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radiantfracture

September 2017

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The St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church not only has a beautiful interior, very like the hull of an overturned ship; it has the best bookshop in town, Churchmouse Books. The shop is a side room filled with gently used volumes released (certainly not discarded) by a congregation of serious readers. All books are obtainable by donation. The other weekend they had an open house and larger book sale, with books laid out all along each pew -- it felt sacred and profane all at once -- whence I fished out this small remarkable creature.

Cover )
Title Page (bit blurry, sorry, it tried to escape) )

It appears to be a teleplay by novelist Elizabeth Bowen about Anthony Trollope: Anthony Trollope: A New Judgement (OUP, 1946). As you can see, it's a beautiful little booklet, maybe A6 size, with a marbled cover, presented more like a monograph than a script.

AbeBooks adds this: "A play broadcast by the BBC in 1945." Hmm, BBC.

Adding "BBC" to the search produces The Wireless Past: Anglo-Irish Writers and the BBC, 1931-1968 via Google Books:

This warning against nostalgia and advocacy of the 'now' appears most clearly in Bowen’s final radio feature, "Anthony Trollope: A New Judgement", which was broadcast two days before VE day in May 1945. In this broadcast, Bowen continues the ghost-novelist conceit of her other radio features while also communicating more explicit messages about the relationship between print culture and nostalgia. The later broadcast was evidently popular—Oxford University Press published the script as a pamphlet in 1946. (100)

It strikes me that while this book may have been of the "now" in 1946, it has become an object of almost irresistible print culture nostalgia. Someone surely was thinking of that, even at the time. The deckle edge. The marbling. And printed right after the war, too, when paper might still have been scarce.

...actually, Wireless goes on to discuss the shortage -- apparently these broadcasts were "oriented towards publics that could not access books" (103). I'm not, via skimming, entirely clear why Bowen is anti-nostalgia, but then, she seems like someone who would be.

Any readers of Bowen? I've only read The Death of the Heart for a graduate course on the modernist novel.

There's no indication on the pamphlet itself that it is a screenplay or was ever broadcast or has anything to do with the BBC -- at first thumb-through, I thought it was a monograph in avant-garde format. Which I guess it is, or rather the record thereof.

{rf}
Thanks for the follow-backs, journalfolk. I have no plan for how to make it worth your while.

I am finished Barchester Towers, and glad to be quit of it.

I liked The Warden very much, and there are many things to like about Barchester Towers, but, having read this novel of his, I cannot say with conviction that I like Anthony Trollope. I wonder if the reason I gave up on the Chronicles of Barsetshire all those years ago was my annoyance with this book and specifically its constant lumbering jocularity about the Nature of Woman.

Some of the good qualities of The Warden are still in evidence; Trollope is very good on the pettier, more self-concerned, but not actually evil side of human behavior -- the way that resentment and pride override charity and compassion, for example. Mr. Arabin, ruefully trying to remake his life at 40, moves me, and the signora, though not precisely adequate as a portrait of a woman with a disability, comes close to being a fascinating character study. I wouldn’t say she tips over, quite, into actually being fascinating, though the ambiguity around her injury and its cause, and the constant speculation about What's Under the Blanket, would provide excellent material for, say, Lacan.

The major characters of The Warden seem to have foregone any further personal growth in the sequel and are content to run the little grooves of their personae over and over, like table hockey characters. That was my feeling; the book group liked them better, and thought that the relentless babbling about the hilarious weakness of women was meant more ironically than I did.

(Some poking at the mass conversation (Look! The Victorian Web is still there!) produces various interesting possible positions on this question.) (When I was a youth nothing pleased me more than nested parentheses, especially if I could wrap them all up together at the end: ((())).)

In The Warden there are really no villains – just short-sighted selfish people, and I like that about it. Barchester Towers is painted in broader, almost Dickensian strokes. Mr Slope is stuck in the begged question of bad guys: why is he the villain? Because he's bad. How do you know he's bad? Because he's the villain. Also, red hair. Watch out.

Next up: Howard's End, last read about the same time as BT, which is to say, a very long time ago indeed.

I got violently winded walking to book group yesterday, though the sticky toffee pudding was worth it. Today a little errand walking similarly exhausted me. It was ten days ago the walk-in clinic doctor gave me the puffer and said this thing would play itself out.

So tired. I think tomorrow will be an ugly shirt day (a day when you're too tired to iron the good shirts).

An invitation, of course, to think about illness and wellness, access and ability. Something to discuss with the senora.

{rf}
I am in a classics reading group, which during 2016 I mostly failed to show up for, excepting January's David Copperfield (1850) and December's The Warden (1855).

You might therefore assume I give special precedence to British books written during the 1850s, though I do not know that to be the case.

The only Trollope I had ever read before was Barchester Towers (1857), in second or third year uni. It is, of course, the sequel to The Warden, but I'd never read that. I don't know why.

Reading choices in early university seem in retrospect both more random and more joyful. I read a book on Provencal poetry, for example, and acquired a permanent affection for Langue d'oc, though I followed up on that in no way. Maybe my reading the book had something to do with Pound? I don't think so, though. I hadn't heard of a lot of big names at seventeen through nineteen, though I wanted to think I was literary.

All I remembered about Barchester Towers until this re-read, so many years later, was Eleanor's shrinking widow's cap and her stomping her "little foot" at one point, which had startled me at the time, as until then I had been assuming she was a fully developed female character.

Further Thoughts on Barchester Towers )

Enough of Trollope for now, I think. I've a drawing date with a friend down the road. This three-week cold has left me short of puff, but I should just about be able to make it a block and a half.

{rf}