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Archive for January, 2010

She I love (alas in vain!)
Floats before my slumbering eyes:
When she comes she lulls my pain,
When she goes what pangs arise!
Thou whom love, whom memory flies,
Gentle Sleep! prolong thy reign!
If even thus she soothe my sighs,
Never let me wake again!
Walter Savage Landor

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In two exhibitions this spring New York City is becoming just a little bit Holier. Two exquisite Books of Hours are being unbound for conservation purposes. One is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other is at the Morgan Museum and Library. I am highly anticipating going to these shows in the coming months. April looks like a good time to go. Here is the link to the NYTimes article on the Morgan show: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/arts/design/22catherine.html?ref=design  I am certain that there will be an even bigger article on the Limbourg Brothers show at the Met.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_hours

This looks to be a good museum season, on the East Coast at least.

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The New York Times, in early 2011 will begin charging for online content after one has viewed a certain number of articles. I consider this a FAIL for the premiere paper in the world. I hope this does fail, and miserably at that. Why would I go and pay for anything they offer when there is so much other content on the interwebs? I barely check the site once a week, but when I do I spend at least an hour on it catching up with what I’ve missed in the art and book world. It is because I consider them a primary source for these two theaters that I consider this move a bad one. I will just change my habits and find what I am looking for on other sites.

Here is a link to the article on NYTimes.com: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/business/media/21times.html?hp

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This little gem of a mystery novel is set on a river/canal in France that is populated with locks. The yacht, the symbolism of the lock being able to keep the suspects there, and the devolution of the antagonist all set a mood that is hard to escape or overlook. Rain also plays a key role in the novel. It is rain that comes down for a majority of the novel and it is Maigret who is raining down on the suspects.

“Startled by the touch of what felt like a human face, he went to get his lantern, and cast its light over the corpse which was going to send Dizy into a turmoil and upset the whole life of the canal.”

Maigret comes on the scene and eventually figures out that it is a case of revenge served extremely cold.  There are a few people who it could be but for sure it isn’t the most obvious. It is Jean the ex-doctor who is the murderer in this little novel and why? Because his back story tugs at one’s heart strings. It is as if he is self-condemned to a life of quiet, laborious desperation. But you will have to read this book to get the whole story.

Once again an excellent novel and a good start for me in the mysteries of Maigret and Georges Simenon. Adieu.

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Forster’s little jewel, replete with books no longer interesting and novels no longer read, offers excellent pointers for a fledgling writer. His variations on the types of novelists and their particular bent in this world, for instance the “anxious rather than an ardent psychologist.”, could potentially striate and almost pigeon-hole every novelist until the time of publication of Aspects, which was in 1927.  Forster imagines a room where every novelist is stooped over his pen and busy writing. This throwing out of chronology, somewhat puts all novelists on a level field. He quotes Melville, gives us Richardson and James to read and then differentiates between the pair as if they had just published a book on the same day. How interesting this is to read because of the dearth of good novels being published today. If some of these post-moderns were set alongside Dickens or Balzac I do believe they would be crying and running for the exit.  But enough of the slim, easy pickings on of contemporary writers. Now we must see what Forster actually says about one of these novels.

Forster, at his cuttingest, says that “Ulysses…is a dogged attempt to cover the universe with mud, it is an inverted Victorianism, an attempt to make crossness and dirt succeed where sweetness and light failed, a simplification of the human character in the interests of Hell. …the aim of which is to degrade all things and more particularly civilization and art, by turning them inside out and upside down.” I wholly agree with this rendering of Ulysses. I find it somewhat boring and well, overly-written. If Joyce was attempting to kill the novel at the very least he shouldn’t have attempted to graft so much on to it. He could have starved it like the Pulps and crime fiction were doing at the time. Ulysses is largely unintelligible to the average reader and one would need a higher level undergrad class to make it through a first reading. Was that Joyce’s intent to sling mud in the face of the reader? If so I believe he has survived on what will almost too soon be a hundred-year anniversary.

If you happen to pick up Aspects of the Novel I know you will be pleasantly surprised by Forster’s meanings and interpretations of different novelists and novels. Happy Reading.

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As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,

Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,

A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;

Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed

As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.

‘Alas,’ quoth he, ‘but newly born in fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!

My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, and mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,

For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,

So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.’

With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,

And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

Robert Southwell – 1595

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See for yourself…IJS.

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