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Posts Tagged ‘Hemingway

“I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true”*…

 

In 1995, as part of the Walt Disney Company Presents series (that was hosted by Michael Eisner, doing his not-very-successful best to channel Walt), Disney aired “Alien Encounters.”  A documentary that opens with footage of “an actual spacecraft from another world, piloted by alien intelligence,” and the pronouncement that “intelligent life from distant galaxies is now attempting to make open contact with the human race,” it only aired once.

* Frank Black (AKA Black Francis, of the Pixies)

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As we look to the skies, we might spare a thought for Gertrude Stein; she died on this date in 1946.  An American ex-pat, Stein was an author, poet, and memoirist (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas).  But she was probably most impactful and is best remembered as a hostess and mentor to a generation of writers (e.g., Hemingway,described her salon in A Moveable Feast) and artists (e.g., Picasso) in Paris, where– “the mother of us all”**– she held court for forty years.

Carl Van Vechten’s 1935 portrait of Stein

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** The Mother of Us All was the title of a Virgil Thomson opera for which Stein wrote the libretto.  And while the subject of the opera, Susan B. Anthony, certainly deserves the epithet, so, many have observed, did its author.

 

Written by LW

July 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Wear these bright jewels, belovèd Beowulf; Enjoy them”*…

 

The first page of the Beowulf manuscript

Beowulf, the oldest surviving epic in British literature, exists in only one manuscript– a copy that survived both the wholesale destruction of religious artifacts during the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and a disastrous fire which destroyed the library of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571-1631). The 3182-line poem, now housed in the British Library, still bears the scars of the fire, visible at the upper left corner of the photograph above. 

Beowulf was written in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) between 650 and 1000 in what we now know as England.  It recalls a golden age of valor and martial prowess via the adventures of a great Swedish warrior of the sixth century- Beowulf– who comes to the aid of the beleaguered Danes, saving them from the ravages of the monster Grendel and his mother.  In old age, and after many years of rule in his own country, Beowulf dies in the processof heroically slaying a dragon.

A great many translations are available, in both poetry and prose.  In his A Critical Companion to Beowulf, Andy Orchard lists 33 “representative” translations in his bibliography; it has been translated into at least 23 other languages.  Probably the best-known (and best-loved) current version is Seamus Heaney’s verse translation.  But surely the most-anticipated version is the translation completed in 1926– but never published– by J.R.R. Tolkein.

Tolkien’s academic work on the epic was second to none in its day; his 1936 paper “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” is still well worth reading, not only as an introduction to the poem, but also because it decisively changed the direction and emphasis of Beowulf scholarship.

Up to that point it had been used as a quarry of linguistic, historical and archaeological detail, as it is thought to preserve the oral traditions passed down through generations by the Anglo-Saxon bards who sang in halls such as the one at Rendlesham in Suffolk, now argued to be the home of the king buried at Sutton Hoo.Beowulf gives a rich picture of life as lived by the warrior and royal classes in the Anglo-Saxon era in England and, because it is set in Sweden and Denmark, also in the period before the Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrived on these shores. And, on top of the story of Beowulf and his battles, it carries fragments of even older stories, now lost. But in order to study all these details, academics dismissed as childish nonsense the fantastical elements such as Grendel the monster of the fens, his even more monstrous mother and the dragon that fatally wounds him at the end.

Likening the poem to a tower that watched the sea, and comparing its previous critics to demolition workers interested only in the raw stone, Tolkien pushed the monsters to the forefront. He argued that they represent the impermanence of human life, the mortal enemy that can strike at the heart of everything we hold dear, the force against which we need to muster all our strength – even if ultimately we may lose the fight. Without the monsters, the peculiarly northern courage of Beowulf and his men is meaningless. Tolkien, veteran of the Somme, knew that it was not. “Even today (despite the critics) you may find men not ignorant of tragic legend and history, who have heard of heroes and indeed seen them,” he wrote in his lecture in the middle of the disenchanted 1930s…

Read more of John Garth’s appreciation– and explore the influence of Beowulf on Middle Earth– in “JRR Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf: bring on the monsters.”

And pre-order the translation (with a bonus story by Tolkein), available late next month, here.

* Beowulf

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As we grapple with our Grendels, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Ezra Pound should no longer be held at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, D.C.  Pound has been imprisoned for 13 years, following his arrest in Italy during World War II on charges of treason.

Pound, a poet who was a major figure of the early modernist movement, was the developer of the “Imagist” school, and the “godfather” of a number of now-well-known contemporaries– among them,  T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway.  He was responsible for the 1915 publication of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and the serialization from 1918 of Joyce’s Ulysses.

Deeply troubled by the carnage of World War I, Pound moved to Paris, then to Italy, and embraced the fascism of Benito Mussolini, whose policies he vocally supported; he was arrested by American forces in Italy in 1945.  While in custody in Italy, he had begun work on sections of The Cantos that became known as The Pisan Cantos (1948), for which he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949 by the Library of Congress… setting off an enormous controversy.

His release in 1958 was the result of a campaign by writers including Archibald MacLeish, William Carlos Williams, and Hemingway.  Pound, who was believed to be suffering dementia, returned to Italy.

The best of Pound’s writing – and it is in the Cantos – will last as long as there is any literature.

-Ernest Hemingway

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Written by LW

April 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first”*…

 

A bringing together of beloved belles lettres, this chart diagrams 25 famous opening lines from revered works of fiction according to the dictates of the classic Reed-Kellogg system. From Cervantes to Faulkner to Pynchon, each sentence has been painstakingly curated and diagrammed by PCL’s research team, parsing classical prose by parts of speech and offering a partitioned, color-coded picto-grammatical representation of some of the most famous first words in literary history. Whether you’re a book buff, an English teacher, or a hard-line grammarian, this diagrammatical dissertation has something for the aesthete in all of us…

Explore “A Diagrammatical Dissertation on Opening Lines of Notable Novels” at Pop Chart Lab.

* Blaise Pascal

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As we analyze our way to an appreciation of the classics, we might recall that it was on this date in 1952 that Ernest Hemingway completed his short novel The Old Man and the Sea. He believed it to be the best writing he had ever done. The critics agreed: the book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and became one of his bestselling works.

 

Written by LW

March 4, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The rich are different than you and me”*…

 

Last year 12m people in the world had $1m or more in investible assets. That is 1m more “high-net-worth individuals” than in 2011. After falling in two of the previous five years, their combined wealth increased by 10% in 2012 to a record $46.2 trillion. America, home to 3.4m very rich folk, Japan (1.9m) and Germany (over 1m) account for more than half of the world’s wealthy. Of the 12 countries with the most super-rich people, only Brazil failed to swell its numbers last year, as its economy slowed. North America reclaimed its position from Asia-Pacific as home to more extremely wealthy people than any other region, but its lead is unlikely to last, as Asia has many of the fastest-growing economies.

- The Economist

* Ernest Hemingway’s famous mis-quote of F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Fitzgerald: The rich are different than you and me.

Hemingway: Yes, they have more money.

It is an embellished retelling of an actual encounter between Hemingway and Mary Colum:

Hemingway: I am getting to know the rich.

Colum: I think you’ll find the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.

Fitzgerald’s actual sentiment is captured in his 1926 short story “The Rich Boy”: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.”

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As we rub two pennies together, we might recall that it was on this date in 1819 that the first “Savings Bank” in the U.S., The Bank for Savings in New York City, opened in the Old Alms House (also known as The New York Institution) in the Five Points neighborhood in Manhattan.

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The noblest of pursuits…

Emily is a self-proclaimed Luddite:

I use the term because that’s what most people, my own parents included, call me.  Fun Fact: the term “Luddite”, although it has now come to mean one who fears and resents progress, originally referred to a movement that developed during the first Industrial Revolution in the factory towns of Northern England where workers feared that new technology would threaten their livelihoods.  They weren’t anti-progress; they were just pro-humans.

She has turned her passion for books and bookshops– “the joy of book-hunting, of going in with no idea what you want and finding that hidden gem or that old favourite recalled from a foggy memory”– into a calling: The Matilda Project.  Emily wanders London, finding and reporting on the independent book stores that graces its streets.  From The Southbank Book Market to Stoke Newington Bookshop, she delivers “by a book lover, for book lovers” reviews and rankings.

It’s altogether enchanting– and inspiring.  For while Emily’s is a disciplined London-specific focus, her example could– and surely should– be replicated worldwide.

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As we delight in the feel of yellowed pages between our fingers, we might send modern(ist) birthday greetings to Nancy Woodbridge Beach (or, as she was better known later in life, Sylvia Beach); she was born on this date in 1887.  An American expat in Paris to do bibliographic research, Beach met and fell in love with Adrienne Monnier, one of the first women in France to own her own bookstore.  Inspired by her partner, Beach open a small English-language bookshop at 8 rue Dupuytren (in the 6th); she called it Shakespeare and Company.

The shop quickly became a gathering place for both French and American writers, and succeeded sufficiently that Beach had to move to larger premises across the street. She made occasional forays into publishing (e.g., when James Joyce couldn’t find an English-language publisher for Ulysses, Shakespeare and Company put it out). Beach’ memoir, Shakespeare and Company, recounts her experiences with Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder, André Gide, George Antheil, Robert McAlmon, Gertrude Stein, Stephen Benet, Aleister Crowley, Harry Crosby, Caresse Crosby, Berenice Abbott, Man Ray, and many, many other icons of Left Bank intellectual and artistic life in the years between the two world wars.

Shakespeare and Company was closed during the German Occupation of Paris; Beach was interned for 6 months, but hid her books in a vacant apartment above the store.  When the war ended, Hemingway symbolically “liberated” the store; but it never re-opened.   The Shakespeare and Company that operates today (as featured, e.g., in Richard Linklater’s and Woody Allen’s films) is a different operation, in a different location, renamed in 1964 “in honor” of Beach and her creation.

Beach, center, with James Joyce and Adrienne Monnier in the store; 1920

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Happy Einstein’s Birthday!

(Be sure to celebrate with a slice of pie: it’s 3.14– Pi Day)

Written by LW

March 14, 2013 at 1:01 am

Elegant Endings (and Blissful Beginnings)…

 

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Best reason to go adventuring in Wonderland:

Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

- the last line of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

19 other conclusive gems at Flavorwire’s “Famous Last Words: Our 20 Favorite Final Lines in Literature.”

And for a complementary collection of such wonders as…

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

—the opening line of Gabriel García Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

…visit the American Book Review’s “100 Best First Lines from Novels.”

 

As we reach for our library cards, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that Alice B. Toklas moved in permanently with Gertrude Stein.  The two women turned their Paris home (22 rue de Fleurus) into an artistic and literary salon, where they hosted Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and many others– several of whom appear, with Ms. Stein herself, in the lists above.

Cecil Beaton’s photo of Stein and Toklas at home (source)

 

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