20th century literature

When I Think All Hope Has Gone -- R.I.P. Adrian Mitchell

Adrian Mitchell has died. His The Oxford Hysteria of English Poetry is seriously funny:

Then suddenly --- WOOMF --- It was the Ro-man-tic Re-viv-al And it didn't matter how you wrote, All the public wanted was a hairy great image. Before they'd even print you You had to smoke opium, die of consumption, Fall in love with your sister Or drown in the Mediterranean (not at Brighton).

And in the mid-1990s, Mr Mitchell suddenly found himself credited as co-writer of a big UK hit - The Bluetones and their lovely "Bluetonic" single - as they quoted a snippet of his poetry..

Rest in peace, Adrian Mitchell. I've always really, really liked you.

Either I'm Nobody, Or I'm A Nation

Oh, my president-elect crush burns strong: Barack Obama seen with poetry collection. Of course it's not just any old poetry collection, it is Derek Walcott's Collected Poems. A Nobel Prize laureate; a Caribbean poet straddling colonialism, post-colonialism, and the Western canon; someone who proclaims ".. either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation". Of course, as Bookninja warns, it could be a coldly calculated photo prop, but I like the idea of Obama reading Walcott. It makes sense, y'know? Maybe Obama is just returning the favour. Walcott wrote a poem on the occasion of Obama's election victory: Forty Acres: a poem for Barack Obama.

Read more: + Derek Walcott: The Schooner Flight (and I've always maintained that Walcott is re-writing Eliot's The Waste Land with that poem) + Derek Walcott: The Sea Is History + A Life in Writing: Derek Walcott + Buy Walcott's Omeros - an epic poem/novel-in-verse charting the "restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary".

Post-Election Fatigue

Yesterday I knitted this hat whilst I was waiting for the election results to come in from the US. I was sewing on the flower when Obama was declared president elect. I have no idea what to do with the finished hat, though. I will probably never wear it. I have been binging on a certain type of elegant little British novels. I read two Nancy Mitfords recently - The Pursuit of Love and Love In A Cold Climate. I would call them comedies of manner except Mitford doesn't satirise her characters as much as she gently chides them. I'm currently reading Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson (borrowed with much gratitude from Lilith). It is less upper-class twittish than Mitford's novels, but it still features men with pencil moustaches and "Oh, darling!" exclamations.

As I'm beginning to say things like "Tea would be utterly divine, darling!" to my partner, perhaps it's time I start reading some Michel Houllebecq (although, to be fair, I really liked Atomised)? I would but .. a novel about "the lack of ideas and morale in contemporary (..) society" complete with "an overarching mood of gloom and fatalism" just doesn't seem the thing to revisit right this moment.

But what on earth shall I do with the damn election hat? Knit another one?

Drinking Tea Will Muddle Your Brain

Sometimes I worry that Domestic Bliss has ruined my ice-cold demeanour and unsentimental outlook on life. To wit, I am sitting here with a lump in my throat after stumbling across this:

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president.

Then again I also found Make Art From Starbucks Junk with a really, really cool TIE Fighter and I was instantaneously reassured that despite lapses into sentimentality my inner self will remain a 12-year-old geek (with an ice-cold demeanour).

This morning I read Nancy Mitford's Love In A Cold Climate which reads like a funnier and far more grown-up version of Dodie Smith's I Capture The Castle (which left me completely cold, I'm afraid). I'm now off to find more of Mitford's novels as I think the brisk winds of October are best kept away by tea, knitting and books set in interwar England (Waugh as well, I think, in addition to Mitford). Hello, favourite bookshop, here I come.

How are YOU Doin'?!

Thanks to Tina who's still in academia (and thus has access to Project MUSE and I'm not at all envious of this), I have learned that F. Scott Fitzgerald had many talents:

"In the collection of his papers at Princeton University, Fitzgerald's scrapbook contains newspaper clippings of his publicity photograph and the letters that he received in response; one writer urged Fitzgerald to consider working as a female impersonator. In the same book, he also clipped and saved newspaper articles in which college presidents debated the danger that cross-dressing posed to their students. Yale enacted a rule that men could only perform as women [End Page 27] once every two years, lest their sense of themselves as men be damaged. Perhaps disappointed over his suspension from the Triangle Club (and other extracurricular activities as a result of his grades), Fitzgerald took it upon himself to attend a University of Minnesota fraternity party in drag while home for Christmas vacation. This performance also hit the papers ("He's Belle of the Ball Until Astonished Co-eds Find Blond Wig on Chair") and appears in Fitzgerald's scrapbook."

(Source: Pearl James' "History and Masculinity in F. Scott Fitzgerald's this Side of Paradise", MFS Modern Fiction Studies 51.1 (2005) 1-33)