Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy new Year

It's Lady Day.
This is because it is nine months before the birth of Jesus (25th Dec), therefore the day that Mary conceived (Annunciation).
Some have also claimed it was the date of the first Easter, i.e. Jesus' resurrection (March 25th AD31).
Also, more or less, the vernal equinox. (Bloody ACE!!)
Mothering Sunday this year is 3rd April (4th Sunday in Lent). One of many Mother's Days around the world, with classical or pre-classical antecedents, tending to take place around the vernal equinox. Simnel Cake in the UK, for long traditional on Mothering Sunday, but the 11 disciples (marzipan balls) rather suggest an Easter connection originally.
(Does any of this have any connexion with Lady Day? Probably.) Anyway, back to Lady Day.
Traditional English quarter day, and originally New Year's Day (until 1752), when we went from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.
(Vernal Equuinox is still the start of the Iranian New Year.)
Origin of the Swedish word for what we call waffle (in Sweden eaten on this day), :- Våffel - Vår Fru (Our Lady).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

more seedlings

I'm still compiling and completing the previous brief-hist/literary/cultural post, but I thought I'd better begin another one because it was getting pretty long.

R.F. Langley died recently. I don't really know what it was that prompted me, but in a £20 splurge of extravagance I've bought all his books; they turned up today and I just had time to read "Mariana" (which fascinatingly wipes over Tennyson) before I left for work.

Meanwhile I'm reading Giles Goodland's What The Things Sang. It's been well reviewed by Alastair Noon in Jacket, and Steve Spence in Stride; some of what they say I will inevitably repeat when I inevitably write about this for IS. It's an overwhelming book; one of those poetry volumes you definitely can't read through at one sitting. I'm about a quarter of the way through and nowhere near collecting my thoughts.

I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm very excited to hear there's a Bob Cobbing Radio 4 programe online:

Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy. Abridged audiobooks, read by Martin Wenner. Wenner is evidently bilingual, and my greatest pleasure when listening to this was probably his pronunciation of the Swedish names and placenames. He has quite a lot of fun. When Blomkvist and Salander are in London speaking English to English characters, they suddenly develop strong Swedish accents. In the Australian scene Wenner switches between Swedish-English (Blomkvist), Australian-English (Jeff) and Swedish-Australian-English (Harriet). Clever stuff.

Having got to the end, I am now re-listening to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The title in Swedish was Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women), which says a lot more about what the book is. The abridgement contains about a fifth of the text; satisfying listening (compared e.g. to the disembowelled 2-CD Villette I heard recently) but naturally not much good for detailed textual queries. (For example, I've only just discovered that there's an enigmatic prelude to The Girl Who Played With Fire, it's not in the audiobook.)

With that caveat, I think this first vol is the best of the three books Larsson managed to complete, from most points of view. Because here he drew most enquiringly on his knowledge of far-right groups and his witnessing of violence against women; here his wonderful Salander's mixture of feelings is more intuitively portrayed than later; the violence is more scary; and the Vangers are more credible than the buffoonish Niedermans and doddery Section professionals that take up space in the later books. Credible in a way. Martin Vanger's diseased woman-hating psychopathy has just horribly shown up in Swindon (formerly claimed to be the most crime-free town in the UK) - but it seems unlikely the Swindon killer is the CEO of a large company.

Astrid Lindgren, Elizabeth George, Dorothy Sayers, Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid. Why does Blomkvist read only female authors? (I reckon it's fully as ingeniously planned as the "Leviticus" murders.)

In which future volume did Larsson intend to bring Camilla forward? (Lisbeth's sister, who remains resolutely unspoken about in the three completed volumes.) Larsson uses a technique of selective consciousness-reporting. Thus in "The Girl Who Played With Fire" the whole slowly developing mystery about Zalachenko is only sustained because until Larsson is ready he tells us not a word about Salander's father. Even though, in other respects, we spend a load of time inside Salander's consciousness. Is this "cheating"? While consciousness-reporting is always selective (though novelists tend to create the illusion that this is not so), are certain conventions of disclosure to be obeyed, are authorial silences about germane matters something we should think about? Not, I mean, because of rules of whodunnits, that's neither here nor there, but perhaps because the reader has been manipulated into spending a lot of time thinking about something that isn't worth thinking about, a mere manufactured puzzle (I'm remembering C.S. Lewis complaining about Chapman's Shadow of Night). Maybe that's not the question to ask. Is it also about plausibility - people would be bound to demand answers about Camilla at various points in the books. (From the mythological point of view it seems relevant that Anita and Cecilia Vanger are also twins.)

I am also reading: Moliere's The Misanthrope; Home Run (book about escapes from Nazi Europe); John Steinbeck's East of Eden; Chris Goode's blog (recently talking about poetry as a window or a wall, analogies that deserve further examination).

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Monday, March 21, 2011

thirsty coast

honk, fru-grains
steel, repeat the dose      hammerswift flies

Why so low, and budding? And that thing; so wide and fruitless?

There are more stars tonight, a special kind; blotting stars; grains of steel.

Pull my head down, out of the wind, like you did before.


Honk if you desert bumped.


estuary akka, when geese bumbed; skinny
and libya from the air made an exhibition
aluminium with the super moon on their wings


Sunday, March 13, 2011

March in pink

Above and the two below, Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra'. Contrary to what I've read in Alan Mitchell, this seems to come into flower at exactly the same time as the even more common Pissard's Plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea') but is instantly distinguishable, especially from a distance, because the blossom appears deep pink, in contrast to the very pale pinkywhite of Pissard's (not to mention the pure white of the species tree - see previous post).

Of course, some of the pink in these pix is artfully photo-enhanced (due to the bastard crappy camera playing up), but not as much as you might suppose.

Above and below, Prunus 'Accolade', the lower pic showing the long sprays of blossom on the end of bare branches.

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