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review 2015-09-30 13:49
Melmoth the Wanderer - Charles Robert Maturin

Quoi de plus ridicule que d'être effrayé ou surpris de la ressemblance entre un homme vivant et le portrait d'un mort?

Elle se sentit donc consolée par cette réflexion, et peut-être aussi par la conviction inexplicable, puisée dans les cœurs de tous ceux qui aiment, que l'amour ne peut jamais exister sans la souffrance.

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review 2015-06-18 14:08
Modernising Ireland
Ulysses - James Joyce,Declan Kiberd

There once was an author who lived in the lovely Italian seaside town of Trieste. It is not a town that I have visited, though I would like to one day, and it wasn't all that long ago that he lived there, relatively speaking of course. This author decided one day that he would like to write a book. It wasn't the first book that he had written, he had written a couple of others previously, but it was going to be a special book, namely because he wanted his book to be really, really thick. He wasn't the first writer to write a thick book, but this thick book was going to be different to other thick books because he wanted to confuse people, but confuse people in a way that as they read it they knew that they should know what was going on, because the book made sense, but they would not necessarily understand what he meant, which would confuse them. This meant that they would have to read this thick book again, and if they were still confused they would then seek people who were experts in thick and confusing books to tell them what it meant, which would require these experts to read this book so that they could tell others what this book meant. However, he also wanted to write this book so that these experts would disagree with each other, which meant that they would have to read this book again, because they were experts and to admit that they did not understand what the book was about would make them look silly, and experts don't like looking silly.

So this author sat down and began to write his book, and he took a long time to write this book, and when he finished this book some of the important people read this book and could not understand it, and because they could not understand it they decided that it must be bad, so they banned it. However the experts, who had read this author's other books, knew that this author wasn't bad, so they read it and they then wrote books telling people what this book was about. However the experts disagreed with what the other experts said, but they did agree that this book wasn't a bad book, it was a good book. In time, the important people who had banned this book had passed on, and a new generation of important people came along, important people who had been taught about this book by the experts, and because they were taught by the experts they agreed with the experts that it was a good book (but where confused as to what this book was about because the experts could not agree on what this book was about, except that it was a good book) so they decided to no longer ban this book. So more people began to read this book, and because the experts had told them that it was a good book, they also agreed that it was a good book.


Is it a good book?

That is a decision that cannot be left to the experts because the experts say that it is a good book, but we cannot simply listen to the experts because it is a decision that we must make for ourselves. Just because an expert says that a book is a good book (and I am not an expert) does not mean that it is a good book. It could simply be that because the expert believes that there must be a meaning to this book, and that the meaning of this book is hidden, then it must be a good book. Just because a book is confusing does not necessarily make it a good book, and just because the meaning is hidden does not mean that it is possible to learn that meaning, and if it does have a meaning, then maybe that meaning differs across who those who read this book, because everybody who reads a book sees their own meaning in the book, and just because their meaning differs from an expert's meaning does not mean that the expert's meaning is correct, and their meaning is not. The meaning of the book may differ between who reads it, and the reader's meaning may in fact be the correct meaning for this book.


What is the meaning of the book?

The meaning of this book is discernible only by the reader of this book, though it is true that many others seek to have an understanding of what that meaning is, so one can always seek the Fountain of Knowledge though many experts do not believe that the Fountain of Knowledge provides the true meaning of the book. Since there is debate about the usefulness of the Fountain of Knowledge, there is also place where people go to read the book without reading the book (not that I went there before reading the book because to read the book without reading the book destroys the joy of reading the book, and also makes me look silly).

Yet it may be good to say what I believe is the meaning of the book, because even though I am being very obtuse, I probably should share my thoughts on what I believe this book is about. The book is about two things: the modern world, and the ordinary. Certainly there are other things about this book, such as the father and the son, but for now we need only consider the modern and the ordinary because that, to me, was the essence of this book.


What is the sense of the modern?

The author was writing a story about his home town of Dublin, and he was writing about a time of change. The world was changing, moving from the antiquities of the past to the new world of the modern. At the time of writing Europe was tearing itself apart in the midst of a war, and this war differed from many of the other wars because it was the first truly modern war. The Irish were still looking to the past, to a time when they were independent, and yearning for a time when they could return to that independence. In fact during the writing of this book we see the rise of Micheal Collins and the republican movement in Ireland, which resulted in Ireland seceding from the United Kingdom. However the author was showing that Ireland had entered the modern world along with the rest of Europe, and Ireland could not return to the past, but needed to seek a new identity in the modern world.

The author shows us two aspects of Ireland that ties itself to the modern world. The Catholic Church made Ireland a part of Europe, and the legacy of Shakespeare connected Ireland inextricably with England. People still speak Gaelic in Ireland even today, but it is a dying language. The common tongue of Ireland is English, and this language that culturally defines the nation. Ireland certainly is a nation with its own identity, but it is an identity that includes the Catholic Church, and an identity that includes the English tongue and Shakespeare. While Ireland still holds onto its Gaelic roots, it is also the country of St Patrick and Guiness.


What does the ordinary mean?

The book is set across an entire day – a single day. All of the action in the book occurs within this day. It is an ordinary day, not unlike the many other ordinary days of the year. Certainly this ordinary day has taken on a significant meaning since the writing of this book, now being celebrated as Bloomsbury day, however at the time it was an ordinary day. During this day the characters do ordinary things, and talk about ordinary things. In fact nothing all that much happens during this ordinary day. Certainly it is a really thick book, and it only goes to show how the author has shown us how there is so much that can be seen within the ordinary. The characters of the book think ordinary thoughts, and do ordinary things. There is nothing really all that extraordinary about the events and the characters in this book. This is the essence of the modernist movement – it is a celebration of the ordinary.


HOMER: Yet this book also celebrates the past.

SHAKESPEARE: That is because the past is important. The past defines us, and gives us the identity and the character that makes us who we are, whether it be us as an individual, or as a collective entity such as a nation.

HOMER: Though the past is being transformed by the actions of the present.

EDISON: Certainly that is true, because the present creates change from the past, and the inventions of the present push things back into the past. Take the movie for instance: people no longer needed to rely on imagination in storytelling, they could now see the images on the screen, which meant that authors no longer needed to write books that intricately describe the settings, since the viewer could see the settings that were previously described, and the actors living within that setting.

HOMER: Literature did change, because film could not portray the thoughts and emotions of the actors. As the need for description subsided, the desire to descend into the psychology and emotions of the characters arose.

CONAN: But film is limited, and this lead to the development of stories that could not yet be portrayed on film.

HOMER: Though they did try, and in some cases succeeded.

SCORSESEE: Though film is a completely different medium to the written word for no matter how the film-maker tries, they can never truly capture the essence of the written word, just as the written word can never truly capture the essence of the visual media, despite many attempting to do so.


Here I must finish of my review where I am attempting to and failing to mimic the beauty and the uniqueness of the book with what I would call the mother of all run-on sentences which is actually eight sentences even though there is no punctuation whatsoever only paragraph breaks but even then these eight sentences run on for something like twenty odd pages which end up making your entire head spin because even though it is the written word when you are reading a sentence you are not actually supposed to take a breath which means that when you are reading this one incredibly long sentence you aren't actually supposed to take a breath because there is no punctuation telling you where you should take a breath which would make listening to the audio book rather interesting because I really don't know anybody who could seriously read the entire last chapter which goes on for about twenty pages without taking a single breath because it would be pretty much impossible to do so even if they tried which would mean that the impossibility of reading the entire run on sentence while taking a breath would completely destroy the flow of the text because you are not meant to take a breath and even when you are reading the book in your head you aren't actually supposed to stop reading until you reach a fullstop except there are no fullstops which means that you are supposed to read the entire chapter in one sitting despite the fact that you may have to do something such as get up and buy another coffee because coffee shops don't like you sitting in the shop without actually drinking anything and even if you decide to move you have to keep on reading the book because you can't stop reading until you reach a fullstop even though there are no fullstops meaning that you can't look up from the book to see where you are going simply because it does not allow you to do that and in the end you fall down a flight of steps and drop the book and lose the page which means that you have to start all over again which fortunately didn't happen to me but then I didn't read it properly because I would look up to see where I was going and then put it down mid-sentance multiple times simply to do things like go to work


Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/10545.Ulysses
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review 2015-02-12 13:01
Fin De Partie - Samuel Beckett

HAMM. - Pourquoi ne me tues-tu pas?
CLOV. - Je ne connais pas la combinaison du buffet.

CLOV. - Ca redevient gai. (Il monte sur l'escabeau, braque sa lunette sur le dehors. Elle lui échappe des mains, tombe. Un temps.) J'ai fait exprès. (Il descend de l'escabeau, ramasse la lunette, l'examine, la braque sur la salle.) Je vois... une foule en délire. (Un temps.) Ca alors, pour une longue-vue c'est une longue-vue. (Il baisse la lunette, se tourne vers Hamm.) Alors? On ne rit pas?
HAMM (ayant réfléchi). - Moi non.
CLOV (ayant réfléchi). - Moi non plus.

HAMM. - Il y a de la lumière chez la Mère Pegg?
CLOV. - De la lumière! Comment veux-tu qu'il y ait de la lumière chez quelqu'un?
HAMM. - Alors elle s'est éteinte.
CLOV. - Mais bien sûr qu'elle s'est éteinte! S'il n'y en a plus c'est qu'elle s'est éteinte.
HAMM. - Non, je veux dire la Mère Pegg.
CLOV. - Mais bien sûr qu'elle s'est éteinte! Qu'est-ce que tu as aujourd'hui?

HAMM. - Mais tu pourrais être seulement mort dans ta cuisine.
CLOV. - Ca reviendrait au même.
HAMM. - Oui, mais comment le saurais-je, si tu étais seulement mort dans ta cuisine.
CLOV. - Eh bien... je finirais bien par puer.
HAMM. - Tu pues déjà. Toute la maison pue le cadavre.
CLOV. - Tout l'univers.

CLOV. - A bon. (Il commence à marcher de long en large, les yeux rivés au sol, les mains derrière le dos. Il s'arrête.) J'ai mal aux jambes, c'est pas croyable. Je ne pourrai bientôt plus penser.

HAMM. - Salopard! Pourquoi m'as-tu fait?
NAGG. - Je ne pouvais pas savoir.
HAMM. - Quoi? Qu'est-ce que tu ne pouvais pas savoir?
NAGG. - Que ce serait toi.

HAMM. - [...] Allons, quel sale vent vous amène? [...]

CLOV. - En esprit seulement.
HAMM. - Lequel?
CLOV. - Les deux.
HAMM. - Loin tu serais mort.
CLOV. - Et inversement.
HAMM (fièrement). - Loin de moi c'est la mort.

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review 2015-01-22 11:08
Opens with the word 'Moocow'
A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man - James Joyce

Well, here is a portrait of an artist as a young man:





though I am not sure if that is the type of artist that Joyce was referring to when he wrote this book, so maybe this one would be a little better:


Percy Shelley


yet considering that this book is semi-autobiographical maybe, just maybe, this would be a better one:


James Joyce



Unfortunately, I would hardly say that he is a young man in this particular painting, and since it wasn't until 1916 when he published A Portrait of an Artist to critical acclaim, though though would make him 28, which means that he wasn't all that old either, but then again, that was the only painting of him of wikipedia that I could find.

Anyway on to the book. I must say you've got to love a work of modern literature that opens as follows:


Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down the along the road and that moocow that was coming down the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo …


What the? I thought this book was considered a classic and he uses the word 'Moocow' not once, not twice, but three times! Seriously, if I tried writing a literary masterpiece and used the word moocow then I'd probably be laughed out of the publishing house.

Then again, apparently you can self publish anything on Amazon these days (not that I'm criticising self publishing because the publishing houses do have this annoying habit of rejecting works that go on to become best sellers – it is just that self publishing does not necessarily have the same quality control, but if you are like me, trying to find somebody who will be willing to edit your book is nigh impossible – actually, maybe it is just me).

Anyway, I find some books a little difficult to write about because the book itself simply engrosses you in the same way that a work of art draws you into it, and you are in a way left speechless. In a way words simply cannot describe how the book impacts you, and this is certainly one of those books. It is interesting how it is written though because it is not the standard third person narrative – Joyce tried that with his first draft (Stephen Hero – which ended up being scrapped) yet I cannot say that it is stream of consciousness either (though Joyce does use elements). Wikipedia says that the style is more a mix of third person narrative with free indirect speech though I would have to say that the style in itself differs from anything that I have read previously. Maybe that is why it comes in at third on the editors list of 20th Century great novels (and ironically Ulysses comes in at number one).

Well, the story itself is about a young man's, named Stephen Daedelus, which is a pseudonym for James Joyce (not that there is anything wrong with writing an autobiography that is not strictly an autobiography, but is in fact an autobiography – I know, I've tried it, not that I've published anything yet because, like a lot of writers, it isn't perfect – and probably never will be), journey through his teenage years attending a strict catholic school and how he decides to reject the priesthood and become a writer.

It is interesting because one of the most confronting parts of the novel is where he is at a school camp and is listening to a sermon on hell and is struck so much as to how horrible hell is that he immediately goes to confession and recants of his sins (and he had been a pretty sinful person up until that time). It is funny because after that first confession he immediately feels this sense of relief, which is almost like a drug, because when it begins to go away he then goes to confession again, and again, and again, to experience this feeling of 'forgiveness' (if that is what you call it). However, the more he goes to confession, the less the feeling comes about afterwards, to the point that he begins to wonder whether it is working anymore.

That really got me thinking because it does make me wonder whether this whole idea of divine forgiveness has drug like attributes because it does have some psychological effect upon you. The feeling of relief that you have when you realise that the sins of your past, and the guilt that you suffered, no longer holds you down can give you a really pleasurable rush, yet the more you seek that rush, the less fulfilling that rush becomes until such a time that it becomes part and parcel of life – however you cannot escape from it because your mind has latched onto this need for forgiveness that you continue to perform the rituals despite it not having the same effect.

Now, it is also interesting that Daedelus is then approached to join the priesthood, yet in his mind he is surprised that the priests seem to think that he is this worthy candidate. Daedelus knows that he is not worthy of such a post, yet others seem to think that he is. It makes me wonder about the whole selection process churches use to pick their leaders. Mind you, since I am a protestant I cannot comment on the Catholic Church, however leaders within the protestant church are generally selected by their 'godly' character, as well as their sociability. Not all protestant churches are like that, but I have been to some who seem to bring those who get along with people and are social butterflies into the leadership ranks, yet I have sometimes questioned whether the ethical character of some of these people warrant that. Mind you, there is no such thing as a perfectly ethical person, however there are times when a person who is unsuited to such a role is brought itnand the result can be a disaster. The reason I say that is because when you are a leader you suddenly have this respect – people look up to you, and that respect has a danger of going to people's heads, and if that happens there is a danger of a 'cult of personality' being created.

Then there is the use of the name Daedelus. Daedelus is an ancient Greek mythological figure who is famous for creating the labyrinth in Crete where the minotaur lived, a fake bull that was designed to lure a bull to have sex with a woman so that the minotaur could be created, and wings to enable him and his son Icarus to escape. The thing about Daedelus is that he was imprisoned by King Minos on Crete, which seems to reflect the feeling that Joyce found himself imprisoned in Ireland. Despite most (if not all) of his works being set in Ireland, he spent most of his life in self imposed exile. That is something I can relate to because Ireland had a lot of issues – it was ruled by the English and there were strong tensions between the Protestants and Catholics, and the Irish and the English. It was also pretty much a backwater, though had probably come some way since the potato famine. Still, this was the turn of the century, and despite the English having invested huge amounts of money in colonies such as Australia and India, Ireland was more like occupied territory where the inhabitants were kept in a state of subjugation and oppression, which resulted in an uprising during World War I.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1169504044
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review 2013-11-22 17:58
Three Irish Women Between Past, Present and Future: A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen
A World of Love - Elizabeth Bowen

Abridged version of my review posted on Edith’s Miscellany on 18 October 2013


In her 1955 novel A World of Love the Anglo-Irish author Elizabeth Bowen evokes the atmosphere of a decayed rural manor in County Cork, Ireland, in the early 1950s to tell the story of Antonia Montefort, Lilia Danby and her twenty-one-year old daughter Jane. A packet of love letters which the young woman finds in the attic by accident confronts the women with the past embodied by Guy Montefort, the former owner of the manor, Antonia’s cousin and Lilia’s fiancée, who was killed in action during World War I. All of a sudden the house is filled with Guy’s ghostly presence and the people at Montefort are drawn into the emotional whirl of memories, disappointment and grief coming to light. Even Jane is under the dead man’s spell although feeling her own bright future waiting around the corner she doesn’t give the past much thought.


A World of Love is a philosophical and psychological novel revolving around love, pity and the influence of time on people. Overall there isn’t happening much. The story comes alive rather through the atmosphere which Elizabeth Bowen’s poetic language creates than through the simple plot that spans no more than three extraordinarily hot days in June. The dilapidated manor, the picturesque landscape and the suffocating heat mirror the psychological condition of the characters, their memories and everything unsaid between them. Guy is the omnipresent symbol of love sought, found and eventually lost. To my taste there could be a little more action and the unconvincing end comes rather too sudden, but for the rest it’s an interesting and easy-to-read novel.


Doing some online research on A World of Love I found that it probably isn’t Elizabeth Bowen’s best work. Despite all I enjoyed the read and recommend it.


For the full review please click here to go to my blog Edith’s Miscellany.

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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