Literary Journal Mondays

February 17, 2014 at 7:39 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Granta

Remember the zine movement? (No? Visit Snapdragon Zine Fair) Ah, the 90’s and early 2000’s.  Except that’s not where it started.  No, it began long ago, and still goes on, in Literary Journals.

McSweeneys9McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern comes to mind.

But do you remember Granta? (or Paris Review, or Soho Square, or The Quarterly, or countless others?)

My eyes tend to rest on Granta when I’m in a bookstore.  Such colorful spines… printed by Penguin.

Today, #24 Inside Intelligence pops out at me… “Her Majesty’s Government does not want you to know about the life of Anthony Cavendish,” the cover reads.  There’s a huge circular stamp in the bottom right corner: BANNED IN BRITAIN.  How do you pass that up?

What follows is a spirited and creative journalistic effort to share news in the form of intelligent literature.  Photographs and interviews you wouldn’t get in a newspaper, writing worthy of Pulitzers (and sometimes even written by Pulitzer winners).  Just in Granta #24 alone, Philip Roth, Peter Carey, Tobias Wolff, Bruce Chatwin, and E.L. Doctorow all grace us with their presence.

The world of literary journals is a fascinating and amazing one that goes back centuries.

Notes and QueriesPaul Collins wrote an essay called “121 Years of Solitude” for Bookmark Now about his own journeys through a literary journal called Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men – a weekly magazine from the Victorian era.  Collins’ memoir-like essay of his time spent in the Portland, Oregon library is one I dive into regularly, envious of his access and ability to take time to develop a daily library routine.  Bus rides downtown, coffee, grand staircases, Notes and Queries, the entire endeavor sounds heavenly to me.

I don’t have time in my life – or the ability, as a mom of a three year old – to replicate a similar endeavor right now.   But, the idea of taking an extra 30 minutes to an hour each Monday to peruse a literary journal that graces the shelves of my existing Monday routine (Good Books in the Woods) sounds plausible.

So here’s to Literary Journal Mondays – may they be more consistent than my Weekly Low Down of Kids Books (which happens sporadically throughout most months instead).

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A Shropshire Morning

February 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000979Title: A Shropshire Lad

Author: A.E. Housman

Publisher: Penguin (Classics)

Genre: Poetry (English Journeys)

I know I just posted on this very same title yesterday, but I’ve been reading through it over my morning coffee on this cold, rainy day, and I couldn’t keep myself from sharing the best parts.

A. E. Housman (1859–1936).  A Shropshire Lad.  1896.
XLVIII. Be still, my soul, be still
BE still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle,
  Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong.
Think rather,—call to thought, if now you grieve a little,
  The days when we had rest, O soul, for they were long.
Men loved unkindness then, but lightless in the quarry         5
  I slept and saw not; tears fell down, I did not mourn;
Sweat ran and blood sprang out and I was never sorry:
  Then it was well with me, in days ere I was born.
Now, and I muse for why and never find the reason,
  I pace the earth, and drink the air, and feel the sun.         10
Be still, be still, my soul; it is but for a season:
  Let us endure an hour and see injustice done.
Ay, look: high heaven and earth ail from the prime foundation;
  All thoughts to rive the heart are here, and all are vain:
Horror and scorn and hate and fear and indignation—         15
  Oh why did I awake? when shall I sleep again?

This melted me to my core.  Melted me into a state of beautiful stillness, and I couldn’t keep that to myself.  It’s so calming, so true, and so utterly gorgeous.

Not just for his poetry itself, Housman is inspiring because his work is so good and back in 1896 he was essentially self-published.  Publishers turned this beautiful work down over and over again until finally he decided to publish the title at his own expense.  Originally he wanted to call it The Poems of Terrence Hearsay, but was encouraged to change it.  Sales lagged until about 1899 when the Second Boer War broke out and profits have surged for Housman’s work during every time of war since – especially World War I.  Though this surprised the poet, it is not surprising to me… the entire work is about loss.  There is much solace in reading about loss when you have lost or anticipate it soon.

Don’t be surprised if Housman is revisited often on this blog.

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Shropshire Lasses (and dog)

February 1, 2014 at 8:12 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000955Title:A Shropshire Lad

Author: A.E. Housman

Publisher: Penguin (Classics)

Genre: Poetry (English Journeys)

A few years ago I became completely hooked on the Penguin Great Ideas series. I think they’re wonderful pocket sized source documents to keep around the house. I also love the Great Journeys… and now, I have a small collection of English Journeys as well.

The kiddo and I love scampering through the woods.  We also love reading outside.  These little paperbacks are the perfect books to tag along for our wooded adventures and frolics in the park.

Not to mention that, today, I think Housman became my favorite male poet – a title previously held by William Carlos Williams.  The two are nothing alike.  But I am nothing like who I was when William Carlos Williams was awarded his place on my mental pedestal.

Where William Carlos Williams amused me with “This is Just to Say”:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I was in middle school when I discovered this.  For some reason I found this bluntness endearing.  I thought, “What a wonderful jerk to address poetry with such sarcasm.”

I don’t want poetry to be sarcastic anymore.  I don’t appreciate the uncaring witticism the same way.

I do, however, love this:

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they’ll say that I
Am quite myself again

– “A Shropshire Lad: XVIII”

Ok, well, it seems it’s always the jerk lines that appeal to me.  But at least it’s not about stealing plums anymore.  Housman has real heart and soul as he describes landscapes and lovers, crickets and dead soldiers, the woods and the very real feelings of longing for something that has gone.   All so beautiful and natural; and the pattern in which he writes lends itself to easily reading it aloud outdoors while the kiddo plays.

P1000956

The dog seemed to enjoy it too.  He stopped to look at me every time a poem ended as though I was denying him the chance to be included in the written word of humans.

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Penguin Books bring Human Happiness

January 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm (Reviews) (, , , , )

Please click to visit the great blog where I got this picture.

Title: Human Happiness

Author: Blaise Pascal

Publisher: Penguin Books

Genre: Non-fiction, Theology, Philosophy

Length: 106 pages

“Men are so inevitably mad that not to be mad would be to give a mad twist to madness.” – Blaise Pascal

There’s something magical about reading the thoughts and opinions of someone who died three hundred and twenty some odd years before you were born.  To experience theology, reason, or even the lack thereof, through the eyes of someone so ancient is exciting.  That’s why I love Penguin’s Great Ideas series.

I’ve mentioned this love before in my Conspicuous Consumption review, but every time I pick up one of these pocket sized source documents, I’m reminded of what a treasure knowledge and books can be.

Throughout history, some books have changed the world.  They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other.  They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution.  They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted.  They have enriched live – and destroyed them.  Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are. – Penguin Books

I love that Blaise Pacal was included in this group of writers and definitely find his material that of the “enriching” nature.  It was extra special, to read this particular author knowing that my oldest nephew was named after him.  And as usual, upon completion, I can’t wait to read my next Great Ideas book.

Buy Human Happiness Today

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