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Showing posts from September, 2011

Claro, hablo castellano!

Tomorrow I start for Spain; a week in Catalonia. As one of my favourite parts of going on holiday is planning which books to take.

This is what’s accompanying me (you might notice a curious lack of Medieval and Renaissance titles):

As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning – Laurie Lee

A birthday gift from a friend. Lee’s autobiography from his journeys in Spain in 1934.

Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell

A classic of the Spanish Civil War. Long overdue.


The Skeptical Romancer: Selected Travel Writing - W. Somerset Maugham

The part of which concerns Spain. Trips to China for reading variation.

After the Death of Don Juan - Sylvia Townsend Warner

An accidental find. I’m a fan of Sylvia’s, and this was written during the Civil War and apparently reflects some of the turmoil in against the backdrop of eighteenth century Spain.


Hemingway’s For whom the Bell Tolls I read in Oxford. Am very much considering – as an antidote to overindulgence – Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy, but we’ll see what the …

Summering in Somerset

The Archers is real. I walked into the midst of it in Milverton a few weeks ago. A and I went with our friend L to visit her home in a village in Somerset. L’s mother is a popular children’s author and, even coming from Oxford, A and I acknowledged the utter unreality of life in a manor hour in Somerset during a week of fete-ing and festivities.




The Old House, as the Milvertonians call it, was once the house of the bishops of Taunton and Deane, including Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury from – to – during the reigns of Henry VIII and his son Edward, and executed under Mary. The house has recently come into some excitement as, during a remodelling, a rare mural of Henry – somewhat caricatured and perhaps hastily covered up when the political climate rapidly changed - was discovered behind the plastering in the hall. For the 10 Parishes festival and in tribute to the presence of Henry, L’s mother wrote a play dramatizing the King’s Great Matter, starring the village Amateur Dram…
Finally finished David Foster Wallace's Pale King and my review is up on the Cherwell website here . DFW has become something of a summer obsession, so this conclusion is satisfying.

Contrary Gardening

The British film director Mike Leigh, as I understand it, has a reputation for depressing British naturalistic dramas (at least in HMC discourse). Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), with its ebullient heroine, Poppy, traversing a shabby London accompanied by wind instruments, had its frightening moments (Poppy in a car with a mentally unstable driving instructor) but resolved itself with Poppy and her friend swanning around in a rowboat.
Another Year (2010) seemed more of a gamble.

We were promised a cheerful movie with a bit of melancholy. It began hopefully. As the title suggests, the film is structured by the seasons. Spring begins - after a medical interview with a grim-faced woman (Imelda Staunton) who has trouble sleeping and cannot remember ever being happy - with a long-married couple working peacefully in an allotment. The gardening threads through the film and provides a competent metaphor for a script dealing with the relations between people. At the nexus of the web of relationship i…