22 December 2009
You probably want to read The Treasure of Abbot Thomas before you read this.
In M R James’s universe everyone who matters is fluent in Latin. It’s not so for the modern reader – or at least this modern reader – and there’s an interesting gap left between the Latin that he so liberally scatters throughout his stories, and the translations we read.
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas begins with some big chunks of Latin, which our antiquarian protagonist – Mr Somerton – gets straight down to translating. What he ends up with isn’t immediately clear to him, either, but he follows up the clues within and is lured into a hunt for buried treasure, departing to parts foreign, and for now out of our sight. more »
marna in FT /The Brown Wedge • 6 Comments
11 December 2009
Another in our series of posts about the ghost stories of MR James. You can find this story here.
“Oh Whistle” has the reputation of being one of MR James’ most chilling and effective stories. It’s also – not coincidentally – one of his funniest. He’d already mastered the techniques of hiding secrets in a half-sentence, and covering his tracks and clues with a layer or two of ornamental description. Now he applied that fully to the social life of the English don – as full of ritual and unburied grudge as any of the dark histories he’d conjured. more »
Tom in FT • 10 Comments
8 November 2009
Here’s a little factoid for you: the word “Jedi” is said 24 times in The Men Who Stare At Goats.
The two words “Star” and “Wars” are however only ever mentioned once, in the context of Ronald Reagan really liking the film..
Bearing in mind that it is Ewan MacGregor doing almost fifty percent of the saying of the word Jedi, there is clearly the most obvious of injokes going on here. But even in a film as often ridiculous as The Men Who Stare At Goats, the New Earth Battalion never, ever has the temerity to start talking about midichlorians. Which makes it at least better than any of the Star Wars prequels, and possibly almost as good as the Ewok Adventure (better than Caravan of Courage). And George Clooney finally brings in a comic performance which, whilst ticking and goggling like an old ham, actually feels in character and importantly funny.
Pete Baran in FT • 2 Comments
20 October 2009
LWW: lucy and susan get to ride on a lion’s back
PC: omg lucy and susan get to WINE-CRAZED ROMP with BACCHUS dude. Actual real quote: “Two of the Maenads… helped her take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes she was wearing” YES I’LL BET THEY DID!
VDT: er ok pass, though lucy does get sold into slavery briefly, plus cuddles reepicheep at the world’s end plus er er seamen, yes PP can have this one…
SC: jill gets blown by a lion and rides on the back of a giant owl and a CENTAUR
MN: polly gets to ride on the back of a flying horse
HahB: aravis gets to ride a talking horse
LB: oh noes susan prefers teh lipstickz to RIDING ON LIONS AND AN ETERNITY WITH PRIAPIC GOATMEN
c.s.lewis had a fear of female sexuality: I’m sorry the more telling psychological evidence says otherwise…
<— The Old Narnians, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)
pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør in FT • 5 Comments
28 September 2009
The Dictionary of Drink has the noble aim of being ‘a guide to every type of beverage’ and is the kind of thing one can happily browse for hours during a lazy session in the pub. We found a copy in the very fine King Charles I off Cally Road and signs were initially good as all the seasonal variations of Hooch were accounted for. However, it quickly became apparent that the authors’ research had been somewhat slapdash. more »
Rob Brennan in Pumpkin Publog • 10 Comments
6 July 2009
18 April 2009
ie two books by james that aren’t ghost stories, and another book that isn’t by james
i: Old Testament Legends:being stories out of some of the less-known apochryphal books of the old testament, by montague rhodes james, which i bought a facsimile copy of about six weeks ago and now it has rather sinisterly VANISHED oo er — illustrations by the great h.j.ford (see left, “solomon summons a demon”)
ii: the new testament vol.1, edited by m. j. james, assisted by delia lyttelton, engravings by eric gill, which i just gathered in from the room-full of books my aunt c is about to give to charity
iii: a copy (from same source) of w.h.ainsworth’s “old st pauls: a tale of the plague and the fire“, a 19th-century novel about treasurehunting and urban conflagration in the 17th century, very briefly mentioned in “canon alberic”
more on these when i find where i put i and have time to read ii and iii
pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør in FT • No Comments
8 April 2009
I am writing a piece for a market research mag on the current “hottest thinkers” that industry people like to namecheck. Inevitably many of these people are as much derided as loved, so I decided to ‘crowdsource’ a list of the most overpraised intellectuals, using Twitter and LJ. Here it is, and YOU can decide on the worst intellectual of all using the power of votes. (You get 3 each).
A couple of people were excluded for not fitting any reasonable definition of intellectual, and a couple more were excluded for being dead (also, if I’d put Ayn Rand in it would have been a one-horse race). Otherwise what you see is everyone nominated. So: VOTE! (For up to three people)
Worst Living Intellectual
- Alain De Botton (36%, 27 Votes)
- Malcolm Gladwell (30%, 22 Votes)
- Noam Chomsky (22%, 16 Votes)
- Guy Kawasaki (22%, 16 Votes)
- Seth Godin (18%, 13 Votes)
- Edward De Bono (16%, 12 Votes)
- Michael Ignatieff (14%, 10 Votes)
- Dan Snow (5%, 4 Votes)
- Richard Florida (4%, 3 Votes)
- John Gray (4%, 3 Votes)
- Jakob Nielsen (3%, 2 Votes)
- Charles Handy (3%, 2 Votes)
- Nicholas Nassim Taleb (3%, 2 Votes)
- Dan Ariely (1%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 74
Poll closes: 10 April 2009 @ 10:42 am
Tom in FT /The Brown Wedge • 28 Comments
25 March 2009
Lem was a Polish SF writer, occupying a strange place within the genre. He despised most SF (Dick was the only American SF writer he admired – an opinion that was not remotely reciprocated) for its vacuity and shallowness, which accurately implies the seriousness and philosophical bent of his own work.
His most famous novel is Solaris, made into a great film (the Tarkovsky version is my favourite science fiction movie) and later a decent one. It concerns a first contact with aliens: the distinct idea behind most of Lem’s several approaches to this standard SF trope is that Lem believed communication with an alien mind, or comprehension of it, would be all but impossible. more »
Martin Skidmore in The Brown Wedge • 7 Comments
18 March 2009
I like a writer who defies real comparison with anyone else in their genre. The closest to Jim Thompson would be Dostoyevsky, I think, except Thompson is far bleaker, far more negative about human nature. He’s also a stranger and more experimental writer. This is particularly surprising, given that his work was published far from any locus of critical acclaim: he wrote for crime pulps, and for cheap paperback novel publication.
You may have seen one or two films of his work: The Grifters was a fine adaptation of one of his last really strong works (his great years run from the start of the ’50s to the mid-’60s), whereas both versions of The Getaway graft on a lame happy ending. The actual ending is the most scary and depressing piece of writing I’ve ever read, creating a caged existence of constant terror.
Martin Skidmore in The Brown Wedge • 2 Comments