Thursday, March 31, 2011

Literary Blog Hop: March 31-April 2

Those Ladies at The Blue bookcase have spent their time wandering and peeking into the dark corners for questions of a literary nature, which after studying under a microscope, dissecting and using entrails for divination, they then release to the rest of us The Question. This time it’s……

Do you find yourself predisposed to like (or dislike) books that are generally accepted as great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon? Discuss the affect you believe a book’s “status” has on your opinion of it.

On seeing this question, I immediately transformed into a 60 year old ex-army colonel, all moustache & monocle. I  found myself harrumphing and spluttering, I mean, haven’t they seen my posts, it’s obvious I’m an independent free-thinker, I've read Nietzsche. Herds are something you round up, not follow. And yet, how do you find books, unless you live on an island, or are in deep space, with no communication to the world you’re going to be influenced by what you read/ see there’s going to be a connection.

Now, my career as a highstatusclassichighbrow pursuer began purely by accident, as I’ve said before, my grandparents had an ornamental book set, that doubled as a collection of classic literature, which I worked my way through without realising their academic status/ worth, but after completing this where next? This is where status comes in, I read the Greeks (Homer, Ovid, Socrates etc.) because of….. Well they’re the Greeks, the Russians the same. In fact without a formal guide to literature, it turns out status is a good signpost to where to go next. Doesn’t mean you’ll like everything, or that you’re wrong for not liking certain works (Bronte, Dickens, you don’t fool me with your niceties).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Primo Levi

Periodic Table

Primo Michele Levi was born July 31st 1919 in Turin (Italy) to an Italian Jewish family with roots in North-Eastern Spain, he later trained as a chemist and despite the racial laws introduced by Mussolini (1938), he received his Bachelor of science Degree from the University of Turin in 1941, landing a job in a pharmaceutical laboratory where he remained until 1943. Leaving his position when northern Italy was invaded by Germany, in response Levi & a number of fellow comrades joined the partisan movement (Giustizia e Libertà) but, due to being completely untrained for such a venture, he and his companions were betrayed and quickly arrested by the Fascist militia. He was handed over to the Germans & sent to Auschwitz, where he spent ten months & survived because his chemical training was useful to the Germans by him working in a synthetic rubber factory in the Monowitz labour section of the camp. Shortly before the camp was liberated by the Red Army, he fell ill with scarlet fever and was left behind when the Germans evacuated the camp in anticipation of advancing Russian forces, forcing all but the gravely ill on a long death march that led to the death of the vast majority of the remaining prisoners. Levi's illness spared him this fate. He has been described as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.

The Periodic Table (Il Sistema Periodico) contains twenty one short stories, named after elements from the periodic table in chemistry, and are based on events in primo Levi's life, they are chronologically ordered and include two early short stories placed at the point in his life when they were written but are purely fictional with no pretence at autobiography. By using the Elements as metaphors, or as a process with which he can  distil the tale to it's essence. books


“Distilling is beautiful.  First of all, because it is a slow, philosophic, and silent occupation, which keeps you busy but gives you time to think of other things, somewhat like riding a bike.  Then, because it involves a metamorphosis from liquid to vapour (invisible), and from this once again to liquid; but in this double journey. up and down, purity is attained, an ambiguous and fascinating condition, which starts with chemistry and goes very far.  And finally, when you set about distilling, you acquire the consciousness of repeating a ritual consecrated by the centuries...”

In 2006, the Royal Institution of Great Britain named it the best science book ever


This short book is a series of haunting reflections, that follow a man’s life during a period of history where the word atrocity gained further depths, where horror became common place, yet his subject matter, although covering these issues, also covers young love, heroism, family ties, in fact  reality. And because chemistry was verifiable he saw it as an antidote to fascism.

“how could he not feel a new dignity and majesty in our study, how could he ignore the fact that the chemistry and  physics on which we feed, besides being in themselves nourishment vital in themselves, were the antidote to fascism which he and I were seeking, because they were clear and distinct and verifiable at every step, and not the tissue of lies and emptiness, like the radio and newspapers?”

Argon –"These are the so-called inert gases in the air we breathe” this is the introduction to a discourse on his community & language.

Hydrogen – Levi & friend discover their love of chemistry & experiment with electrolysis

Zinc – Laboratory experiments lead to thoughts on the issue of purity & the sterility of fascism.

Iron - The adolescence of the author, friendship, heroism, the racial laws and the Alps and a monument to a friend, who had no need of them.

Potassium - An experience in the laboratory leads to a meditation on “the almost same, the practically identical, the approximate, the or-even, all surrogates, and all patchwork. The differences can be small, but they can lead to radically different consequences, like a railroad’s switch point” .

Nickel – About a job he was offered that flouted the racial laws in the chemical laboratories of a mine, and the realisation that what was produced helped the war effort.

Lead - The story of a lead quarryman and the first of the purely fictional stories in this book.

Mercury – This is the second tale, and a story of life on a desolate island, and the discovery of quicksilver.

Phosphorus – A position  in the chemical industry, a cure for Diabetes ? and a bike ride around Milan with someone desired.

Gold - A story of  revolt, betrayal and imprisonment .

Cerium - In order to survive in Auschwitz  ( how smoking saved his life).

Chromium - A recovery of livered varnishes, or how something that once had meaning becomes ritual, it’s meaning long lost.

Sulphur – An explosive night time experience  in a chemical factory ?

Titanium - A scene of daily life and the power of suggestion.

Arsenic - Consultation about a sugar sample, or the dangers of being a Cobbler.

Nitrogen – Is all  cosmetics chicken Sh*#?

Tin- A friendly metal.

Uranium – Consultation about a piece of metal, customer relations & freedom.

Silver - The story of missing fish & photographic plates.

Vanadium- A not so pleasant blast from the past from a German Chemist.

Carbon - The history of a carbon atom from a limestone ledge hundreds of million years ago to a hand guided over a page, to impress a dot here, this one.

This is a fantastic book, I was constantly amazed by the way he transcended his subject matter, the way he takes a single element, then teases out the fibres, revealing a story full of humanity, written with an understated eloquence. This little book (p.195)  transcends it’s size, goes beyond the chemistry, beyond alchemy, to a  form of divination where meaning is sought and found in the basic elements, where by these elements a compass is realigned. This has a magic beauty, .


My copy was a penguin Classic, and has an introduction by the American author Phillip Roth

Primo Levi

Raymond Rosenthal(Trans)

Monday, March 21, 2011

World Poetry day(21-03-2011)

A short trip around the world

(via the medium of 4 Poems).

Every year on 21st March UNESCO celebrate their World Poetry Day.

UNESCO is the “United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization” – an agency of the United Nations that promotes education and communication and the arts

The decision to proclaim 21 March as World Poetry Day was adopted during the UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.

According to UNESCO, the main objective of World Poetry Day is to “support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities”.

From their site:

Moreover, this Day is meant to support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote teaching poetry, restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music, painting and so on, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an out-dated form of art.

Today is World Poetry day, which has the aim of promoting  the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world. Now anyone who's been by  The Parrish Lantern before, can’t help but notice that I love poetry, nay adore the stuff, so to me this is a wonderful idea, and one i had to bring to the attention of anyone even vaguely interested. My idea is to present several poets from around the world in the aim of stimulating interest.

1751 by Miroslav Holub

That year Diderot began to publish his Encyclopaedia,

and the first insane asylum was founded in London.

So the counting out began, to separate the sane, who

veil themselves in words, from the insane, who rip off

feathers from their bodies.

Poets had to learn tightrope-walking.

and to make sure, officious types began to publish

instructions on how to be normal.

Miroslav Holub

was born in 1923 in Plzen,(Pilsen Czech Republic) western Bohemia, the only child of a lawyer & a high school teacher of French and German. He attended a gymnasium specializing in Latin & Greek. After the war he studied medicine at  Charles University, Prague, working in the department of philosophy and the history of science, and also working in the psychiatric dep’t. He became an MD in 1953.In 1954 he joined the immunological section of the Czechoslovakian Academy of Science and obtained his PHD. This influenced  his many poems, using his scientific knowledge to poetic effect. died 1998.

Miroslav Holub

Silhouette by Annette M’ Baye

Behind, sun, before, shadow!

A watergourd on a stately head,

A breast, a strip of loincloth fluttering,

Two feet that erase the pattern on the sand.

                       (Trans from French by Kathleen Weaver)

Annette M’ Baye Born 1927 in Sokhone, Senegal, she has worked as  a teacher in Senegal and in Paris, was active for many years in radio and journalism.

Annette M’ Baye

Resurrection by Roberto Bolano

Poetry slips into dreams

like a diver in a lake.

Poetry, braver than anyone,

slips in and sinks

like lead

through a lake infinite as Loch Ness

or tragic and turbid as Lake Balaton.

consider it from below:

a diver


covered in feathers

of will.

Poetry slips into dreams

like a diver who’s dead

in the eyes of God.

(trans by Laura Healy )

Roberto Bolaño Ávalos ( (April 28, 1953 – July 15, 2003) was a Chilean novelist and poet. In 1999 he won the Rómulo Gallegos Prize for his novel Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives), and in 2008 he was posthumously awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction for his novel 2666, which was described by board member Marcela Valdes as a "work so rich and dazzling that it will surely draw readers and scholars for ages."Bolano  has always considered himself a poet, that he wrote fiction to fulfil the need to support his family, than as an abiding wish to write the books,explaining, “I blush less when I reread my poems.”

Roberto bolano

Clams by Ishigaki Rin

At midnight I awoke.

The clams I’d bought that evening

were alive in a corner of the kitchen,

their mouths open.

“In the morning

I’ll eat you,

every last one of you”

I laughed

a witches laugh.

after that

I could only sleep through the night,

my mouth slightly open.

(Trans from Japanese by Hiroaki Sato)

Ishigaki Rin was born and raised in Akasaka,  Tokyo, she joined the staff of the magazine Danso (Geological Fault) before the second world war. In the post war period, she was active in the realist movement in Japanese poetry. Her motifs were pots, the nameplate on the house, and those things people find in their daily life, the  poetry was based on common sense. Her words were the consciousness of a single female person in both the home and in society, as a working woman and an ordinary woman who engaged in housekeeping after work.

Ishigaki Rin

21st March 2011 World Poetry Day

Times Educational supplement (World Poetry day Resources)

The Poetry Archive(Lesson plans and activities for all key stages, built around Poetry Archive recordings and offering lively, engaging ways of working with poetry at all Key Stages.)

Poets convey a timeless message. They are often key witness to history’s great

political and social changes. Their writings inspire us to build lasting peace in our

minds, to rethink relations between man and nature and to establish humanism

founded on the uniqueness and diversity of peoples. This is a difficult task, requiring

the participation of all, whether in schools, libraries or cultural institutions. To quote

the poet Tagore, the 150th anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated this year, "I

have spent my days in stringing and unstringing my instrument."

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

Message for World Poetry Day

21 March 2011


Saturday, March 19, 2011

SPRING by Gerard Manly Hopkins


Nothing is so  beautiful as spring-------

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

the ear, it strikes like lightenings to hear him sing;

The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

the descending blue; that blue is all in a rush

with richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?

A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning

in Eden garden.----Have, get, before it cloy,

before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,

     most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889) was born in Stratford, London,to Manley and Catherine (Smith) who where high church Anglicans, his father was a marine insurance adjuster , and a published poet. Hopkins was the eldest of nine children. later on (1854-63)  he went to a grammar school in Highgate where he won  the poetry prize for the “Escorial” and a scholarship to Oxford. In 1867 he won First-Class degrees in Classics and "Greats" (a rare "double-first") the following year he entered the Society of Jesus. Apart from a few non representative pieces placed in various periodicals of that time, he was never published during his lifetime, it was down to the friendship he had with Robert Bridges (Poet Laureate 1913) whom he had known since Oxford, that he became published posthumously when in 1918 Robert Bridges arranged for their publication. He now is one of the established greats amongst the Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse.


  pomes  ALL SIZES 

If you have a Poem/ Poet, you admire please introduce them to me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What one literary work must you read before you die?

This question shocked and then scared the hell out of me, so much so that I had to check out the culprits involved. But believe it or not & I have done extensive research (looked at their about Torturerpages & profiles)yet it appears THE LADIES OF THE BLUE BOOKCASE & their accomplice DEBBIE NANCE are not state licenced torturers, yes I know it surprised me to, I mean, just look at the that question.

What one literary work must you read before you die?


So here I am stuck in my own room 101, or gently promenading several circles of Dante’s hell, wondering do I go default setting & grab the poetry, maybe The Collected Poems of  Lawrence Durrell or Crow by Ted Hughes, but I’ve discussed them ad infinitum. Then it must be works of prose, some fantastic book such as Orwell's “1984”, but if you read this then you have to read Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” & if you read that then you must read “Island” Huxley’s answer to his own work. My mind bounced off authors like some deranged pinball machine-Camus, but if you read Camus, you read Sartre and if you read Sartre you can’t forget the missus (Simone de Beauvoir) etc. etc. etc. Confused, with one of my headaches coming on, I retreated to the corner, thumb in my mouth I faced the wall and muttered Library, Library, Library, Library like some mantra, or a charm to ward off danger. Then I thought LIBRARY, could I sneaka reader on reading alberto manguel a library in as my answer, not just the odd book, BUT A WHOLE LIBRARY.

Now I know why I dislike reason, I’d almost convinced myself of the soundness of my logic, when reason stuck it’s opinion in like some old busybody and said  “that it wouldn’t work & that I was Stupid to try it”.Then a light shone, it’s golden shaft of heaven zeroed in like a messenger of the Gods and……………….Not really, I checked the books next to me and saw the solution to my dilemma, Alberto Manguel’s, “A Reader on Reading” ,this book is about books, about reading, this book is a walled garden and has the ability to destroy curses. On reading the first chapter of this book, I went on a quest (Amazon) in search of more of his works, this book has so many layers, that it would allow many readings, with new nuances discovered every time……. Also this man read to Borges, I mean sat down and shared words with Jorge Luis Borges.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Personal Library

A Reader  

On Reading

By Alberto


After leaving school, this being one of the few things school and I agreed on, I went into work, training as a comme chef, bypassing the higher education route for a fixed income and an escape from all things educational. So although my love of literature continued, even grew, it was without formal structure. In fact, it could quite easily be said that my route through literature was more of a paper chase, where one clue led to the next, or led me off on some strange/wild tangent – this solely depending on the degree of communication between myself and the last book read. Via this means, I discovered my path through the reading world, where one writer begat another, who begat another, who…..,  until, like some large shadow, this accumulation of the written word trailed behind me, to remain forever linked with some part of me, whether as a point in time, a recollection or, on a deeper level, as some elemental condition of who I am, and in the process became my personal library. This library, being the sum total of everything I’ve read.This lifetimes reading forms my key, my starting point, my guide and my level playing field, for everything I will read, and yet this is just one of the bibliotheca, a reader has at their disposal, and by reader I mean one such as myself, someone who believes books are:

not something you pick up between programmes;

as valid a form of nourishment as any protein/vitamin;

not merely entertainment (although it can be);

truth, even if the form taken is fiction.

So what are these other libraries? Well, apart from the obvious collection of books at home, there's the ones on my kindle app, the record of books read on my Bookdroid, on my Goodreads, My LibraryThing, even the record of books read this year featured on my blog.They all funnel into my personal library, and help to define me as a Reader.



“We come into the world intent on finding narrative in everything, in the landscape, in the skies, in the faces of others, and, of course, in the images and words that our species create”. So writes Alberto Manguel, in this fantastic, thought provoking joy of a book – A Reader on reading. He goes on to say, via the thirty-nine essays collected here, “ when the world becomes incomprensible….. when we feel unguided and bewildered, we seek a place in which comprehension (or faith in comprehension ) has been set down in words” and through the narratives of Jonah, Homer & Dante, and through topics ranging from Pinocchio to comics, from Borges to Che Guevara, and even Lewis Carroll's Alice, we are guided into the writer’s world. To Alberto Manguel, reading is a refuge, an escape route, reading is a compass that aids our discovery of the world and of ourselves. He argues that this most human of creative activities defines us, that at the core we are “Reading Animals” intent on reading our own lives and those of others.

One of my favourite essays, titled- Notes Towards a Definition of the Ideal Reader- starts with a list cataloguing his thoughts on what makes an Ideal Reader, here's a few.

  • The ideal Reader is The Writer just before the words come together on the page.
  • Ideal Readers do not reconstruct a story: they re-create it.
  • The ideal Reader is the translator, able to follow to dissect the text, peel back the skin, slice down the marrow, follow each artery and each vein, and then set on its feet a whole new sentient being. The ideal Reader is not a taxidermist.
  • Ideal Readers do not follow a story; they partake of it.
  • The ideal Reader never exhausts the books geography.
  • The marquis de Sade: “I only write for those capable of understanding me, and these will read me with no danger”---- The Marquis de Sade is wrong: The Ideal Reader is always in danger.
  • Reading a book from centuries ago, The ideal Reader feels immortal.
  • Pinochet who banned Don Quixote because he thought it advocated civil disobedience, was that books Ideal Reader.
  • The Ideal Reader is capable of falling in love with one of the book’s characters.


This is one of those books that should be on the bedside table, of every reader, if you love books, if you have a library of a few books, or thousands, add this to it. To finish this post - just a few definitions towards an Ideal Library.

  • In 1250 Richard de Fournival compared the Ideal library to a Hortus Conclusus, a walled garden.
  • The ideal Library disarms the curse of Babel.
  • The map of the ideal library is it’s catalogue
  • No shelf in the Library is higher or lower than the reach of the readers arm. The ideal library does not require acrobatics
  • The ideal library is meant for one particular reader. Every reader must feel that he or she is the chosen one.

In the current climate of closures to libraries, under the reasoning (???) of cost-cutting measures, I’ve chosen this one to finish with.

The Ideal Library symbolizes everything a society stands for. A society depends on its libraries to know who it is because libraries are societies memory.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

World Book Night.


Do you love a book so much  
you want everyone to read it?

PrintWorld Book Night represents the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland.

On Saturday 5 March 2011, two days after World Book Day, with the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day, the BBC and RTE, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

The book give-away will comprise 40,000 copies of each of the 25 carefully selected titles, to be given away by 20,000 ‘givers’, who will each distribute 48 copies of their chosen title to whomever they choose on World Book Night. The remaining books will be distributed by World Book Night itself in places that might otherwise be difficult to reach, such as prisons and hospitals.

As one of the volunteers, my collection of books arrived earlier this week at one of my local libraries(Ramsgate), one of the librarians helped me with the two boxes.IMAG0070

Today is the official world Book Day, and although in reality it’s the UK & Ireland, it’s still a great idea, to introduce loads of people you’ve never met before to the joys of a book. Most of the people reading this blog on a regular basis, are fellow book bloggers and we are constantly suggesting books to one another, but at the end of the day, aren’t we talking to the converted, individuals that may not have read the book you’re posting about, but are avid readers, bookfiends, and so already half convinced by what you’re suggesting. This was about giving, or attempting to give, books to people whose inclination, taste or even if they read or not you’ve no idea about, you spoke to them face to face and explained why they should read a particular book, why you were doing this.


We, this being my daughter (you’ll meet her soon) and myself, arrived at my chosen destination,  Westwood Cross (Shopping Centre) at 11am, armed with our boxes of books – 48 copies of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I had previously phoned to check if it was ok for us to be there, and a big thanks to the Westwood Cross management who welcomed me and were happy to let me have the run of the centre. On arriving I went to the management suite and met Laura, who sorted me out with a pass and was my first recipient of a book.IMAG0072





We set up our stall and started convincing people that we weren’t there to take their money and that the books were free. My daughter was a great help in my mission to spread the word


We spoke to a lot of individuals, not all had heard of the event, not all were  interested, but a large amount were, some who took a book, some who were just interested in what we were doing and whyIMAG0074. Although enough took a book that in around an hour we, between us, gave away our boxes of books.


The end result was that 48 people went away with a brand new - specially printed for World Book Night - book by an author, the majority had never heard of him, they went with my message, “To enjoy this book, but if it’s not to their taste to pass it on to someone else, that there was no catch beyond the hope that they would be enthralled, and would want to read more”. 48 people left with a smile on their face and a joy they weren’t expecting, make that 50, as my daughter and I both left with a smile, with a joy born of the fact that we were the givers of a small world, that because of that act someone may explore more.

IMAG0077             going, going, gone.IMAG0076





My one proviso, is that although this is World Book Night, it’s really only UK & Ireland, whether this will grow and really become a world book night I don’t know, but I qualify my doubt by saying if I convinced a couple of people to read something they wouldn’t normally read, that’s a result.

“We come into the world intent on finding narrative in everything, in the landscape, in the skies, in the faces of others, and, of course, in the images and words that our species create”. This most human of creative activities defines us, that at the core we are “Reading Animals” intent on reading our own lives and those of others”. Alberto Manguel  – A Reader on Reading.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Histories, Tragedies & Comedies.

Literary Blog Hop: March 3-6

Can literature be funny? What is your favourite humorous literary book? is the question penned this time from the ladies of The Blue Bookcase ( Gilion from Rose City Reader ).

My answer to this is an resounding Yes, I mean where do you start – Don Quixote parts 1&2 (1605 – 1615), a 17th century Spitting Image sketch stretched to book length & a tale that had the Spanish developing severe bladder problems because of it’s cruelly funny take on the novels of chivalry, or how about “The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel” a connected series of five novels written in the 16th century by François Rabelais. A story of two giants, a father (Gargantua) and his son (Pantagruel) and their adventures, written in an amusing, extravagant, satirical vein. The text features much crudity, scatological humour and violence. Lists of explicit or vulgar insults fill several chapters, and is very very funny.

Readers, friends, if you turn these pages
Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there's nothing here that's outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you'll find is laughter:
That's all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I'd rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous


How about possibly the greatest stand up comedian, that never was, the 17th centuries  Lenny Bruce, Dave Allen & Alexei Sayle,  rolled into one vicious satirical comic master…….Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce you to, Francois-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), ok so he went under the stage name of Voltaire and is best known nowadays for Candide, a  fantastic tale of human folly and parody, yet a glance through his other works reveal the same humour, my personal favourite is the Philosophical Dictionary. Jump forward a few centuries and you have Thomas Pynchon, his works are full of characters that are  works of comic genius (Benny Profane-V), also Italo Calvino, I recently read & posted on If on a winters Night, A traveller, and was amazed at how funny it was, the sheer audacity of his writing and the way he played with the readers idea of a book. So Yes Literature can be funny, sometimes even the authors, that are considered SERIOUS, DIFFICULT, GENIUSES write funny books, not all but enough.