Where’s The Proust?

Or- Why A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu Can’t Be Called The Greatest Novel Of All Time, And Nor Can Anything Else’

 

Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu is claimed as one of the greatest novels in world literature. It is a similar thing to how Citizen Kane or The Godfather are hailed as the greatest movies of all times or how Friends is supposedly the funniest sitcom ever made. Besides the claims being based on opinion (and then that opinion being shot out of a cannon as fact) they often do not stand up to scrutinity. Except for maybe Friends, (and this opinion isn’t going to win me any) they aren’t exactly terrible, but they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be either. Citizen Kane is watchable, memorable maybe, but there are an awful lot of movies that I’d rather sit down and watch instead. Same with The Godfather. It’s interesting, but very long and very dull at the same time. Which brings me back to Proust and the Recherche. Why is it labelled as one of the greatest novels in world literature?

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In A City, Overcast

My head is definitely not in any kind of right place right now. In fact, things are getting worse. What help I can actually get in these parts is next to useless when faced with the world as it is, what with all the noise and the idiocy and the disrespect… If I could get somewhere quiet, out of the way of other people, and I know just the place I want, then maybe I can start to get to better. Maybe anywhere else but here might be better for me.

Most of January has been bad and there have been days when I’ve not even had the guts to go five minutes down the road to the Post Office so I can cash in my Christmas money. It’s now the end of the month and I still haven’t done it. I know I have to do it soon but today is not a good day. One of the attempted Post Office runs was put off because I woke up feeling shitty after a night-terror flashback and another one has just now awoken me, leaving me shaken. One minute later, in the midst of an uncontrollable panic attack, I’ve left a massive, fist shaped dent in my pillow. It’s better than a few weeks ago when I cracked my head open on the ceiling, but still not good. Today is not the day for going out… I’m hardly well enough to go out. But I have to. I have to force myself into the fresh air, if not for the sake of my own mental health then for the sake of getting that Christmas money in the bank.

After an hour of calming myself down, I force myself to do it. I raid my spare change jar for some bus money, pack some books into my rucksack so I can drop them off at a charity shop somewhere, and then get the hell out of dodge. Continue reading

An Experiment In Old English

The English alphabet has not always been the same twenty six letters. Back in the days when English was still Old English there were, in fact, twenty four letters.  There was no K, J, Q or Z whilst U and V were the same letter. W did not yet exist as we know it, instead there was a letter known as the wynn. G did not always resemble a g, and there were two other letters, ash and thorn. Being a substantially different alphabet to modern English, I wondered what it would look like if a modern text were rendered into the Old English alphabet. I know it isn’t perfect Old English (the ċ I used to replace k probably wasn’t used instead of k, and as I couldn’t find how to get the Old English g symbol and so used a Middle English yogh instead) but I needed to at least make it half way legible. Did I manage that? Well see for yourself. I used the first two pages of the first Aunt Mable story and a link to the full thing (in modern English) is at the bottom. Enjoy!

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Elidyr | Short Story

This is an adaptation of ancient Welsh folk tale, said by some to be one of the oldest Welsh folk tales. This particular version was based on that related by Gerald of Wales and I have included some of my own additions and amendments in order to help with the telling. Continue reading

Collected Essays

Sometimes you find yourself flicking to that page in a book which lists all the other books by the author. The one nearest to me on the shelf, right now, is Brighton Rock by Graham Greene and it is a prime example. At the front is a list all Greene’s other books; Our Man in Havana, The Quiet American, The Captain and The Enemy, Travels With My Aunt. But then there is a small section at the bottom which says: Essays. Unlike some, these essay books have titles, Reflections, Mornings in The Dark… But one has that common denominator which you will usually see on such lists, especially lists by older writers and on lists at the back of ‘literary classics’ series, Collected Essays.

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Aunt Mable & The Dogs of War | Short Story

It has been a while since the last Aunt Mable story so, for those who want a recap and for those who are new, I’ll fill you in on what has been happening. On the day after the Second World War broke out a small, elderly figure came shuffling out of the North Wales fog. She was none other than Aunt Mable, unseen for seventy years and now returned (apparently for the duration.) Since then her nephews have attempted (and failed) to rid themselves of her, had to suffer the arrival of a live-in school mistress in the form of Mrs Mippsy (Nicknamed Tippsy) attempted to escape across the mountains and, finally, had their home invaded by evacuees. We pick things up just as the skies over Europe begin to turn ominously black…

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Penetrating Shakespeare’s Ring: The Secret Structure of The History Plays

It is rare that William Shakespeare’s history plays, or more specifically, the cycle of plays beginning with Richard II and ending with Richard III, are looked at in their entirety. This is true in both a theatrical sense, for it is a daunting challenge to take them all on all eight plays at once, as well as in an academic sense. Many scholars and academics argue that Shakespeare intended for each of the plays to be individual, to tell either five or eight separate stories, depending on how the academic in question wishes to divide them. I am, personally, very much against this argument. If Shakespeare intended the plays to be individual, why is the internal chronology so tight? Why does one play immediately precede the events of the other with almost no breaks between? Why is it that in order to fully appreciate and understand Richard III, you must first look to Henry VI? Why do the plays fit together so well?

There is an easy answer to dismiss those questions. The plays precede each other because, firstly, Shakespeare never failed to compress the events of a reign for reasons of practicality, and secondly, because that is the way history works. You would expect eight plays that take place within the same century to precede each other in some way. It can be argued that the same is true for why Richard III relies so heavily on Henry VI, because that is how history works. These are fair enough dismissals, but I would argue that, as a whole, the history plays are far too tight knit to have been intended individually. The internal chronology and continuity are too well woven together. The continuity, within the plays, is almost (but not entirely) flawless. You could just say that’s Shakespeare, he was just that good. But then, if the plays were meant to be separate, to be individual, how do you explain the chiasmic structure? How do you explain that, when put together, Shakespeare’s eight main history plays form a ring cycle? Continue reading