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Little patch of yellow wall or a single asparagus? : Harold Pinter’s The Proust Screenplay




asparagus-1880




My greatest pleasure was asparagus, bathed in ultramarine and pink and whose spears, delicately brushed in mauve and azure, fade imperceptibly to the base of the stalk.


Pinter interests me mostly because of his screenplays. Wiki: Harold Pinter lists them.

In 2007, I was checking out Proust and rediscovering and enjoying re-listening to my cassettes of the 1995 BBC Radio 3 version of The Proust Screenplay, which was never made into a film. Coming across Vermeer’s View of Delft recently has brought me back to my tapes and reawakened my fascination with how Pinter tackled Proust.

In 1972 Joseph Losey asked Pinter to do a screenplay. Pinter had written the screenplay for Losey’s, The Servant (1963), Accident (1967 and The Go-Between (1970 ). Writer, director, translator and BBC person, and Proustian, Barbara Bray was involved in the Proust project.

They say The Go-Between was his best, but my favourite Pinter adaptation, till learning of his Proust, was his adaptation of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), directed by the late Karel Reisz. Wiki: French Lieutenant’s Woman (film) explains the history of the script development. Not many people who loved the book thought the dual story idea effective. But Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep as the actors does sort of take the role of the author’s interjections by forcing us to leave the story in a similar way.

Looking at Pinter’s later interpretation of Fowles might shed light on how he tackled Proust. These litnotes on the book may help if you are re-watching TFLW. I haven’t yet found a screenplay of TFTW. And so far, I’ve not come across anything substantial online about Pinter and Fowles. All in due course.

As transcribed from the audio tape the first few lines of The Proust Screenplay, adapted for radio by Michael Blakemore, aired on BBC Radio 3, 24 December 1995, illustrates a sparkling nodule of Pinter’s genius as a screenwriter:

{ [..] is actual sounds not narration. }

YELLOW SCREEN

[sound of bell]

OPEN COUNTRYSIDE. A LINE OF TREES SEEN FROM A RAILWAY CARRIAGE. THE TRAIN IS STILL.

NO SOUND.

MOMENTARY YELLOW SCREEN.

THE SEA SEEN FROM A HIGH WINDOW. A TOWEL HANGING ON A TOWEL RACK IN FOREGROUND.

NO SOUND.

VENICE. WINDOW ON A PALAZZO SEEN FROM A GONDOLA.

NO SOUND.

MOMENTARY YELLOW SCREEN.

THE DINING ROOM AT BALBEC. NO SOUND. EMPTY

EXTERIOR OF THE HOUSE AT THE PLACE DE GEURMANTE, PARIS 1921. AFTERNOON. A MIDDLE-AGED MAN, MARCEL, WALKS TOWARDS THE HOUSE.

In the middle of writing this post, I have acquired the book, which has the beginning:

1. Yellow screen. Sound of a garden gate bell.
2. Open countryside, a line of trees, seen from a railway carriage. The train is still. Quick fade out.
3. Momentary yellow screen.
4. The sea, seen from a high window, a towel hanging on a towel rack in foreground. No sound. Quick fade out.
5. Momentary yellow screen.
6. Venice. A window in a Palazzo, seen from a gondola. No sound. Quick fade out.
7. Momentary yellow screen.
8. The dining room at Balbec. No sound. Empty.

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If I had been set the task of writing the screenplay and was re-reading the book and around the subject, coming across The Death of Bergotte {The Captive}, one of Proust’s alter egos, and that his second to last dying words were,

“Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall.”

I doubt I would have come up with that yellow screen. Possibly a scene with Bergotte uttering the words as he sank down on the settee, but not a screen full of yellow!

When you learn {1}, what Proust thought of the painting and see the words Bergotte is made to utter it is not hard to see why Pinter found it irresistible.

And it was important to find such a key because  A la Researche is much concerned with art and the Arts as well as being the journey a writer travels in time and memory to get to the point where he at last decides to begin writing. It’s a literary conceit for such a man as Bergotte to think of an artifact, a human creation – something at one remove from life yet as real to him – rather than a person or event or even some equivalent of Denis Potter’s “blossomiest blossoms“. But it works for me. Or, maybe if we look up famous last words, thinking of a painting might not be uncommon. Perhaps we should all have one ready in case we get mown down by that big red bus: “The Girl in the P….”

Pinter’s screenplay (not the working script – we don’t really know what would have gone into final cut of the Losey film, let alone what anyone else who might have tried it after Losey would have made of it) eschews the detailed art and art aesthetic which saturates the book, except in so much as the film itself would have compactly demonstrated, visually, much of what Proust believed about art.

There is some dialogue or voiced thought about art. A Botticelli is mentioned to compare a woman to. There is brief dialogue such as

CHARLES HAVE YOU MET THIS YOUNG MAN?

I HAD NOT SEEN SWANN FOR A LONG TIME. AND ASKED MYSELF WHETHER IN THE OLD DAYS HE USED TO CLIP HIS MUSTACHE. FOR I FOUND IN HIM SOMETHING ALTERED. IT WAS INDEED THAT HE HAD GREATLY ALTERED BECAUSE HE WAS VERY ILL.

HOW DO YOU DO.

I’M AMAZED THAT YOU REMEMBER ME SIR.

OF COURSE I DO. OF COURSE I DO.

ARE YOUR PEOPLE WELL?

THEY ARE THANK YOU.

[Guermantes]

CHARLES, YOU’RE AN EXPERT, I WANT YOU OPINION OF THIS PAINTING. WHAT DO THINK OF IT? I’VE JUST SWOPPED IT FOR A COUPLE OF MONET’S. I THINK IT MIGHT BE A VERMEER. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

DIFFICULT TO SAY…

OH, COME ON, WE ALL KNOW YOU’RE AN EXPERT. YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK ABOUT VERMEER, AREN’T YOU?

HARDLY A BOOK. JUST AN ARTICLE ABOUT ONE PAINTING.

VIEW OF DELFT?

YES.

MARCEL: THAT PATCH OF YELLOW WALL..

YES.

PATCH? WHAT PATCH MARCEL?

MARCEL! [me: Swann recognises Marcel] OF COURSE!

MARCEL: I THINK IT’S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PAINTING IN THE WORLD.

[G:] I’VE PROBABLY SEEN IT. BUT ANYWAY, CHARLES, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THIS PAINTING WAS.

[S:] A BAD JOKE.

OH, WOULD YOU.

Pinter includes his version of the Red Shoes scene after this dialogue.

I haven’t yet found in the Pinter script a full-blown Proustian rumination on life and art, but the way Marcel responds to his environment, for example in the repeated shots of the steeples (and three trees) and how from the train they change their positions relative to each other, is the mind of the artist (whether writer or painter, who knows exactly?) at work, as much as it is a man comparing what he sees with what he remembers seeing.

Stanley Kauffmann in an article, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu: The Proust Screenplay, re-published in 2005 when Pinter received the Nobel prize (and originally published in 1977),  asserts it is “incomparably the best screen adaptation ever made of a great work”, and explains this has been achieved by “deliberate omission and imaginative recomposition.”

The play of the film of the novel explains how Pinter’s script eventually ended up in a stage version. I’d like to see the working script of that.

It bears repeating: there is probably not a screenwriter in the world who, handed Proust with a brief for a standard length film, would not start at the beginning, or soon after, with some lesser image, perhaps of the pesky dunk your madeleine episode, in the belief that it crystallised the essence of Proust. Pinter saw it differently. He didn’t fall for it. In the book the tea cake doesn’t start Swann’s Way, but it is near the beginning [ p.50]. Pinter resists, with the merest tinkling of a spoon by a waiter at the house at the Place de Guermante hinting at, but not telegraphing, an activation Marcel’s involuntary memory.

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A page with the View of Delft with the virtual magnifying glass is re-linked here.  There is a post in didyktile, a little patch of yellow, which has both a brief explanation of Proust/Bergotte and the Vermeer, and two versions View of Delft, one which expands to full size, the other which shows the right section where the yellow wall might be. There is also a link to the Web galley of Art, which includes Vermeer. It’s an obsession with one sunlit yellow wall (or two, or three) but it might be instructive to look at the others and wonder if Proust might have taken as much interest in light in Vermeer as a whole.

There is a newer “petite pan de mure jaune” at the exceedingly good essential Vermeer.com

For more Vermeer light there is a slide-show of 38 Vermeer paintings at Slideshare.

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Many who have not read Proust might be surprised by how much art is in the book. The blogroll in Moleskine Modality has a section on Proust, including links to the individual Gutenberg e-books. If you don’t fancy reading the whole lot but want to get an idea of the art in Proust, check out the e-texts using FIND in your browser.

But what to search on? ‘Artistic’ does a pretty good job of getting close to the sections of the text where Proust waxes about art or the Arts. But take this review, Pictures worth a thousand words, of Eric Karpeles’, Paintings in Proust, published in 2008, and make a list of some of the paintings mentioned in A la Researche, et voila vous êtes dans l’action. Note the drawing by Paul Helleu of Proust on his deathbed. On the NYT review page there is slide show of four of the paintings in Proust, with quote from The Book. Look at the first one and you’re in Balbec on the beach, courtesy of Whistler!

Another review of the Karpele in New Statesman, The eye of the beholder, by Paul Taylor, is also a source of painters names (and about Proust and art).

An interview with Lorenzo Renzi, author of  Proust and Vermeer: An Apologia of Imprecision, gives more fascinating suggestions including the observation that he tends to go for nature and landscapes and that View of Delft was Vermeer’s only exterior.

In Consciousness, art and the brain: Lessons from Marcel Proust [a .pdf file] Russell Epstein looks at Proust as the first neuroscientist. Proust’s approach to art is explained clearly and concisely.

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Time Regained mentions a translation of Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies seen on the bookshelves of Baron Charlus. Proust translated the book into French with the help of his mother who was better at English than he was.

Marcel Proust – Ephemera site
has English translations of Proust on Ruskin, an obituary of Ruskin, and much more.

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Pinter is the voice of the screenplay in the BBC Radio version, which was adapted for radio by Michael Bakewell.  That deep-voiced narrator of the script really does make it special. After all he wrote it. Let’s hope the BBC re-air it as part of the inevitable retrospective of his plays and the films he scripted. And that someone gets the it out on DVD, pronto.

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So if Marcel (and Proust mentioned the smell of asparagus in his own chamber pot as perfume) gets excited about asparagus, why not start with a flash of a close up of a painting (which turns out to be a Manet) of an asparagus instead of yellow representing the Vermeer?

Karpele gives a nice example of how Proust could twist his own encounters with art to the ends he needed for his novel. His friend Ephrussi once admired Manet’s small painting A Bunch of Asparagus (1880). In his eagerness to purchase the work, Ephrussi sent the artist 200 francs more than the asking price of 800. Manet responded by dashing off and dispatching to him a picture of a single stalk of asparagus to even things up.

Paintings in Proust reproduces both images with a passage from Le Côté de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way). This third volume of the novel was Proust’s attack on the shallowness of French upper-class society, embodied by the aristocratic Guermantes family. Here, the Duc de Guermantes is incensed at the suggestion that he should buy a painting of a bunch of asparagus. The price, he declares, is extortionate. “Three hundred francs for a bundle of asparagus! A louis, that’s as much as they are worth, even early in the season.” With the same paintings as touchstones, Ephrussi’s gesture of generosity has been transformed into a parable about the tight-fisted philistinism of the aristocracy.



[Source: The Eye of the beholder, by Paul Taylor, New Statesman, 16, October 2008]


For additional information about asparagus, Proust and artistic inspiration read what there is of the GoogleBook of:

By Ulrich Finke

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Pinter decided on a well-lit patch of yellow on a famous painting to represent Proust’s aesthetic concerns (and of course, memory). What a pity we cannot see it expressed in a completed film of Pinter’s screenplay, which will surely have gone beyond the screenplay in the process of trying to make yellow filling the frame of the camera, and the screen, and the few flashed of yellow thereafter, and what flowed from it in the script, realisable cinematographically. It has to be shown to relate to Bergotte in some way, and yet on my listening (the book of the script in on the way to check) the patch of yellow could be connected to Marcel the narrator and Marcel the character. Well, yes you say, it is, because Marcel the narrator considers Bergotte the novelist. Yes, but whose memory is the yellow patch? Bergotte’s. So either Pinter didn’t get that bit – not likely – or he knew he had to show (in a few flashes) the connection between Bergotte’s dying words and Marcel/Marcel’s examination of Vermeer.

Tom Lubbock in examining Vermeer’s View of Delft, does it from the Proust angle, says:

The passage suggests that the little patch all by itself, the sheer precious substance of its painting, so dense and luminous, is what transfixes Bergotte. But the picture suggests otherwise. It’s only within the whole view that this patch – suddenly brighter and purer than you’d expect, and with its yellow animated by the adjacent reds and blues (Vermeer always a great one for the primaries) – blazes out. It’s not a self-sufficient and extractable gem. It’s an integrated effect, a climactic note.

In other words, Bergotte dies under an illusion. His illusion is normal enough. With any climactic note, we tend to feel that it can be isolated and extracted – that its power and preciousness lie somehow within itself, rather than depending on that to which it is a climax.

But this is why it’s such a good image of the man’s fading consciousness and will to live. Bergotte wants to see this detail as a separately precious thing, something he can isolate and grasp in his hand. Yet he can’t – any more than can hold on to this last precious moment of his life.

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A lesser man than Pinter might have ended up with :

CLOSE UP OF MANET’S “SINGLE ASPARAGUS”

BRUSH STROKES CLEARLY VISIBLE.

[SOUND OF BELL]

etc.

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Georges Bataille: “The solitary asparagus of Manet is not a still life like others: although still, it is, at the same time, lively.”

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(Buy all your favourite art images from Allposters) – that’s where the single asparagus painting came from.)

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There are wonderful things to play with online for writers trying out ideas. Here, for example, at Research Project- Painting Techniques of Impressionism and Post-impressionism, it is possible to closely examine the string tying Manet’s Still Life with Asparagus. I wonder what Pinter might have made of that! Check out the full report in the ‘pdf. There are sets of amazing close-ups of the textures of the painting.

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It will be apparent, if you have got this far, that the impetus for my Notes on Pinter’s Proust gathers around the question of questions : [1] Can Proust be adapted to film or radio? (The Book is the Book, and that is that, etc.), [2] In what way has Proust been adapted, [3] What is the best medium for an adaptation? [4] Can one judge the quality of Pinter’s or anyone else’s adaptation of Proust without understanding Proust? (Well of course not, but there are things to grasp in a film of Proust without a complete understanding, which I do not claim to possess.)

The All-England Summarise Proust Competition.

A worthwhile Proustian digression in the search for lost answers to these questions, particularly Q.4, is the In Our Time BBC Radio 4 programme on Proust.

One of the the experts on the programme, Jacqueline Rose, Professor of English at Queen Mary College, London, in talking about her novel Albertine, touches on some of the problems of adapting Proust through changing him. I picked up on one phrase which I think is useful both in looking at the novel, its interpretation, and in adapting the story: “……the expectations of a Proust-literate readership.”

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And, now, for something completely outstanding, the more traditional (non-Pinter) BBC radio adaptation. This is not a Pinteresque interpretation, and yet, and yet, can the adapters not have spent some time enjoying the Pinter radio version? It follows the story faithfully and in detail. Get a few minutes in to it, and one should be saying to oneself this is the medium to do it in. Why bother attempting film?

The Pinter screenplay as radio was effective. But why hasn’t someone had a go at making the film or as TV (yes….)? And then we could compare the results. Even if brilliantly done, it would be of limited interest: mostly to those who had already read the book, or at least attempted it, or, even less at least, who had read about it and knew the main characters, author’s intent and how it was achieved. [….pretentious but lazy readers.]

Perhaps film is useless in getting over the story Proust wrote. Any attempt at brevity simply sending the viewer of the film who didn’t know the basics into a spiral of increasing incomprehension.

There is the Jeremy Iron’s Swann’s Way. But that’s a cop-out because Swann’s Way is regarded as the easy option.

There is Raoul Ruiz’s Time Regained, starring Catherine Deneuve, based on the final book, Le Temp Retrouve. The article which lists other film attempts and scripts, including one for Visconti, reckons the Ruiz did a reasonable job.

“In filmmaking, like in painting you have the story and you have the picture. In the story, one thing comes after another. In a picture everything happens all at the same time. I thought what was worthwhile from the filmmaking point of view in
Proust was the fact that these two functions are reversed. We expect Proust to basically tell a story and he produces a picture. He tells us about very intense moments in a minimalist way. And when expect him to produce a picture he tells it to you. He sees someone standing still and then tells you all about the story behind that person. That’s what the film depicts. I would have liked to have done even better but that aspect is indeed a priority in the film. We have this strange Proustian emotion which fascinates many people including me. One is moved, you don’t know why. You feel like crying. And you don’t know why. Nothing serious has actually happened.”

Raoul Ruiz

Reading Kevin Hagopian in Film Notes: Time Regained, discussing the Ruiz, it is clear one better assesses what the Pinter could have been through other attempts to bring the book to life in film. Simply: one needs to study the films made so far to re-assess the Pinter script.

Then there is Chantal Akerman’s La Captive.

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The Pinter radio adaptation doesn’t represent what it would be as film. The narrative voice provided by Pinter himself gives much more orally delivered information that the film would do. For example, would dates and Marcel’s age be included on screen? When you hear Pinter say, “Marcel aged 21”, you forget that this might not be in the film.

Proust in the novel is perfect: in film almost impossible: through radio very acceptable. Proust filtered through another fiction {=meta-meta-fiction} – novel or film – is likely to be even more successful than radio renderings which attempt faithful renderings. That is purely and simply because there is no obligation to present “the case for Proust” in full through another novel. Characters can quote Proust, discuss Proust, claim Proust effects (or effected) their lives, without the novelist – who may be a kind of Proust the narrator/Marcel the narrator if he wishes – claiming to be adapting or ‘doing’ Proust. Is this not what the attempts at film have tried to do? Well, not quite. Pinter’s screenplay and the BBC 6 -parter tried the whole, in different ways, others have tried parts.

I argue the imagined Pinter film would be almost exclusively for a restricted niche audience defined by those already mentioned categories of people (readers of the book and those who know what it was about but who either hadn’t finished it or had given up), rather than by people who didn’t have any pre-knowledge of the story. This is not to say that un-Proustian ignoramuses would get nothing out of the film of Pinter’s script (or from the more recent Proust films), but it would almost certainly be too little about Proust’s book. Certainly the non-Pinter BBC radio series worked well, in part because it was an almost oral-aural ‘transcription’ made possible by its length.

I love radio, and I think Proust would see the point of an aural meta-filter through which we the listeners have to re-construct his characters and absorb the ideas. In my view, the complexity – both of structure and ideas – comes over better in the listening than in reading. This may be about how the brain retains and organises. All we need is a 36 hour word-for-word radio version to prove the point.

But there will be an argument there – because Proust is also examining what is possible in the novel, in his novel, as well as the other things he is attempting – that this aural/text choice is mere preference. A test is to try a very long, difficult passage from the book and its equivalent in the BBC 6-parter (if there is one…). The audio might be somewhat filleted, but it might still be a reasonable comparison. Try to find a section of the serial that is pretty intact. I’ll have a try.

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Can radio or film can do the better job?

Despite the fact that Pinter’s Proust was written filmically, unless a film is the length of Bela Tarr’s Satantango, it won’t truly reflect the book. The BBC radio adaptation is roughly 6 hours long and in some ways comes near to the book because long stretches of complex combinations of action and thought are woven into it. As an example, the part in Time Regained where Marcel overhears soldiers talking was very well done in the radio version, with all sorts of overlaps, both in conversations and in memory and thought.

Another candidate in the audio category (a strong contender for ultimate Proust medium after text), is Neville Jason’s Naxos production. Here he writes about his Proust: Life and Work of Marcel Proust. Putting his and the BBC radio 6-parter in a head-to-head might be instructive. I haven’t listened to the Jason, but an extract in a radio interview he did a few years ago, shows he did all the parts himself. If you don’t like his voice, it will not save his version no matter however well filleted and done. The BBC radio serial with a great cast, is really beautifully done. Corin Redgrave as Charlus.

A personal note: I used to see Neville with his thick sheaves of paper when he came to his holiday home in Norfolk. I had no idea he was working on an audio abridgement. Nor that he took 6 years on the project. I knew he was an actor and I once said I was writing something. He volunteered to read my stuff. Maybe I should have overcome my fears and let him have a look. If he managed to abridge Proust satisfactorily he could have planned and organised the Normany landings in 1944 all by himself.

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Emily Zants, a retired professor, has put online what she calls an adaptation of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, titled The Social Aquarium.

Those of you who know your Proust (again: by direct immersion or secondhand) will immediately lock into the Balbec restaurant scene in the Zants. Why, you might be asking, didn’t Pinter use that? Yellow screen? What’s the point of that? Aquarium. Now, that’s more like it: fish, different types, each analogs of people in the restaurant and, by implication, each exemplar radiating out, reflecting other characters and character types in the novel. What was Pinter thinking? How can he possibly have missed it? Well, he didn’t: there is section in which Marcel complains about the people in the restaurant, but we do not know how the film of Pinter might have presented this visually.

An answer to the problem of what to emphasis in a compacted, re-imagined Proust is succinctly explained by Claude Reich, a reviewer in the Amazon site of the new book on Proust’s art by Eric Karpeles’, Paintings in Proust (Thames & Hudson, £25), is:

[This book is all the more important to the understanding of Proust as] he himself acknowledged that “La Recherche” was a work whose theme was the birth of an artistic vocation in the narrator’s soul, the novel itself being the result of this birth. He {Proust} also wrote that ” my book is a painting”

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Pinter read the book, read about the book, read the experts, debated with Proustians like Barbara Bray [pdf], {2} and then decided this was a book about art as much – no, more than – the ethology of French aristocratic society (and Dreyfus) at the turn of the 20th. century. And yet, his screenplay in dialogue concentrates mostly on Marcel, family and the elite! No way round it. So we are left only with the art being represented visually: both art and Marcel’s observation of things that he, in effect, tells us are indistinguishable from art, things that arise from within himself as a word expression of art itself.

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Film: Proust: time-waster? tells us a little of the process Pinter went through which I have up till now guessed at.

“Working on A la Recherche was the best working year of my life,” Pinter later claimed. He had steeped himself in Proust, visiting the author’s old haunts and taking copious notes while reading the book. “For three months I read A la recherche every day … but was left at the end quite baffled as to how to approach a task of such magnitude.”

Nevertheless, the critics admired his adaptation. “It’s a beautiful working model in which Proust’s million-and-a-half words have been brought lucidly down to 455 shots,” enthused the New Statesman, but no financiers were found to bring that tidy model to life.

The article by Goeffrey Macnab, deals with Pinter in the context of films that have been made.

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Though Farms, trees, and bell-towers: The “hidden meaning” of triads in Proust’s “recherche”, is just an extract, there is enough to see again Pinter’s script, to re-enter Pinter’s preoccupations with Proust. I will add here the script sections reiteration of the three trees, three spires, seen at different times, or remembered, when the book of the script arrives, which should be any day now.

93.

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Proust’s novel is about other things apart from memory, time and art such as photography (in the sense of mechanical capture and reproducibility), speed (he had a chauffeur driven car in which he whizzed hither and thither) and possibly film (though many say not, that he was not a great watcher of films, the book certainly reads like film). This summary of The Aesthetics of the Windshield: Proust and the Modernist Rhetoric of Speed, gives a hint of where that goes.

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Returning, finally, to Pinter’s Proust – an encomium – it may seem the little patch of yellow was the thing on which he hung his whole adaptation. Not true. There are more little bells than yellow screens in the script. To see what he is doing, listening to the audio version is a clearer way of showing the whole process. In a clever Pavlovian trick, he links the yellow to the sound of the bell, then leaves the yellow behind, till, right at the end he brings it back.

The bells are the sound of the garden gate at Combray. This sound is in turn linked to

…Was not nature herself from this point of view, on the track of art, was she not the beginning of art, she who often only permitted me to realise the beauty of an object long afterwards in another, mid-day at Combray only through the sound of its bells, …

and Marcel’s (and Proust’s) bed-side bell.

Marcel at the end of Time Regained:

…I had jumped out of bed and had stood in my nightshirt
by the window through which the moonlight shone, until I heard M.
Swann go away. My parents had accompanied him, I had heard the door open, the sound of bell and closing door. At that very moment, in the Prince de Guermantes’ mansion, I heard the sound of my parents’ footsteps and the metallic, shrill, fresh echo of the little bell which announced M. Swann’s departure and the coming of my mother up the stairs; I heard it now, its very self, though its peal rang out in the far distant past. ‘Then thinking of all the events which intervened between the instant when I had heard it and the Guermantes’ reception I was terrified to think that it was indeed that bell which rang within me still, without my being able to abate its shrill sound, since, no longer remembering how the clanging used to stop, in order to learn, I had to listen to it and I was compelled to close my ears to the conversations of the masks around me. To get to hear it close I had again to plunge into myself. So that ringing must always be there and with it, between it and the present, all that indefinable past unrolled itself which I did not know I had within me. When it rang I already existed and since, in order that I should hear it still, there could be no discontinuity, I could have had no instant of repose or of non-existence, of nonthinking, of non-consciousness, since that former instant clung to me, for I could recover it, return to it, merely by plunging more deeply into myself. It was that notion of the embodiment of Time, the inseparableness from us of the past that I now had the intention of bringing strongly into relief in my work.

And let us not forget Pinter’s waiter’s spoon. And so marvel at his yellow screen. And bells.

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Maybe Proust before the culture machine by Michael Naas [Culture Machine, Vol 1 (1999) ] will find itself a better niche in these notes later. For the meantime, let them rest here.


asparagus-in-autumn


Asparagus leaves in autumn



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February 7, 2009 Posted by | art, Literature, screenplay | , , , , | 1 Comment

Film: comparison of literature with film



Present(ing) Tense: Temporality and Tense in Comparative Theories of Literature-Film Adaptation

Sarah Cardwell



January 11, 2009 Posted by | film [its techniques], Literature | Leave a comment

Tale from the cuttings cull # 2 John Fowles



Is there a term for spending more time reading old newspaper cuttings than in turfing them out? Most are being thrown out but there is always a small, select pile which seem too important to throw away.

This time there was a long review of the 2004 biography of John Fowles by Eileen Warburton, John Fowles: A Life in Two Worlds.  There was mention of his first wife Elizabeth and the part she played in his novels, and other women in his life.

To mind came an image of a film of Fowles’ life written by Harold Pinter revolving around John and Elizabeth. Time someone had a go.  “John and Elizabeth” has a certain ring to it.

There in not a great mass of stuff on Elizabeth on the web but this is some of what I have found:

Jeremy Treglown’s Spectator review of Warburton

The man behind the Magus John Mullan

Extract from Warburton

A Mystery to Himself by Julian Evans

Evans also does an essay, The Old English Agony, on the first volume of Fowles’ journal.

In the LRB, Ian Sansom reviews Warburton and vol 1 of the journal.

The Diary of a Misanthrope Adam Mars-Jones on Vol 2

Death of an author, not Catherine Gander (‘John Fowles’ journals are as much works of fiction as his novels’)

Fair or Fowles Adam Lee-Potter  Interview 2003

Conversations with John Fowles (GoogleBook) has Fowles talking about Elizabeth.

Times 29 June 2008,  John Fowles: the French Lieutenant author’s secret woman

Letters from John Fowles reveal he had an affair with an Oxford student 43 years his junior who modeled herself on the heroine in his tale of scandalous love

The Daily Mail souped up the letters story by finding out more about the girl, Elena van Lieshout.
The ‘real’ French Lieutenant’s Woman: John Fowles’s doomed love affair with a 21-year-old Oxford student. (4 July 32008)

Never write off the pulling power of a man of letters

Of Elena and others who latched on to famous writers.

Fascimiles of two letters, one by hand the other typed from the Sotheby’s auction, from Fowles to Elena.

The catalogue note included quotes from some of the other letters in the collection.

July 16th, 2007 blog post by photographer and writer Tom M. Wilson on a visit to Lyme Regis. He has written a book called The Recurrent Green Universe of John Fowles. (Amazon)

This photograph is at a guess Elizabeth, John and Elizabeth’s daughter Ann.

Four photos from Warburton’s biography

Come on Harold, in the vein of the Proust Play….yellow screen…..tinkling bells…. that sort of thing….only this time a sudden image of a young boy holding a bird under water in a stream with his foot on its neck till it drowns.



October 18, 2008 Posted by | John Fowles, Literature | , | 1 Comment

Literary Darwinism



Not quite Literary Darwinism for Dummies:
Darwin to the Rescue: A group of scholars thinks evolutionary science can reinvigorate literary studies

by Britt Peterson

Chronicle of Higher Education 1 August 2008
Literary Darwinism should be deselected, naturally

Shirely Dent

Guardian blog,  5 September 2008

The Literary Darwinists by D T Max     NYT Magazine  6 November 2005


A short post expressing doubts on LD by Stephen Berlin Johnson

7 November 2005

links back to Dennis Dutton’s, The Pleasure of Fiction, in Philosophy and Literature 28 (2004)



September 7, 2008 Posted by | Darwin, evolutionary biology, Literature | | Leave a comment

On Wood on How Fiction Works



James Wood article: A Life of their own

From Jane Eyre to Jean Brodie, David Copperfield to David Brent, whether solidly realised or lightly sketched, fictional figures can be as vivid to us as real people. But just what, exactly, is a character, asks James Wood

Guardian 26 January 2008

Reviews of :

Frank Kermode’s The New Republic review

Peter Conrad Guardian 17 February 2008

D J Taylor The Independent 3 February 2008

Gideon Lewis-Kraus Los Angeles Times 20 July 2008

Mark Thwaite Ready Steady Book blog 12 March 2008

Wisdom of the West blog

He does it chapter by chapter and there is a lot of it.



July 21, 2008 Posted by | criticism, fiction, Literature, narratology, Novel, Novelist, Writing | | Leave a comment

Wood on Chekhov



What Chekhov Meant by Life by James Wood

Catching up on some of the newest links in 3 Quarks, saw mention of Wood’s essay in

Nobody’s a CriticOr they’re at least terrified to be one.

The Wood was not linked to but luckily the title came up in a Google.



July 18, 2008 Posted by | art, criticism, fiction, Literature, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment

Benjamin: 1940 Survey of French Literature


Completed in Paris six months before his death, Walter Benjamin’s final report to Max Horkheimer on the literary situation in France is published here for the first time in English. It was the third ‘literature letter’ that Benjamin had drafted for the Institute for Social Research in New York; the earlier two (3 November 1937, 24 January 1939) can be found in the Gesammelte Briefe. Almost twice as long as these, the Survey of 23 March 1940—Hitler’s troops would take Holland six weeks later—was composed during the same months as ‘On the Concept of History’. Benjamin’s personal situation was precarious: his health had not recovered from his internment as an enemy alien in Autumn 1939; back in his tiny Paris apartment, he worked in bed because of the cold.

Walter Benjamin : 1940 Survey of French Literature

July 15, 2008 Posted by | French literature, Literature, Novelist | Leave a comment

Is Google Making Us Stupid?



Nicolas Carr writes in Atlantic Monthly (link from 3 Quarks) on reading and writing styles and technology. Though it deals with surfing vs. old fashioned reading, it also picks up on such fascinating arcanerie as Nietzsche having to resort to a typewriter when he couldn’t write by hand any more and what effect this had on his writing style attested to by contemporaries.

John Naughton [Observer, 22 June 2008 ], I Google, therefore I am losing the ability to think, takes up the cudgels bringing in mention of Sven Birkerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age and the  notion that having it so readily to hand removes the need to remember it. Then he finishes with:

But people have worried about this since… well… the Greeks. In the Phaedrus, Socrates tells how the Egyptian god Theuth tried to sell his invention – writing – to King Thamus as ‘an accomplishment which will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure receipt

for memory and wisdom.’ To which the shrewd old king replied that ‘the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practise it… Those who acquire writing will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful… What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory.’

If you are talking about the web you are talking about hypertext, which can be revised by checking out The Electonic Labyrinth. One of the main points is that hypertext existed before the web. This particular website deals with the creative implications of digital hypertext — pointing out that hypertext itself existed before digitally hyperlinked hypertext — which can be read starting from the page, The non-linear tradition in literature.

I have written on the web as hypertext, including what a blog is and isn’t in this respect( e.g. TiddlyWiki ). When checking this post from Moleskine Modality, make sure to go to Eli Springer’s home page, then open up links in it to see how the new information is added to the original home page text. Stage I: open link Eli Springer in the home page then in that page, as an example, the link ‘moral change’ to show how all three sets of text are available on the same page. Note in each new text box, in the top right-hand corner, there is a choice to close the box down. It is possible to open every link in the home page, and every link in (for simplicity) the Eli Springer page.

In the Carr is the argument that something radical is happening to both reading and writing, in the suggestion there might be some sort of cognitive change going on. This, from the background of writing being something we learn as opposed to spoken language which we are essentially born with the ability to use.

Since the brain is an associative organ (but this only works because it had something stored away in memory) it seems more likely that the web, as the ultimate, though not infinite, hypertext, is echoing what the brain is already good at. And that linear texts, though traditional and popular, are the anomoly. It is just that the technology took time to catch up with the the way the brain works. Saying this does not mean that surfing is more efficient than reading books.

There can be no better analogy to this than conversation. There are different styles, but in the main we latch onto keywords and respond to them, much in the same way we are attracted to a particular link in a webpage. When we pick out a keyword from someone else’s speech, we might intervene if we know something about the subject and want to say what we know or think. We often semi-switch off our concentration when someone is saying something we feel we already know a lot about, but switch back on (if we are good listeners) when words and phrases alert us.

A conversation between two people, is often surrounded by other external events such as other people talking who may not be connected with that particular conversation and other things going on which the couple talking are not interested in. It is not unknown for a person to be distracted by something happening even if the conversation is riveting. A child falls off his tricycle; a car backfires; a light-bulb blows; a woman breaks down in tears. This can stop a conversation and lead to the two people talking about the ‘external’ event. What is this if not coming across something startling in a webpage and taking the link to find out what it offers?

Leaving aside surfing as a way to pass time, there is ‘good’ surfing and ‘bad’ surfing just like good conversation. Good surfing is a discipline in which the surfer does not stray too far from the intended object just like good research from books. The worst surfing is a kind of Freudian free-association, in which at the end of the session you have no idea why you started, and may be a bit vague as to why you began. A good surf always stays within bounds or reason because there is a limited goal and because within each brain is a core of what the individual possessing it considers important or significant. So a fact already known or an idea already familiar, will be skipped or rapidly scanned. Isn’t this what we do in books? Book index people check what is in a book by checking its index. This may lead one to decide not to read a particular book because enough keywords do not appear to overcome a threshold of interest or relevance. So what is the difference between all this and leaping over web pages to get to one you think is important?



June 19, 2008 Posted by | books, culture, digitisation, hypertext, Internet, Literature, narrative style, neuroscience, Nietzsche, reading, science, Writing | , , | Leave a comment

More Naipaul: the art and the Life



A 21 May 2008 Times Literary Supplement article/essay by novelist A. N. Wilson, V.S. Naipaul, Master and Monster, makes me – again- think of Koestler. Is this not a species of pathological narcissism? In the jargon: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There is also Borderline Personality Disorder, which has a slight overlap with the former syndrome. But maybe Schizoid Personality Disorder fits the bill better, with its elements of narcissism. By the way the last has a table comparing over and covert aspects of SPD.

For some reason the phrase master and monster evokes rather, Master and Commander, from the nautical novels, with the image of the captain having to be in tight charge of the ship in order for things not to fall apart: clear objectives, setting the right course, navigating the difficulties, the rest.

Does it matter if the writer is a complete four letter word? I am on the side which says it does, partly because, once known, a fact about a writer cannot escape the works themselves; psychology pure and simple. It is possible to epoche (accent on the final e but I can’t get hold of the character set right now) the writer from the work, but it is a conscious decision to assess the quality of the writing despite the character and personality of the author.

Stalin was a monster: he had people killed; Lenin was, too, though not many people tend to think that. Naipaul is more what one might call an utter bastard – he is welcome to sue: I ain’t got a su, or a reputation to uphold. A cursory reading (even of the outdated Shub) demonstrates Lenin’s methods pre-power, as a exiled emigre, essentially terroristic and anarchistic. When he ruled he became totally totalitarian eschewing the anarchistic, opportunistic methods he partly used to achieve power, coming down hard bureaucratically on those he suspected : but he was always of a terroristic, psychopathic disposition from the beginning. It might be argued – it always is; he claimed it himself – that he had to be that ruthless to achieve the task he set himself. Lenin, once a hero of the Left, is now less revered as it becomes known what a gangster he was: Stalin is taken to be the gangster, while Lenin the Robespierre. Lenin, while having certain political principles – one questions the psychological roots of his modus in knowledge of the state execution of his elder brother for terrorist activity when Lenin was a young boy – was totally unethical in most of his political life. The image of the London conferences where he removed the best brains of the wider movement to achieve his objectives, shows this. So does the way the movement was financed: mostly by bank robbery inside Russia, not unlike the IRA with robbery and drug dealing in its time, with a bit of ad hoc assassination here and there, home and abroad, thrown in. His left-hand man in the emigre years, whose name now escapes me, was an out and out psychopath.

A great many writers have been equally tough-minded and ruthless — within their paradigm, or milieu — as these political monsters in creating their works and in defending their reputations even if they haven’t stooped to killing to do so: character assassination being of a different category from straight old physical elimination.

::

In the literature: Othello.

Narcissistic characteristics that either Othello or Iago show include high self-esteem, selfishness, underestimating the abilities of others, greed and envy, lack of empathy, and emotional coldness.

::

As if by default, this always leads back to Nabokov. In literary monstership terms, how do Naipaul and Nabokov compare? Lolita is said to be autobiographical: the correspondences tight: Nabokov’s relationship with his uncle, who despite abusing him a child, left him his fortune. In the most simplistic psychobabblish terms: Naipaul was just born a bit nasty (he adored his father) while Nabokov (we have to examine what he said did in his life) lost his parents early and was sexually abused so had a perfectly good reason to have a jaundiced view of the world.



May 25, 2008 Posted by | A N Wilson, fiction, general, Lenin, Literature, Nabokov, Novel, Novelist, Stalin, V S Naipaul, writers and works, Writing | | 2 Comments

Conrad



A discussion of Conrad on Start the Week this morning, compared current nihilistic tendencies with those depicted in The Secret Agent [e-text]. 3 Quarks (my once a week check up) mentions a Guardian article, The Moral Agent, by the very man who was on the radio, Giles Foden.

Conrad hits the 150 year mark. The Secret Agent was written/published in 1907.

wiki: The Secret Agent

is a short entry but mentions the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.

Searchable e-text of The Secret Agent at The Literature Network.

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Conrad, fiction, Literature, Novel, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment

Literature is ironic


 

Practically everybody in New York has half a mind to write a book, and does.

Groucho Marx




Lots of interesting blog discussion about literature at the moment so better throw this in the pot from Contemporary Aesthetics:

Words and Worlds: Irony Makes Literary Creations

by Alistair Goff



November 16, 2007 Posted by | Irony, Literature, Novel | Leave a comment

John Fowles, book and film.



Litlove (Tales from the Reading Room) has written an exemplary post on The French Lieutenant’s Woman. However, if you are curious, if you haven’t read the book, it has the spoiler built in, so beware.

One thing she hasn’t tackled is book vs. film, which I have always been obsessed by, partly because I believed it told me so much about film writing.

Karl Reisz directed. Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay {1}. Having later heard in the BBC radio version what he did with Proust in The Pinter Proust Play, {2} which itself is an object lesson in screenwriting, though never used, I can now turn back again, being reminded of the FLW , to the way he ended up doing Fowles:

wiki: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Screenplay of The French Lieutenant’s Woman

(Not sure if these are Pinter’s ‘stage directions’ – just a few- or if they have been created afresh in lieu of the real thing, but the dialogue seems true to the film)

There is a long essay by Mary Lynn Dodson, which was originally published in Literature Film Quarterly, in 1998, which takes the book vs. film discussion in its full context, including Fowles’s other books, his own attempt to adapt the book, and his attitude to filming The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman: Pinter and Reisz’s adaptation of John Fowles’s adaptation


{ SEE Moleskine Modality post Petit pan de mur jaune for a soupçon of Pinter’s Proust.}



November 15, 2007 Posted by | fiction, film directors, film [its techniques], John Fowles, Karel Reisz, Literature, Moleskine Modality, movies, Novel, Novelist, Proust, screenplay, screenwriting, Writing | 1 Comment

Showcase: DailyLit

Stephanie at So many Books has been using DailyLit, which I only heard of through her. Several of her readers say they prefer a book in the hand, mostly because the instalment was too short: they just couldn’t wait!

I decided to go for Anna Karenina. But when the confirmatory email came through, I got the option to order the first episode straight away, which I felt compelled to do. Though the intro to AK is so often quoted

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

I forgot how funny the first few paragraphs were.

Experiencing such a small dose of Tolstoy it is obviously not going to suit many ardent readers. But there is something to be said for having to wait. Let the small, enjoyable dollop stew for 24 hours. Build up the anticipation for the next part. Spend some time reading around the book and author while waiting. In any case you read so much about so many things, the next episode will be there before you know it. (Actually, in advanced settings you can chose from three size settings to get more per email or even get the next episode straight away…). Let’s face it, this is for people who are meant to be working, trawling through the emails first thing in the morning.

::

For an inexperienced writer puzzling over which narrative voice to use, the first part of Anna Karenina could be as a reminder to how an intimate tone can created from the limited omniscient point of view. No need to be Tolstoy to see setting off in the first person can end up with too much of the author in the narrator.

I mentioned alter ego in the last post. There has been a study of avatars and their authors in gaming, called Alter Ego, which may have something to offer to the perennial questions about the author insinuating himself/herself in his/her own fiction.

Here are two over-views of Philip Roth’s oeuvre from on alter ego {1} {2}.

November 6, 2007 Posted by | alter ego, fiction, First lines, literary persona, Literature, narrative style, Novel, Novelist, Openings, Writing | , , | 3 Comments

Beyond Mann


A blog author names herself Claudia Chauchat in honour of the main female character in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain:

Origins of a name

Origins of a name part deux

A snippet from a Google abstract:

A Gorgon’s Mask: The Mother in Thomas Mann’s Fiction by Lewis A. Lawson

Recalling her stay at Waldsanatorium in Davos in 1912 (during which her husband conceived the idea for the Magic Mountain), Katja Mann said that there actually “was a Madame Chauchat, who always slammed the door. At first she really did get on her husband’s nerves a great deal, but later he became very sensitive to her charm”. Her name “hot cat”, is a happy accident if it is remembered that, according to Feldman, one of the original attributes of Medusa was a “menacing, shaggy, feline head”.

Polish novelist, Pawel Huelle { 1 }, { 2 } has written a novel called Castorp. This interview explains the origins of Castorp.

Independent review

Extract from Castorp (pdf) :

Sarmatian Review, September 2006:

Modern Polish LiteratureThrough a Postcolonial Lens: The Case of Paweł Huelle’s Castorp

Dariusz Skórczewski

Professional Elites in “Classless” Societies (from Marx to Debord) by Slawomir J. Magala:

{1} pdf {2} plain text

This young German engineer from a middle-class family receives a crash course in the European humanist tradition from an Italian inmate of the sanatorium, Mr Settembrini. According to some critics, an Italian philosopher, sociologist and historian, Benedetto Croce, became a model for this character(1). He is also receiving an equally brief introduction to the totalitarian temptation from a Galician Jewish Jesuit, a Mr Naphta. Again, according to some critics, this character was based on a figure of a Hungarian Marxist philosopher writing in German, a sociologist, a literary scholar and a communist leader, Gyorgy Lukacs(2).

(1) Mann became acquainted with Croce, when the latter published a critical article about Mann’s — Reflections of an Apolitical Man inCritica (a periodical Croce filled mostly with his own texts) in 1920.

They maintained contact ever since. After WWII, Croce‘s daughtermarried a Polish writer, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński , who escaped Stalin‘s Gulag and wrote one of the first first-hand accounts of it Another World.

(2) Mann met Lukacs in 1922 in Vienna and has been influenced by the latter‘s study —The Soul and Its Forms, while Lukacs has subsequently written on Mann‘s oeuvre. Lukacs, who had been acultural commissar in a short-lived Hungarian communist government of Bela Kun, went on to become one of the most important Marxist philosophers, especially as the author of an influential — History and Class Consciousness.




October 23, 2007 Posted by | fiction, Literature, Novel, Novelist, Thomas Mann | , , , | Leave a comment

Walter Benjamin – The Storyteller



There aren’t that many Benjamin texts out there on the interweb. This one

The Storyteller : Reflections on the work of Nicolai Leskov

came my way via Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog , which in its turn arrived through looking for more on the quote in my previous post

Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli.

There is a tantalising Italian wiki on the saying {1} and a link to an English Wiki:Terentianus on its author, which doesn’t give a lot away.

When the quote wiki is automatically translated it comes out as:

Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli
Depending on the apprehension of the reader, the book their fates

which is the sort of garbled translation I am fond of because it reminds me of the sort of English in the instruction sheet in flat-pack furniture.

For a second I misread it as some sort of fear of the reader……perhaps it could just as well be the other meaning or both at the same time: as in ‘I haven’t a clue what this book is about.’ [Chucks it in the waste paper basket]; or, ‘This book scares the hell out of me.’ [chucks it in the waste paper basket]

Would be grateful for a quick lesson on where to put the full stop in a quote: is it .’ or ‘.



October 18, 2007 Posted by | Literature, Reader, reading, Terentianus, The fate of books, Walter Benjamin | , , , , | Leave a comment

The fate of books depends on the discernment of the reader


Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli.
The fate of books depends on the discernment of the reader.

– Terentius Maurus, De Literis, Syllabis et Metris (1286)

 

 

The task had been to find something to explain simply Barthes’s, “To Write: An Intransitive Verb?”. There was nothing I could understand much of. The surf came to a natural end with an essay, A Blueprint for Melville’s “Bartleby”, by Steven C. Scheer – not what I was looking for but clearly written, not full of jargon, interesting and informative: a serependipity – arrived on my screen because he cites Barthes’s essay at the bottom of the page, which in turn led me to his home site and two nice long essays, The Art of Reading, from which the quote above came, and A Writer’s Notes on Writing.

He has a blogspot, Words Matter, which he has written occasionally to, but there are several very interesting posts, including one on Hellen Keller.




October 15, 2007 Posted by | Barthes, Book, Literature, non-fiction, readability, Reader, reading, The fate of books, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment

Doris’ onions



Well there was a large artichoke as well. Why it should matter what was in the taxi behind her rather than the interview about the award she had just been given, goes part of the way to explain the way my mind works. I guess I saw a story there. Who was the man, where had they been? Had she been writing today? Was she tetchy with the journalist because she wanted to write and not shop? That kind of thing.

The Guardian (Friday 12 Oct 07) carries a story which mentions her first words, which most of the initial pieces did not. It also embedded an edited version of the TV footage of Doris getting out of her taxi. There, as I was sure I saw the first time, were the two vegetables, or rather, the one artichoke and the net of onions. You see the artichoke first, then as she has just finished saying, Oh, Christ!”, the string of onions and the artichoke in the hands of a bewildered looking man with arm a a sling.





I did attend carefully to her response to the news of her award, loving her truculence, but my eyes were on the veg. and wondering who the man was carrying them, who turned out to be not a journalist doing Doris a favour, as was reported elsewhere, but her son Peter, who is not well.

Matt Cowan tells us it was him who did the first interview and that it was a member of his crew who opened the cab door.

Alan Taylor in the Scottish Sunday Herald under the byline, Nobel turnips wait till Lessing couldn’t care less, after a turn on Swedes being turnips, turns to the plight of the serious novel:

When I met her in London earlier this year she was as perky and feisty as usual, railing against the dumbing down of the book trade and the degenerate taste of readers. Where once her books sold in the tens of thousands, she said, they now sold in dribs and drabs.

Two other good pieces on Doris, (sorry not disrespectful, just love the sound of the name) The Sunday Times, today, Grandma has a knuckleduster beside her literary pen, and the New Zealand Dominion Post, wondering what she might say in her acceptance speech, who got the Literature prize before her.



October 14, 2007 Posted by | Doris Lessing, Literature, Novel, Novelist | , , | Leave a comment

Proust posts in Moleskine Modality



proust-letter-handwriting.jpg


Proust’s handwriting


Proust posts in Moleskine Modality

Recommend using edit > find > type in ‘Proust’ > select highlight all. You can run through the scroll in Moleskine Modality at a rate of knots to find what you might be interested in.

This will also highlight in yellow the word Proust in the blogroll. There is a selection of Proust related links in the ‘I read’ category: English for the non-English must be very trying when this could be the present or the past tense: while orally/aurally it is perfectly clear which tense it is.

If any of the blogroll links are dead, you can at least put the relevant title or phrase back into a search engine to try to find the article. Checked one link –Aesthetics of the Windshield: Proust and the modern Rhetoric of Speed which was as dead as the proverbial dead parrot in the Monty Python dead parrot sketch(though this one may work). How Proust viewed the technology of the time is a theme I cannot tire of. There are a few others :

From The Cambridge Companion to Proust is available as a pdf. Chapter 1 : From the Belle Epoch to the First World War: the social panorama, under the under the sub-heading Speed of Change, page 14.

Theories of Relativity by William C. Carter

Between Philosophy and Poetry: Writing, Rhythm, History

By Massimo Verdicchio, Robert Burch

This is a few pages in a Google abstract (fascimile) which deals with speed: dealing with the bicycle, trains, the car, cinematograph, etc.



October 13, 2007 Posted by | fiction, Literature, Novel, Proust, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Doris Lessing – Nobel Prize for Literature 2007



Common knowledge already – news travels fast in the digital age. On British TV this evening we see Doris disembarking from a black cab outside her house in London, to be given the news by what sounded like an American TV man. A younger, large man behind her inside the cab – holding a large artichoke in one hand and what looks like a long string of onions in the other – who, it appears from other reports, was a journo on the scene doing a good turn.

‘I couldn’t care less’ about Nobel Prize: Lessing

CTV.ca from Associated Press

The Daily Express accurately reported the next bit:

As she got out of a taxi at her north London home, Lessing told reporters: “This has been going on for 30 years. I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I’m delighted to win them all. It’s a royal flush.”

Harold Bloom thinks it’s political correctness: Reason.com

….pure political correctness. Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable … fourth-rate science fiction.

There’s a longish biography in Dorislessing.org

Appreciate some advice on the best starter Lessing.

I have posted somewhere in Moleskine Modality about her and her brother re-visiting the old haunts in Zimbabwe which is retold in this 1999 academic article, similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing.

Also, African Childhoods: indentity, race and autobiography

by

Tony Simoes da Silva, School of English, University of Exeter.



October 12, 2007 Posted by | Doris Lessing, Fame, fiction, Literature, Novel, Novelist, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment