The handbag really came to the fore as a fashion item in the 1920s, when flappers ventured out into the social world without their mothers or male companions.
Little bags became essential. Originally an upper class necessity, the handbag quickly became a symbol of women’s independence. Griselda Pollock reminds us that ‘going out in public and the idea of disgrace were closely allied’ (Vision and Difference , 1988 p. 69).
The handbag announced self-sufficiency and mobility and offered some sort of protection from potential disgrace—it symbolically allowed the new woman to be wherever she wanted, unencumbered by chaperones….
Some of you will have noticed the current fashion for enormous handbags—it seems that the skinnier and more toned the celebrity the bigger and floppier and more elaborate her designer tote will be.
Perhaps as she is more and more exposed in the media her bag gets bigger and bigger to show that she retains some secrets.
And there is something taboo about the inside of someone’s bag—you shouldn’t go rummaging about in there if it’s not yours—Farid Chenoune, a curator of handbags at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, says that the similarity between an haute couture tote and a satchel belonging to an African witch is that both bags hold a secret of some sort: ‘what you put in your bag is very important to you. That makes a bag very personal, because in it you have a secret. A secret gives you some sort of power’.
Roddy Doyle: It’s a pure form of self- employment. I wake fairly early but I wait until about half-nine before I start work. I work all day – to six o’clock, usually. I divide the day into different projects. If I was writing a novel, two hours would be a good long time; I don’t think if I added another hour it would be any use. I tend to make a cup of coffee, or hang out the washing, or something really mundane, and then I do something else: a short story, or a book for children, or a screenplay…
I work a five-day week, usually – unless I’m up against it with a deadline. I was a teacher, and that was nine to five including corrections and stuff. When I started writing full-time I slipped easily into the office hours…
At the same time there was something telling me, you should be doing the Charles Bukowski thing with bottles of whiskey and so on. I attempted to write once after two pints of Guinness. I think I even missed the laptop. I was … happily vague. It doesn’t work.”
Ten of the best breakfasts in literature - here are two.
From Russia with Love, by Ian Fleming James Bond’s breakfast, supposed to demonstrate his fine taste, is a memorable exercise in prissiness. Coffee from De Bry in New Oxford Street, toast with Norwegian heather honey from Fortnum’s, a single brown egg from a French Marans hen.
Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon Pirate Prentice’s flat fills with “the fragile, musaceous odour of Breakfast, permeating, suprising, more than the color of winter sunlight”. He serves up banana waffles, banana croissants, banana kreplach and banana jam. In a giant crock he has bananas fermented with honey and Muscat raisins to make banana mead.
“Disappointed by Beethoven’s potty mouth (‘How very German,’ he muttered), Nietzsche was delighted to find himself seated next to Charlotte Brontë. She was all elegance and charm – even when it came to Jane Austen. Nietzsche declared Austen’s novels to be ‘proof that English women are actually French,’ and Brontë replied smilingly that Austen had very nice handwriting.”—
One must love Auden’s poetry to be able to speak this heresy, but I can’t help wondering what fun he might have had – we might have had – with, instead of the poem, a wartime novel in the vein of Henry Green or Elizabeth Bowen. In virtually the last words of the poem something is revealed: “[Malin] returned to duty, reclaimed by the actual world where time is real and in which, therefore, poetry can take no interest …” This points to the problem with “The Age of Anxiety”: time is real to real people. Abstractions can’t change, so they don’t listen. A lesser poet wrote a greater poem for the age of anxiety: in Louis MacNeice’s “Autumn Journal”, set in London on the brink of the war, a recognisably human voice is blown hither and thither by memories, lusts and terrifying headlines. Auden’s “The Age of Anxiety” isn’t even the best work of art called “The Age of Anxiety”: if I’m a junior minister in Auden’s world, I’m barely a tea-boy in that of Leonard Bernstein, but I’d accord that honour to his Symphony No 2. Bernstein found the poem “fascinating and hair-raising”.
“In his illuminating introductory essay, the curator of the MoMA show, Peter Galassi, writes: “Cartier-Bresson’s legacy… is a vast resource whose greatness would be sorely diminished if attention were paid only to its many perfect gems.” What intrigues most here, though, are the many perfect gems that never made it into his books.”—
The family archive contains many of Fitzgerald’s books. I wrote that sentence as flatly as I could, but in fact it makes my biographer’s pulse race wildly. This is the second time in my life I have been given access to such an extraordinary source of knowledge about my subject. I had the good fortune to look at all that remains of Edith Wharton’s magnificent collection, before her books went back to her American home, The Mount, and I made much use of them in my biography of her. Fitzgerald’s collection could not be more different. These are not beautiful, expensively bound, well-ordered books with high-flown dedications from famous fellow authors. No, they are the battered, treasured, much-used library of a working woman, mostly paperbacks, stuffed full of notes, marks, clippings and reviews, written all over from cover to cover in Fitzgerald’s clear, steady, italic handwriting. But these books are like Wharton’s much grander library in this respect: they provide the entry point to a remarkable writer’s reading life.
They also raise one of the key questions about this life story. Fitzgerald was an evasive character, extremely private, deliberately oblique in interviews. So there are a number of mysteries in her life, areas of silence and obscurity. One of these has to do with “lateness”. How much of a late starter, really, was she? She always said in interviews that she started writing her first novel (The Golden Child) to entertain her husband, Desmond Fitzgerald, when he was ill. But, like many of the things she told interviewers, there is something a little too simple about this. At least one story was published before that first novel, and her archive reveals how much was going on in her interior life before she started publishing.
Lee also mentions that ‘an incalculable slice of (F.’s) her life’s record went down with Grace, the Thames barge which inspired Offshore, when it sank in the early 1960s.’ Which does make some of it harder to trace, methinks.
“Hordes of artists throw their arms around their melancholy as though it were the very taproot of their creativity. Kierkegaard, for instance, referred to his melancholy as his best and most loyal friend. Cioran felt a similar attachment to his insomnia. While he cursed his nocturnal suffering and used morphine, among other things, to try and knock himself out, he ultimately understood his long journeys into the sickly morning light as both crushing him and yet shaping his sensibilities. After all, isn’t wakefulness good? And sleeplessness a sort of wakefulness? “What rich or strange idea,” asks Cioran, “was ever the work of a sleeper?”—
Have just about finished the Patrick White bio by David Marr, a landmark work in Australian letters by any account. Large chunks of the novels were written at night, after midnight and before early morning, when he would reward himself with a ramble in Centennial Park.
'On this the penultimate day of the Salon du Livre, I have translated for your reading pleasure this excerpt from Christophe Claro's sketch of the book fair, collected in Le Clavier Cannibale (Ed. Inculte, 2009), which I hope he won't mind my citing here:
Why should a book not lead one to commit a crime, when it has so often led its author to the gallows? How can a book be innocent? Who hasn’t dreamt of a book who would change his life? Why must it be changed for the better? […] Let’s rename the Salon du Livre the Salon of Anything is Possible. Let us stroll down the aisles while saying to ourselves that on each square inch of table sleeps a work which could drive us to rape, kill, fall in love, eat oranges, churn up the foundations, or become president. Let us lift up the veil (it’s outlawed anyway now) and concede the power of the book. Let us bow down before the magnificent or dreadful consequences of reading. Think of Sade, think of Villepin, think of Cadiot, think of Asimov or Adorée Floupette… doesn’t matter which flask as long as you get drunk. To each book its own crime or virtue.’
On the time scale of the 450-year history of the printed book, the digital book is not just a work in progress, it is still in its embryonic stage. On screen at present it most commonly emulates the visual qualities of the printed book (typefaces, page layout, page sequencing), a continuity that is influenced in academic venues by the ongoing commitment to valuing books as aesthetic objects as well as cognitive vessels, featuring a limited range of evolved forms and formats, ornamentation and design that are considered integral to dignified scholarly communication. Tim O’Reilly and others have given considerable thought to how the migration of books to the web—with its unprecedented opportunities for instantaneous linkages, visual pyrotechnics, and limitless interactivity—will and should transform writing as well as visual formats and functionality. But the situation at present is analogous to the one McLuhan ascribes to the period just after Gutenberg’s invention of the movable type printing press: when, as if to certify their legitimacy and pedigree, the incunabula strove mainly to provide an accurate facsimile of the handwritten scribal manuscripts, primarily of sacred texts, that they replaced. Only gradually, over the course of centuries (as Elizabeth Eisenstein, Robert Darnton, Anthony Grafton, Roger Chartier, and others have taught us) did the printed book and the printed page discover their emergent qualities and fully exploit the transformed and enhanced opportunities for design, content, and distribution unavailable to handwritten manuscripts. And the same kind of punctuated evolution will probably characterize the development of the e-books of the future.
perth writers' festival accent on poetry reviewed at Cordite
'…Other poets who appeared at the festival included Robert Gray, Mark Tredinnick and Samuel Wagan Watson who were part of the panel entitled “From the Poetic to the Sublime”. Including readings by all the poets, one of the most interesting parts of this panel was in fact how each poet defined the sublime and what that meant for their work. Gray gave the most academic definition and quoted several poems, all incredibly recited by heart. His selections both demonstrated his ideas well and were very evocative. He noted the frequent difference between the poetic and the sublime, stating that the poetic is often looked down on as contrived while the sublime seems to be inspired by some outside force greater than the writer. Noting Turner as the painter of the sublime he also drew attention to the idea’s connections with the visual and the quality of dread it often encompasses.
Tredinnick used his new book The Blue Plateau, a memoir of the Blue Mountains, to describe his version of the sublime based on reflections of the landscape. Locating the sublime in a combination of dread and desire, through the backdrop of some of Australia’s most picturesque and deadly mountains, Tredinnick explored the possibilities for the sublime in the antipodean landscape. Traditionally the sublime landscape isn’t located in the southern hemisphere, however Tredinnick recognises the huge potential for the sublime this landscape offers; his is an antipodean sublime that both utilises and develops the concept of a combination of desire and dread.
Taking a completely different slant Samuel Wagan Watson finished off the panel in a very dynamic way. Drawing attention to the dearth of the sublime in many contemporary people’s lives, through tales of his job as a writer in residence for a radio station Watson urged the finding of the sublime in little things that may be missed if not looked for. Discussing the amount of his poetry which comes from conversations with his family, Watson unified the idea of the everyday with the idea of the sublime. Watson chose poems that demonstrated his family orientated storytelling tradition and his contribution to the discussion was the ideal place to conclude. The ideas of the sublime moved in this panel from the eternal to the landscape to a matter of perception of the everyday.’
“When did you write that? How did you happen … to … uh …" The nervous and incredulous male voice stops there on the tape. It’s 1954, and Connie Converse, the singer and songwriter who has elicited this response, has just recorded one of her songs onto the reel-to-reel. Fifty-five years later the quality of the song is undeniable and the questions put to her still have a strange poignancy. How did she write these songs? How did it happen that at the great cultural crossroads of postwar New York there was a lone woman writing songs on guitar with a sophistication of lyric and melody unmatched by any other folk songwriter of the time? It stumped the man who was recording her, and her answers, if she gave any, aren’t on the tape.”—Lost Women Found | The Monthly by Robert Forster. Link courtesy of his excellent personal website, where you can find links to quite a lot of his writings.
John Williams reports at The Second Pass on a classic review of the Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham (and to think that he found it on ‘Amazon’ street..)
'The headline is “I shudder at the message this story sends to our children.” And the review:
If you’re searching for a literary example of peer pressure, look no further than Dr. Seuss’s subtly horrifying Green Eggs and Ham. The “hero” of this tale, Sam-I-Am, spends the entirety of the book trying to force green eggs and ham upon a nameless skeptic. The “villain” turns down the offer several times, but Sam-I-Am persists, going so far as to follow him home in order to make him try the green eggs and ham. He uses several textbook methods of peer pressure, including the famous, “You’ll never know that you don’t like it if you don’t try it.” He refuses to respect the man’s right to say no, and badgers him incessantly until he caves under the pressure.
What disgusts me most about the end of the story is that once the man tries the green eggs and ham, he loves them and is simply another addition to a pool of addicts. Dr. Seuss’s tragic allegory for the rising drug use among young people that plagued his time period is brilliant, but certainly not appropriate for young children. Sam-I-Am is too easily twisted to become a hero, opening the antagonist’s mind to new things, rather than a metaphor for Satan as I believe was originally intended.
In conclusion, do not read this book to your children unless you are willing to explain to them that people like Sam-I-Am should be avoided at all costs, and that they should never follow the path of the story’s antagonist