Archives for posts with tag: Literature

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THE NAMING OF CATS
by T.S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey —
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkstrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum —
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover —
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

(From Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, poems by T.S. Eliot)

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In the U.S., the month of March is filled with talk of madness – March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournaments. Background on how “March Madness” got its name is in an article at Slate.com. After reading this explanation, I must say, “Hmmm,” and ask, “Did the journalist leave out something — or someone?” My theory is that the inspiration for “March Madness” came from the mad March Hare in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

According to Wikipedia, “Mad as a March hare” is a common British expression based on popular belief about the behavior of male hares during breeding season when they run around acting crazy – boxing with other hares, jumping straight up in the air, racing around in circles, and other wild, excitable behavior. (In Great Britain, breeding season for hares lasts from February to September).

In Carroll’s book — originally published in 1865 — the March Hare behaves as though it’s always teatime because his friend, the equally Mad Hatter, “murdered the time” while singing for the Queen of Hearts. (During the 1800s, “mad as a hatter” was a common British expression – referring to the disorientation hat makers experienced from the mercury used in their trade.)

 Now, let’s revel in a few passages from one of the greatest works in all of literature – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.

“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.

“The it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,” said Alice angrily.

“It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited,” said the March Hare…

The Hatter opened his eyes very wide…”Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

“…I believe I can guess that,” Alice added.

“Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?” said the March Hare.

“Exactly so,” said Alice.

“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.

“I do,” Alice hastily replied, “at least – at least I mean what I say – that’s the same thing, you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter.

“Why, you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

“You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”

ILLUSTRATIONS: John Tenniel (1820-1914)

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“The serious writer has always taken the flaw in human nature for his starting point, usually the flaw in an otherwise admirable character. Drama usually bases itself on the bedrock of original sin, whether the writer thinks in theological terms or not. Then, too, any character in a serious novel is supposed to carry a burden of meaning larger than himself. The novelist doesn’t write about people in a vacuum; he writes about people in a world where something is obviously lacking, where there is the general mystery of incompleteness and the particular tragedy of our own times to be demonstrated, and the novelist tries to give you, within the form of the book, the total experience of human nature at any time. For this reason, the greatest dramas naturally involve the salvation or loss of the soul. Where there is no belief in the soul, there is very little drama. ” FLANNERY O’CONNOR

SOURCE: The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, available at Amazon.com.

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FLANNERY O’CONNOR TALKS ABOUT HER WRITING HABITS:

I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”

Illustration: Tin House, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

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LITTLE YELLOW FLOWER
by Matsuo Bashō 

Slender, so slender
its stalk bends under dew –
little yellow flower

Photo: James Jordan, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“Fitzgerald was a better just plain writer than all of us put together.”

JOHN O’HARA writing to JOHN STEINBECK,

SOURCE:  The Selected Letters of John O’Hara (1978)

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He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it’s a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm — charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It’s not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It’s a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartettes.” 

RAYMOND CHANDLER referring to F. Scott Fitzgerald in a 1950 letter to a friend

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, reproduction number LC-USZ62-88103 DLC.

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In 2006, Haruki Murakami, author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, accomplished a long-standing goal — translating The Great Gatsby into Japanese. Murakami has discussed his reverence for the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel many times over the years — and has written a compelling afterword to his translation. Read Murakami’s moving love letter to Fitzgerald’s masterwork at scribd.com.

Here are some excerpts from Murakami’s heartfelt homage to The Great Gatsby

When someone asks, ‘Which three books have meant the most to you?’ I can answer without having to think: The Great GatsbyDostoevesky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. All three have been indispensable to me (both as a reader and as a writer); yet if I were forced to select only one, I would unhesitatingly choose Gatsby. Had it not been for Fitzgerald’s novel, I would not be writing the kind of literature I am today (indeed, it is possible that I would not be writing at all, although that is neither here nor there).

Whatever the case, you can sense the level of my infatuation with The Great Gatsby. It taught me so much and encouraged me so greatly in my own life. Through slender in size for a full-length work, it served as a standard and a fixed point, an axis around which I was able to organize the many coordinates that make up the world of the novel. I read Gatsby over and over, poking into every nook and cranny, until I had virtually memorized entire sections.

Remarks such as these are bound to perplex more than a few readers. ‘Look, Murakami,’ they’ll say, ‘I read the novel, and I don’t get it. Just why do you think it’s so great?’ My first impulse is to challenge them right back. ‘Hey, if The Great Gatsby isn’t great,’ I am tempted to say, inching closer, ‘then what the heck is?’…Gatsby is such a finely wrought novel – its scenes so fully realized, its evocations of sentiment so delicate, its language so layered – that, in the end, one has to study it line by line in English to appreciate its true value.”

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To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we’re offering a free Kindle version of the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology – available through Tuesday, March 18th at Amazon.com. (If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can still read the book — with free reading apps, available at this link.) If you are in the UK, try Amazon.co.uk. The free offer also appears on all the international Amazon sites.

Featuring the work of 72 writers from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Europe, and Africa, the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology includes poetry, short stories, novel excerpts, an author interview, memoirs, and poetic essays that touch on the theme of green in creative, fresh, and compelling ways.

We would appreciate any reblogs, tweets, emails, and facebook posts about this Kindle giveaway!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we’re offering a free Kindle version of the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology – available through Tuesday, March 18th at Amazon.com. (If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can still read the book — with free reading apps, available at this link.) If you are in the UK, try Amazon.co.uk.

Featuring the work of 72 writers from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Europe, and Africa, the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology includes poetry, short stories, novel excerpts, an author interview, memoirs, and poetic essays that touch on the theme of green in creative, fresh, and compelling ways.

We would appreciate any reblogs, tweets, emails, and facebook posts about this Kindle giveaway!

Happy St. Pat’s!