Literature

George RR Martin and the Art of the List

On 10 May 2016 George RR Martin published an excerpt in the form of a chapter from The Winds of Winter, the sixth novel in his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire and one which fans have been eagerly anticipating now for almost five years. A Dance with Dragons – itself the product of a five-and-a-half-year wait,…

The Homeric Parallel in Ulysses: Joyce, Nabokov, Homer, and Maps

When Ulysses was published on 2 February, 1922, it was the culmination of a flurry of activity extending back to the previous summer. James Joyce had begun writing his novel in late 1914. By the spring of 1915, he was already onto the third episode, which would become ‘Proteus’. Yet it was not until the summer of 1921 that Joyce began receiving…

Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Green Goggles’: A Gogol Pastiche

Between recent pieces on the British literary magazine The New Age, Carl Erich Bechhöfer’s regular feature ‘Letters from Russia’, and Katherine Mansfield’s short drama ‘Stay-Laces’, I came across a couple of short pastiches contributed by the two writers for the Vol. XI No. 10 issue of 4 July 1912. Katherine Mansfield‘s pastiche is entitled ‘Green Goggles’, clearly a send-up of Russian literature…

Daily Visual 03.11.15: Prix Goncourt Goes to Mathias Énard

On Tuesday the Prix Goncourt, the oldest and most prestigious prize in French literature, was awarded to Mathias Énard for his novel Boussole. This is the ninth published work by Énard, an Arabic and Persian scholar who was born in Niort in western France, and has been based in Barcelona since 2000. Boussole is the account of Frantz Ritter, a Viennese musicologist,…

The Choice of a Tutor by Denis Fonvizin

At the end of October 1915, in the British literary magazine The New Age, Carl Erich Bechhöfer continued with his regular column ‘Letters from Russia’, which he had been contributing from the turn of the year. His subject this time was Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin (1745-1792), the Russian playwright, whose name Bechhöfer renders as ‘von Vizin’, which had been the typical spelling in…

Food in Fiction: Hot Peas and Vinegar in ‘Two Gallants’

The addition of a condiment can sometimes turn an insubstantial side into a hearty supper. In James Joyce‘s ‘Two Gallants’, Lenehan stops at a shop for something to eat: ‘He paused at last before the window of a poor-looking shop over which the words Refreshment Bar were printed in white letters. On the glass of the window were two flying inscriptions: Ginger…

Daily Visual 13.10.15: Marlon James Wins Booker Prize

At a ceremony at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday night, A Brief History of Seven Killings by the Jamaican author Marlon James received the 2015 Man Booker Prize. A longlist of thirteen titles was announced on 29 July, comprising: A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James (Jamaica) A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (USA) A Spool of Blue Thread, by…

Great Long Opening Sentences in World Literature

Some of the greatest first lines in world literature are but a few words long, consisting of a lone and simple clause: ‘Call me Ishmael.’ from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), and for a more recent example, ‘See the child.’ from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985). Others too suggestively introduce a central figure, whether the narrator or the object of the narrator’s gaze:…

Emily Dickinson – ‘I Can Wade Grief’ (1862)

Emily Dickinson was born on 10 December 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the town where she would live the duration of her life. She attended Amherst Academy, newly opened to female students, for seven years, punctuated briefly by spells of illness and a stay in Boston in the aftermath of the death of her cousin, Sophia Holland. In her teens she…