Steinbeck wrote with pencil on the ubiquitous American yellow pad. Computers and word-processing came too late for him, and so I was curious about his wife's assumption that while he would have liked and mastered them, he'd probably have stuck with...read more
Recently I read an old penny-paperback of The Grapes of Wrath. I was about three-quarters of the way through when I left it on a plane - I hope someone picked it up and read it. So I bought another copy of the same edition as it had a foreword by...read more
Antonio La Cava, a retired school teacher, converted a quintessential Italian vehicle, the three-wheeler micro-van, into a travelling library.For 20 years he's been visiting remote villages and hamlets in his home province of Basilicata to bring books -...read more
We visited the Palladio Museum in a suitable palazzo down a charming side street in Vicenza. Only by chance on our way out, we peeked around the corner of the courtyard and ventured into the tucked away library.Expecting a haughty enquiry into our...read more
The finest book cover illustration I've seen for this slim, timeless, moving book, wrapping around the back cover and even into the back flyleaf. Oddly, there is no mention of who designed the jacket. The colours and lines are marvelous.And that font! 'Ernest...read more
How do you learn to write? My belief is that if fine writing comes from you, mostly it is due to fine reading, even if (or particularly when?) you forget the detail of what you have read but keep the imprint.Here Dante acknowledges Virgil not only as his...read more
A quote to note
Drawing on thousands of sparkling, moving and inspiring quotations amassed during decades of attentive reading. To delight your mind and spirit and improve your presentations beyond belief.
This imperious dismissal of short-cuts as immoral and inevitably causing confusion made me laugh. I have mixed feelings about them.Where it's an innovative way to do something faster without any loss of quality, I'm all for them; the immorality lies in...read more
A satisfying simile for mulling over an idea before implementing it. There is much playful language in the wisdom deftly embedded in Elizabeth Goudge's writing.One of the best English children's authors, and this is among my favourite of her books. See the...read more
Hemingway's protagonist goes recruiting and chooses quality over quantity. Trust is what sorts the good men from the 'undependables'. ‘I could use twenty more men, to be sure,’ Robert Jordan said.‘Good ones do not exist. You want undependables?’‘No. How...read more
In January 1942, a score of Verdi's Requiem was smuggled into Theresienstadt concentration camp and performed by prisoners, conducted by Rafael Schäcter.Starting with about 150 singers, the numbers dwindled as they disappeared into this or that hellish...read more
More marvelous metaphors on Mondays … Monday, metaphor day.
Mervyn Peake is a fount of original similes and metaphors. Given the granite-gothic ambiance of Gormenghast, it makes sense that 'huge' should evoke 'doom'. '... at their centre, between the brittle petals, lies a pool of indigo, translucent and as huge...read more
A stunningly original depiction of the pink streaks of dawn resembling a sky-wound. '... as the dawn like a wound in the sky welled into her consciousness...' Source: Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan, introduction by Anthony Burgess (London: Vintage Books, 1998),...read more
One of Rilke's translators used this surprising and touching metaphor to describe him. I like the idea of being - figuratively - a human trellis for beauty to grow upon. 'Roses climb his life as if he were their trellis.' Source: Quoted in Year of Wonder,...read more
One of the most English of memories is bluebell tapestried woodland in April - I have a particular recollection of this sky-carpet in a wood in Devon. Combined with sunlight dappling through the early leaf canopy, it creates an intimacy of delicate colour,...read more
Bringing you pithy, evocative imagery in the form of three-legged microcosms of meaning. Updated on Tuesdays … Tuesday, triologism day! You’ll never see this day of the week in the same way again.
The dancing dust of a sunbeam also glimmering as a mirror hall for fireflies. What a bright image. 'A light-stream interplay, a mirror hallFor fireflies...' (Book III, Canto 22) Source: Dante, The Divine Comedy, trans. Clive James (New York: Liveright...read more
Three simple words perhaps summing up the pinnacle of much spiritual seeking, especially if once reached, it spills over with positive energy. Or call it love, Dante did, and George Herbert would have. 'So sweetly the well-ordered spirit swellsWith...read more
At the precocious signal of spring, I see new-grown green peeping all about. And isn't that a sweet scene, sitting on a tree root surrounded with 'just' the seven virtues. So understated, so immense. 'Look there beneath that new-grown green. She's seated...read more
Flay has spent his whole life - a long one - in the stiflingly familiar circuits and rituals of serving the Earl of Gormenghast, barely leaving the sprawling, mossy, solid walls of the castle. It is his home and as near as he has to a family, even with the...read more
Swelter, the button-popping portly chef and Flay, the all purpose butler, valet and loyal servant of the Earl of Gormenghast, circle in for the kill in their mortal combat. No spoilers here, read the book! '... so intense was their hatred ... (they)...read more
Flay and Swelter, pitched in a life and death struggle, are at physically opposite extremes - Flay, wiry, knobbly, skinny, and Swelter, the all-tasting chef, round as a demijohn. Their battle is desperate and all out. '... he brings his sharp, splintery...read more
Sharing words that sparkle, appeal, intrigue or otherwise grab me, including those in other languages. And adoring alliteration, new words will be added on Wednesdays… Wednesday, word day. See you back here then.
A perfect collective noun for a mass of marvels. There are good reasons the first of Patrick Leigh Fermor's duo of travel books is entitled A Time of Gifts.One of the most beautifully wrought recollections of a youthful stride across Europe, also...
A poetic collective noun, evoking the soothing cooing of the birds of peace, one of the gentlest sounds in nature (or elsewhere).
So now, when you are reporting from a medical conference, you know the correct term to package all those medics together. They are huddling and expostulating as a 'doctrine'. Perhaps the collective noun refers, however, as much or more to doctors of the...
This twice-baked Greek bread is known for its durability, keeping for months. The trick seems to be to know how much to soften it with water when you want to use it. Here is one recipe, and there are others of a sweet version, many of which have a strong...
Patrick Leigh Fermor's beautifully wrought account of his travels in Mani in Greece provides a vivid portrayal of the Maniots, including the rare and almost Shakespearean word, 'blackavized'. That echo of a 'visor' conveys something of a warrior aspect,...
What did cobblers do to be nailed with such a bad reputation? When did you ever see a drunken cobbler? Surely they should cobble together a class action, and hobble such aspersions on their profession, particularly given the favourable light cast on any...
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