I’ve been fascinated each time I’ve come across very attractive and fun creations, when visiting craft fairs etc.,: I geared up to have a go myself.
1st June 2016: I’ve just had the great pleasure of reading and finishing my copy of H. G. Wells’ 1927 (20) SELECTED SHORT STORIES.
So much could be said about this great author’s futuristic soothsaying allied with his insightfulness about our human condition which he displays in these short stories. Penguin Books’ cover note on this edition expresses what I’d want to say: “These twenty stories … represent the variety of his imagination and reveal his power to evoke both scene and atmosphere… He had an interest in many diverse subjects and was able to apply a fresh and unspecialized mind to them.” And that’s putting it mildly.
THE TIME MACHINE: many have seen movie versions of this astounding story. We see and hear a version of it. If it’s the only version/ presentation of the story to have been seen, it’s a lightning-bolt of a realisation to read HG’s story with its lyricism, invocation and descriptions of thoughts and emotions. He uses words as an artist would use paint: “The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses”.
Very much in the times, at that time, HG has his characters discussing time and space; it’s to set us up to believe in a further dimension to thickness, length, breadth and time: our consciousness, as relevant and important, HG’s character tells us, to our existing at any time; there is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along with it. Which is, I offer, what writers are intending to do when seeking to provide credibility and gain empathy with their readers when they use the vehicle of consciousness, of ourselves, others and the world around us to create the literary world they would have us inhabit.
THE LAND IRONCLADS:
What an opening sentence this is: The young lieutenant lay beside the war correspondent and admired the idyllic calm of the enemy’s lines through his field-glass. We are immediately transported into the sense of impending danger.
(To be continued, AR ©2016)
A Question of Belief; Donna Leon.
As usual, Donna Leon paints a familiar picture of my beloved Venice.
Her books set in the Veneto, present its exotic lifestyle; wonderful food; wonderful architecture, so thronged with enthusiastic tourists; their impact on Venetians Leon sympathises with.
Why is it that many writers who set their stories in Italy and Sicily use the image of ongoing corruption amongst Venetians and Sicilians of influence and power, spiced with their dishonesty and driven by their passionate need for personal advantage?
Leon uses that vehicle to explain why her policeman, Commissario Brunetti, is so very often deflected in his investigations by characters with vested interests in doing so.
His boss Patta, for example, “As so often happened when Brunetti dealt with Patta, he was forced to admire the skill with which his superior could transmute his own worst failings —in this case blind ambition and an absolute refusal to perform any action that did not benefit him directly — into the appearance of probity.”
Brunetti’s rest from that negativity comes from the food he enjoys in his favoured eateries and that his wife Paola prepares for him ready for his homecoming; also, from the joy his children’s personalities bring him.
Ironically, it is the protection of family or other loved ones that drives some characters’ behaviours; behaviours which Brunetti must investigate and confront.
©Adrian Regis 2015
I’ve come across a World Books, Special Edition for its “members only” in their series: a Reprint Society 1957 edition of Chatto & Windus’ 1955 A CENTURY OF WRITERS 1855 – 1955.
Clive Warner’s fifteen page introduction has caught my interest. His explanation of the origin of Chatto and Windus and its development is a revelation; revealing as it does, the circumstances and the role of the characters flags-up some familiar names. From it, there is sense of what exists today, generally: in the paper, book publishing we have today.
I’m still working my way through this gem; enjoying the writings of the iconic authors within it. Huxley, Twain, Lagerkvist, Belloc, Bennett, Faulkner, Jerome, Strindberg, Hughes, Montagne, Ouida, Powys, Pritchett, Tchehov, Poe, Bell, Empson, Fry, Jeffries, Knight, Strachey, Swinburne, Dickinson, Eberhart, Monro, Nichols and Shaughnessy are waiting to be read. There are also inserts amongst the writing in this book that relate to periods in the publishing house’s history.
Warner tells us that John Camden Hotten founded Chatto & Windus in its early form: when it wasn’t called that. Now, it’s renamed again to Randomhouse. Andrew Chatto took over John Camden Hotten’s created book publishing business in 1873; buying it from Hotten’s widow for £25,000. W. E. Windus joined Chatto shortly after that. Oliver Warner describes Percy Spalding joining Chatto and Windus in 1876. Warner tells us that Spalding and Chatto’s descendants guided “the long and prosperous middle era of the firm”.
Many tributes to and validations of the firm are revealed to us by Warner in his introduction to the Special Edition. He cites Hotten’s “beautiful” Chiswick Press edition of the Prayer Book. His History of Sign Boards (1886) was in great demand. He also published a History of Playing Cards. Hotten’s business head, Warner wants us to realise or note, meant that he saw the commercial sense in dedicating his History of Playing Cards to one of his cache of successful, published authors. In that way, killing two birds with one stone by both promoting that long popular author: Thomas Wright and the book therein dedicated. Having the book illustrated by van Schevichaven did no harm either.
Warner tells us more. Hotten, after paying Bertrand Payne £200 for it, published Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads. Most of Swinburne’s work was then handled by Hotten. Later, Chatto & Windus took over Poems and Ballads from Hotten. Windus published his own book of verse during the early days of C & W. The end of that work had a forty page long catalogue of the books they were publishing at that time “still full of Hotteniana”: the titles he had acquired over the early years. There were listed: Poems by Charles and Mary Lamb; books from Mayhew, Hook and Swinburne. Andrew Chatto and Percy Spalding added Besant, Collins, McCarthy, Ouida, Reade, Stevenson and many others, Warner reveals; also, Hardy and Trollope. American writers were also gathered in: Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Artemus Ward, Oliver Wendell Holmes, C. G. Leland, J. R. Lowell, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman and “others important in the history of American letters”.
Oliver Warner tells us that in 1901, roughly thirty years after Hotten died, an Indianapolis literary society moved to place a tablet in their library to “J. C. Hotten, the famous Piccadilly publisher … as an acknowledgement of his services in introducing certain famous American authors to the British reading public”.
Andrew Chatto and the firm, we are told, were later well thought of by “the trade” and its writers. Sir Walter Besant the first President of the Society of Authors, is said by Warner to have once remarked “I should like to see my friend Chatto driving in a gilded coach!” R. L. Stevenson also wrote of C & W “Your fair, open and handsome dealings are a good point in my life …” D. H. Lawrence, we are told, once spoke of the Victorian heads of C & W as his “old-favoured folk”.
Notable for the reader of A CENTURY OF WRITERS, Warner’s introduction mentions the arrival of “a whirlwind” Philip Lee-Warner at the firm in 1905. He founded the Medici Society vehicle to produce “excellent but expensive” art books. Sir Israel Gollancz was his General Editor for C & W’s King’s Classics and their Medieval Library series. Philip Lee-Warner also introduced Geoffrey Whitworth and Frank Swinnerton to the firm. Whitworth was the British Drama League founder. Swinnerton, amongst other things, authored The Georgian Literary Scene. Authors of the time, we’re told, liked to pop into the publisher’s office. George R. Sims, author of It Was Christmas Day in the Workhouse, often did that.
Chatto and Windus began magazine publishing. The Gentleman’s Magazine (1731 to 1922); The Belgravia from 1866 to 1899 (Hardy’s The Return of the Native first appeared in it). They published Jerome K. Jerome’s Idler magazine from 1892 to 1911. C & W began to publish Christmas catalogues for famous department stores. I sold the one pictured below, on EBay recently.
Chatto & Windus
(C) Adrian Regis 2015
You may have seen my previous post; mainly about the pleasant surprise I had after, at last, coming to read Virginia Woolf’s books. Following up on that: I continue to revel in the modernity of these books that were originally published in the 1920s.
Latest example, I suggest, of the modernity, the way items fit with our living and philosophy today, for me, is shown in Chapter 17 of Virginia Woolf’s book Night and Day. We can substitute the item described in Cassandra’s room for anything found in an on trend young person’s of today. Tablet, phone, computer … (in) Cassandra’s (room) … the ceiling hung with mulberry-leaves, the windows blocked with cages, and the tables stacked with home-made machines for the manufacture of silk dresses.
Also, in chapter 18, we can identify with this: Ralph telling Mary, All this money-making …. what’s it for? …. When one’s a boy … one’s head is so full of dreams … Still, it’s impossible, after a certain age, to take oneself in satisfactorily… Like most people, I suppose, I’ve lived almost entirely among delusions …. I’m at the awkward stage of finding it out.
After years of thinking that Virginia Woolf’s books/ stories/ works weren’t for me, finding her Complete Works on Amazon, my attitude is changed.
The CW begin with her non-fiction A Room of One’s Own.
I humbly offer my summation of this as an instruction wrapped within Woolf’s immaculately erudite insights of how not to undervalue any woman. It is inspiring.
At the moment, reading The Voyage Out, having reached the part in this fiction when Rachel is physically well-enough to acknowledge Terence and to speak to him after her near death illness, I’m struck by the implication of VW’s experience of life and people. How she so well describes the experience of delirium, fragility and physical weakness. The voices far off though actually speaking in the same room as the patient. The nightmare characters and ingredients that a raging temperature can conjure. And of the effect the whole distressing matter of some one close dying.
How Terence, Rachel’s intended, consciously removes himself from being overwhelmed by his fears and helplessness about his loved-one, by tuning that out and tuning in on the normal and pleasant of his surroundings just outside the sick room.
How others of the group variously embrace or dismiss the trauma they are all experiencing. This, a real and challenging one, compared to the trivial and out of proportion theatrical distresses they previously enjoyed sharing with one another.
All this realised and described and I’m only at chapter twenty five of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out. I’m really enjoying this and am learning from it at the same time.
I want to share this help with you : a so quick and easy and unfussy way of making a loaf of bread. My eBook is not available ’til 16th November but it can be pre-ordered here
The path that Gary and Tracey were walking on, after leaving the churchyard, ran past Ewan and Brenda’s. Gary and Tracey knew that instinctively, whenever they passed that other couple’s Shetland pony grazing where it always did, as it was now : at the bottom of Ewan and Brenda’s garden . Gary shared his surprise with Tracey, at not seeing the pony’s two owners anywhere about.
Tracey had to agree that it was quite unusual for the Gems, Ewan and Brenda not to be there up at their house, looking down at their pony; keeping an eye on it. Tracey decided to climb over the fence to go up to the house and check on them as it really was so unusual to not see them anywhere about. Tracey was gone out of sight long enough for Gary to begin to fret. He never liked it when Tracey was away from him for longer than he thought she should be. It was almost fifteen minutes: how long he’d been waiting for her to come back to him. He couldn’t stand it any longer. He climbed over the fence too; looking forward to catching up with his Tracey and the Gems. When he got up to the house he didn’t see anybody; not Tracey; not Ewan; not Brenda. But he heard some talking. The one voice talking didn’t belong to any of his targets. He didn’t recognise the voice at all. It made him quizzical; wanting to know more about what might be going on out of his sight. He was edging along the house wall to where he could hear the talking coming from, when what he saw next stopped him dead in his tracks.
Right there on the Gem’s back lawn was his Tracey kneeling beside Ewan, who was lying very comfortably on his back on the grass, kissing him. The unknown voice he’d heard talking was a DJ, a disc jockey, on the radio beside them. What was he supposed to think about that? And that’s what he needed to do; to think about this and about their so called loving relationship of so many years. What was she thinking? How long has it been going on behind his back? When she’d said she was meeting her girlfriends was she really meeting Ewan? All through these workings of his thoughts, Gary was getting angry and hot and feeling frustrated; being betrayed by the most important, most trusted and relied upon person in his life. Not to mention the fact that he worshipped her. Did worship her; past tense. With no words to say or a way to say them if he had, Gary simply turned on his heel and purposefully strode away.
Tracey must only then have looked up and seen Gary appear to march off. She knew him well enough; that he’d probably got the wrong end of the stick as usual. He looked all beetling and angry which meant he’d seen what she was doing, or thought he did; had made up his mind and gone off in a huff. She had to get him to stop and hear her out. But how could she just leave Ewan after finding him lying there with what looked like a sudden heart attack, when there was no one else there to help him. Where was Brenda? Oh, damn it. She bawled out, “Gary Spall. Get back here right now or there’ll be trouble. I can’t do this on my own. I’m doing the best I can for him. Ewan looks like he’s had a heart attack and I can’t find Brenda. Get back here and help me”
What a complete fool he’d made of himself again to Tracey. But he knew what it looked like, so did she, he reckoned. He was never very good at weighing things up properly; seeing them as they were; instead, conjuring up upsetting theories; jumping the gun. He’d just done it again; unless it was an elaborate cover-up. No. Stop it, Gary, he told himself. Looking back over to where Tracey was, he completely got it. It may have been a tactic to distance himself from the idiot Gary of a few moments ago but, whatever it was, he ran to Tracey and her patient with the sole intent of being only honourable and useful. He could only hope that by doing the right thing after being such a fool he would redeem himself in his special one’s estimation.
“Okay, Trace”, he said, “let me make up for bein’ stupid by taking over from you for a bit with the old CPR.”
“Good. Thank you, Gary. At last I can stop. I couldn’t have kept it up much longer. I’ll go into Ewan’s place and ring for an ambulance. You take over.” As Gary got up close to Tracey and Ewan, a very strange thing happened. Ewan, apparently unconscious, suddenly started to convulse; his body suddenly went concave causing his head and shoulders and his feet to rise up off the ground while he lay there. Then, just as strangely, he stopped convulsing; was calm and quiet for a moment then quickly stood up. He turned to face the wall of his greenhouse then power-walked forwards into it. There should have been blood spilled from the cuts he should have got from the glass panels as they shattered from the impact. No blood… No distress in Ewan either. He simply came to a stop amongst the broken bits of greenhouse frame and quite a lot of glass shards. Gary and Tracey were gobsmacked. They’d never seen anything like that before.
The two were just about to shake off their amazement and go to Ewan to check him out when they heard Ewan’s voice from the other side of the greenhouse. Then he appeared telling them how surprised and pleased he was to see them there. They did a double-take at that looking from the greenhouse Ewan back to the greeting Ewan. Tracey made a sound that was supposed to mean, “But, uh, but, err.” Translation was unnecessary as Gary and Ewan were looking at the other Ewan and expressing something very similar. But then, the other Ewan looked at all of them. It appeared to panic; reached its hand into its jacket; then completely disappeared. Much as a soap balloon pops to nothing without giving a warning that it will.
For the next two hours, at least, Ewan, Tracey and her Gary played verbal ping-pong with all their thoughts and theories about what happened to them. Ewan was the most in the dark, of course. He hadn’t been involved at all with the goings-on earlier. He’d been washing his car out at the front of the house. The three agreed a tryst: none of them was to say a word to Brenda Gems about this two Ewan adventure they’d just had and, if they hadn’t witnessed it and known about it: her Ewan’s contributions to their life might have been stopped dead in their tracks.
(c) Adrian Regis 2014
For a long time I’ve been scratching my head over how to improve the book cover of this story of mine. The first one, featuring a red-faced sleeper, never quite did it for me. The next cover, with its ash-grey graphic, continued to be unsatisfactory. With its picture of a face garnished with flame-like decoration and suggestion of smouldering smoke, this week’s cover release is much closer to what I’ve been intending for the book.