Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love by James Booth

bookshelves: summer-2014, radio-4, published-2014, biography, newtome-author, nonfiction, poetry

Read from August 23 to 28, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04f9frc

Description: Philip Larkin was that rare thing among poets – a household name in his own lifetime. Lines such as ‘Never such innocence again’ and ‘Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three’ made him one of the most popular poets of the last century.

Larkin’s reputation as a man, however, has been more controversial. A solitary librarian known for his pessimism, he disliked exposure and had no patience with the literary circus. And when, in 1992, the publication of his Selected Letters laid bare his compartmentalised personal life, accusations of duplicity, faithlessness, racism and misogyny were levelled against him.

There is, of course, no requirement that poets should be likeable or virtuous, but James Booth asks whether art and life were really so deeply at odds with each other. Can the poet who composed the moving ‘Love Songs in Age’ have been such a cold-hearted man? Can he who uttered the playful, self-deprecating words ‘Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth’ really have been so boorish?

A very different public image is offered by those who shared the poet’s life – the women with whom he was romantically involved, his friends and his university colleagues. It is with their personal testimony, including access to previously unseen letters, that Booth reinstates a man misunderstood – not a gaunt, emotional failure, but a witty, provocative and entertaining presence, delightful company; an attentive son and a man devoted to the women he loved.

Read by Michael Pennington
Written by James Booth
Abridged by Libby Spurrier
Produced by Joanna Green
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4

1/5 Aged 17, Larkin goes up to Oxford to read English and meets a jazz-loving kindred spirit.

2/5 Philip meets Monica Jones, an assistant English lecturer at Leicester University.

3/5 Philip begins work as librarian at Hull University and oversees plans for expansion.

4/5 As middle age approaches, Larkin’s private life is as complicated as ever.

5/5 Despite having two continuing relationships, Larkin brings another woman into his life.

Would you have shagged him? Not me. It is a question of liking the output, disliking the outputter. And Oh! how he disliked his parents, and families in general, which is why he penned these:


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

and in reply, this:

They suss you out, your girls and boys.
You may not know it, but they do.
They find out all your faults and foibles
Because they concentrate on you.

Their eyes and ears are sharp, perceptive,
Slicing through your best disguise.
And if you grit your teeth and take it,
Their advice might make you wise.

They cannot cure your old compulsions;
They will not stroke away the aches
That plague your heart and grieve your bones
But they can learn from your mistakes.

And:

They tuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not want to, but they do.
They give you games and stories they had
And make up new ones, just for you.

And they were tucked up in their turn
By parent figures in the past,
Who helped them, growing up, to learn
That pain and misery end at last.

Your kids can comfort smaller kids.
And get some pleasure from this chore.
The fretful baby’s drooping eyelids
Move our hearts to ask for more.

“Annus Mirabilis” by Philip Larkin (read by Tom O’Bedlam)

The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography by Lois Potter

 

Narrated by J P Gemont

Description: “The Life of William Shakespeare” is a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of Shakespeare’s life and works focusing on oftern neglected literary and historical contexts: what Shakespeare read, who he worked with as an author and an actor, and how these various collaborations may have affected his writing. Written by an eminent Shakespearean scholar and experienced theatre reviewerPays particular attention to Shakespeare’s theatrical contemporaries and the ways in which they influenced his writingOffers an intriguing account of the life and work of the great poet-dramatist structured around the idea of memoryExplores often neglected literary and historical contexts that illuminate Shakespeare’s life and works.

With the FutureLearn course ‘Shakespeare and his World’ from The University of Warwick due to start at the end of next month, I thought this is a great opportunity to get this under the belt beforehand.

Just as astronomers can tell where a hidden celestial body is by the gravity it exerts on visible bodies in the vicinity, so Potter gives us a fantastic view of Shakespeare and his world. Daddy John was a bit of a rogue wasn’t he!

This book is only for those truly interested in the Bard as this is a scholarly, dense text, yet aficianados need not worry that this is dry, I didn’t find it so at all. A magisterial keeper for reference purposes.

01 Born into the World 1564-1571
02 Nemo sibi nascitur 1571-1578
03 Hic et obique 1578-1588
04 This man’s art and that man’s scope 1588-1592
05 Tiger’s hearts 1592-1593
06 The Dangerous Year 1593-1594
07 Our usual manager of mirth 1594-1595
08 The strong’st and surest way to get 1595-1596
09 When love speaks 1596-1597
10 You had a father, let the son say so 1596-1598
11 Unworthy scaffold 1598-1599
12 These words are not mine 1599-1801
13 Looking before and after 1601-1603
14 This most balmy time 1603-1605
15 Past the size of dreaming 1606-1609
16 Like an old tale 1609-1611
17 The second burden 1612-1616
18 In the mouths of men 1616-after

Highlights from Folger Shakespeare Library’s Release of almost 80,000 Images

Frustrated Falcons: The Three Children of Edmund of Langley by Brian Wainwright

Frustrated Falcons: The Three Children of Edmund of Langley - Mr Brian Wainwright BA (Ho

bookshelves: summer-2014, history, published-2013, biography

Read on July 27, 2014


Description: This is a biography of the three remarkable children of Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York: Edward, his successor, Constance, Lady Despenser and Countess of Gloucester, and Richard, Earl of Cambridge. This is first time that the facts of their lives have been assembled all in one place, and is based largely on the research the author did for his novel, Within the Fetterlock, with some new information added more recently.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot. See that biography description? What really is happening here is a few paragraphs that seems to be just an aide memoire for authors. You can tell by the Contents page:

P4…Authors Note
P6…Historical Background
P10… The Parents – Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, and Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York
P13…Son and Heir – edward, Earl of Rutland and Cork, Duke of Aumale, 2nd Duke of York
P26…Daughter of York – Constance, Lady Dispenser, Countess of Gloucester
P39…Richard the Obscure – Richard ‘of Conisbrough’, Earl of Cambridge
P47…Select Bibliography

Muriel Spark: The Biography by Martin Stannard

bookshelves: under-100-ratings, published-2009, nonfiction, lit-crit, biography, radio-4, summer-2014, books-about-books-and-book-shops, britain-scotland, edinburgh

Read from July 04 to 11, 2014


R4x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ltrn9

Description: Born in 1918 into a working-class Edinburgh family, Muriel Spark ended her life as the epitome of literary chic, one of the great writers of the 20th century. This book tells her story.

1/5 Hannah Gordon reads from Martin Stannard’s biography of the acclaimed Scottish novelist.

2/5 Marriage to an older man offers escape from the claustrophobia of Edinburgh society.

3/5 Spark’s literary voice is discovered when she wins an Observer competition in 1951.

4/5 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie earns Spark critical and commercial success.

5/5 Despite finding happiness, the vexations of Spark’s family life intruded into her old age.

Not too keen on Stannard’s style however this does make me want to go back and read Spark all over again. Three Edinburgh Castles.

The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn, Petra Couvee

4 of 5 stars bookshelves: radio-4, summer-2014, biography, nonfiction, poetry, fradio, published-2014, slavic, politics, history, books-about-books-and-book-shops, spies

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 20 to July 11, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048jflr

Description: Thanks to the superb David Lean film, Doctor Zhivago is known to millions. However, few know the full story of the publication (or non-publication) of the novel. For this revelatory and fascinating tale, Peter Finn and Petra Couvée obtained previously classified CIA documents that shed light on an unknown aspect of one of the 20th-century’s greatest books.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was a highly successful poet and translator in Russia before he penned his first novel. In 1956, while he was living in Peredelkino, a writer’s colony created by Stalin, he sent the novel to one of Russia’s most esteemed journals, Novy Mir, but it was rejected because it was deemed anti-Soviet.

Pasternak felt Doctor Zhivago was his greatest work and wanted it widely read; however, since 1929, no Russian author had broken the rule against foreign publication without approval from the authorities. When the opportunity to publish the book in Italy came along, the manuscript was smuggled into Milan and published in 1957. In 1958, the CIA’s books program printed a special Russian-language edition and secretly distributed it in the Vatican’s pavilion at the World’s Fair in Brussels. Copies began turning up in Russia, and additional copies were given to students, tourists, diplomats, even Russian truck drivers and sailors, to smuggle into the Soviet Union. This represented one of the first efforts by the CIA to leverage books as instruments of political warfare. The book’s growing popularity infuriated the Soviet government, and when Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in 1958, he had to decline it–had he accepted it, he could never return home. –Tom Lavoie, former publisher

1/5 Pasternak’s poetry is receiving rave reviews, and the Soviet leadership soon takes note.

2/5 Pasternak begins an affair with Olga Ivinskaya, which proves a dangerous move.

3/5 The Russian-language manuscript of Dr Zhivago arrives at CIA headquarters.

4/5 Illicit copies of Dr Zhivago are in great demand at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

5/5 Pasternak is awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature but is forced to renounce it.

A rating of four Nobel medals

Bond On Bond: Reflections on 50 years of James Bond Movies by Roger Moore

bookshelves: summer-2014, autobiography-memoir, biography, books-about-books-and-book-shops, nonfiction, published-2012, spies, giftee, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, tbr-busting-2014

Read on June 29, 2014


Read by Roger Moore, his smug, smirkable self!

Description: The Bond movies remain the longest continually running film series in movie history, and 2012 marks its fiftieth anniversary. While there have been other actors that have taken on the coveted role of James Bond, one of the most renowned and beloved 007s, is the charming and charismatic Sir Roger Moore, KBE. To celebrate these films and their cultural heritage, Roger Moore has written a book that features all the Bond movies, along with a wonderfully witty account of his own involvement in them. From the girls to the villains, the cars to the cocktails, the gadgets, locations and everything else, this beautiful book is illustrated with hundreds of iconic images from all the films plus many previously unseen photos from the Bond archive. This is the ultimate James Bond book, written by the ultimate insider, with all the affection and good humor he brought to the role. It is the perfect gift for all fans of these much loved films.

So bad; not even funny bad. The only thing this had going for it was that it was short at 04:48:29. Just the one 007 rating.

The Duchess by Amanda Foreman

bookshelves: biography, nonfiction, history, autumn-2012, tbr-busting-2012, fraudio, gambling, georgian1714-1830, filthy-lucre, lifestyles-deathstyles, published-1988, debut, politics, recreational-drugs

Read from September 16 to 19, 2012

 

British Aristocracy – 18th C. Unabridged.

From wiki: Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (née Spencer) 7 June 1757 – 30 March 1806 was the first wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and mother of the 6th Duke of Devonshire. Her father, the 1st Earl Spencer, was a great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her niece was Lady Caroline Lamb. She is an ancestor (via her illegitimate daughter Eliza Courtney) of Sarah, Duchess of York. She is also related to Diana, Princess of Wales, who was her great-great-grandniece.

What a shame that Diana hadn’t studied her family history then she may not have mirrored the unloved brood mare profile, having to share her husband in a three-way marriage.

Lots of fun moments à la ‘the past is a foreign country’: she was so calmed by being bled that she slept peaceably all night, however the authorial whitewashing of destructive behaviours and coaxing us to sympathise, renders this otherwise brilliant biography, flawed.

Great debut.

********

Yeehaw! There is a 2008 film to look out for:

Keira Knightley … Georgiana
Ralph Fiennes … The Duke
Charlotte Rampling … Lady Spencer
Dominic Cooper … Charles Grey
Hayley Atwell … Bess Foster
Simon McBurney … Charles Fox
Aidan McArdle … Richard Sheridan
John Shrapnel … General Grey
Alistair Petrie … Heaton
Patrick Godfrey … Dr. Neville

 
Althorp’s entrance front in the 1820s. The appearance of the house from this angle is almost unaltered today.
 
The Three Witches from Shakespeares Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775: Lady Melbourne with the Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer”
 
It was perfectly legal for a man to beat his wife so long as the stick was no wider than his thumb
 
To the rescue.”
 

Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954

bookshelves: published-2005, under-500-ratings, radio-4x, summer-2014, biography, art-forms, nonfiction

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 13 to 20, 2014


R4x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0076r2v

Description: “If my story were ever to be written down truthfully from start to finish, it would amaze everyone,” wrote Henri Matisse. It is hard to believe today that Matisse, whose exhibitions draw huge crowds worldwide, was once almost universally reviled and ridiculed. His response was neither to protest nor to retreat; he simply pushed on from one innovation to the next, and left the world to draw its own conclusions. Unfortunately, these were generally false and often damaging. Throughout his life and afterward people fantasized about his models and circulated baseless fabrications about his private life.

Fifty years after his death, Matisse the Master (the second half of the biography that began with the acclaimed The Unknown Matisse) shows us the painter as he saw himself. With unprecedented and unrestricted access to his voluminous family correspondence, and other new material in private archives, Hilary Spurling documents a lifetime of desperation and self-doubt exacerbated by Matisse’s attempts to counteract the violence and disruption of the twentieth century in paintings that now seem effortlessly serene, radiant, and stable.
Here for the first time is the truth about Matisse’s models, especially two Russians: his pupil Olga Meerson and the extraordinary Lydia Delectorskaya, who became his studio manager, secretary, and companion in the last two decades of his life.
But every woman who played an important part in Matisse’s life was remarkable in her own right, not least his beloved daughter Marguerite, whose honesty and courage surmounted all ordeals, including interrogation and torture by the Gestapo in the Second World War.

If you have ever wondered how anyone with such a tame public image as Matisse could have painted such rich, powerful, mysteriously moving pictures, let alone produced the radical cut-paper and stained-glass inventions of his last years, here is the answer. They were made by the real Matisse, whose true story has been written down at last from start to finish by his first biographer, Hilary Spurling.

Episode 1: 1909, and Henri Matisse’s critics call his paintings monstrous. Can he find support? Eleanor Bron reads.

Episode 2: 1914, and with his family scattered across France, Matisse expresses the horror and uncertainty of the First World War in his art.

Episode 3: 1930, and Henri Matisse’s painting is dramatically influenced by his visits to New York and Tahiti.

Episode 4: 1938, and now in his 60s, Henri Matisse’s art must endure personal upheaval as war looms.

Episode 5: Post-1945, Matisse applies his extraordinary scissor and paper technique to the design of the interior of the chapel at Vence.

4* Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954
4* Pearl Buck in China

Mad Madge by Katie Whitaker

bookshelves: history, hardback, published-2002, stuarts, restoration, civil-war-english, biography, books-about-books-and-book-shops, summer-2014, skoolzy-stuff, one-penny-wonder, under-50-ratings, women

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Miss M
Recommended for: Wanda, Jemidar, Laura
Read from June 02 to 14, 2014

 

Description: Margaret Cavendish’s life as a writer and noblewoman unfolded against the backdrop of the English Civil War and Restoration. Pursuing the only career open to women of her class, she became a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Henrietta Maria. Exiled to Paris with the Queen, she met and married William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle. In exile, Margaret did something unthinkable for a seventeenth-century Englishwoman: she lived proudly as a writer. Eventually she published twenty-three volumes, starting with Poems and Fancies, the first book of English poetry published by a woman under her own name. But later generations too easily accepted the disparaging opinions of her shocked critics, and labeled her “Mad Madge of Newcastle.”Mad Madge is both a lively biography of a fascinating woman and a window on a tumultuous cultural time.

After the Dissolution, St John’s Abbey and land, just outside the city walls of Colchester, was released for a tidy sum to private ownership. It was in this gatehouse that Thomas and Elizabeth raised their young, Margaret being the baby of the family.

Why isn’t this biography better known within the history lovers’ circle? Because of her prolific and thinly veiled scribblings of actual people and events there was little difficulty in finding so many facts to relate, and Ms Whitaker has done a fine job here in bringing something entirely palatable to the table. Heartily recommended.

TRIVIA: Literature of the Country House Week 1 Bolsover:

CR Mad Madge
TR A Royal Passion

A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen by Liel Leibovitz

bookshelves: published-2014, summer-2014, jewish, music, poetry, canada, biography, nonfiction, recreational-drugs

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 29 to June 06, 2014


BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0458063

Description: As Leonard Cohen turns 80, a new biography by Liel Leibovitz explores the life, work and passion of the poet-turned-musician. What makes Cohen such an enduring international figure in the cultural imagination?

Granted extraordinary access to Cohen’s personal papers, Leibovitz evokes a complicated, sometimes contradictory figure. Born into a Canadian religious Jewish family, for years a reclusive lyricist on the Greek island of Hydra, known for his bold political commentary, his devotion to Buddhist thought and his later despair over contemporary Zionism, Cohen hardly follows the rules of a conventional rock star.

Read by Julian Barrett, with Leonard Cohen quotes read by Colin Stinton.

Abridged by: Jo Coombs
Producer: Pippa Vaughan
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Episode 1: An intimate look at a man who, despite battles with depression and years spent in hermit-like isolation, is still touring and now seems to be reaching a new peak of popularity. The loss of his father when he was just nine years old shaped the muscician forever.

Episode 2: Despite success as a poet, Cohen feels the need to escape to the Greek island of Hydra

Episode 3: Having altered the course of his life with the decision to start writing music, Cohen faces a creative struggle with those around him in the recording studio. Will the release of Bird on the Wire change his fortunes?

Episode 4: Disasters threaten Cohen’s first European tour, but in Buddhism he finds the spiritual solace which enables him to write the groundbreaking Hallelujah.

Episode 5: Cohen begins the 1990s as a hugely successful songwriter, poet and performer. Yet spiritual crises still plague him, and he retreats to the San Gabriel Mountains to spend time with his guru. By 2006, he’s forced to start touring again when evidence emerges that a long-time employee and friend may have stolen millions of dollars from him.

The music:

Story of Isaac
Hallelujah
So Long Marianne
Bird On A Wire
Suzanne
You know who I am
Avalanche
Lover, lover, lover
Dance Me to the End Of Love
GOING HOME which I could totally see Roger Waters covering