The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Sir Walter Scott’

The Sporting Life

November 28, 2012 | by

Discussing the recent damage done to the Poe House and Museum earlier, I mentioned in passing that Baltimore was the only American city to have honored a local literary light. Well, our ever-vigilant readers were quick to remind us of other bookish squads around the globe.

The Toronto Argonauts, we were informed, “just won Canada’s Grey Cup in Homeric fashion.” (One could theoretically make an argument for the Spartans, too.) Edinburgh’s Heart of Midlothian Football Club may have technically been named for a jail, but it was Walter Scott’s 1818 novel, The Heart of Midlothian, that made the title globally famous.

And if we’re really digging deep, it wouldn’t do to ignore the 2012 London Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville. While, officially, the latter is named for named for Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the estimable Medieval Material Culture Blog makes a compelling case for another (possibly subconscious) motivation:

These mascots would be right at home with all of the fantastical peoples described in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. And he certainly does an amazing amount of international travel for a 14th century Englishman—as far afield as Egypt, Persia, Syria, Ethiopia, Amazonia, and so on.

Granted, he has nothing to do with athletic competition, as far as I recall. And it is a bit, er, fanciful. But I could see these mascots being modern-day descendants, perhaps, of the peoples of the islands around Dondun.

And surely, some of these Dondunese islanders would be strong contenders for medals—the ones with horses’ hooves, who are “strong and mighty, and swift runners; for they take wild beasts with running, and eat them” could win the marathon. The ones “that go upon their hands and their feet as beasts, … all skinned and feathered, and they will leap as lightly into trees, and from tree to tree, as it were squirrels or apes”—well, that sounds like an amazing gymnastic routine right there, doesn’t it?

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A Partial Inventory of Gustave Flaubert’s Personal Effects

August 15, 2012 | by

As Catalogued by M. Lemoel on May 20, 1880, Twelve Days after the Writer's Death.

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Staff Picks: Bathtub Reading, Germaine Tailleferre

December 23, 2011 | by

“Is it dreamed,” Jude asked Teddy, “or dreamt?” From the first sentence of Ten Thousand Saints, you know you’re dealing with a real novelist. Eleanor Henderson’s debut, about a Vermont stoner in 1980s New York, slipped under my radar. (Apparently no one else missed it—it appears on every best-of list from The New York Times to O.) If only I owned a bathtub, I’d be reading it there right now.  —Lorin Stein

What a thrill to discover that Spotify has all of Germaine Tailleferre’s piano works! The only woman in the group of French avant-garde composers knows as Les Six, Tailleferre’s engaging, inventive compositions make for perfect winter listening. —Sadie Stein

It took me weeks, and several recommendations, to sit down and read Zach Baron’s fifteen-thousand-word article on Hunter S. Thompson (“a savant at … writerly failure”), the self-loathing of journalism, traffic jams, desert hackers, and the depressing truth of Las Vegas, but I’m glad that I did. It’s territory that could be trite but here feels both thoughtful and fresh. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I think I’ve discovered literature’s best (literal) snake: Kaa, from Kipling’s Jungle Book—specifically at the end of the chapter “Kaa’s Hunting.” After barreling into a terrified throng of monkeys and bashing through a stone wall with his head, the massive rock python begins coiling and uncoiling his more than six feet of body in a mesmerizing slow dance that lures all who watch into his deadly grip. Chilling! —Nicole Rudick

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Well-Read Lovers; Constant Rejection

November 18, 2011 | by

This week we asked our friend Angus Trumble to give us the benefit of his wisdom—and received an embarras de richesses. Thanks to all for your questions and to Angus for his answers; there was none we could bear to cut. By day Angus is the senior curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art. By night, and sometimes also by day, he blogs on such topics as the euro crisis, the Ladies of Bethany, and his own globe-trotting adventures.

Dear Angus,
Do the best readers make the best lovers? Would you be more likely to break up with someone if they never read, or read all the time?

I am flattered that you feel I have the necessary qualifications to provide an accurate answer to this question. In my experience, the well-read can be excellent lovers, although there are times when a specific literary prompt may inhibit the natural flow, as for example when one’s partner genuinely believes himself to be some sort of Vronsky, when in fact he lacks the magnificent build, military bearing, disposable income, or even the remotest capacity to smolder. I can quite confidently say that it is unlikely that I would ever commence a relationship with a person who never read, which removes the need to break up with him. My parents’ marriage survived a period in the late fifties, when my mother read the complete works of Sir Walter Scott, evidently led in his direction by a genetically encoded taste for the lowering mist, gloomy crags, and bloodstained crofts and glens of the Highlands of Scotland. On the whole, therefore, I am for readers—although it is also true that I would immediately eject anyone whom I caught in bed with a romantic novel by the late Dame Barbara Cartland.

Have you ever had a story accepted for publication through a slush pile?

As a matter of fact I have, although it was a book review and not a story. My first long article for The Times Literary Supplement was entirely unsolicited and dealt with what struck me at the time as a wholly new and remarkable historical analysis of, of all things, the epidemiology of the Black Death. To my astonishment, in due course this offering propelled me onto the front cover, together with an enormously magnified photograph of a plague-carrying flea. So there is hope.

What should you do if you don’t like a book halfway through? How do you know when you should give it up?

For years, far too many years, I fell into the dangerous trap of being determined to finish a book despite having reached the conclusion half way through—or at the very least having become deeply suspicious—that in all probability this would not give me pleasure or profit. Yet essentially I am an optimist, and therefore, I suppose, when faced with undeniable evidence that a novel in which I am immersed is, for example, a bleak and depressing saga of frustrated sexual longing and entirely populated by characters of scarcely conceivable dullness, part of me hopes that twenty pages hence there awaits bright flashes of comic genius that may yet salvage the experience. Optimistic though I continue to be, from the vantage point of comfortable middle age I can now say that this is never true and that certainly the healthiest, most sensible, and efficient strategy is to abandon ship.

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