Category Archives: Culture: Fiction

Happy Birthday, M. R. James

Today is the 150th birthday of M. R. (Montague Rhodes) James. If you haven’t already done so, go to this University of Adelaide website and read at least one of his ghost stories.

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Happy Birthday, Ivan Alexandrovich

I’d been thinking of tackling some long novel I’d never read over the summer break, and having trouble deciding which of the many such books to begin with, when I noticed that today is Ivan Goncharov’s 200th birthday. That settled … Continue reading

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D. M. M. R. James

Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of M. R. James, author of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) and three other collections. There is a very readable webtext here. Here is a classical bit from “Count Magnus”: “Like … Continue reading

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A Familiar Type

Ada Spelvexit was one of those naturally stagnant souls who take infinite pleasure in what are called “movements”. “Most of the really great lessons I have learned have been taught me by the Poor”, was one of her favourite statements. … Continue reading

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Saturnalian Pedantry

“The period of the winter solstice had been always a great festival with the northern nations, the commencement of the lengthening of the days being, indeed, of all points in the circle of the year, that in which the inhabitants … Continue reading

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Orwellian LOL

I just read Animal Farm for the first time in 40+ years. I don’t often laugh out loud while reading books (as opposed to blogs), but half of one sentence made me ‘LOL’. In Chapter II, the victorious animals inspect … Continue reading

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Quotation of the Day

Last year, Dr. Esquirol compiled a table of statistics concerning insanity. It reads as follows: “Driven mad by love: two men, sixty women. Driven mad by religion: six men, twenty women. Driven mad by politics: forty-eight men, three women. Driven … Continue reading

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Method in Madness

There nearly always is method in madness. It’s what drives men mad, being methodical. (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Knew Too Much, VI. “The Fad of the Fisherman”)

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A Journalist in 1922

Harold March was the sort of man who knows everything about politics; and nothing about politicians. He also knew a good deal about art, letters, philosophy and general culture; about almost everything, indeed, except the world he was living in. … Continue reading

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Quotation of the Day

“I don’t like men that are always eating cake.” (Gertrude Wentworth, in Henry James, The Europeans, I)

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Quotation Of The Day

“Children need religion. They can always give it up later.” (Le Plaisir, 1952)

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Are My Tastes Hopelessly Proletarian?

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell twice quotes a song popular among the proles of his imagined future, “composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator”. He calls it “dreadful rubbish” and a “driveling song”, but it … Continue reading

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Quotation of the Day

An incompetent small-town Australian police chief (Royle) visits the lodgings of a headmaster suspected of murder (Doncaster): “It was a gentleman-scholar’s room: photographs of cricket teams, school groups, and a smart army photograph with a rather artificially grim expression. On … Continue reading

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Quotation of the Day

“I had made the discovery that if you put people in a comic light they became more likable — if you spoke of someone as a gross, belching, wall-eyed human pike you got along much better with him thereafter, partly … Continue reading

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Quotation of the Day

“. . . a thought-murder a day keeps the psychiatrist away.” (Saul Bellow, Ravelstein, p. 95) Inelegantly expressed, but the thought is interesting.

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The Usefulness of Classics

Another British policeman (Pumphrey) interrogates the headmaster (Crumwallis) of a worse than mediocre private school: ‘Hmmmm’, said Pumphrey. ‘You seem to do a lot of classics.’ It was not the remark Mr. Crumwallis had been expecting, but he perked up, … Continue reading

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Royal Edward

A British policeman is looking for a millionaire at a posh hotel in Bradford: It was called the Royal Edward, and for once it lived up to its name. The foyer was all white and gold and plush pink, with … Continue reading

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Today in History

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Machado de Assis. A few months ago I read his second and third novels (the first has not been translated into English), The Hand and the Glove and Helena, and yesterday … Continue reading

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Quotation of the Day

Basil Grant and I were talking one day in what is perhaps the most perfect place for talking on earth–the top of a tolerably deserted tramcar. To talk on the top of a hill is superb, but to talk on … Continue reading

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Quantum Mutati ab Illis

“Where is he from?” Bracoletti answered without hesitation, lowering his voice, and with a gesture indicating the most complete disenchantment: “He is a Greek from Athens.” My interest sank like water absorbed by sand. When one has traveled in the … Continue reading

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