Posts Tagged ‘Katherine Mansfield’
June 9, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- “In 1919 John Middleton Murry was appointed editor of the London literary magazine The Athenaeum. Shortly afterward, in a rare case of felicitous nepotism, he hired his wife Katherine Mansfield to be its fiction reviewer … from her very first column she’s frank about the terrible ephemerality of most fiction, and the trap both reviewers and readers can fall into by hitching themselves to a brand new novel’s rapidly dying star … Mansfield openly wonders why anyone should bother with new novels at all.”
- Eugene Goostman, a computer program masquerading as a thirteen-year-old Ukrainian boy, has become the first artificial intelligence to pass the Turing Test: in five-minute text conversations, it fooled more than 30 percent of humans into thinking it was a person.
- Why did a beluga whale named Noc try to emulate human speech? “He sounds, on first hearing, at least, less like a person talking than a delirious drunk humming an atonal tune through a tissue-covered comb … But the science behind Noc’s mimicry and its apparent motives reveals something far more urgent and haunting: the spectral outpourings of a young white whale calling to us across both time and the vast linguistic divide between humans and the other animals.”
- And while we’re discussing animals, “What kind of a person looks upon the world’s largest land animal—a beast that mourns its dead and lives to retirement age and can distinguish the voice of its enemies—and instead of saying ‘Wow!’ says something like ‘Where's my gun?’” Wells Tower reports from one of the last elephant hunts in Botswana.
- The most transgressive song of 1909: “If we listen closely to ‘I Love, I Love, I Love My Wife—But Oh! You Kid!’ we may hear a surprising lesson: that the culture-quaking shocks, the salaciousness and transgression we associate with blues and jazz and rock and hip-hop, first arrived in American pop many years earlier.”
October 14, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
March 18, 2013 | by Kirsten O'Regan
In “Je Ne Parle Pas Français,” a short story by Katherine Mansfield, the narrator muses: “I believe that people are like portmanteaux—packed with certain things, started going, thrown about, tossed away, dumped down, lost and found, half emptied suddenly, or squeezed fatter than ever, until finally the Ultimate Porter swings them on to the Ultimate Train and away they rattle …”
Mansfield’s own Train has proved to be less Ultimate than she may have hoped. Despite sharp instructions to her husband to publish as little as possible after her death, the enterprising John Middleton Murry quickly set about curating her legacy. He perceptively noted (with, one imagines, a gleeful rubbing of hands), “Since Katherine Mansfield’s death, the interest in her personality has steadily increased.” It was, he explained, his duty to make known her private correspondence, the stories she was unsatisfied with, the journals in which she had recorded her thoughts.
It has been a lively afterlife. In the ninety years since Mansfield’s death, her work has never been out of print; the same stories repeatedly reedited and reissued in newer, more “authentic” editions. Biographies have multiplied, clamoring for validation like conspiracy theorists. Scholars have greedily rummaged through this particular portmanteau, each emerging with quite irreconcilable portraits of the author. Read More »
February 19, 2013 | by Evan James
On the Saturday closest to my thirtieth birthday, I went out on the town with Andrew and Izzy, two of my Highbury flatmates. With my time in dreamy Wellington drawing to a close—to say nothing of my waning metabolic rate—the need to run a little wild at the end of an afternoon spent contemplating fiction felt realer than ever.
To this end our trio wound up, at three in the morning, after hours of dancing, walking toward a Burger King on the corner of Cuba and Manners. This Burger King occupies the ground floor of a heritage building with an Edwardian Baroque façade. Once home to the first Te Aro branch of the Bank of New Zealand, the building now shoulders what the local government describes as “considerable townscape significance.”
“My uncle used to be the president of Burger King,” said Andrew, sitting across from me and eating fries. The Burger King before us teemed with loud, drunken revelers.
“I can one-up you,” said Izzy. “My grandfather used to be the chairman of the National Front.”
“What’s the National Front?” I asked.
“You don’t know what the National Front is?” said Izzy. “Are you kidding me? Fucking Americans!”
“Look,” I said. “I know about a lot of things outside of America. I can’t know about all of them.”
“You know what the Klu Klux Klan is,” said Izzy.
“Well, of course.”
“It’s like the Klan, but in the UK.” Read More »
July 24, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
February 28, 2012 | by Jonathan Gharraie
I met Helen Simpson for a genial pub lunch near Dartmouth Park in North London on the day she received the American edition of In-Flight Entertainment: Stories. She was evidently quite pleased by the book’s spare but elegant design, which looks through an airplane window onto a locket of cerulean sky. I’m tempted to draw comparisons to her stories, many of which peek at other people’s blitheness, or cruelty, or dreams of escape. But nothing in Simpson’s fiction is quite as peaceful as that glimpse of blue. She is perhaps best known for the characterization of contemporary motherhood in her collections, but many of the stories in In-Flight Entertainment confront the prospect of climate change.
Your collections are never quite themed, but they do feel very painstakingly designed. Was that true for In-Flight Entertainment?
In-Flight Entertainment is my little climate-change suite, I suppose. But there are fifteen stories in it, and only five are about climate change. My only rule is to write about what’s interesting to me at the time. It’s a great subject, but it’s very hard to dramatize or to make particular, and not to hector, not to moralize.
There are plenty of experts in these stories. There’s Jeremy in the title story as well as amateur researchers like Angelika in “The Tipping Point” and G in “Diary of an Interesting Year.” They don’t seem to benefit from their knowledge.
Well, it alienates people from them. That’s the trouble. Did you ever watch that episode of The Simpsons shortly after Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out? It is spoofed as An Irritating Truth. It is an irritating truth and no one wants to hear someone sounding off about it, and particularly not when they’re about to go on holiday.
Stories are good for uncomfortable things, for uncomfortable subjects. They’re not generally relaxing. Novels are more relaxing. You just give up to the novel, you go into its bath, you submit to it. You don’t with a story. You’re more alert as a reader, and more critical. If it doesn’t grab you by the second sentence, it’s done. Whereas with a novel, people will give it a couple of chapters before they abandon it. Read More »