Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Very Long Silence

It’s been quiet – the snow muffles most sounds. I’ve been reading Susanna Clarke’s Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. She writes so well, such perfect pitch, so meticulous; it all makes me wish she wrote more. She reminds me of what a good writer can accomplish – a good reminder at a time when I often just hunt for the kindest, gentlest books. Clarke is not exactly gentle; rather, she is exquisite and always walking the line between the bright, colourful fairytale and the sinister one. I love and respect fairytales, their variety, their subtext, their occasional brutality in achieving a happy end as much as in reaching an unhappy conclusion. I also love good nineteenth century fiction, and well-researched historical fiction, so Clarke, who captures those styles so perfectly, was always a likely candidate for my affections. She does her own thing with it, and I respect her for that too; she is never content just to be Austen or Dickens or Tolkien. Yes, it will do for a cold day, and I am sad enough to finish these stories that I may just start over right now, especially since they take a while to acclimate to. I might even take on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell again; Clarke, like Oscar Wilde’s cigarette, provides the perfect pleasure – always unfinished, always leaving the reader wanting just a little more – and wanting tea and scones.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Free. Well, mostly.

It is Friday, I am watching The Princess Diaries with a glass of wine and a peanut butter sandwich, and my goodness, have I ever earned it. My life sucks. Technically, my life sucked this week, and is now better. Hell, the Man with the Power even called to Make It So. It is a week gladly done, and reasonably well done.

So this is it, my evening off. Enjoy yours.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I am a curmudgeon, and I want a British second-hand bookshop with a nice edition of Oscar Wilde's fairytales. Or his collected works. Possibly even De profundis. Is this too much too ask?

It would appear that it is. I must console myself with tea and crumpets, and maybe some Blackadder now that I'm through listening to Stephen Fry.

Friday, January 07, 2011


I keep trying to write, write here, for all the little that it matters, and all I manage is labyrinthine thoughts and abominable abstraction. As I read about Oscar Wilde’s books and Stephen Fry’s life, I am reminded of something, someone I was (17 and 20 respectively) when these people were my heroes and it surprises me to find my beloved quiet hero in Fry’s narrative – E.M. Forster. I know I’ve written about Forster before, he of the Merchant Ivory melancholy films, but I hold him in high esteem as I do George Orwell for brilliant feeling rather than brilliant writing. E.M. Forster, not truly a brilliant writer, is enshrined – yes, enshrined, with his own set of lights and flowers – in my heart as the first person to show me what surviving your own confusion looks like. It was and is an inspiring feat. Maybe it’s time to re-read Maurice again. Whenever I see the old Penguin edition, which isn’t very often, I remember how it seduced me, and how I picked it up gently and took it home with me and read it in a night. It’s why I own multiple copies – it would be unkind to leave it there, stranded in a second-hand bookstore.

It reminds me of when I read Ruskin and Pater and J.K. Huysmans (oh terrible, painful) and Keats – oh I miss my little books of Keats – and all of the mixed bag of my love of 19th century lit, which like an old habit I forget most days now.

(As I listen to Stephen Fry, it occurs to me that he uses a mechanism I know very well, a negative self-talk I recognize – did I really just write “negative self-talk”? – when he talks about cheating to pass exams. When he says “cheating” he really means “understanding exactly what is required, and then doing what is needed” which is surely a skill worth crediting? But like all people with low self esteem, the skill he has is always silly and trifling compared to the one he hasn’t got. He has intelligence, insight and excellent writing skills; but like all of us with low self esteem, he is only an imposter, never the real thing, compared to, oh, someone over there who looks like he really gets it.)