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Showing posts from March, 2014

eastern promises

After analysing literature for three and a half years, after learning how not to talk about literature – trying to replace feelings, intuitions, and sensations with critical distance and particularities about how language is working – I feel myself at a loss. Reading the short stories of W. Somerset Maugham, I feel the same hazy intoxication that I felt when I first read The Painted Veil seven years ago, in one long, now seemingly sun-drenched summer in Oxford. I read it in the upper reading room of the Radcliffe Camera, under the white dome with its echoing scratches of pigeon wings. Maugham is a relentlessly visual writer, and when I think about The Painted Veil, when I think about that summer, I’m left with the hot room in which the novel opens, the Chinese screens, the word ‘tiffin’, Charlie’s hat.

The short stories, at least those in the fourth volume of the collected stories, are similarly evocative. These dramas are all set against a setting empire, the last days of the imperial…

grantchester in march

If there was ever a day to be in Cambridge and to walk out to Grantchester meadows, it was this one. I ran out towards the fields before 8. The sky was already Wedgewood blue and the sun Greek. As I ran – slowly; I’m not much of a runner – Vaughn Williams Lark Ascending came up on my ipod. A synthesizing of music and mood and landscape that fit like light jazz and a New York skyline, or blues and the South. I crouched down to the grass when I got to the village and saw the sunlight on the grassblades' unevaporated coating. In the distance, the river ran quiet and deep through monochromatic fields, and the single swan swimming its sole worshipper. The hedges and thickets were blooming: not all together but every odd bush exploded into flower. Plump doves and crows sat high on bare branches, and the tits and robins darted in the hedges. The lichens and mosses around the tree stumps are electric green. The pheasants and grouse call in mulish strangled squawks. I saw what the American…