the trial scene set in the background of Kafta’s The Trial is a moment of genius, no doubt. But all in all the book is too clever for its own good and plays too fast and loose with plot devices.

One of the most memorable is the coincidence pockets, were everything is directly related to the main characters to make them move in a certain inevitable direction, which may or may not be under a piano conveniently being hoisted into a second story window. Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen a piano being hoisted into a second story window that hasn’t fallen on someone. There has to be a better way to get a piano upstairs

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Franny and Zooey

“I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.”-Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger died last week. I want to say something more than that but I didn’t know the man. As hard as it is for me to admit, he wasn’t Seymour or Holden, or even Zooey or Teddy. No author, no actual physical book has been as close to me as Franny and Zooey. I found what Franny had lost reading that book over many years. I found faith and hope and love and self-understanding. When life was hard I would hold my copy, not strong enough to read it, just hold it, keep it by me and hope that I would get through.

I did.

I don’t remember how wonderful life is nearly as often as I should, but sometimes, in little corners of life I remember that any day can be a perfect day for bananafish. So I get up, tuck Fanny and Zooey back under my pillow or on the shelf, depending on how much I have recovered, and get ready for whatever wonderful, frightening, lovely, horrid things await today.