Books I've been reading

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Guest on Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:50 am

Do you know plata means silver... so Platero would be something like Silvery?

When on Sundays I ride him through the lanes in the outskirts of the town, slow-moving country-men, dressed in their Sunday clean, watch him a while, speculatively:

"He is like steel," they say.

Steel, yes. Steel and moon silver at the same time.


I love you

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Guest on Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:02 am

I don't know what to read after Pedro Páramo - hard to top for me and also don't want to go far from it. I read that Pedro Páramo was a big influence on magic realism so I thought of reading something by García Márquez again but then I heard about this book Miguel Ángel Asturias' Men of Maize, has anybody here read it? I think I'll take it from the library tomorrow morning.

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:49 pm

jade spinetta wrote:Do you know plata means silver... so Platero would be something like Silvery?

When on Sundays I ride him through the lanes in the outskirts of the town, slow-moving country-men, dressed in their Sunday clean, watch him a while, speculatively:

"He is like steel," they say.

Steel, yes. Steel and moon silver at the same time.


I love you

Thanks ! I'm so glad to know that Platero means silvery.

The author's acknowledgement of love for the donkey is so moving.

I'm on the last few pages of the book and sad to see it ending. More and more I sense a whistfulness and slight melancholy under the celebratory descriptions of of life,nature, people...

I see that the author won the Noble Prize for poetry.

I wish I could read Platero in Spanish and read the author's poetry in Spanish.
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Guest on Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:05 am

Maybe I'm wrong... but I think of Platero and I as prose poetry.

Apart from all that's lost in translation I see the translation for the words when people from that town speak doesn't reflect the way they speak (not the way you're supposed to speak "good Spanish") - I guess it would be very difficult to do that

- tien' asero... is translated as "He is like steel," they say.

The right way would be "tiene acero" (he has steel) but they pronounce the word tiene unfinished and instead of the "c" sound in acero (like in zen) they pronounce it like an "s"

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:58 pm

Interesting.

I finished the book last night.

Oh no, how sad! Platero dies at the end.

I wasn't expecting that. Crying or Very sad
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Guest on Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:40 am

Everybody dies... in the end... our animal friends too... my doggy Leo too, he died in the morning today Sad (we took him to have euthanasia because he was suffering).

We've buried him in the pine forest, and while I was praying (talking to him) I've remembered the times when he could run and "a gay little trot that is like laughter of a vague, idyllic, tinkling sound" has been part of my prayer... sorry for being so silly Smile


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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Nah Ville Sky Chick on Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:12 am

jade spinetta wrote:Everybody dies... in the end... our animal friends too... my doggy Leo too, he died in the morning today Sad (we took him to have euthanasia because he was suffering).

We've buried him in the pine forest, and while I was praying (talking to him) I've remembered the times when he could run and "a gay little trot that is like laughter of a vague, idyllic, tinkling sound" has been part of my prayer... sorry for being so silly Smile


I am sorry to hear that, he looked a lovely little dog. You posted some great pics of him. I think you found him as a stray so he did really well and lived to a good age. It's always sad to have a pet put to sleep but you will have good memories of the nice times you spent together and no more suffering for Leo.

Sending you hugs and a big X

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:55 am

Finger buffet at Wick Lane Sewer Week

Mick Jackson dons his waders to follow Stephen Smith on a curious tour of the capital's hidden passageways in Underground London

Mick Jackson

The Guardian, Saturday 17 April 2004

Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets
by Stephen Smith

Talk of secret tunnels and underground rivers never fails to excite us. The subterranean world seems to act as a repository for everything lost, forgotten or unimaginable - the physical antithesis to the orderly lives we lead above the ground.

Whatever primeval pull the underground exerts upon us, Stephen Smith is far from immune to it. We first come across him deep in some tunnel beneath north London's pavements and several miles from the nearest exit, when the lights go out. This provides him with the perfect opportunity, he coolly informs us, to get to grips with his lurking claustrophobia. Yikes! Either Smith is a glutton for punishment or he has prescribed himself the most brutal course of aversion therapy.

His point of departure is the London Connection, a 20km tunnel being dug by the National Grid to accommodate a new power supply. When Smith finally emerges, blinking, into the daylight, he is undaunted. On the contrary, in next to no time he's off again, like a ferret down the trouser leg of London, inveigling his way into every crypt-clearance, archaeological dig and sewer tour he can find.

The city's sewers certainly loom large in his itinerary. Effluent fairly courses through the pages of Underground London. On the whole, the author seems quite happy to pull on his waders and make his way through it, carefully sliding each foot forward with the same "stiff-legged gait of deep-sea divers" to avoid slipping and taking a dip.

Smith picks over the finger buffet at "Wick Lane Sewer Week" before being winched down into the drains to join London's flushers - the invisible men who patrol the culverts, apparently pausing only to flatten passing rats with a doff of their hard hats. From Bazalgette's municipal sewers, Smith progresses to the more sophisticated, if equally geriatric, flushing arrangements in the bowels of the Houses of Parliament - an establishment, one might imagine, given to producing more than its fair share of effluent. Gurmet Kalsi and his colleagues are the men down in the Torpedo Room, keeping an eye on the dials of the storm chargers and sewage ejectors. With its half-timbered vats and cast-iron pipes, the whole system might have been constructed by Wallace and Gromit, and the reader can't help but secretly hope for some momentary lapse of judgment on Gurmet's part, inducing some dreadful meltdown, so that one or two of the parliamentarians above him might suffer the same fate as Richard the Raker, who is said to have fallen into a London cesspit in 1326 and drowned "monstrously in his own excrement".

But if we fail to see the fireworks at the Houses of Parliament, they make plenty of appearances elsewhere in the book. We hear how the trapped gases in a festering River Fleet went up in 1846, taking part of Clerkenwell with them and unleashing a tidal wave of sewage into King's Cross. We hear of spontaneously combusting coffins in Kensal Green (where, if Thomas Willson had had his way in the 1830s, we would now be able to look upon and perhaps one day take up permanent residence in the vast Pyramid Cemetery, along with five million other souls). There are even exploding rats, or at least the threat of them, when the author is on safari down the drains beneath SW1 and is advised against treading on a rat's bloated carcass or risk it going off "like a chicken Kiev".

Nobody could accuse Smith of lacking commitment. When he's not up to his knees in sewage he's up to his shins in plague pits or accompanying London Underground's track gangs as they make their midnight rounds. While he's down there he records every reported sighting of the resident ghosts without flinching: the Egyptian mummy which is said to stumble along the disused line beneath the British Museum, the restless spirits of frustrated thesps, not to mention the legendary ghost stations themselves - those ox-bow lakes of the London Underground, where time ground to a halt in whichever year they were decommissioned and which are now consigned to the darkness, with their peeling posters and cobwebbed vending machines. The stories that truly haunt the reader, however, are those buried away in the safe-deposit boxes under Fleet Street, where the mementos of babies who were given away at birth reside next to the plait of hair that belonged to the daughter murdered at the concentration camp.

Smith has picked out for himself a most uncomfortable journey, and along the way he duly nods in acknowledgment to all the city's chroniclers who've gone before. That's an awful lot of nodding - from the Iain Sinclairs and Peter Ackroyds and Roy Porters of our own times right back to Tacitus - and it highlights one of the problems in the whole undertaking: the sense that, both below ground as well as above it, London has been so comprehensively documented that the author's feet are occasionally in danger of falling where others have already trodden.

What sets the book apart, though, is its wonderful cast of characters: the underworld's labourers, tour guides and turnkeys Smith encounters on his way. He can conjure them up in a moment ("With his chewing gum, his aftershave, and his M&S suit, Steve was waiting for me at Woolwich Reach") and is adept with dialogue ("'How deep are we right now?' I asked Steve. 'Deep enough,' he said"). More importantly, Smith clearly enjoys the company of his subjects, whether it's the young Goths and nostalgic pensioners who mingle at the "Graves of Variety Artistes" slide show or the bishop on board the pleasure boat who wonders aloud when the bar might open.

The only people who are in danger of defeating Smith are the members of Subterranea Britannica - motto: "If it's manmade and underground, we're interested" - who come across as a singularly melancholy crew. Fiercely territorial of their conquests, they are forever ushering their fellow SubBrits out of the frame when photographing whatever concrete bunker they've managed to gain access to.

They all fall into line, however, when Duncan Campbell moves among them. The investigative journalist is the undisputed champion when it comes to penetrating and cataloguing secret Britain. In 1980 he reportedly lifted a manhole cover in Bethnal Green and found his way into a labyrinth of government tunnels. Having had the foresight to take a folding bicycle along with him, Campbell proceeded to explore the tunnels unchallenged, the recollection of which has his audience of SubBrits eating out of his hand.

It's a curious image, a man on his bicycle touring London's most secret corridors, and it's one that lingers, along with an earlier description of a London Underground engineer making his way down a ghostly Northern Line with a mighty spanner over one shoulder. There's something weirdly appealing about these individuals quietly following their subterranean circuits - London's own Harry Limes - and my only regret with regard to Underground London is that its various forays might have accumulated more power and momentum if they had been part of a larger circuit of their own.

That said, there is plenty to recommend Smith's adventures in London's plumbing. His prose is tight and bright and full of wit. And in the end this book is worth tracking down, not least as a celebration of all the underworld's hidden inhabitants and secret custodians who go about their murky business far below us, leaving us to go about ours by the light of day.

Mick Jackson's novels include The Underground Man (Picador), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1997.
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Guest on Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:55 am

Nah Ville Sky Chick wrote:
jade spinetta wrote:Everybody dies... in the end... our animal friends too... my doggy Leo too, he died in the morning today Sad (we took him to have euthanasia because he was suffering).

We've buried him in the pine forest, and while I was praying (talking to him) I've remembered the times when he could run and "a gay little trot that is like laughter of a vague, idyllic, tinkling sound" has been part of my prayer... sorry for being so silly Smile


I am sorry to hear that, he looked a lovely little dog. You posted some great pics of him. I think you found him as a stray so he did really well and lived to a good age. It's always sad to have a pet put to sleep but you will have good memories of the nice times you spent together and no more suffering for Leo.

Sending you hugs and a big X

Yes we found him as a stray. We don't know how old he was... but we think he was very old. Maybe 16... that's what the euthanasia paper says now...
Thank you for your words, Nash Smile

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:59 pm

Vera, I am so sorry to hear the news about Leo! I remember very well the picture you posted of him. He looked so cute! It must be terrible to have a beloved pet pass away. I send lots of comfort and sympathy to you!
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Guest on Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:39 pm

Received Smile

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:27 am

Enjoying this:


Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World by Simon Callow
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:31 am

^
Here's a review:
*********************************************************************************************************
Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World by Simon Callow - review

An insider's view of the writer as actor

David Edgar

guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 February 2012 22.55 GMT


Roger Rees and David Threlfall in David Edgar's stage adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Photograph: Donald Cooper/Rex Features

It's both the best and worst of times to produce a Dickens biography. Best because (for anyone just returned from the further reaches of the galaxy) 2012 is the bicentenary of the great man's birth. Worst, because there's competition. In fact, Simon Callow's Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World is intriguingly complementary to Claire Tomalin's deservedly feted Charles Dickens: A Life. Callow has form as a biographer (Charles Laughton, Orson Welles), and as a memorialist and essayist. But he is a writer best known as an actor, and it's as such that he has taken on someone best known the other way round.


Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
by Simon Callow

The front and back cover present Callow's thesis with a certain amount of chutzpah. Both consist of a cut-out of a Victorian gentleman standing on a toy theatre stage. On the front, the cut-out is topped by the book's subject's head, on the back, by its author's. On the second page of the book, Callow justifies his presumption. He has performed several Dickens stories on stage (most recently, A Christmas Carol), and played Dickens in a one-man play by Peter Ackroyd, and on Doctor Who. Quoting actor Warren Mitchell's response to the accusation that he'd changed a playwright's line, Callow hasn't just written Charles Dickens: "I've been 'im".

Being him, Callow describes the psychodrama of the great man's life persuasively: the ghastly year in the shoe-polish factory that gave Dickens his social anger, but also his iron will; the premature death of his adored sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, which led him to idolise women in his fiction and mistreat his wife in real life. Noting Dickens's "orotundities", Callow comes up with a few of his own: "noctambulistic researches into the condition of the people" are undertaken; Dickens's sartorial theatricality is "unfavourably animadverted on in some quarters". But the unique insights of Callow's book are not so much about Callow the actor's perceptions of Dickens but about Dickens the actor himself.

Conventional wisdom has it that Dickens was lucky to have been born into a showy but shoddy period for the British theatre (the playwriterly glories of the Sheridan and Goldsmith era were long gone). Had theatre been in the "high and balmy days" wistfully evoked by Mr Curdle in Nicholas Nickleby, then the passionate young theatre-goer might well have become a playwright, a calling for which he was clearly unsuited (the great William Macready – friend and dedicatee of Nicholas Nickleby – assured Dickens that his farce The Lamplighter was not worth putting on). Dickens clearly learned important lessons from the theatre: as Callow points out, he picked up his "streaky bacon" technique of alternating comic and tragic scenes from the dramaturgy of his day. He was a prodigious stage manager and producer of highly successful and sometimes commercially successful amateur dramatics. As Callow puts it, "literature was his wife, the theatre his mistress". But although Dickens wondered in later life whether "nature intended me for the lessee of a national theatre", posterity is generally agreed that he picked the right girl.

For Tomalin, theatre had a baleful influence on the novels: Dickens's plots "tend to the theatrical and the melodramatic", as if theatre and melodrama were self-evidently bad and the same. But for Callow, Dickens's experience as a highly praised but always amateur actor was not the flaw but the making of his writing. It formed his desired, face-to-face relationship with his public (the relationship he was to achieve literally with his readings), in which he and his audience were present in the same room. But it also formed his characters. Callow acknowledges that the highly gestural form of acting favoured in the theatre of Dickens's day is no longer fashionable; but he argues that Dickens's natural power of "reproducing in my own person what I observed in others" is an actorly skill, which – in Dickens's case – involves an immersion of the actor into the character (so, while writing a character's speech, Dickens would frequently leap up to check his own expression in the mirror). Far from pleasurably losing himself inside another personality, as Tomalin describes Dickens the actor, Dickens himself becomes his characters.

For that, Dickens drew on a personality and a biography that was not entirely admirable. He was not a good husband or ex-husband (he issued public statements berating his former wife as a failed spouse, mother and woman). As with many people, his virtues (energy, drive, single-mindedness) implied his faults. But although you could take the book's subtitle ("the great theatre of the world") to imply that Dickens's view of the world was as theatrical as his writing, Callow does not suggest that Dickens's political radicalism – and the considerable charitable efforts that flowed from it – were any kind of affectation. The extent of his polemical and practical efforts on behalf of what the Victorians called "the remnant" and we call the underclass were as considerable as they were commendable. It is one of the many virtues of this book that Callow not only admires his subject, but has got inside him.

Dickens was also – of course – immensely popular, as he still is, though now through dramatisation as much as publication. Callow agrees with Tomalin that Dickens's appeal crossed all classes, but he notes one exception: a literary intelligentsia which then and now mostly regards him with suspicion and condescension. Perhaps that, too, is a legacy of Dickens's love of the theatre.
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:05 pm

Slowly reading Jane Austen: A Life by David Nokes. Not as engaging as a bio by Richard Ellman (Joyce, Wilde), but still serviceable, given what scant info there is on the author who did not lead an event-filled life. Judging from her letters to her sister Casssandra, Jane was rather edgy and saucy.
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 9:14 pm

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:59 pm

Elisabeth is reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

There is a pretty girl who works at my pharmacy. Every time I see her she has a new tattoo or piercing. The other day she had a horseshoe like piercing in her nostrils and her chest was covered in a new tattoo. She has tattoos all over her arms. What compels a person to do this to herself? I think it's so sad.
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:24 pm

Constance wrote:Elisabeth is reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Hope she's old enough for it: strong stuff. Larsson's original title was "Men Who Hate Women". Some very violent episodes.

Don't want to worry you, Constance, but the Trilogy's anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander is not only tattooed but has multiple piercings, too! Shocked
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:21 am

eddie wrote:
Constance wrote:Elisabeth is reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Hope she's old enough for it: strong stuff. Larsson's original title was "Men Who Hate Women". Some very violent episodes.

Don't want to worry you, Constance, but the Trilogy's anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander is not only tattooed but has multiple piercings, too! Shocked

Oh God. Tom bought it for himself to read and she picked it up. I am clueless. I'll talk to Tom and maybe we'll take it away from her. She's only 14.

Oh yes, about the main character. I've seen plenty of pictures of the actress all pierced and tattooed. Why do people do that to themselves?

Actually I'll go upstairs now and take the book away from her. She's read Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I'll get Sense and Sensibility from the library tomorrow. 'study'
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:26 am

Done. That was easy. I told her that my friend in London said it was very violent and the original title was Men who Hate Women, and she said Oh, okay. I'm going downstairs now to take it out of her backpack and put it in Tom's study.

Thanks very much for the tip, Ed!
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Constance on Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:34 pm

Such books and even mysteries have absolutely no appeal for me. I sometimes wonder if I'm missing something and that I'd get hooked once I started reading. Should I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?

I know, though, that I must give Sherlock Holmes a try. One day.
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:02 am

Constance wrote:Should I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?

Mysteries/Crime might not be your genre, Constance, but the Millennium Trilogy, of its kind, is excellent. Really quite superb.

If Larsson had lived to see his work in print, he might have done a bit of judicious pruning, but really that's the only fault I can find with it.

14 might be a bit too young for some of the stronger content, but I must say that at that age I'd have regarded anything my parents didn't want me to puruse as essential reading! Maybe boys of that age differ from girls in that respect?
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  Guest on Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:06 pm

eddie wrote:Larsson's original title was "Men Who Hate Women".
In Spanish they keep the original title. A friend said she's going to lend me the book

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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:51 pm

Constance wrote:I know, though, that I must give Sherlock Holmes a try. One day.

I'm really enjoying this, Constance:



Lapsed Catholic medical doctor and advocate of pure reason comes to embrace spiritualism in later life. A fascinating personal journey.

I'll post a review.
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:54 pm

^
There you go:
***********************************************************************************************************
Book of the week

The case of the mysterious author

Giles Foden is glad to find that Andrew Lycett's biography of Conan Doyle focuses on his work rather than his wacky beliefs

The Guardian, Saturday 22 September 2007


Conan Doyle: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes
by Andrew Lycett

Never were reason and fancy so conjoined as in the work and mind of Arthur Conan Doyle. Not just the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Brigadier Gerard and Professor Challenger, but author of medieval tales (The White Company), a novel about Regency prizefighting (Rodney Stone), another about Monmouth's rebellion (Micah Clarke) and a Napoleonic story (Uncle Bernac). Also begetter of The Case for Spirit Photography, The Coming of the Fairies and Phineas Speaks, the last being the outpourings of the author's spirit guide, an Arabian from Ur, Mesopotamia, from before the time of Abraham.

Conan Doyle has found a biographer of distinction in Andrew Lycett, who has previously written lives of Rudyard Kipling, Ian Fleming and Dylan Thomas. Lycett's brilliant piece of detective work on the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories now allows us to judge his literary worth against that of his peers and properly to set him in the context of his times.

The case for the defence does not look good. By the time even the most ardent Sherlock Holmes fans become aware just quite how barmy Conan Doyle became in the last third of his life, they will find it hard to take seriously the admirable artistic verve and industrial energy he applied to the first two thirds. However, unless you spend as much time on the astral plane as did the elderly Conan Doyle and his spooky associates, a life must be taken in the order which it occurs.

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859 into an Irish-Catholic family of genteel poverty and artistic aspirations. His early years were dominated by the erratic behaviour of his alcoholic father, who was later committed to an asylum. Conan Doyle was educated at Stonyhurst College before going on to study medicine at Edinburgh University. He would spend much of his life throwing off the Catholicism and Irishness of his heritage, becoming idiosyncratic in religion and fervently anti-Home Rule in politics.

Before beginning professional life he took a job as ship's surgeon on a whaler, enthusiastically joining in a seal cull in Greenland on the way north until "his shoulders chafed from ropes and his clothing [was] covered in dirt, sweat and blood". He did not so much enjoy another trip on a tramp steamer bound for the West Africa station, finding the atmosphere seedy.

In the 1880s, while practising as a doctor in Southsea, he began writing stories to supply the then flourishing magazine culture. By the end of the decade he was earning enough to give up doctoring. Though the 1890s were his years of highest literary achievement (except for The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1902), it would be a misnomer to say Conan Doyle "concentrated" on his writing in this period. At least as much energy went into golf, tennis, cricket (he mainly played for JM Barrie's team, the Alkhabarries, and once bowled out WG Grace), motoring, banjo-playing and carousing with one literary coterie or another. Home life grew with his marriage to Louise, sister of a patient who died, and then declined as she developed tuberculosis. In 1897, Conan Doyle met a striking younger woman who became his mistress.

He worked as a charity surgeon during the Anglo-Boer war, which he heartily supported, unlike Joseph Conrad, who thought it barbaric. He doesn't seem to have met the author of Heart of Darkness, but he was passionately against King Leopold's Congolese fiefdom, writing a broadside, The Crime of the Congo (1909), as did Mark Twain, with whom he shares some characteristics.

Conan Doyle was a propagandist in the first world war, coming into conflict with John Buchan when both men vied to write the official history of the war. Neither won this laurel and, typically in each case, both embarked on their own version regardless. Conan Doyle's son Kingsley and younger brother Innes died in the flu epidemic that came at the end of the war. These losses only increased his interest in spiritualism but then again, spiritualism insulated him against the losses. He told the doomed Innes that his initial sadness had lifted after Kingsley's burial and he hoped soon to be in touch with him.

Conan Doyle spent all his life pulled between the twin stars of the factual and the imaginative. As Lycett remarks, the central paradox of his biography was his "becoming a spiritualist so soon after creating the quintessentially rational Sherlock Holmes". That creation was made largely out of Edinburgh's empirical tradition, and one answer is that the Scottish enlightenment always had its darkling faerie side, as exemplified by James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Besides, Conan Doyle saw spiritualism as a science. Like the monstrous dog of the Baskervilles, he was a transitional figure, linking the chthonic folk-lore of Andrew Lang (who read Micah Clarke for Longman's) to Freud's emergent doctrine of the subconscious.

In many ways Conan Doyle doesn't seem to have been a very acute observer of the operations of his own mind, but Lycett draws out clues from stories in which signs of his infidelity (before Louise died in 1906) are apparently adumbrated deliberately enough. Another factor is that all his life he was fearful of the abyss of addiction, being nervously conscious of the model of his father. Lycett himself knows just how far to take the imaginative extensions of fact necessary for good biography.

The striking recipient of the middle-aged author's affections, who later accepted his offer of marriage, was Jean Leckie, a much younger and trimmer figure than him (Doyle was quite overweight) with cascading golden hair. They had a lifelong passion for each other, and she also took a hand in channelling Phineas of Ur - especially in 1925 when the spirit turned estate agent, promising the couple, who were looking for a country retreat, that he would send "a search party out for an earth dwelling that would be suitable for you both to reside in".

By his death on July 7 1930, Conan Doyle had written some 70 books and was worth about £4.5m in today's money. With his canny agent AP Watt by his side, he had always dealt fairly but firmly with the nest of editorial vipers that inhabited Fleet Street's periodical and book publishing operations. An advocate of copyright protection, he invested in a number of publishing companies himself, as well as many other types of venture. He was also a keen stock-market trader and stood as an MP.

On top of all this, he was a regular letter-writer. Alongside Lycett's book comes Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters, edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Conan Doyle's great-nephew Charles Foley (HarperCollins, £25). Though most of the letters are to his mother (he describes their relationship as a passionate love affair), the most resonant, considering what would happen later, is to his brother Innes during the Boer war: "I can't tell you how glad I am that you are out of the bullets. If you can clear the microbes now you will be quite all right."

Conan Doyle was indefatigable, a force of nature. But while the edifice of Holmes is unspoiled, and the other great books remain, after reading this splendid biography it is not hard to come round to the view of Conan Doyle expressed by his fellow novelist Hugh Walpole in his diary for July 8 1930: "Conan Doyle dead. A brave, simple, childish man. How hard he tried to make me a spiritualist!" And yet, "Very conscious of him - tonight."

· Giles Foden's novels include The Last King of Scotland (Faber)
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eddie
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Re: Books I've been reading

Post  eddie on Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:16 pm

Re-reading Alan Moore's Watchmen



LIke all AM's work, it's impossible to take it all in first time around.
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