Gloaming Thoughts

The family snooze away in bed, and I write late into the night.  A beer on the go, and a nocturnal cool settles subtly on my bare arms.

Books are, of course, my chosen subject to write about, a topic that has so many facets, often hidden in plain sight, and so much scope.

Yet as I catch up with the notes on my recent reads, the memories of books long given away take over.

In this late and gently expiring hour, the recollections come thick and fast.  The night always makes one introspective, especially for the past.

On this particular night my eye – and hand – run down the imaginary bookshelf of recall, mixed with different eras of my collecting, the covers vivid and smooth.

An old Famous Five cover from a nearly complete set purchased years ago, the variously tactile cover of the hardback edition of Endymion Spring…

An exploration of architecture in Egyptian temples, and the stark bleakness of outer space, adventuring astronauts lost to everything but themselves.

It’s these times I value.  The unique wanderings in a labyrinthine world of words, reminding me of literary corridors I will, perhaps, walk down again…

Whether in contemplation or purposely.

Reminders of books moved on, in necessity or wrongly thought of as outgrown, treasures lost to me in haste.

Always these ghosts come at night, I like it that way, I am forever grounded in their literary shadow.  Elusive yet bound to my heart.

 

*Image found at Pixabay

High Windows – Philip Larkin

When Philip Larkin’s High Windows first appeared, Kingsley Amis spoke for a large and loyal readership when he wrote: ‘Larkin’s admirers need only be told that he is as good as ever here, if not slightly better’.

Like Betjeman and Hardy, Larkin is a poet who can move a large audience – to laughter and tears – without betraying the highest artistic standards.

When reading Philip Larkin’s poems during my A-levels I never properly appreciated his poems, which is perhaps to be expected at such an age.   Now approaching his work with more life – and reading – experience there is something about his writing that makes it both highly pleasurable and challenging to read.

High Windows deals in some strong stuff; death, failure, and aging are constant (and looming) motifs threaded throughout the book.  It’s a sobering composition but utterly compelling which drove me on to read and reread each poem multiple times.

There is a lot of pleasant imagery also, to contrast with the uncomfortable themes which at the same time amplifies them. A real feeling of nostalgia bursts forth, the heart-warming and traditional (villages, seaside memories etc.), this is shot through with jarring images of decay and threats of hell. Larkin does enough to keep the reader off balance whilst examining the reality of life. Continue reading “High Windows – Philip Larkin”

Márquez Covered

On the particular day I took this photo – as with most days in Britain – it was bleak outside, overcast, an intense cutting wind blowing as background noise.  I needed something to brighten up the day and an idea for a post as well to keep the blog ticking over.

Casting about the house I came across these colourful beauties and it took me down memory lane, remembering the jaunts in Márquez’s creations, his flair for the dramatic, and the stifling days in which so many of those memories take place.  Although whether it was the days in the book or in real life is sometimes hard to separate.

For those yet to discover the wonderful Gabriel García Márquez, I can only encourage you with some old reviews found elsewhere on this site, and with a wholehearted shove to that particular shelf in your local bookshop.  You won’t be disappointed wherever you start. Continue reading “Márquez Covered”

Journey into the Past – Stefan Zweig

An engineer from a humble background, Ludwig fell in love with his employer’s wife and she with him – before they were separated by circumstances and by war.  Now, nine years later, their unfulfilled passion is tested as the two reunite. Can the past, and their happiness, be restored – or have they been forever undone by hardship and betrayal?

I wondered how much I would enjoy another book set around the First World War after recently finishing Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier, I needn’t have worried as I was hooked within the first few pages and was left to revel in the literary goodness for the rest its pages.

Having previously only read Chess by the author, I was expecting another terse effort with well-rounded and strongly realised characters who carried the story and made a strong impact on my imagination.  I was not to be disappointed on any of these anticipations.

The backdrop to the story is the First World War and its aftermath.  The impact on regular people caught up in those epochal events is something so often reduced to mere statistics, but here its presented in such a gloriously human, flawed, aching and passionate way.  Zweig has managed to capture what many authors fail to do, and that is to make believable, fully human characters whom the reader truly cares about. Continue reading “Journey into the Past – Stefan Zweig”

Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel

Inspiration failing me of late, instead of writing anything vaguely original here is a poem from Philip Larkin, which I recently came across in his collection, High Windows.

Friday Night At The Royal Station Hotel

Light spreads darkly downwards from the high
Clusters of lights over empty chairs
That face each other, coloured differently.
Through open doors, the dining-room declares
A larger loneliness of knives and glass
And silence laid like carpet. A porter reads
An unsold evening paper. Hours pass,
And all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds,
Leaving full ashtrays in the Conference Room.

 

In shoeless corridors, the lights burn. How
Isolated, like a fort, it is –
The headed paper, made for writing home
(If home existed) letters of exile: Now
Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages.

* Image found on Pixabay

Natural Literature

Norwegian poetry is not something I’ve come across much before, but through my reading of Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis, I’ve been widening my poetical horizons.  Olaf Bull’s Metope is my pick today as I really like the poem, and the author had associations with James Joyce and his writing of Finnegans Wake and Shakespeare and Company (the original one), to keep the literary theme going.

METOPE

You I would in rhythms fondly rivet tight!
You I would hold deep and lasting in the eternal
young alabaster of the poem’s flight!
You day-dreamer, moved by the sun! With your gaze
chastely turned toward evening’s pale gold, meekly
you turn a heaven towards another, as bathed
in light and tenderness and secrecy!
I would gladly forfeit verse’s every trope
were one thing in my power: to hew firm-lined
in memory’s stubborn stone a smooth metope
that could depict your shy, frail-contoured mind!

We stroll through moist and yielding ebb-tide sand! Your ear
takes in the plashing waves of the summer sea!
Devoutly we feel that the evening stillness here
ever outward shifts its sounding boundary!
A string of fading chimes that’s slowly shrinking
behind blushing groves and gold church spires again –
and softly gleaming air-waves that are sinking
like streams of sun from mountains – which remain!

The ridges all turn blue. The stars fill in the skies!
The last clouds hasten home at end of day!
The meadow is at prayer – from air’s ebb tide will rise
mighty Arcturus! Behind grey stone walls sighs
a slight breeze through rye’s fur of silver grey!
And through your gaze a warm, deep animation –
in a dark blur of blue the eye can find
a drifting droplet, honey moistly gleaming,
and quietly I ask you: ‘Friend – what’s on your mind?’ Continue reading “Natural Literature”

Nightscapism

Stood at the bus stop one Monday evening at 7:05pm, the traffic rushing by, and the fine spray of rain hitting my face, misting my glasses, I realised how much I had missed this weather. After the relentless sun in Asia, it was lovely to feel the cold wind blowing through my bones, and seeing a leaf lazily drop to the wet pavement, reminding me of the pending closure of another chapter of life, a handy metaphor, in many ways.

On the bus with a work colleague, small talk done,  she, lost in music, earphones blocking out the natural roar of the bus. And I gaze through the window and my own reflection, and take in belit pubs, the chairs and tables outside abandoned after the brief use of summer.  Melancholy car parks, empty save for a lonely vehicle, flash by, yet remain imprinted on the memory. I wonder what the owner is doing at that moment.

And then the pitch black as we leave the city behind.  Careening along at what feels like a dangerous pace in the rain, even the well worn bus route seems strange and mysterious.  Glimpses of trees and houses captured for a second in the lone street lights before the darkness consumes everything back into itself. We speed along yet never progress further than I expect us to be.

My mind wanders back to the time I spent working in a cinema,  on occasion I would get the job where I would be alone, but able to gaze out past the gaudy neon lights of the ‘Funstation’ that shimmer on the portals of glass, my one link to the outside world.  The falseness of human endeavour at odds with nature.

Branches slap the front window of the double decker as we pull up to a cheap looking bus shelter, drawing me out of my revelry.  As I ready myself to brave the full blown rain storm that now rages outside, I just have time to reflect on the onset of another season, and the underrated  bus travel  – which I for the most part enjoy – which helps me fully appreciate life.  Sometimes its good to close the book and just gaze outwards, and inwards.

 

*Image found on Pixabay