We began April with a quotation from T S Eliot; one of the great modernist poets, he wrote some of the most original and striking poetry of the 20th century. To get a feel for more of his work, try these suggestions:
- Read the Preludes. ( This is where the wonderful phrase in the title of this post comes from.)
- Watch and listen to The Waste Land, his greatest poem.
- Read Australian author Stephen Carroll’s brilliant novel, The Lost Life, for an interpretation of the private life behind Eliot’s poetry.
- Have a look at the biography Painted Shadow: the life of Vivienne Eliot for the story of the scandals in Eliot’s first marriage. Eliot’s first wife is said to have influenced his poetry as both his ‘muse’ and his ‘torment’.
- Read this annotated version of the famous poem The Hollow Men (This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper)
Advertised as ‘Poetry in your hand’, the Poem Flow app from the Academy of American Poets (at poets.org) is a new and unusual way of enjoying poetry. I really like it, while being quite happy to admit that it’s not for everyone. Let me explain how it works.
‘A whitely wanton with a velvet brow’ and ‘raven black’ eyes, Shakespeare’s Dark Lady is shrouded in mystery. She appears towards the end of the sequence of Shakespeare’s sonnets (from Number 127); her identity is still unknown in spite of years of research, speculation and wild guesses. As the World Shakespeare Festival (and Shakespeare’s birthday) is upon us, let’s have a look at some of these conjectures and at some of the sonnets.
This wonderful library has been on my radar since I first visited New York, a city well-known for its beautiful buildings, famous museums and great libraries (think of the New York Public Library and the special collections in the Pierpont Morgan Museum.) The Reed Foundation Library in Poets House is in Lower Manhattan, near Battery Park. I love it because of its atmosphere: warm, welcoming, spacious. There are leather couches, big windows with views over the Hudson River and shelves and shelves of poetry books. An independent, not-for-profit organization, it’s open to the public and it’s free. Continue reading
Why the Titanic? As we embark on Titanic 100, the centenary commemoration of the famous ship’s disaster, it’s interesting to speculate why this story has such a strong hold on the public imagination. Why, for instance, are we having a Titanic concert here in Adelaide this week? Why are people queuing to have their wedding photographs taken in a replica of the Titantic’s stateroom? And why on earth would anyone want to buy their daughter a special edition Titanic Barbie doll?
Robert Sullivan wrote a moving article, ’Why the Titanic still matters’ in a recent issue of the Huffington Post. I found this quite convincing until I read Catherine Bennett’s blistering counter-argument, ’Can we please just sink the Titanic once and for all?’ in The Observer. Both articles are well worth reading.
I am not going to see the 3D version of the movie, or bake a Titanic cake . But I do like the idea of re-reading some of my favourite Edwardian fiction, particularly the novels that portray the slice of wealthy, aristocratic society whose members would have had the leisure and the money to board a world-class cruise ship. And for that I can’t go past Edith Wharton’s superb novel of manners The House of Mirth (1905) nor Henry James’ beautiful but sinister Golden Bowl (1904).
Last month I posted a description of a Writers Week event called The Away Bound Train : writers on place. This month Kylie Jarrett, a Reading Woman from Flinders University, shares her thoughts on a book that is very much about place – mountains in Nepal and Peru:
Chocolate is one of the good things in life that can accompany reading. Most of us will certainly be eating it over Easter, taking part in what has become an unashamed Western-world-wide choc-fest. (Norwegians, for example, ate 9 billion chocolate eggs in 2011.) In an effort to combat this edible obsession – which does rather overshadow the religious meaning of Easter – various churches in Britain have persuaded supermarkets to stock special Christian Easter eggs.
For those of us who like chocolate with their reading (or reading with their chocolate), here are ten ideas for combining two of the world’s greatest pleasures:
- Read and enjoy Joanne Harris’s delectable novel Chocolat. This is an especially good book to read over Easter: it begins in Lent and ends on Easter Sunday. In between you can read about an array of intriguing French characters (Vianne, Anouk, Roux…) and chocolates (white rum truffles, apricot marzipan rolls, bitter orange cracknel, creme de cassis…)
- Find a murder mystery where the ‘how-dunnit’ can be traced to a box of chocolates. I’d recommend Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case ; Agatha Christie’s Poirot also investigates suspicious boxes of chocolates in his early cases and in Peril at End House.
- Visit the Haigh’s website (for research purposes.) Did you know that the optimum temperature for storing chocolate is 15-20 degrees Celsius, with low humidity? Continue reading
After the launch of the National Year of Reading at the university last week, a group of Reading Women met for our first Coffee Reading session. Naturally we discussed some of the books that our university speakers cited at the launch, particularly Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres and the crime novels of Megan Abbott. Kerry Greenwood’s delightful Phryne Fisher also got a mention, as did Marguerite Duras, and several of the authors from Writers’ Week.
Coffee Reading was accompanied by delicious Haighs chocolates, and Champagne Reading, set for later in the year, should be even more delectable…
All Fools Day seems to have its origins in sixteenth-century France, although there’s not anything like a consensus about this – the Roman festival Hilaria and the Indian Holi are also contenders. But whatever the reason, April 1st is a day for jokes and hoaxes, everything from the Piltdown Man to the annual Google hoaxes ( my favourite is the ‘Google Translate for Animals’ app – ‘which we hope will allow us to better understand our animal friends.’)
Consequently, I was very suspicious of ‘The International Edible Book Festival‘, celebrated on April 1st, the birthdate of French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826). Why would anyone want to ‘recreate your favourite book with edible ingredients’? Why indeed?….