Posts Tagged ‘history’
February 5, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“It’s an odd thing but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant not with the teller but with you. They don’t want to have their ideas upset. It rouses some vague uneasiness in them, I think, and they resent it. So they reject it and refuse to think about it. If they were merely indifferent it would be natural and understandable. But it is much stronger than that, much more positive. They are annoyed. Very odd, isn’t it.”
November 6, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
“Religious ideas have the fate of melodies, which, once set afloat in the world, are taken up by all sorts of instruments, some of them woefully coarse, feeble, or out of tune, until people are in danger of crying out that the melody itself is detestable.”
―George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life
On November 6, 1856, thirty-six-year-old Mary Ann Evans, a well-regarded intellectual and essayist, submitted a manuscript to Blackwood’s Magazine. It would run, in three installments, throughout the next year. And under the title Scenes of Clerical Life, the three stories would become George Eliot’s first published work of fiction.
Her rationale for adopting the pen name was manifold; she both wished to avoid the stigma of the saccharine “lady novelist” and divorce the work from her own reputation. Evans, after all, was an outspoken agnostic and lived with a married man. The latter point was especially crucial given the subject of her fictional debut. These precautions notwithstanding, the book―which takes place in a country village over the course of fifty years―was the subject of some controversy amongst those who feared they had been lampooned. And while sales were respectable, if not brisk, and it won the praise of such luminaries as Dickens, today it is regarded more as a key part of the author’s development than as a masterpiece in its own right.
November 5, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys,
God save the King!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
A penny loaf to feed ol' Pope.
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
November 5, 2012 | by Dave Tompkins
The Invisible Man, neat freak by design, was known to fuss over the grit beneath his fingernails. According to British horror historian Denis Gifford, dirt threatened transparency. In A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, Gifford sees “a pair of disembodied trousers skipping down the lane to ‘Here We Come Gathering Nuts in May.’” The hands are clean.
For Gifford, the devil was in the details, if not in all of us: “We who came to stare only see ourselves.” Or through ourselves. He notes the shabbiness of Mr. Hyde’s tailcoat, and the yak-hair transplants on the Wolfman’s face. Also important: “a sinister sofa,” controlled by an underground switchboard operated by a man in a wig. And Frankenstein’s homunculus, taken out by a falling crossbeam no fewer than four times in his film career.
These images were filtered through words I’d just discovered. Until last week, I had never actually read the most important book of my childhood. The text had gone unseen. My mother had given A Pictorial History of Horror Movies to my brothers as a Christmas gift in 1973. She still cheerily refers to it as “that book with the girl with the hatchet in her head.” I was forbidden to read it but was never told I couldn’t look at it. Read More »
October 1, 2012 | by Maria Konnikova
Babie leto. The summer of old women. Even today, years after leaving Russia, that’s what I always call Indian summer in my head. The stress on the first syllable, the second merging seamlessly into that bright le of false warmth. The time of year I’m happiest to live where I do, forgiving for once the winter cold that lasts just a little too long, the days that grow just a little too short a little too quickly—and then seem to stay there indefinitely. The summer of the old women. I’ve often wondered why it is that some elderly hags should get special claim to these days of deceptive warmth, what it is in the ember of reds and honeyed yellows of the leaves that calls to them above everyone else. It seems somehow unfair, that privileged ownership.
A falling spindle of fine thread, catching the rays of the sun on its way down from the sky, letting the light play off its gossamer thinness. The flower crab spider’s web carried through the air by the autumn wind. It’s the finely spun yarn of a young girl who has been weaving without rest for days and nights on end. Long, long ago she was kidnapped by the sun, and now, she must spend her endless lifetime spinning fine thread for his pleasure. On the bright, clear days of babie leto, you can see her handiwork spiraling through the air. She is the woman of the second summer. And she may be timeless, but old she most certainly is not.
A lumbering long-haired creature of mythological proportions who comes out of hiding with the first notes of warmth that follow the early fall cold. His name is Baba. His hair is like a collection of finely spun spider’s webs—and he can use it to tickle people to their deaths. He is the true owner of those waning days of warmth, old women be damned. They’d better watch out for his deceptively inviting hair.
There are the more prosaic explanations, of course. Read More »
September 18, 2012 | by Pamela Petro
It’s pronounced “here-eyeth” (roll the “r”) and it’s a Welsh word. It has no exact cognate in English. The best we can do is “homesickness,” but that’s like the difference between hardwood and laminate. Homesickness is hiraeth-lite. A quick history lesson is a good idea before a definition: in 1282 Wales became the first colony of the English empire. Because England eventually ruled half the globe, we all know its first colony by the name the colonizers gave it: Wales, which means “Place of the Others,” or “Place of the Romanized Foreigners.”
So that’s how the Welsh—the original Britons—became “foreigners” on their own island. Talk about a semantic insult. To Welsh speakers Wales is Cymru (pronounced Kum-ree): home of the Cymry, or fellow countrymen. But not too many schoolkids outside Llandysul know that. Arthur—the once-breathing chieftain, not Merlin’ s once-and-future pal—lived around the time the name “Wales” stuck, in the sixth century. He tried to hold back the English (really the Saxons) and failed. Then in 1282 Llywelyn failed too. He was the last Welsh-born Prince of Wales, aptly named The Last, and he was killed in battle by soldiers of Edward I. After that Wales became a subject state. Since then time’s centrifuge has spun it to the margins of history. Wales is a poor, rural place of mountains and ribboning hills with empty underground pockets where its coal used to be, but which, miraculously, has clung to its birthright language. Twenty years ago Welsh was spoken by eighteen percent of the population, mainly elderly folk in isolated areas. Today twenty-two percent speak it, including a burgeoning segment of young professionals who’ve helped create things like Gweplyfr (Facebook) and Twitr (Twitter).