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Mikeharvey

Biogrpahy/Autobiography

I have just read Richard Kennedy's short but charming memoir "A Boy At The Hogarth Press".  Kennedy, who became a famous illustrator, here relates, amusingly and lightly, his experiences when, as a 16 year old in 1926, he worked as a sort of office boy at the Hogarth Press run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf.  The book is full of lovely descriptions of L and V Woolf - L seems to have been irascible and V. distant - and other famous members of the Bloomsbury set. It's a short read - you csan read it in a sitting - and there are lots of evocative line drawings. My copy was one of a limited edition published by periodical "Slightly Foxed" who, in addition to their magazine, now publish a small, hardback, famous autobiography every quarter. This volume contains Kennedy's "A Parcel of Time" about his First World War childhood but I haven't read it yet.
Caro

I am also reading a rather charming memoirwhich I have mentioned elsewhere.  Don't go into the long grass by Tenniel Evans.  I don't know or I don't think I know  Mr Evans but as he is an actor and preacher you probably do, Michael.  

He goes from a fairly poor white family in Kenya (not so poor they couldn't afford black servants but apparently that was de rigeru) to family in England and then to Christ's Hospital School on a scholarship at the age of ten.  The style of the book is that he ends one chapter in one country and the last sentence or so reminds him of his life in the other country and the next chapter goes there.  I haven't got much to his school yet - he is getting to grips with the cold of England and a religious Christmas at this stage.  His father seems like a combination of Mr Micawber and Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, feckless and selfish and charming.  

Very easy reading.

Cheers, Caro.
alantomes

What non-fiction are you reading?

I'm presently reading "The Last Tsar" by Edvard Radzinsky, translated into English.

It is based on various excerpts from Nicholas II's diaries, plus a few others, and I'm fnding it very interesting. It has helped fill a number of gaps in my knowledge of this period. In particular with regard to how events dovetail into each other.

I bought the book (hardback no d/w) in a charity shop for 60pence. It is published by BCA, unfortunately some idiot has cut out all the photos, and the index of illustrations was quite interesting.

Regards............Alan
Caro

Ah, that is you, Alan.  I was wondering but I don't think of you as living in Suffolk.  There was a time at school when I was very interested in Rasputin but I don't seem to have kept us this interest and certainly I haven't extended it to a general knowledge of Russia at this period in time.

Cheers, Caro.
alantomes

Caro - You don't think of me as living in Suffolk. Are you saying I wasted my time showing you and Malcolm around last year?

No need to answer as I know you both enjoyed the trip.

Regards.............Alan
Caro

I think of you as living in East Anglia - where is Suffolk in relation to East Anglia?  I am not too great on geography, as you may well have realised.  Yes, lovely trip and I tell people how lovely East Anglia is, though I never mention Suffolk.

Cheers, Caro.
alantomes

Caro - On our travels we never left Suffolk. I always feel that East Anglia is North East Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, although many people consider it to include other counties.

Suffolk's location- It is on the east coast of England, and is bounded by the River Waveney in the north and the River Stour in the south. It's eastern boundary is the North Sea, and it's Westerm boundary is jagged and difficult to define.

Regards..............Alan
MikeAlx

I always think of East Anglia as the scoop of mashed potato on the eastern side of England, just about the Thames estuary. You can probably guess the kind of marks I got for geography!  Smile
alantomes

You didn't do too bad Mike, as lots of potatoes are grown in East Anglia.

Regards.............Alan
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

Alan, is that book on Tsar Nicholas worth reading, would you say? It certainly sounds interesting.

How many counties are there in England? I tried looking that up once, but the counties seem to have been changed so often that I couldn't work it out. Is there a number that's accepted as the figure?
alantomes

I would definitely recommend "The Last Tsar". I'm about half way through and the Tsar and family are just being removed from Petrograd after his abdication. Lloyd George has recommended to KGV that we do not offer to take them.

I have no idea of the number of counties in England as they keep changing and altering names.

Regards..........Alan
Apple

There are 34 counties currently (I think)

Cumbria, Northumberland, Lancs, N Yorks, S Yorks, Cheshire, Derbys, Staffs, Shrops, Notts, Leics, Rutland (has recently become a county in its own right again), Lincs, Hereford & Worcs, Warks, Gloucs, Oxfordshire, Bucks, Beds, Herts, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Middx, Berks, Wilts, Somerset, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hants, Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

I could be totally wrong but there we go!

Oh and by the way the non fiction book I am reading at the moment is Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer, I have been putting it off for a long while as I have always thought of Albert Speer not as the Nazi who was sorry but the Nazi who said what everyone wanted to hear to save his own skin!
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

Albert Speer's book is another I want to read, along with Karl Donitz's. I can see this thread being very useful to me in the future
alantomes

If you are interested in the Nazi Heirachy then you should try and get hold of a copy of "Hitler" by Joachim Fest (translated of course). There is another book by the same author that I can recommend "Plotting Hitler's Death".

Both are well worth reading, and better than any English  or American authors' books on the subject.

Regards...............Alan
Joe Mac

One of Fest's Hitler books is en route via inter-library loan, Alan. Thanks for recommending this author. I look forward to reading it.
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

I'll keep a look-out for them. It's a very interesting time period, which is why I like first-hand accounts from there. But if you recommend those books, I'll give them a go
cagliostro

Andrew Hodges biography of Alan Turing is worth a go.
alantomes

I virtyually only read non-fiction. At the moment I am reading "Swordfish,
The story of the Taranto Raid" by David Wragg ISBN 0-297-84667-1, and thoroughly enjoying it.

Regards.............Alan
Chibiabos83

Welcome, cagliostro! I'm often meaning to read the Hodges book - it seems to be the best Turing biography there is, and Turing as a man fascinates me, but I'm put off by the suspicion that it may be a bit dense, and I have not even a rudimentary knowledge of the things on which Turing was an expert. I'm sure it's not unapproachable, though. One day...
cagliostro

Chibiabos83
Don't worry, it is very readable.
I think that Hodges only major fault is that he is overly partisan in favour of Turing.
It is possible to enjoy the book from several angles, if you have an interest in the conduct of the second world war, if you want a perspective on attitudes to homosexuality in the mid twentieth century, if you are interested in the theoretical background to and early history of the digital computer, or if you just like a good read.
Chibiabos83

Well, thanks for the encouragement!
Castorboy

From: Chibiabos83  (Original Message)                Sent: 7/3/2008 6:38 AM
I've noticed that of the many adjectives I use in my predominantly adjectival book reviews, remarkable is one that crops up more than most. The Quest for Corvo: an Experiment in Biography (to accord it its full title, of which the second part is quite important) by A.J.A. Symons, first published in 1934 and recently reissued by NYRB with a fun introduction by A.S. Byatt, is a remarkable book, for its structure if nothing else. The book's subject is Frederick Rolfe (1860-1913), self-styled Baron Corvo, who was variously wannabe priest, painter, writer, closet gay and all-round eccentric. It's not a straightforward biography: it begins with Symons' discovery of Rolfe's books and then moves on to the various ways in which he researches Corvo's life in order to write the biography, so there are two parallel narrative strands, of Corvo's existence and Symons' research, which makes it particularly involving to read.

Corvo seems to be a writer who inspires passion in his readers, and while I haven't read any of his books (nor have any great inclination to, I regret), his verbal facility and love of obscure vocabulary is clearly his strength (the neologism 'dilimilism', coined by Corvo and cited by Byatt in the introduction as a disparaging adjective pertaining to the Daily Mail, made me laugh out loud). He certainly comes across as a pretty hateful person, a self-important, petulant, manipulative sponger, constantly biting the hand that feeds him, and presumably this infamous reputation and his own books are what keep his memory alive today.

I didn't expect this book, written a good 30 years before Wolfenden took effect, to be particularly forthcoming on the subject of Corvo's sexuality, not least because of threatened injunctions from Corvo's brother at the time of its publication, and it's true that the contents of the scandalous letters that were discovered on Corvo's death are not gone into, but Symons is quite sympathetic to Corvo's difficulties living as a homosexual in Victorian Britain, and goes so far as to suggest that his reprehensible behaviour may be due to the sexual repression forced on him by the society he lived in.

It's not a perfect book, though Symons writes very well, and perhaps it's inclined to drag very occasionally, but by and large it's an innovative and fascinating document, groundbreaking, I dare say, in terms of literary biography, and certainly well worth a look.
Chibiabos83

When I wrote 'adjective' last July I obviously meant 'noun'. Thank you for continuing to harvest posts from the old board, castorboy - I'm not sure I've got the energy!
Castorboy

Chibiabos83 wrote:
When I wrote 'adjective' last July I obviously meant 'noun'. Thank you for continuing to harvest posts from the old board, castorboy - I'm not sure I've got the energy!

Chib I am happy to change ‘disparaging adjective’ to ‘disparaging noun’ in your excellent review. Very Happy
Ever since I started reading the Sunday Times in the sixties I had seen Baron Corvo’s name mentioned along with A J A Simons’and the 1934 book. Thanks to you I now have no reason to read Rolfe’s work because he was obviously a minor literary figure (and there are so many books to read).
As to the ‘harvesting’ my energy is miniscule compared to the energy put into composing the reviews which are worth reading over and over again.
Chibiabos83

I'll take it as a compliment that a review I wrote has persuaded you not to read books, I suppose...  Smile  Rolfe/Corvo is undoubtedly a minor figure, but then sometimes people on the periphery are more interesting than those in the mainstream, and he certainly led an interesting life. Whether his own books are readable or not I can't say, though I don't feel desperately inclined to find out, but I certainly recommend the Symons biography.

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