Sunday, April 30, 2023

Sunday Salon and done Gallivanting (for now)


Looks like a nice place to sit around and discuss books, no? A salon?

Where I Was

We just got back from two weeks in Ireland. The room above is from Kilkenny Castle.

Of course I had to visit the Trinity College Library:

You can't tell from that photo, but they're taking all the books off the shelf for the mother of all dusting projects. (Well, there may be a little more going on than that):

The weather was splendid in ways they say never happens in Ireland. Sunny and cool, but not too cold. Looking at the Atlantic:

I reread Joyce's Dubliners while I was there. We walked up Baggot Street in Dublin from our hotel near the canal: "So we went for a walk round by the canal and she told me she was a slavey at a house in Baggot Street." (from "Two Gallants")

We passed Oughterard just as I was reading "The Dead", where Gretta Conroy came from and where the tubercular Michael Furey went out in the rain to plead with her not to leave. "So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake."

We met friends there and toured around together. It was a great trip.

Back Home

Our souvenir from Ireland, however, turned out to be Covid. (Well, maybe a sweater or two as well.) Bleah. 

Fortunately it didn't happen until the very end of the trip and I've only been laid out since I got back. It's not the worst cold I've ever had, but it *is* a doozy, and, I assume, without those earlier jabs, it would have been worse. The weather in Toronto this weekend is grey and rainy, like we were threatened with in Ireland. A good day to quarantine at home & do laundry.

New to the Stack

I couldn't go to Ireland and not buy books, could I? But I was pretty restrained...

I've been wanting to read a Gurnah, but the library hold list is still miles long, and bookstores have been out of stock. My other Brian Dillon volumes are Fitzcarraldo Editions--he's with New York Review Books over here--so I'm keeping up the matched set.

How was your week?

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

e e cummings (#poem)

Chansons Innocentes

in Just-
spring   when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles    far    and     wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far     and    wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



balloonMan     whistles

-e. e. cummings

This is from cummings' first book Tulips and Chimneys. Since I was thinking about other cummings poems a couple of weeks ago, and that it was spring...

I think of this as one of his best-known poems. It's also a fun one.

Nearly done gallivanting!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Charlotte Mew (#Poem)


I So Liked Spring

I so liked Spring last year--
  Because you were here;--
    The thrushes too--
Because it was these you so liked to hear--
  I so liked you.
This year's a different thing,--
  I'll not think of you.
But I'll like the Spring because it is simply Spring
  As the thrushes do.

-Charlotte Mew

Thinking seasonally...

Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) led quite a difficult life, one that ended in poverty and suicide. But she produced a number of lovely poems along the way, and won the praise of a number of major figures. (There's a blurb from Thomas Hardy on the back of my Virago edition.)

She's the subject of one of Penelope Fitzgerald's three biographies. It's pretty good.

There may not be very many photos of Mew--Wikipedia has the same one as the one on the cover--but it's not very flattering...

I'm off gallivanting about, but prepared this in advance.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Ngaio Marsh's Death of a Peer (AKA A Surfeit of Lampreys) #1940Club

"It was some good-for-nothing out in the street. One of these Nazzys. The police will soon have him locked up."

[Spoiler alert! 😉] It wasn't one of those Nazis.

There are one or two quick allusions to events of the era, but mostly this feels like a interwar book. "The whole thing's lousy with lords and ladies," says Inspector Fox.

There have been ennobled Lampreys ever since one did 'some fishy bit of hanky-panky for Good Queen Anne or one of her ministers.' Lord Charles Lamprey is the second son, improvident, and head of a large family. It's his older brother that's murdered, in the lift at Lord Charles' London apartment. Since Lord Charles was hoping to get cash from his older brother and had not, he's clearly a prime suspect.

The novel starts in New Zealand, though, where Roberta (Robin) Grey becomes friends with the family. In New Zealand Robin's already half in love with Henry, Lord Charles' oldest son and when her parents die and she's sent off to live with an aunt in England, she's not entirely sad. We get a few amusing pages of a provincial's first arrival in London before the main event (together with Superintendant Roderick Alleyn and Inspector Fox and the whole crew) arrives.

The puzzle in this one is pretty successful, and I got to the end without realizing who had done it. Still the best thing in the novel has to be the Micawber-ish Lampreys; they're charming, witty, hapless, and (unlike the Micawbers) compulsively given to fudging the truth. You'd think that last quality might detract from the charm, but they do it to save each other, and it *is* useful in a mystery novel. Not that Alleyn or Fox is ever be-fudged.

A strong entry in the Marsh canon, I thought, though I preferred her other 1940 book, Death at the Bar, that I read earlier this year.

Good for My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery challenge.

Vintage Mystery, Gold, Glove. The gloves are a crucial clue.

And it's the week of the 1940 Club!

Marsh dated the book December, 1939 in New Zealand, at the end. My copy is copyrighted 1940. The Internets are a bit uncertain: some calling it a 1940 book and some a 1941. Publishing was becoming restricted by then and it may very well have different release dates in different countries. But I'm just going to stick my fingers in my ears, and unlike Roderick Alleyn, ignore any facts that contradict what I want to believe. La, la, la. It's a 1940 book!

E. E. Cummings (#1940Club)


love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

-e. e. cummings

This is from e. e. cummings' book 50 Poems, which came out in 1940. None of what I think of as his best-known and most-anthologized poems appear in it: 'i sing of Olaf glad and big' is earlier and 'pity this busy monster, manunkind,' and 'what if a much of a which of a wind' appear in the next book 1x1, which came out in 1944. The balloonMan whistles in spring, far and wee, in the first book, Tulips and Chimneys, of 1923. (Which would have been a good mud-licious sort of poem for the season.) But the 1940 club is on, and so, 50 Poems,  a sort of lost middle-child among his books, is it. 😉

But it does have some lovely poems: 'it is most sane and sunly/and more it cannot die'. There are those poems in cummings that just make me happy.

I hadn't really twigged to it, but it turned out 1940 was a good year for poetry, at least as represented on my blog... What I tend to think of as Auden's best book, Another Time, came out in 1940. There's two poems already on the blog from it: 'The Unknown Citizen' and 'Roman Wall Blues'. But I can't be doing Auden all the time. And Ogden Nash had a book in 1940, The Face is Familiar, which included the incomparable 'Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man'. 

Monday, April 10, 2023

Leslie Charteris' The Saint in Miami (#1940Club)

"The name is Simon Templar--usually known as the Saint."

A friend of the Saint's girlfriend writes and says there's trouble brewing, and so the Saint heads for Miami.

But when they get to the Gilbecks' house, they're gone. The servants let them in, but are clearly puzzled why these foreigners have come to stay when the owners of the house just sailed away.

That same day a U.S. freighter is blown up off the Florida coast; the Saint spots a submarine; and a body washes up by the Gilbecks' house, a body half-dressed in a British Navy uniform. 

Are these things all connected? Of course they are!

It makes a pretty good 1940 novel (though see Below...) Who exactly would be attempting to drive a wedge between the Americans and the British in 1940? It's not giving much away to say that's exactly who villains are. But just who it is that's the big boss Nazi in Miami and what the Saint is going to do about it are still pretty good questions for a novel.

The Saint's first action is to hide that body, because he (rightly) suspects the British Navy has nothing to do with it.

Leslie Charteris' series is pretty well established by this point. The first Saint novel, Meet the Tiger, came out in 1928 and his crew are present: the Saint's sometime girlfriend, Patricia Holm, doesn't do much in this one except provide the tie-in to the Gilbecks; Peter Quentin does some of the early legwork, but is mostly there to be captured; however, the Saint's Brooklyn-born muscle-man, Hoppy Uniatz, is in fine form: "Welcome him with liquor, and he'll drink out of your hand," Saint tells the Greek, and it's true.

The Saint's a key figure in the long line of guys on the wrong side of the law who still fight for the good: Robin Hood to contemporaries like Andrew Vachss' Burke and Jack Reacher. The Saint hits a sweet spot for me. I find his successors too dark, and their stories too grisly for my taste. He kills one of the 'ungodly', his term for the bad guys, in this, but it isn't dwelt on, and even then it's unusual; mostly the Saint arranges for the ungodly to do themselves in, and that's the way this one ends.

The Saint was once better known than he is now: not only are there the novels, but also stage plays, radio plays, television shows, and movies.

He's also a precursor for James Bond, and Roger Moore played the Saint on TV in the 60s before Moore became (a rather wooden) James Bond. The Saint knows his champagnes and his cars; his suits are good; the ladies (inevitably stunning) are inexplicably drawn to him.

But he does have his troubles with the law; less in this than some others, but there's an FBI agent, a British secret service agent, and an amusing local sheriff. He doesn't want to fight them, but he isn't going to co-operate either: "They had provided the one vital clue, but they still couldn't have his adventures."

Pretty fun stuff. 

[Below] It was such a good 1940 novel, but then, as they're about to slog their way through the Everglades to the ungodly's hideaway, the Greek says, "The quickest way is overland through the swamps. But the only guy who could walk on that stuff died nineteen hundred and forty years ago." Ouch, you'd think a Greek would know better...I believe that gentleman had been *born* nineteen hundred and forty years earlier.

A couple of other Charteris' Saint books on the blog: The Last Hero and Enter the Saint.

Good for the 1940 Club, hosted by Kaggsy and Simon. Thanks to them!

And good for My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt. 1940 makes it Golden Age, and we'll go with:

Vintage Mystery, Gold, Hand Holding Gun. Just whose side is the redhead on? (Because the girl in the bikini has to be the redhead...)

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Sunday Salon (and 1940 Club Organizing Post)

Madame de Stael's salon. Frankly those chairs don't look all that comfortable.

Last Week

Some idle poetic thoughts from Siegfried Sassoon on the incompetence of generals.

For the My Reader's Block Scavenger Hunt, musings on the first Phryne Fisher mystery novel.

Then Javier Marías, with post maybe coming soon?

And now I'm gearing up for:

The 1940 Club

Hosted by Simon and Kaggsy, Monday is the beginning of the 1940 Club: The idea is to read books that came out in 1940. Here's my candidates for the week:

That's Leslie Charteris' The Saint in Miami and Ngaio Marsh's Death of a Peer. (Which some sources say is 1941, but I'm ignoring them.😉) 

Brecht's Trial of Lucullus is one of the plays in that volume of the collected Brecht, and is a radio play from 1940. It is, as they used to say around the office, my stretch goal. I'm currently about halfway through the Saint volume.

I've managed three 1940 volumes here at Typings in the past:

Chuck is demonstrating Ngaio Marsh's Death at the Bar, John Dickson Carr's The Man Who Could Not Shudder, Michael Innes' Secret Vanguard. Check 'em out!

Are you joining in?

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The General (#poem)


The General

"Good morning, good morning!", the General said,
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
"He's a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both with his plan of attack.

-Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) fought heroically in the first world war, a war he came to actively oppose even as he was fighting it. But he survived. He was friends with Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen, and was instrumental in seeing Owen's poetry into print after the war. He's a major figure in Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy.

And what brought to mind a poem on the incompetence of generals? Hmm, a mystery, I'm sure. Though none of the current suspects particularly strike me as cheery.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Kerry Greenwood's Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1)

"A young man in one's bedroom is capable of being explained, but a corpse is always a hindrance."

Phryne Fisher has just moved from London to Melbourne. It's the 1920s and though she's good at it, she's bored with fast life in Europe. (Dinner parties, but also tangoing with gigolos in Paris and exposing crooked cricketeers.) She could afford that fast life because, after the convenient deaths of a few intervening heirs, she came into possession of a fortune in England, but she'd grown up poor in Australia. So she had both street smarts and resources.

The perfect combination for an amateur detective.

As a bit of added incentive, some English acquaintances ask her to look in on their daughter, because they're worried about how she's doing with her husband. 

Now I have to say, as a mystery, this is only so-so. The title rather gives away the motivation for the plot, and I'm afraid I saw the solution to the quest for the cocaine pingpin (to quote a former president) pretty early on. Doesn't matter. Fisher's a character one wants to read about: her affairs, her clothes, her accomplices. It makes a story both witty and engaging.

I don't know the series well, but several of the ongoing characters (though not all) make their first appearance here: her maid Dot, her two wheel/muscle men, Cec and Bert, her friend on the force, always convenient for an amateur detective. A wonderful start to the series.

And what I hadn't realized until I did a little math, it came out in 1989, and so it just squeezes in for the Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt.  We'll go with that extravagant strand of pearls.

Vintage Mystery, Silver, Jewelry

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Sunday Salon

Madame de Stael's salon. Probably didn't happen on Sundays, though...

Last Week

A poem by Joyce from Chamber Music.

The autobiography of Victor Gruen, architect and the 'father of the shopping mall.' A pretty fascinating tale of an Austrian Jewish immigrant to the US. He came over in 1938.

Also Around the World in 80 Days, which I'd never read before. Pretty entertaining, in case you didn't know... 😉

"It [the train] reached Chicago, already risen from its ruins, and more proudly seated than ever on the shores of its beautiful Lake Michigan."

The way to a hometown booster's heart. That Mr. Verne, such a nice man. I'm sure Passepartout, given half a chance, would have done some sightseeing, but no, they had to hurry on.

I also got Go, Dog, Go from the library after reading Deb Nance's list here. I haven't read that since I couldn't tell you when. It is still pretty great.

On The Stack

The #1940Club is coming up in a week; I've got a couple of mysteries lined up for the occasion. Cousin Bette is the spin book, which I haven't started, so it's still on the stack. I'm pretty far into the Javier Marias at this point (Post coming soon?) and I picked up the Georgi Gospodinov from the library pretty recently. It was just shortlisted for the Booker International, so I won't be able to renew and it will have to be read soon. I've liked what I've read of him before

How was your week?