East of Eden – John Steinbeck

California’s fertile Salinas Valley is home to two families whose destinies are fruitfully, and fatally, intertwined. Over the generations, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the First World War, the Trasks and the Hamiltons will helplessly replay the fall of Adam and Eve and the murderous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

Like Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, there are certain books that you just know will become treasured reads even before the first page has been fully read. These special books also keep me awake at night, itching to write a review as soon as is decent and the coffee is brewed.

East of Eden is a sprawling masterpiece of a story, giving the reader far more to get their teeth into than the blurb could possibly convey, even if it were aiming to do so. Over generations the story tackles themes of revenge, love, good and evil, and a whole plethora of facets in the human condition.

Firstly, the reader is drawn in by the perfectly described landscape, and then once lovingly established, the believable and flawed set of characters is introduced.  I found myself interested in all their stories, from the side characters who rarely featured but whose fates were revealed, to the main protagonists who grew throughout the pages.  Continue reading “East of Eden – John Steinbeck”

Get Yourself A Free Book

Everyone loves free stuff, and what can be better than a good book bargain to take your mind off whatever is on currently on it?

I have been informed by my good friend Estelle – who runs a blog for the books of Indrajit Garai – that The Bridge of Little Jeremy, is currently on a free giveway on Amazon, which you can find at the link here.

I have also read and reviewed Indrajit’s two short story volumes, The Sacrifice,  and The Eye Opener, which I enjoyed immensely. Both of which I can happily recommend to you.

Here’s the blurb for The Bridge of Little Jeremy, check it out and indulge yourself in a story about family, the changing face of Paris, and the meaning of beauty, for absolutely no pennies.

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast.

Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris.

This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work.

Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

In Which Gods, Hairy Feet, Mortality, The Art of Queueing, and Vampires Are Alluded

We love mountains and hiking in our house,   and in the days when we can’t do much more than potter around the local field, we miss those adventures the most. It was this yearning which drove us to discover new perspectives and stunning scenery via YouTube.

Whilst searching YT, I began reminiscing about the wonderful book, Mountains of the Mind, which dealt with so many facets of mountains from art, geology, and exploration. I also remembered the mountain scenes from books such as, The Hobbit, Dracula, and James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.

Somewhat disconcertingly Crissy was telling me how she would love to end her days on Everest, which given the queues for the top in recent years is a distinct possibility. Slightly more worryingly was her insistence that I join her in this endeavour of finality were her dream of going there ever to become a reality.

This short documentary that we found, shared below, is beautifully filmed, perfectly capturing the epic panoramas, whilst delving onto the lives of the Sherpas, porters, and their families, those so often forgotten but who are the real climbers, teachers and pack carriers.

The harshness of their way of life, and that of their families left at home makes for powerful viewing, the appalling risk of the work done through necessity –  and the whims of foreign climbers – as well as their need to survive and make a better life for their children, is extremely impactful.

The mountains of the Himalayas may overshadow its inhabitants, but it is important to be reminded how much is given by those whose relationship with the mountain is more akin to that of deity and worshipper, than the I’ll climb it ‘because its there’ attitude of so many abroad. This is well worth its fifteen minute runtime.

The Past, Present, & Future: A Book of Poetry – Cody McCullough

Cody McCullough’s debut collection of poetry, THE PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE, delves into the fleeting nature of life viewed through the prism of time. Separated into three main collections, the work touches on topics ranging from the essence of life, to family relationships, to the natural world. Featuring poems such as THE TALL FIRS ARE DANCING TODAY and THE COOL MORNING AIR, the entire collection includes a total of 73 poems written in free verse. Through his unique style, McCullough takes the reader on a journey from the beginning of existence, to the end of time, and everywhere in between.

It’s a great pleasure today to introduce, remind, or reacquaint, the reader with Cody McCullough’s blog, and new book of poetry.  I’ve been a fan of Cody’s writings for a while now, and always enjoy my visits over at his site.  This collection written in free verse is his usual intriguing work.

As with the title, it seems only fitting to break down each part in turn, beginning, adventurously, with the Past:

Here, we have a considered look at childhood memories, of a fleeting time which the author does well to encapsulate the feeling of time passing.  This section is an exploration of the learning experience of the formative years, and of the memories that we hold all our lives.  There is something melancholy and a feeling of the lost, or perhaps lostness.

These poems – as with the other two parts – are mixed with writings of history, of past generations and a thoughtful look at a perspective of a universal past as well as the personal. The passing of time into history, the temporary, and how that, as well as the personal, is recalled, and remembered differently. Continue reading “The Past, Present, & Future: A Book of Poetry – Cody McCullough”

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”

Precipitate Companionship

As it has been raining a lot here recently, it brings to mind one of those thoughts that is made for just such days.  The creative flows when the rainwater does…

Precipitate Companionship

The ‘pock’ sounds on the fabric of the umbrella,
jarringly unlike the gentle susurrus of those
which thud on the ground.
Surroundings tingle all the senses,
the rising scents
the tangy taste on the air
the cleansed colours.

The walk is a glorious thing
especially shared with the closeness of a companion,
shoulders sometimes touching,
Perhaps an entwining
of hands on handle
A sense of total togetherness, intimate,
through delicate and momentary caresses.

The way that makes one feel
in no particular rush to be anywhere
time slackened
just existing
under the brolly,
a closed world,
Shared solely between two.

 

 

*Picture found for free at wallpaperbetter.com

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

Demarcated Days

Demarcated Days

Change in the air is finally tangible, as I wind my way to work.

Discerning one season, interlacing into the next, a mixture of benign restraint and brooding power.

The crispness of the air has taken over from the heat that so recently sat on my skin,

an unlooked for blanket in the early morning. 

A creeping feeling of the days soon to be closing in, chasing away the hazy summer mornings.

The onset of this turning is one of dissipation and delight amalgamated,

entwined in a melancholy delirium, held fast for only a short spell.

in isolation.

Before the onset of the enchanting Autumnal elements converge.

The Bridge of Little Jeremy – Indrajit Garai

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast. Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris. This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work. Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

After reading two volumes of Garai’s short stories this is the first novel by the author, once again the focus is on the troubled times of his characters, and how they respond to the problems presented.  The down to earth approach to telling a story gives it the edge over those authors that attempt to force an emotional response from the reader with unneeded flourishes.

Taking place in Paris – a source of artistic and literary inspiration for many throughout the ages – I was pleased to see that both made appearances within the story, whilst Garai’s eye for natural beauty – and degradation – in the often ignored urban areas helps layer a further feeling of the city’s atmosphere and depth.

The titular character Jeremy is interesting in his introspective, self-examining ways.  His solitary approach to life – somewhat enforced thanks to circumstances – gives him the drive to fix things, even if they don’t always work out in the way he intended. Continue reading “The Bridge of Little Jeremy – Indrajit Garai”