Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body Joseph Addison, English Essayist, Poet, Dramatist and Statesman. 1672 - 1719

'Clarice's Book Page' is the 'reading room' of the 'Elizannie' page at:

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Happy the Man - John Dryden

Happy The Man
In memory of Bill Wells

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

John Dryden

In loving memory of Bill, 1946 - 2011. Sleep gently friend.
Chosen by Bill's son Kirk to be read at his funeral

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

We often talk about 'books which change lives'. This is one which has certainly had a great influence on mine.

I cannot let the opening pages of this blog go without reference to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. This is not a great work of English Literature but can truly claim to be a book that has changed many lives. For instance several 'Old Labour' party members claim it changed their lives/caused them to become Socialists. The comedian Ricky Tomlinson claimed it made him into a 'proper' political activist.

It is the story of working people in the 1900s, before any form of welfare state was introduced and how easily the whims of fortune or their employers could reduce them to destitution and the workhouse.

We may be 100 years away from the time setting of this novel but if government policies cause a return to many of the problems highlighted in this novel, albeit in a more 'modern' form {we may not have workhouses anymore but some state proposals may mean pensioners will lose all savings before State help becomes available, student fees are rising, disability living allowance is being cut etc etc} Tressell will be spinning in his grave.

Tressell himself died in poverty in Liverpool just before he could board a boat to America, looking for a new life and work. His book was not published until a few years after his death. Tressell was originally buried in an marked pauper's grave along with 12 others. A headstone was erected on this grave honouring not only Tressell but also those with him in 1977 by subscription of Socialists and Trade Unionists.

First 'published' in a slightly different form in the Elizannie blog, Thursday, 27th May 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

Its a big decision, what to discuss in my first 'literary' blog. I thought a short piece on a poem would be a good way to ease myself and any prospective readers into the idea of a new blog and started a piece on Blake's 'Jerusalem'. The short piece turned into a rather baggy monster due to my passion for both Blake and the poem and still needs a lot of work although I am promising myself to cut it back to a presentable length soon.

Anyway, having made this decision I sat down, finished the latest who dunnit I was reading [Ian Rankin's The Compaints, rather good actually but I still miss Rebus] and thought it about time I made inroads into the 2010 Booker Short List which to my shame I haven't yet started despite having received all six for Christmas.

On a sort of 'eeny,meeny, miny, mo' basis - because they are all great books written either by authors I have read and enjoyed previously or if not are books which have received very interesting reviews - I chose Emma Donoghue's Room. I don't usually read the blurb on the back of a book jacket in case it gives away too much of the story but accidentally managed to read a comment on the front [!] this time:
Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it's over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days
This is by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, a book that also makes one look at the world in a different way.

The first thing I would say is that, having in the past taught adults English Literature for the Workers' Educational Association [WEA] I know that there are lots of people who do not like novels written in the first person - I do like novels written in the first person narrative for the immediacy they give and Room is such a novel. This is the only way the story could possibly have been told.

A young child [Jack] is the narrator so the reader has to view the world through Jack's eyes and perceptions. There is a literary device called defamiliarisation* where something familiar is described in unfamiliar terms and the reader needs to 'work' to 'find' the familiar object. So in Room the reader has to look at and understand Jack's world through his descriptions. But it doesn't just stop there as Jack's language and vocabulary is may appear slightly odd at first.

If this all sounds off putting it is not meant to be. As Nifenegger implies, this book is difficult to put down. As the reader's understanding of Jack's world becomes clearer his world changes and again the reader has to understand both Jack's world and the world and customs of Everyman.

This book really is a book that one races to finish - but once finished it intrudes into 'everyday' life and there is a sense also of a sadness that Jack and Ma are left behind.

The picture above shows the paperback edition.

*A good example of defamiliarisation is shown below in Craig Raine's poem A Martian Sends A Postcard Home. This poem was a forerunner of the
1970/80s 'Martian Poetry' movement.

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings -- [books]

they cause the eyes to melt [cry]
or the body to shriek without pain. [laugh]

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside -- [car]
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film [view from the windscreen]
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist [watch]
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience. [clock]

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps, [baby]
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer [bowel movements/
openly. Adults go to a punishment room lavatory]

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves -- dreams]
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

Craig Raine

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Jane Austen and my new year intentions....

Well, I should have guessed this would happen! As soon as I announced my intention of starting a literary blog lots of things rushed in to take up my time, especially in my 'alter ego' of Elizannie and I have been posting, replying, communicating about events at !

However I have been following up on another New Year intention and reading along with a dear friend at who is re-reading Jane Austen's letters. This is where my kindle comes in handy as I do not have time to go book shopping so have 'bought' a kindle version of the book and am now enjoying reading along with the blog!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year's Eve 2010

New Year's Eve, 2010. At a lovely party with some family and friends. About half an hour before midnight everyone in the room states their 'New Year Resolutions'. I don't do 'Resolutions' - they sound so stern and furthermore are easy to break. I go for 'Intentions', and one that has been brewing in my mind for a while is to start a new blog with mainly literary postings. So here it is.

January the second, 2011. I fall at the first post trying to find a name for my new blog. The name that I stayed awake trying to 'originate' on New Year's morning and thought wonderful proves to have already been taken so spend an hour thinking up this one and hoping that my Aunty Clarice will approve. Now I just have to think up a subject for my first proper post. This may take some time....