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Showing posts from October, 2009

Half the World is Called Thomas

At last, I have finished Hilary Mantel’s Man-Booker winner this morning! For readers of Philippa Gregory and other historical romances, Wolf Hall might seem like it can offer no new thrills. The turbulence of sixteenth century England is old news thanks to the current mania for Tudors. The cast of characters we meet is familiar: dangerously intemperate Henry VIII; the woefully deposed Queen Katherine of Aragon; her successor, the cat-like Anne Boleyn; the doomed churchmen Wolsey and More (and Cranmer and Latimer)…

But there is a new star on the horizon and Mantel gives him a meaty role. When I saw the novel was Tudorian in theme and I had heard it was about a Thomas, I thought it was Thomas More, Catholic saint and writer of Utopia (as in “The Prince has read Utopia”). Wendy, the events manager at the bookstore scoffed, “It’s Thomas Cromwell!”
“Don’t you mean Thomas More?” I frowned. “Cromwell’s first name was Oliver. And he wasn’t alive yet.”
“No, the King killed Thomas More.”
“I think …

It Came

Scribbles

I've kept a journal ever since I was in third grade, or Standard One as it was called in George. These diaries included such salacious content as: what I was wearing that day, the time I made toasted cheese all by myself, and long-standing feelings for various boys with bowl haircuts. That's the bad thing about writing in a journal, isn't it? You can't get away from the stupid things you did, or said, or the things you wanted so badly to happen.

Throughout high school, college and now into my semi-professional life, I've accumulated a pile of mismatched journals: gifts from birthdays and Christmases and graduations. Picked up in airports and museums and gift shops and grocery stores and hand me downs. They are on a shelf in my cupboard, in the corner. Shameful and exuberant and badly written and smudged, with terrible poetry in every volume.

I was given my first Moleskine journal two Christmases ago and I started it June 19, 2009, the day after I graduated, while my…

Status Anxiety

While I continue through some of the Great Books - Sir Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur at the moment - I admit frequent disheartening twinges. There are just too many. They are just too long. I have started too late. (But this way, I've heard, madness lies...)

I found an excellent article care of Arts & Letters this morning on the role of the Great Books fad in American Middlebrow Culture. I recognize this sort of status anxiety, but the writer of the article enables other middlebrow strivers who adhere to the American myth of betterment through self-education to feel known and vindicated.

Feeling Wolfish

As you might know by now, the winner of the Man-Booker Prize this year was Hilary Mantel with Wolf Hall. You can read more about the winner and her novel here.

Mantel was this year's favorite and still won - unlike last year's favorite, Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, which got the shaft. I was oscillating between Mantel and A.S. Byatt's Children's Book, which was released in the U.S. on the day the Man-Booker was announced. It would have been a triumph for Byatt. But then again, she'd won it already and perhaps one swimming pool (bought with her prize money for Possession) is enough.

Wolf Hall will be released in the U.S. this coming Tuesday, October 13th, and I have my copy winging on its way.

I put up a Man-Booker Prize table at the bookstore to draw more attention to literature presently published and recognized in the UK and to celebrate this month's award. Mostly consisting of various English memorabilia. Here are the pictures:



Very proud of the hangi…

A Nip in the Air

It is finally October, which is one of the best months of the year. I am thrilled that autumn has arrived! Kristin says that I say this every time the seasons pass and that I am addicted to the change of the seasons. She may be right. I know I was ecstatic when the spring came this year. But autumn and I have a love affair: the rain is falling and the gutters gurgling; it is the perfect weather for candles, for huddling together, for soup, for bedroom slippers and plaid pajama pants, for crocheting hats and afghans, for excavating the scarves and sweaters from their long exile. And the pumpkin latte! (The best, best thing about the autumnal season.)

Let us celebrate this new season with a poem: (Forgive it for being another Philip Larkin so soon. It’s just the first verse.)

“And now the leaves suddenly lose strength.
Decaying towers stand still, lurid, lanes-long,
And seen from landing windows, or the length
Of gardens, rubricate afternoons. New strong
Rain-bearing night-winds come: then
Le…