Posts Tagged ‘London’

J. Strange and Mr.Norrel

25% read in a week. I do move through if with much difficulty. For some reason, can’t make sense of the premise and it bores me:  if it’s a satire, on what? if an honest-to-god Dickens “cover”, what for?

The style itself, which seem the be the main source of enjoyment of multiple reviewers, is too outdated, too good an imitation of long-winded methodically-descriptive  XIXc. novels.

Or, maybe, it’s just the moment. I am in love with H.Mantel’s Cromwell, can’t wait my library’ turn for the second book  (Bring Up the Bodies). I am too entrenched in 1530’s, with accompanying no-nonsense, concise, logical and consequential life- and writing- style to appreciate S. Clarke’s convoluted message? And in a different time and mood she’d delight me?

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Good morning, UK!

Congrats, Tories and their fellow travelers.

I am not one, but anyone who beats Libs and Labour gets a cheer from me. Yay!

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Saccharine Abbey

Duke (or is it Earl?)* Kuragin with hairdo of a gypsy violinist! Making eyes in a carriage in exotic Sankt-Petersburg! Ex grand-duchess, now a possible prostitute in Hon Kong! Count Rostov, pulling chair for a lady like a good waiter he is (very suitable for his new station in life, I’m sure)!

* “Prince”, – see comments

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Julian Fellowes, Past Imperfect

This author is my Discovery of the Year. Read few quotations below and you’ll see why (among others, because of his uncommon understanding of importance of and ability to describe architecture & interiors). But you should – most definitely – read the whole thing, even if at the end it strongly reminded me of the plot and sentiments of Eugene Onegin.


Aargh! Now that explains it: Julian Kitchener-Fellowes is the scriptwriter for Gosford Park and “creator, executive producer and writer” for  Downton Abbey. Besides other titles.

I wonder sometimes why people can be so anxious to share their unsatisfactory domestic situation with strangers. It must be because it is often the only arena where they have the power to say what they think of the people concerned and there is some satisfaction in that.


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FutureLearn, week 7

Hardwick Hall

Turning for a bit of dry British humor, in the writings of that famous wit Oscar Wilde. We are following professor Andy Smith, closely reading passages from The Canterville Ghost and walking stately rooms of Hardwick Hall, with its heavy draperies, faded tapestries, turned furniture and gothic-plastered ceilings.

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FutureLearn, week 2

This week’s installment is slightly improved – apart from spot of anecdotes regarding the word “spots” – which, apparently, meant “sins” in 17th century and habitually referred to Puritans as well as baby nappies – we are taken into the High Great Chamber at Hardwick Hall built by Bess of -you guessed!- Hardwick and told at length about traveling companies of actors. Some interesting information; I didn’t think, f.i., that when traveling troupe took the name of their aristocratic patron it was a form of advertizing for said patron as well as actors.

To appreciate the magnificence of the famous windows one must see them from the inside. Ceiling heights are enormous, and it is amazing how much uninterrupted glass it was possible to produce in Elizabethan England.

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Copying here the agenda I am going thru right now:
Week 1: Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire

Photograph of Bolsover Castle

This is a strange and quirky holiday home, the Little Castle was completed around 1619, after having been designed by the great English architects Robert and John Smythson. It is adorned with magnificent wall paintings and ornate chimneypieces. It was a favourite residence of William Cavendish, later duke of Newcastle, and his second wife, Margaret. Margaret was one of the most important women writers of 17th century England, and we will read a portion of a letter that she published in ‘Sociable Letters’ (1664). That letter describes a ‘hurly burly’, or commotion at a dinner party. We also will look at a significant piece of countryside, Churchdale, where local people rioted against enclosures, and we will connect those riots to Ben Jonson’s early 17th century poem, ‘To Penshurst’. Bolsover is an English Heritage property.

First several chapters of this week’s reading has been devoted to understanding what “close reading” is, using exerpts from Shakespeare’s 12th Night. As someone who lived through Soviet school with its mandated classroom analysis of classical literature I’ll tell you: the subject is all to familiar to me – and I really can do without. The reason I joined the course was to get closer to architecture of beautiful English manor houses and learn few historical anecdotes along the way, to exercise my failing memory. Not to get back to boring Q&As of the type “-What did the author wanted to say by…XYZ?” “Describe the character of female protagonist in your own words…”, “Was the last paragraph ironic, serious or comical?”, etc etc etc.

Half-way through the week’s lesson and still no mention of architecture…what am I doing wasting this valuable Saturday, on a beautiful day like this?

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