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Posts Tagged ‘Dylan Thomas’

The Swansea Boy

October 27, 2014 | by


High Street, Swansea, Wales, ca. 1930.

Today is the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth. Paul Ferris’s “Ink Is Wanted by Raving Brother: Dylan Thomas’s Swansea Years”—an oral history of the poet’s youth and early years in Wales—appeared in our Spring 2004 issue. The excerpt below explores Thomas’s brief, unhappy stint as a reporter.

In 1931, probably after the summer term, Dylan Thomas left school and went to work for the local newspaper, the South Wales Daily Post. He was sixteen years old. The paper was in fact an evening title, part of a London-based chain, and changed its name to Evening Post soon after. Its early editions circulated throughout southwest Wales, but the core readership was in the Swansea area. Local commerce and politics were featured to a degree unheard of in today’s vacuous local tabloids. The editor, J. D. Williams, assumed that his readers (some of them, at least) cared about music, theater, and poetry.

CHARLES FISHER (A lifelong friend of Thomas’s, and a fellow reporter.): His father probably got the job on the paper for him through J. D. Williams, as my father got me mine—he was head machinist there, he ran the rotary press. And since I had some talent for writing simple sentences, it was thought I could become a reporter. No one challenged that idea. I followed Dylan as a reader’s boy, a copyholder, and took that vacancy created when he moved on to be a junior reporter. I copyheld for about six months, then I was promoted to the newsroom. We wrote everything up in a strange, constricting, old-fashioned prose that really belonged to reporting at the start of the century. No one thought of treating news any other way. But our image of ourselves was a Chicago newsroom, the black hat turned down, the knowing look, the cigarette never removed once lit—which was a habit Dylan kept to the end.

ERIC HUGHES (A journalist, older than Thomas, and never very fond of his younger colleague.): I think Dylan was on the Post less than a year. I was a sub-editor, and when you saw his copy, it was appalling, with many lacunae. Nor was he reliable. To my knowledge, he wrote a crit of the Messiah at one of the St. Thomas chapels, to which he didn’t bother to go. Half his time was spent in the David Evans Café where they gave you a free State Express cigarette with your coffee. Read More »


The Little Shrimp

October 27, 2014 | by


A postcard of the Little Shrimp.

One imagines that lots of Dylan Thomas devotees are marking his centenary by making a pilgrimage to the White Horse Tavern, where the dissolute poet famously downed those last fatal eighteen whiskeys. For their sake, we hope the White Horse is not thronged with frat boys, although I guess they have as much right to pay their respects as anyone. More, maybe. 

Naturally, any Thomas-themed New York walking tour—and there are several, guided and otherwise—includes the White Horse, the sites of his other watering holes, and perhaps St. Vincent’s hospital, where he died. Personally, I prefer to focus on a happier landmark from Thomas’s New York days: the Little Shrimp. This restaurant—a favorite of the poet’s when he was in residence at the Hotel Chelsea—is where, in 1952, the young, audacious Barbara Cohen and Marianne Rooney approached Thomas about making recordings for their new line of spoken-word records. The result was Caedmon Records—the source of many of Thomas’s iconic recordings—and the classic record A Child’s Christmas in WalesRead More »

Faulkner’s Cocktail of Choice

December 31, 2013 | by


In honor of the new year, we are bringing you some of your favorite posts from 2013. Happy holidays!

When I first started working at Kings County Distillery, in the summer of 2010, I was delighted to find the job provided ample time to read. Whiskey making has its own peculiar rhythm. Each batch begins in a flurry, as one juggles a series of tasks like a line cook, but ends in a hush, with little to do but watch the languorous drip of the stills.

This was in the wobbly-legged days of the company’s infancy, before we moved into the grand old brick paymaster building in the Brooklyn Navy Yards. Back then we were based out of a studio space on Meadow Street with wooden floors and five-gallon steel pot stills that had to be emptied, scaldingly, by hand. (This, as our former downstairs neighbors can attest, would prove an unfortunate combination of circumstances.) During that first summer, we worked singly, in nine-hour shifts, so there was a lot of alone time. So, unless one wanted to lose one’s goddamn mind in that little room, one read. Read More »


What We’re Loving: Racetrack Murals, Lovers, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

December 20, 2013 | by


One of my favorite novels of the past few years is Andrés Neuman’s Traveler of the Century, an ambitious “total novel” that is many things: a love story, a murder mystery, and, most of all, a novel of ideas. While his latest, Talking to Ourselves, is much more brief and intimate, it is no less moving and intelligent. And while Traveller was set in an imaginary place, Talking to Ourselves is grounded in our reality, alternating between the voices of a father, mother, and son as they all deal with the father’s illness. None of them dares to express the complete the truth to the other two; instead, it’s up to us to put the pieces together. As the mother, Elena, expresses near the end, “Let’s be honest. All honesty is a little posthumous.” —Justin Alvarez

When I last left America, an airport official confiscated Dos Passos’s USA trilogy to reduce my hand-luggage; I learnt my lesson and flew back in bearing only one light paperback, Open City by Teju Cole. As I read it over three months, its narrator, Julius, walked through the same streets of New York (then Brussels and back to New York) in a headspace James Wood astutely calls “productive alienation,” nourishing common encounters on the street with memories (of his father’s funeral, Nigeria, schoolmates illnesses, the first illicit consumption of a pornographic magazine or a Coca Cola). His narrative is besieged by loss, and calibrated, in the end, to omit rather than include. Cole’s novel is paradoxical, “turned in on itself” as Manhattan itself is: “water was a kind of embarrassing secret, the unloved daughter, neglected, while the parks were doted on, fussed over, overused.” —Lucie Elven

“Years and years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed.” If one story conjures the youthful enchantment of tossing snowballs at neighborhood cats and building snowmen, of chimneys emitting plumes of smoke, surely it must be Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Published in a slim blue volume by New Directions, this comic tale of family and friends of Christmas past is sure to delight; I joyfully revisit Thomas’s word-drunk reverie each year. —Adam Winters

This week I’ve been reading the Barbara Bray translation of Marguerite Duras’s L’amant (The Lover). On more than one occasion I found myself reading it aloud, not just to hear the pleasant tensions of translation, but to also listen to the heartache of Duras’s language. Against the backdrop of prewar Indochina, Duras paints the most tempestuous of love affairs. Yet amidst the novel’s unabated despair—the affaire de coeur, the family torn asunder by poverty, the mother’s madness, the young girl’s insatiable desire for another young girl’s body—shines a beacon of hope: the narrator’s inexorable determination to become a writer. “I’m still part of the family, it’s there I live to the exclusion of everywhere else. It’s in its aridity, it’s terrible harshness, its malignancy, that I’m most deeply sure of myself, at the heart of my essential certainty, the certainty that later on I’ll be a writer.” To second Maxine Hong Kingston’s remarks in her Introduction to the novel, “The Lover is a story about a girl and a woman becoming an artist.” —Caitlin Youngquist

Sportswriter Joe Palmer once warned that those of us who’ve spent time at the races may develop an “unreasonable fondness for certain places,” and if you’ve ever been to Aqueduct—the neon lights, the cinderblock walls, the geriatric thugs crowding the parimutuel windows—no doubt you’re familiar with the sentiment. A certain charm, one might say, if one were drunk on Wild Turkey—and yet the kids have not caught on, or at least not yet. The New York Racing Association recently commissioned thirteen street artists to liven up those cinderblock walls, resulting in several murals diverse in style, size and subject matter (including portraiture based on archival photos supplied by the NYRA). On a recent afternoon the grizzled throngs were still in evidence, though I also spied a few fresh-faced twenty-somethings looking only slightly ill at ease. Aqueduct’s current meet runs through December 31. —Abby Gibbon



Dylan Thomas: Under Milk Wood

May 15, 2013 | by


Via the 92nd Street Y, the only known recorded performance of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, which Thomas premiered at the Y in 1953.



Literary Vinyl

February 28, 2013 | by

6a00d83451da9669e2017c37089525970b-400wiThis is a niche we can get behind: so-called literary vinyl, defined by the Times Literary Supplement blog as “spoken word LPs, singles, and those oddly appealing 10-inch discs.” Collector Greg Gatenby is selling off his 1,700-strong collection for $80,000. But for those of us who grew up listening to 78s of A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Bread and Jam for Frances, the memories are, as the credit-card commercials would say, priceless.