Monday 30 December 2019

Poetry Revisited: Not Yet by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

Not Yet

(from Poems: 1908)

Time brought me many another friend
               That loved me longer.
New love was kind, but in the end
               Old love was stronger.

Years come and go. No New Year yet
               Hath slain December.
And all that should have cried — “Forget!“
               Cries but — “Remember!“

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907)
British novelist and poet

Friday 27 December 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

In The Wizard of Oz little Dorothy learns that “there’s no place like home” although her adventures ended well and she made good friends along the way. Not every return home leads to the same nostalgic illumination, though, especially when much time has passed and there’s little left to remind of the old days. Things change. People come and go like buildings, entire neighbourhoods or even nature. But a return home can as well mean a new start like in my bookish déjá-vu A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. After twenty years in the USA, Geraldine comes over to her Irish home town for a holiday and then stays for good to bring new life to a run-down old mansion remodelling it with the help of friends and relatives into a cosy little country hotel. Guests with very different backgrounds and sorrows arrive for the grand opening in December…
Read my review »

Monday 23 December 2019

Poetry Revisited: Christmas by P. H. Lovecraft


(from The Tryout, 6, No. 11: November 1920)

The cottage hearth beams warm and bright,
               The candles gaily glow;
The stars emit a kinder light
               Above the drifted snow.

Down from the sky a magic steals
               To glad the passing year,
And belfries sing with joyous peals,
               For Christmastide is here!

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937)
American writer

Friday 20 December 2019

Book Review: One Man’s Bible by Gao Xingjian much we’d like to start life all over again with a clean slate after a traumatising experience, it’s virtually impossible. If we like it or not, any such experience has a lasting impact on our world view and on our behaviour as well. It marks and even forms us. Cases of dementia and brain injury excluded, we can only refuse to allow memories to come back to our conscious minds. Nonetheless, they keep working on us under the surface. And more often than not, these disagreeable ghosts of the past return sooner or later to haunt us. Ten years after his flight, the exiled playwright in One Man’s Bible by Gao Xinjian, the Sino-French recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2000, finds himself forced to relive the trauma of almost fifty years under Communist reign that he tried to forget when his Jewish-German sex partner starts asking questions.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Back Reviews Reel: December 2016

Reviews of three classical and two contemporary novels closed my Double Alphabet of Writers in December 2016. First, I entered The Hive by en-Nobel-ed Camilo José Cela to witness people’s daily struggles in Madrid of 1943. From Spain I jumped to modern-day Japan where The Lake by Yoshimoto Banana disclosed the traumatic past of the narrator’s lover. Back to Europe, namely to France and England, I joined the amateur literary scholar from Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes in his study of Gustave Flaubert’s character. Then I moved on to late nineteenth-century Vienna and marvelled at the inventive account of The Secret of an Empress by Countess Zanardi Landi, a woman striving for recognition as concealed daughter of Emperor Francis-Joseph of Austria and his beautiful wife Elisabeth. And finally, I leaped to 1960s Japan to follow the psychological changes of the disfigured narrator of The Face of Another by Abe Kōbō.

Monday 16 December 2019

Poetry Revisited: Winter Night by E. C. Kinney

Winter Night

(from Poems: 1867)

How calm, how solemn, how sublime the scene!
The moon in full-orbed glory sails above,
And stars in myriads around her move,
Each looking down with watchful eye serene
On earth, which, in a snowy shroud arrayed,
And still, as if in death’s embrace ‘twere laid.
Saddens the spirit with its corpse-like mien:
Yet doth it charm the eye — its gaze still hold;
Just as the face of one we loved, when cold
And pale and lovely e’en in death ‘tis seen,
Will fix the mourner’s eye, tho’ trembling fears
Fill all his heart, and thickly fall his tears:
O, I could watch till morn should change the sight,
This cold, this beautiful, this mournful Winter night.

Elizabeth Clementine Kinney (1810-1889)
American writer

Monday 9 December 2019

Poetry Revisited: December by Joel Benton


(from John Burroughs: Songs of Nature: 1901)

When the feud of hot and cold
Leaves the autumn woodlands bare;
When the year is getting old.
And flowers are dead, and keen the air;

When the crow has new concern.
And early sounds his raucous note;
And—where the late witch-hazels burn—
The squirrel from a chuckling throat

Tells that one larder's space is filled,
And tilts upon a towering tree;
And, valiant, quick, and keenly thrilled.
Upstarts the tiny chickadee;

When the sun's still shortening arc
Too soon night's shadows dun and gray
Brings on, and fields are drear and dark,
And summer birds have flown away,—

I feel the year's slow-beating heart.
The sky's chill prophecy I know;
And welcome the consummate art
Which weaves this spotless shroud of snow!

Joel Benton (1832-1911)
American writer, poet and lecturer

Friday 6 December 2019

Book Review: Fräulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther by Elizabeth von Arnim

Just a hundred years ago the status of a girl largely depended on her chances for marriage. If she hadn’t found a husband by her mid-twenties people around would start looking at her askance, especially when there was nothing in her looks, behaviour or family background to put off courters. Only few women dared to actively defy society’s expectations, least of all the teenage ones who didn’t really know life yet. It was universally acknowledged that a girl who received a marriage proposal from a suitable match should be overjoyed and so is the letter-writing protagonist of the 1907 epistolary novel Fräulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther by Elizabeth von Arnim. Twenty-five years old and a poor scholar’s daughter, she was convinced to end her life as old maid, but all of a sudden she finds herself secretly engaged to an Englishman much above her. The initial happiness doesn’t last, though…

Monday 2 December 2019

Poetry Revisited: Winter in the Library by Enid Derham

Winter in the Library

(from The Mountain Road and Other Verses: 1912)

All the Iivelong day
I feed on ancient sweets,
Nor heed how the wind blows
Nor how the wild rain beats,
For at my will I wander through
Green lanes and busy streets.

I look from Parnassus
Over Delphi to the sea,
Or singing I loiter In heavenly Sicily,
And Theocritus comes down to share
His honeycomb with me.

Now's the time for poets,
In the wintry weather!
From deeds of arms to love I fly
Inconstant as a feather,
To grey beards leave philosophy,—
We shall be young together!

Yet if one I know should call me
With a look from the door.
O poets mine, I would not stay
By any lane or shore,
For all your lyrics toy our loves,
And the light oaths you swore.

Enid Derham (1882-1941)
Australian poet and academic