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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 1170



PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:56 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Hello, Caro.  I read "Father and Son" ages ago but I'm afraid I can't remember much about it.  All I can remember is that Tony Crosland, a Labour MP in the 60s and 70s, was brought up by Plymouth Brethren parents.  When his future wife met him and discover this, she started reading "Father and Son" but he became angry when he discovered this and felt she was being too intrusive into his life.  (She mentions this in her biography of him)


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3434


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've meant to read Father and Son for years, vaguely aware of its supposed brilliance, and haven't got around to it yet, but funnily enough I was reading a bit of it just a couple of days ago. Trying to plan a carol concert with appropriate Christmas readings, and this excerpt was in an anthology I own. I'm not sure it strikes an appropriately festive note...

On Christmas Day of this year 1857 our villa saw a very unusual
sight. My Father had given strictest charge that no difference
whatever was to be made in our meals on that day; the dinner was
to be neither more copious than usual nor less so. He was obeyed,
but the servants, secretly rebellious, made a small plum-pudding
for themselves. (I discovered afterwards, with pain, that Miss
Marks received a slice of it in her boudoir.) Early in the
afternoon, the maids,--of whom we were now advanced to keeping
two,--kindly remarked that 'the poor dear child ought to have a
bit, anyhow', and wheedled me into the kitchen, where I ate a
slice of plum-pudding. Shortly I began to feel that pain inside
which in my frail state was inevitable, and my conscience smote
me violently. At length I could bear my spiritual anguish no
longer, and bursting into the study I called out: 'Oh! Papa,
Papa, I have eaten of flesh offered to idols!' It took some time,
between my sobs, to explain what had happened. Then my Father
sternly said: 'Where is the accursed thing?' I explained that as
much as was left of it was still on the kitchen table. He took me
by the hand, and ran with me into the midst of the startled
servants, seized what remained of the pudding, and with the plate
in one hand and me still tight in the other, ran until we reached
the dust-heap, when he flung the idolatrous confectionery on to
the middle of the ashes, and then raked it deep down into the
mass. The suddenness, the violence, the velocity of this
extraordinary act made an impression on my memory which nothing
will ever efface.


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3374


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Father & Son is well worth reading.  It's about time I re-read it.....


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Joe McWilliams



Joined: 10 Feb 2012
Posts: 692


Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sat Dec 03, 2016 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I confess I had never heard of Father and Son, or Philip Gosse. I suppose I could blame it on having been raised by wolves.
The stern religious upbringing does remind me a bit of what I've read about that of the popular novelist Bernard Cornwell, whose parents belonged to a sect called 'Peculiar People' or something like that. He broke out of that and has been dealing them blows in his novels ever since, it would seem, through leading characters who delight in mocking the over-serious religious types of the time.

Meanwhile....that Joseph Kanon novel I was reading turned into a turkey after a promising beginning. Enough said. I've now started another by the Spanish writer Arturo Perez-Reverte, whose storytelling I enjoy so much. This one is called 'What We Become,' and I go into it oblivious of what it may contain and (not at all surprisingly) am hooked after a page and a half. The setting is new, but the pattern is familiar: a slightly seedy principal male character, encountering and becoming captivated by a woman utterly beyond his reach. And yet....


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Joe McWilliams



Joined: 10 Feb 2012
Posts: 692


Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Austerlitz, by W.G. Sebald. Started it last night, gave it up after a few pages. I may have made a mistake. Apparently it was a 'national bestseller' and the winner of the National Book Critics Award. But I am a spoiled reader. This book has zero dialogue, and paragraphs that last whole chapters. It asks too much of me.

So.... Attempt #2 - The Royal Physician's Visit, by Per Olov Enquist, and my second failure of the evening. Too much blah, blah, blah by the narrator. It appears to be set in 18th C Denmark and is 'a gripping tale of power, sex, love and the life of the mind.' Oh well.

Attempt #3: The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart. More success here. It is what the title says it is. Non-fiction story of an American in Paris and his encounter with the world of piano buying, selling and refurbishing. A lot of it seems to be going on. I'm learning something - Steinway, Bechstein,  Pleyel, Erard, Ibach, Mason and Hamlin, Kimball, Kriegelstein, Guenegaud, Lys, Stingl, Sauter, Gaveau. The author buys the Stingl, a baby grand, and is astonished as it is hauled up the stairs to his apartment on the back of one man, trailed by his skinny assistant.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2993


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read and loved The Piano Shop on the Left Bank with my book cllub a few years ago, Joe.  No doubt my comments on it are somewhere here.

Now I am reading a delightful little book called Favourite Poems 101 Children's Classics.  Many of them are also adult classics, but lots of them I haven't come upon before,  and some of them are wonderful.  I have just read one by an African-American writing in the early 20th century, James Weldon Johnson, called A Poet to His Baby Son.  It is too long to print here, but basically it is a fatsher talking to his newborn and starts:

Tiny bit of humanity,
Blessed with your mother's face,
And cursed with your father's mind.

He then explains this by saying the baby is quiet and thoughtful, not boisterous, so maybe might be also going to be a poet.  The poem then goes on to explain why that wouldn't a good idea. It's well worth looking up - I haven't checked for it on the internet, but presume it is there.  It ends:

Take the advice of a father who knows:
You cannot begin too young
Not to be a poet.  

The middle of the poem explains why: poetry no longer writes of "the glories of earth and sky, the sweet pain of love, and the keen joy of living".  they are baffled in trying to say old things in a new way.  Etc.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2993


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've decided I can just put the poem here:



A Poet To His Baby Son - Poem by James Weldon Johnson

Tiny bit of humanity,
Blessed with your mother’s face,
And cursed with your father’s mind.

I say cursed with your father’s mind,
Because you can lie so long and so quietly on your back,
Playing with the dimpled big toe of your left foot,
And looking away,
Through the ceiling of the room, and beyond.
Can it be that already you are thinking of being a poet?

Why don’t you kick and howl,
And make the neighbors talk about
“That damned baby next door,”
And make up your mind forthwith
To grow up and be a banker
Or a politician or some other sort of go-getter
Or—?—whatever you decide upon,
Rid yourself of these incipient thoughts
About being a poet.

For poets no longer are makers of songs,
Chanters of the gold and purple harvest,
Sayers of the glories of earth and sky,
Of the sweet pain of love
And the keen joy of living;
No longer dreamers of the essential dreams,
And interpreters of the eternal truth,
Through the eternal beauty.
Poets these days are unfortunate fellows.
Baffled in trying to say old things in a new way
Or new things in an old language,
They talk abracadabra
In an unknown tongue,
Each one fashioning for himself
A wordy world of shadow problems,
And as a self-imagined Atlas,
Struggling under it with puny legs and arms,
Groaning out incoherent complaints at his load.

My son, this is no time nor place for a poet;
Grow up and join the big, busy crowd
That scrambles for what it thinks it wants
Out of this old world which is—as it is—
And, probably, always will be.

Take the advice of a father who knows:
You cannot begin too young
Not to be a poet.
James Weldon Johnson


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Joe McWilliams



Joined: 10 Feb 2012
Posts: 692


Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clever fellow, this Mr. Johnson. Today's poet labours in anonymity - or else he picks up a guitar and stands a half decent chance of making a living at it. Like Leonard Cohen did.

What I'm reading is Arturo Perez-Reverte's 'The Siege,' set in Cadiz in 1811. I turned to this when a book I had misplaced hopes for turned out to be a dud. It is called 'Claude and Camille,' by someone whose name I can't remember. It was awful. I've had such good luck in the past year or two reading novels based on paintings - The Swan Thieves, for example, and Luncheon of the Boating Party. So I thought I'd try another along those lines. A mistake.

Perez-Reverte I have no doubts about. He is a very good storyteller.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2993


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The goodreads site rates Claude and Camille higher than The Siege, Joe!  Though I find Goodreads rates every book between 3 and 4 - the result of averaging out oodles of ratings, I suspect.  The last few reviews there, though, gave C and C ratings of 1 or 2 and were very damning.  

I have had good luck reading books about sieges - The Conductor, for instance, by NZ writer Sarah Quigley.  Also The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.


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Joe McWilliams



Joined: 10 Feb 2012
Posts: 692


Location: Canada

PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caro, I ordered the C & C book on the basis of reviews, at least one of which said it was better than the books by Susan Vreeland I was considering. I fell for it. The author - whose name I am succeeding so far in not remembering - is about as subtle as a hog butcher. By the way, it's not the actual 'rating' I was paying attention to, but the written reviews.
Perhaps I'll try Sarah Quigley's book, on your recommendation. I recommend anything by Perez-Reverte, though I can warn you his is an unsentimental view of human nature.



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