November 17, 2011

Some Book Links



Ahead of my clippings post tomorrow here are a few literary links I thought I'd bring to your attention in one dedicated post:

Could P.G. Woodehouse's letters be as medicinal as his novels and short stories? (Gaurdian)
Wodehouse's letters, often written at speed, allow us to see him without his craft in place. Moments of great emotion break through: his excited optimism at the prospect of winning a scholarship to Oxford; his disappointment when he learned that a varsity life was not to be his lot after all; his stoicism in the face of romantic disappointment; his devastation at the death of his step-daughter; his outrage and sorrow at the public response to his wartime broadcasts.

Some of Wodehouse's earliest letters are his most revealing. Recently discovered notes to an Oxford undergraduate, Eric George, aka "Jeames", show him testing, and parodying, the language of love. Wodehouse was still at school, and in a playful allusion to their separation, he shows himself a master of literary drag, impersonating an "hilliterit' female admirer": "My only Jeames," he writes, "life is werry hollow without you." Snatches of contemporary love poetry are offered – "A sigh sent wrong, / A kiss that went astray" – only to be manfully dismissed: "Isn't it rot?"

Was Jane Austen murdered? I know many men who, upon first reading Pride and Prejudice would wish it, but, ah! too late. (Huffington Post)

Umberto Echo's newest book centers around 19th century Prague, and the writing of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Paris Review interviewed him this week. (I wish he would write a historical fiction about the Saxons and the Normans.)

I once thought that the only thing Groucho Marx and T. S. Eliot had in common was the distinction of being two of my very favorite figures in all of the 20th Century.  But it turns out these men were an unlikely pair of correspondents and friends:
...What Eliot considered “the waste land” of modern life—the deracination, impudence and profane materialism—was mother’s milk to Groucho.

Yet one day in 1961 Groucho received in the mail a note from none other than Eliot himself. Expressing his admiration for the comedian, Eliot asked him for an autographed portrait. A shocked Groucho sent back a studio photograph of himself, only to receive a second note from the icon of modern poetry requesting instead a picture of the iconic Groucho, sporting a moustache and holding a cigar. A second photograph was sent out and a happy Eliot wrote to thank Groucho: “This is to let you know that your portrait has arrived and has given me great joy and will soon appear in its frame on my wall with other famous friends such as W.B. Yeats and Paul Valery.” Groucho had asked for a portrait of Eliot in return, and the latter happily enclosed one. Then the famously morose poet, characterised by Siefgried Sassoon as having “cold-storaged humanity” and by Ottoline Morrell as “the undertaker”, finished with a joke. “P.S.” he wrote. “I like cigars too but there isn’t any cigar in my portrait either.” Well, sort of a joke.
Now here's a great little analysis of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from Prospect:
Previously, most books for children had been either educational or improving; the only purpose of Alice is to give pleasure. We have grown so used to bunnies in blue jackets with brass buttons that it is hard to remember how comparatively recent such things are. There is no trace of children’s literature in antiquity; animal fables were for grown-ups. Perhaps that is not surprising in a world where books were few and expensive, but it is striking that it was so many centuries after the invention of printing that the change occurred. Here again the accidental nature of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was crucial. It was first written, after all, for a readership of one, and that gives it a lack of self-consciousness that was never quite captured again, not even in Through the Looking-Glass. It has no pretensions to be a masterpiece, and that is one of the reasons that it is a masterpiece. Like A Study in Scarlet, The Screwtape Letters and perhaps the Satyricon, it was tossed off lightly by an author who had little idea how much he had achieved. It is probably the most purely child-centred book ever written.
Ps. When I am stressed out, I look at pictures of bookshelves.  I am not even kidding.  I even have a pinterest board dedicated to bookshelves. The photo above is from Book Lovers Never Go To Bed Alone.

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