The Daily

On the Shelf

Spoiler Alert, and Other News

February 16, 2016 | by

The Death of Chatterton

Henry Wallis, The Death of Chatterton, 1856, oil paint on canvas.

  • To die in literature is to achieve fictional immortality, argues John Williams. “Just a cursory list of memorable deaths (spoilers ahead) can make all of literature seem like one long Edward Gorey strip: Cathy in Wuthering Heights; Beth in Little Women; Piggy in Lord of the Flies; Cordelia in King Lear; more or less everyone in Hamlet; Leonard Bast in Howards End; Anna Karenina; and perhaps most agonizingly, the small children in Jude the Obscure.”
  • Conversely: “15 Books to Read if You Love a Shocking Plot Twist.” (At some point, Hamlet would have made this list.)
  • Stéphane Heuet’s controversial—but wildly popular—graphic novelization of À la recherche du temps perdu has finally hit the UK. One reviewer—a Proust virgin—finds it “a good and gentle place to start. Sumptuous, elegant and beautifully paced, it is completely absorbing. Will it send me to the real thing? Maybe, one day. But whatever happens, this volume is a work of art in its own right. I’ll be forever glad to have spent so much time bent over it.”
  • The following link is not included at all because it is illustrated by an image of a dollhouse. On the contrary, that is of no interest to us whatsoever. What is: a tribute to the late novelist Margaret Forster (she died February 8th) and her memoir, My Life in Houses. “As Forster moves from room to flat to house so the progress of her life reflects the pattern woven by childhood, academia, love, marriage, a career as a writer and then motherhood while a series of individuals who have marked her life inhabit the shadows within the structure of the bricks and mortar of the book. From her hard-working mother, her altruistic grandfather George, her two Oxford landladies, the imperious lace-capped Mrs. Brown, ‘straight out of Jane Austen’ and her tiny, deceptively smiley sister Fanny, who ran the house in a state of ‘suppressed fury’, to Sixties dinner parties at home with three of the four Beatles, each character takes up position fleetingly.”
  • Let’s just get it out of the way: you are about to read the words Mahler grooves. Besides everything else, this is sort of false advertising; Mahler does not groove so much as write a Sixth Symphony which has been widely interpreted—and reordered—by any number of conductors. The oiid app is pretty groovy, though: it allows you to effectively “step inside a performance,” exploring the recordings of a number of conductors against the score and, in the process, learn a new appreciation for the complex work. As Leonard Bernstein wrote, the Sixth contains “basic elements (including clichés) of German music, driven to their furious ultimate power. Result: Neurotic intensity, irony, extreme sentimentalism, despair … ” In other words, Tuesday.