Monthly Archives: November 2013

Done editing!

A brief note just to say that I have now finished editing the poetry collection that I have been working on intermittently for the past three and a half years or so, and which I really stepped up with over this summer. I will keep reading it through over the coming month to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and hope to try to submit it to various publishers in the new year.

If anyone from Faber & Faber is reading this, then feel free to get in touch and offer me a deal!

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Flowering spiderplants

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Just a quick post- the spiderplant that I have sitting on our kitchen windowsill has begun to flower, which I never even knew that they did. I am aware that they usually produce plantlets throough asexual reproduction, which bud off from the long inflorescences and then afix themselves in the soil, but never realised that they were also capable of flower production. In part, this is because the spiderplant my parents had as I was growing up (and which they still have) has never produced flowers in the 18 or so years since we first had it, and also because I have never thought about reading up on them. The flowers look quite pretty, but don’t last very long, which is a shame, but there are more closed bud, so there should be more flowers soon. I just thought that I’d share it!

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A new purchase- Matthew Prior’s ‘Poems on Several Occasions’

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This post regarding a new book purchase is dedicated to the individual book, as I thought that it warranted a small amount of description and further images. I came across this book at the weekend on the book stall at my church’s Christmas Fair, and paid 50p for it. It may look slightly worn, and is a copy of the first volume of a collection of poems by Matthew Prior, (whom I had never heard of until now), ‘Poems on Several Occasions’. However, the thing that drew me to it was this title page:

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Incase you can’t see the date at the bottom, here it is again, slightly larger:

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MDCCXXV. Or, in Arabic, 1725.

It is in surprisingly good condition considering it’s age, with only a bit of staining on the first few and the last few pages, and the edges of the pages having gone black.

Now, let me just detail a bit about the poet:

Matthew Prior (21 July 1664 – 18 September 1721)

born in Middlesex, Matthew Prior was educated at Westminster School, and here met Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax. With Montagu, he then went on to attend St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he took his degree in 1686, and became a fellow two years later.  In 1687, Prior and Montagu penned The City Mouse and Country Mouse, a satire of Dryden‘s The Hind and the Panther.

After Cambridge, Prior became the secretary to the embassy at the Hague. and was later appointed a gentleman of the King’s bedchamber, acting as the King’s Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1697 to 1699. He was also under-secretary of state, succeeding John Locke as a commissioner of trade, and in 1701, sat for East Grinstead in Parliament. Later, between 1713 and 1714, Prior was the British Ambassador to France, and his share in negotiating the Treaty of Utrecht led to it gaining the name ‘Matt’s Peace’- despite him disapproving of the Treaty personally. He was kept in custody from 1715 to 1717 after having been impeached by Robert Walpole, and lived comfortably due to receiving 4000 guineas for a volume of poetry, and a present of £4000 from Lord Harley, but he died a few years later at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

 

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This book is the first volume of his ‘Poems on Several Occasions’, which was published on numerous occasions both before and after his death, but most of the editions that I have found on the internet place Prior’s name on the title page, which this edition doesn’t. Also, I am unsure whether or not the binding is original on my copy, and I have very little knowledge regarding such book features, but to me it seems to be original. Don’t take my word for that, though. Interestingly, the contents is at the back of the book, and there are also several inscriptions on the reverse of the page with Prior’s image on, which I cannot quite make out. However, on of them does say ‘Coll: Jesu: Oxon’, which I thought was interesting considering I have lived in Oxford.

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The Oxford inscription can be seen at the top. Any help with what the rest of these say would be greatly appreciated.

I just thought that I’d share a bit about this, and don’t think that it is a bad find for 50p!

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Thoughts on Ian Fleming’s ‘Diamonds are Forever’

diamonds are forever

This is another post that I’m rather late getting up on here, as I read this a good few weeks ago. Better late than never though, I suppose.

I approached ‘Diamonds are Forever’ very much as just a title to knock of my reading list, imagining it to be light reading and not really a very serious book. This impression came about with the reputation of the films as pieces of entertainment, but not very much more. However, I was genuinely impressed and quite surprised with the book, and indeed was taken in from the first page simply by how well-written it seemed to be. The scorpion motif at the opening seemed an interesting metaphor, and I liked the way in which it resurfaced at the novel’s close as a way of showing the circle to be complete, and the tale over.

In terms of the story itself, it seemed a rather generic spy novel (not that I’ve read many of these), but what stood out for me was the descriptions and the settings- I really did feel as though I was there with Bond as he travelled to Las Vegas or visited the racetrack, and found the level of detail regarding the card games and the horse racing very refreshing. Also, missing was the Bond of the cinema-screens, with his vagrant disregard for any female as nothing more than a sex object, and his questionable record that can been seen to border on the indecent. Here, Fleming instead presented a deep, thoughtful Bond who actually cared about the feelings of the person he was attracted to, who wanted to know her as a person, and who only embarked upon a relationship when he believed it would be long-term. Tiffany Case, the object of Bond’s affection here, was also presented as a deeply thoughtful and intricate person, who was a far cry to the air-headed pin-up that Wikipedia says the film version of this book made her into, and whom any Bond I have seen seems to think that a woman should be. Instead of tempting Bond from the off, Tiffany is presented as intelligent yet vulnerable, who would be better suited as the rescuer rather than the rescued, and I found this refreshing and enjoyable to read. Rather than being a simple adventure novel, the developing relationship between Bond and Tiffany added a further element to the book, and led to it being a much more thoughtful and developed book, allowing us to see into Bond’s mind and his thoughts, and to see him as a more rounded, realistic and likable character.

There’s very little else for me to really say regarding this book- I liked it, despite hearing Shirley Bassey’s voice in my head every time I picked it up, and may read more Fleming in the future. In terms of the films, however, I think I will steer away from the theatrical adaptation of this book, as from what I gleaned off Wikipedia, it seems to veer off from the plot in rather surreal and stupendous ways. I’m inclined to watch the Daniel Craig films, but may stick with the novels for the others.

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Thoughts on Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’

how the elephant got its trunk

It’s taken me quite a while to get around to writing this post, as it’s been a good few weeks since I read the book. I’ve put it off for a bit as well, as I am slightly unsure what to say about this collection. Don’t get me wrong- I did enjoy reading it.

Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’ was published in 1902, and in general the tales included are intended to explain to children how several animals came to look or act how they do. Those stories that concern the appearance of animals are inventive and show a clever knowledge of both animal behaviours and the basis of Darwin’s theory of evolution, as each of the stories suggest that the features developed to assist in the plot of the story appear as adaptations (such as the kangaroo’s legs in ‘The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo’) or are passed on to offspring (as at the end of ‘The Elephant’s Child’). However, I particularly enjoyed the two interconnected tales ‘How the First Letter was Written’ and ‘How the Alphabet was Made’, as they provide a vaguely plausible and interesting take on the appearance of writing- even if their invention of our Latin alphabet is rather suspect. Another personal favourite in the collection is the last story, ‘The Butterfly that Stamped’, as I thought that whilst the premise was a tad sexist, the surreal nature of the tale and the sheer whimsy of the plot stand this story apart from the rest of them, with their being no particular message or meaning behind it.

I was also taken slightly by Kipling’s writing style in this book, as I had expected these works for children to be of a slightly higher lexical complexity than modern children’s books, simply from the time that they were written. However, I hadn’t quite expected the style to be such that it emulated Biblical texts (i.e. the Book of Genesis) in its repetition and use of almost identical passages. Similarly, I hadn’t realised prior to reading that Kipling produced all of the illustrations in the book, and I was very impressed by just how good and inventive these are. I have reproduced one of the most famous at the top of this post, which was included in the story ‘The Elephant’s Child’.

I think that my enjoyment of this book was tempered somewhat by having read Ted Hughes’ Kipling-esque ‘How the Whale Became’ many years ago, as I expected this to be a more faithful indication of what the original book was like than it actually is, and missed the sense of humour that Hughes added to his work. It was with Hughes’ work in mind that I produced my own such story several years ago, ‘How the Platypus Became so Weird’, which I am planning on re-editing for inclusion in a collection of short stories that I am going to begin working on this coming week (more on this to come). However, in all it was a fairly decent book, and is something that i would read again- although I think that I may ‘dip into’ the book next time, or read a tale here or there in between other books.

Lastly, I would just like to commend the cover art of the edition that I read (and which i bought a few months ago- see this previous book-purchases post):

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I can’t really put my finger on why I like this Penguin Modern Classics edition- I think it’s just the simplicity and the slight playfulness of the tail. On an interesting note: this book has now been issued as a standard black Classic, presumably because it is now over 100 years old. One to add to the discussion, if you remember one of my previous posts.

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A few more books, and ‘Reclaimed Books part 4’

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Well it’s time for the inclusion of more crappy-quality photos. Those above are:

  • Paulo Coelho-  The Alchemist     50p
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez-  One Hundred Years of Solitude     50p
  • Graham Greene-  The Heart of the Matter     50p
  • Nelson Mandela-  No Easy Walk to Freedom     50p
  • Sue Townsend-  The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾    30p
  • P.L. Travers-  Mary Poppins     50p
  • African Art, a book from the 1970s     10p (library book sale)
  • Gita Mehta-  Karma Cola     10p (library book sale)

I’ve been looking for the Marquez book for a while, so that was a nice find. Also, I’ve picked up a few more books from my parents recently. There are a few children’s books amongst them this time:

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  • J.K. Rowling-  The Tales of Beedle the Bard
  • Roald Dahl-  The BFG
  •                     – Danny the Champion of the World
  • Brendan Hook-  Harry the Honkerzoid
  • Bram Stoker-  Dracula
  • J.K. Rowling-  Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
  •                       –  Quidditch Through the Ages
  • Two ‘Doctor Who’ books: The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Five Doctors
  • Mary Shelley-  Frankenstein
  • Charles Dickens-  Hard Times

I do own the rest of Roald Dahl’s major books for children in the same editions to those shown (except ‘Boy’ and ‘Going Solo’, which are a more recent combined edition), but will pick up the rest (i.e. ‘James and the Giant Peach’; ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator’ as one volume; ‘The Magic Finger’; ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’; ‘The Twits’; ‘George’s Marvelous Medicine’; ‘The Witches’; ‘The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me’; ‘Matilda’, and ‘Esio Trot’) at a later date. The two I got this time have always been my favourites, and have been begging for another read for a long time. So what if they are children’s books- I enjoy them, and will read them as Classics, before passing them on to my children when they are old enough to read them.

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Echoes of the past

Just a quick post here. I’ve just come across this set of images and thought that I would share them on here. I don’t know who they are by or where they are originally taken from, but if I find out, I will make sure to credit the relevant person or people.

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I think that these speak for themselves (or I hope that they do), and really bring home just how close the past is. As an archaeologist, I obviously believe that the past and history are literally all around us if we chose to look for it- for example in the layers of wallpaper in a house, the way in which shops and buildings are refigured, and in the general detritus of our lives- and can see that some places evoke memory and bring up the past. Not sure where I stand on ghosts, to be honest, and I plan to write an archaeological paper on the way in which places cannot hold memories in themselves, but these images do work well to show that past events occurred in places that we can visit and inhabit in the present, rather than in some ‘other’ place. Anyway- I’m beginning to ramble, and so will wrap this up here. Just thought that I would share, and hit the ‘like’ button if you wish!

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Thoughts on Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Torrents of spring’

the torrents of spring

Erm… right… hmm. To begin this post, I will say that I don’t think that this was perhaps the best book I could have read to introduce myself to Hemingway’s oeuvre. However, this isn’t to say that it is a bad work, because it isn’t. I just think that this doesn’t do justice to his reputation. 

‘The Torrents of Spring’ is a novella published in 1926 that- according to the introduction to the edition shown above- was written as a parody of Sherwood Anderson’s 1925 novel ‘Dark Laughter’ and can be seen as a rejection of the authors that made up Hemingway’s social circuit, and acted as his teachers and his literary advisors. I don’t know the aforementioned novel, but was still able to see where the author was at least parodying something. For example, the redundancy of rhetorical questions is laughable even for a parody, but they do manage to show the particular pointlessness of the characters’ lives and reduce serious thoughts and situations to scenes of comedic patheticness:

They were a hardy race, those Scots, deep in their mountain fastnesses. Harry Lauder and his pipe. The Highlanders in the Great War. Why had not he, Scripps, been in the war? That was where that chap Yogi Johnson had it on him. The war would have meant much to him, Scripps. Why hadn’t he been in it? Why hadn’t he heard of it in time. Perhaps he was too old.

This is perhaps best summed up by quoting the last few lines of the book:

Mandy talking on. Telling literary reminiscences. Authentic incidents. They had the ring of truth. But were they enough? Scripps wondered. She was his woman. But for how long? Scripps wondered. Mandy talking on in the beanery. Scripps listening. But his mind straying away. Straying away. Straying away. Where was it straying? Out into the night. Out into the night.

Similarly, the repetition of the line ‘She would never hold him’ in relation to Diana and Scripp’s relationship adds a note of futility and shows the pathetic nature again of their lives and her defeatist attitude towards both herself and her husband. If it was indeed Hemingway’s intention to create characters that the reader does not believe in or care about, then he succeeded brilliantly.

The plot of the novella is a simple and yet vaguely absurd one, with the protagonist Scripps O’Neil embarking on a journey by foot to Chicago following the end of his marriage, and then finding work in the town of Petoskey at a pump factory. On the way here, he picks up an injured bird and decides to keep it under his coat, and later marries a waitress named Diana who works in the town’s beanery. She attempts to learn about literature in order to please her new husband, but he gradually looses interest in her in favour of another waitress named Mandy. In the penultimate chapter, the character of Yogi Johnson gets over his impotence when he sees a naked squaw, and decides to follow her into the night- gradually disrobing as he does so, and leading the reader to the conclusion that he is going to rape her. Despite the seriousness of this scene and the commentary that it makes upon the treatment of Native, First-Nation Peoples in the US, it cannot come across initially as anything but farcical. Indeed, the plot is somewhat generic, and is highlighted to a great degree by the several ‘Author’s note to the reader’ sections that reinforce the fact that this is only a story, and not to be seen as anything more.

One point that I did find interesting about this book was that despite parodying the literature of over 80 years ago, its style is remarkably prescient now, and does remarkably pastiche the ‘chick-lit’ novels of recent years that seem to reproduce like bacteria on the shelves of supermarkets, airport bookshops and W.H.Smith. For this reason, I think that the novella still works now, even if the aim of its sarcasm is different and imposed by the reader and not the author.

It may seem from the start of this post that I don’t like this book, but this is not strictly true. It is something that I would read again (in part due to its brevity), and which gave me a certain sense of delight once I got into it a bit, but I don’t think that it is something that should be read without having familiarised yourself with some of Hemingway’s more famous works first, as it doesn’t display his style or provide anything that says his other works would be worth reading. I will try some of his other works, but with some interest and trepidation.

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Thoughts on Tolkien’s ‘Roverandom’

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‘Roverandom’ is a short children’s tale by J.R.R. Tolkien, submitted for publication in 1937, but not actually released until 1998. It has its basis in a tale told to Tolkien’s children in 1925, and was worked upon for several years, gradually incorporating separate stories that fleshed out the central narrative. The ‘Roverandom’ (or Rover) of the title begun life as a real dog who was turned into a small lead toy figure by an irritated wizard, and was created in an attempt to console J.R.R.’s young son Michael when he lost his favourite toy- a small lead dog- on a trip to the beach at Filey, Yorkshire. The tale exists in a number of draft forms, showing that Tolkien spent considerable time crafting the tale to turn it from a mere bedtime tale to a part of his wider legendarium that also appears in the more famous ‘Lord of the Rings’ books and his other connected writings. Indeed, many aspects of this story can be seen to be precursors to scenes in ‘The Hobbit’, which he begun work on soon after completing ‘Roverandom’, such as Rover’s flight with Mew to his home in the cliffs and Bilbo’s flight with the eagles; the encounters with spiders on the moon and later the encounter with spiders in Mirkwood; the White Dragon (as seen in the image above) and the description of Smaug, and the three wizards being pre-emptive of the figure of Gandalf.

The success of ‘The Hobbit’ led to ‘Roverandom’ being overlooked by Tolkien’s publishers in favour of more books about Middle Earth, but the greater recognition given to these (albeit splendid) works does not mean that this short tale is not worthy of note or of merit in its own way. Despite the fact that ‘The Hobbit’ may have not been written if it were not for this work, this tale is actually a pleasant story that moves at a fairly decent pace, and which is actually a joy to read due to the inventive words play, subtle jokes, digs about environmental matters and sheer inventiveness. I particularly liked the section when Rover is on the moon, due to the vaguely surreal nature of the scenes, and overall was slightly reminded of Tove Jansson’s ‘Moomintroll’ books and children’s stories written in the 1950’s and 1960’s (I can’t place any specific examples) that deal with dreamlike worlds or journey’s across strange lands.

I don’t think that it is a book that I will return to in a great hurry, despite enjoying it, but it is something that I would happily lend to a Tolkien fan as required reading at least once.

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Life update #4

It’s been a week since I last posted anything on here, and I am aware that I’ve been getting somewhat behind on my posts; there’s a backlog of 4 ‘Thoughts on…’ posts that I hope to complete, as well as several other things that have caught my eye over the past few days. It’s not even as though I’ve been particularly busy lately, either. I usually post things on here in an evening or in the early hours of the morning, and it’s simply been that I’ve been way too tired to sit up thinking strenuously about literature, archaeology or other such things. I’ve also been feeling rather miserable lately, in part due to the depressing state of the weather, and the uncertainty about my job, as the process of finding out about my hours and pay has seemed to drag on and on. However- I can now smile! I still don’t have a start date, but at least I now know (thanks to an email I picked up last night) that my hours and pay are sorted, and should start the week after next. I still feel quite lacklustre in general at the moment for no particular reason, but at least I know that I will be able to provide a Christmas for my family, and that we should be secure for the near future.

On another point, I am also very close to having edited and redrafted the book of poems that I announced the completion of in draft form in a previous post, and hope to have them completely finished by the new year. Then, I can try to get them published, but just have to pluck up the courage to actually submit. I will do, though. I just need a little faith in myself.

Lastly, not so much a life point, but this blog seems to be stuck at the moment on the number of followers I have, as no-one has followed it for quite a while now. PLEASE spread the word and tell people you know about it! Share my posts on Facebook, and ‘like’ the Facebook page facebook.com/electricpuppetblog. Thank you! And look out for a few new posts that I should be getting up soon!

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Thoughts on Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

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At the age of 11, I was quite an avid stamp collector, and through the beneficence of several family friends, I was able to amass a fairly sizable collection. I was particularly proud of a medium-sized green album that I put together of stamps from the British Empire, representing countries such as Tanganyika, Rhodesia, and the Malay States that no longer exist. This interest in the might of British Imperial power made me see the time of the Raj in India and the years up to the 1960s through somewhat tinted lenses, and it was only by studying anthropology at university that I saw that my previous adoration had perhaps been somewhat misplaced. Now, I can see that the British Empire had detrimental effects on almost all of the nations that it subsumed, and that these effects are being felt even now across the world. By imposing our way of life onto other cultures, we successfully eradicated much indigenous culture and society, cloaking it and choking it in the smog of so-called ‘modernity’ and suggesting that the British people were a chosen people placed on the highest level of the Chain of Being above all others. It was with this personal and intellectual background that I approached Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’.

I will begin by saying that I disagree somewhat with Chinua Achebe’s view that ‘Heart of Darkness’ is a racist text that portrays the people of Africa as savages, and the continent itself as one of uncivilised, brutish violence. I don’t want to play the cultural-relativist card, as this seems a clichéd and somewhat lame excuse, and also because I think that Conrad’s text is much more than that. It is true that his use of the word “nigger” sits uncomfortably with today’s readers, and this is perhaps a sign of the times in which it was written and nothing more. However, I think that Achebe misses the central crux of the tale that Marlow tells, as rather than promoting imperialism, the subjugation of the African individual and Africa as a continent, and extolling the virtues of romantic exploration- as personified in Henry Morton Stanley and his search for Dr Livingstone- he presents the stark reality of attempting to voyage into the heart of a continent that is ‘dark’ not due to the colour of its inhabitants or the nature of their un-Christian souls, but simply because it represents a void in the knowledge of the rest of the world. The ‘darkness’ is present in the fear that the unknown presented to the people of the late 19th century, and is therefore only culturally relative in as much as the text documents the beliefs and thoughts of people at a given period in history; it does not hide behind this as a justification for the thoughts. 

The theme of ‘darkness’ is perhaps an obvious one in the text due to the clue given in the title, but I was genuinely surprised by just how many times the word ‘dark’ or ‘darkness’ is actually employed within the text. (Upon a further reading, I may endeavour to note each of these occasions, but it will come as a shock that I haven’t yet attempted this.) Not only is it used to describe the physical appearance of the Congo jungle, but also the Thames on which the story is narrated, and the character of the enigmatic Kurtz. In doing this, Conrad manages to make a connection between the unknown and unexplored, potentially dangerous African continent and the lifeblood of the English capital, suggesting a similar unfamiliar side to the river and at a further level the country as a whole. Due to the manner of its colonising, Britain could be said to have had a ‘Heart of Darkness’, and as such be just as dangerous and savage as the unexplored land is perceived to be. Similarly, the ‘darkness’ of Kurtz is suggested firstly in the way that he too- like the interior of Africa- is unknown and a mystery to Marlow (he is literally in the dark about the character, piecing together his own ideas about the man from the scraps he is told), and also in the way that Kurtz recognises his own ‘darkness’ and through his exploitation of the native people, and the ‘darkness’ of his actions as a part of the colonial machine in his final words: “The horror! The horror!” Kurtz further represents a ‘darkness’ in the way that he takes advantage of the veneration shown to him by the locals due to his position as an outsider, and highlights the ‘darkness’ that these people were in when it came to the Europeans; they were ‘in the dark’ about the true intent of many colonisers, and were unaware of the way in which they were having their way of life slowly removed (or at least altered).

Upon reading ‘Heart of Darkness’, I was struck by Conrad’s exquisite prose, and pleasantly surprised at just how many passages gave me cause to refer to a dictionary. For a writer who was writing in his third language, I think that the text is a stupendous achievement, and am enamoured by it also due to its dual nature as a piece of fiction but also as an anthropological text, revealing much to us about the colonial apparatus and the way in which such explorations effected all parties concerned. Often, this is overlooked in even the best ethnographies. For example, Mead excludes mention of the US influence upon those she studied in Samoa, as well as the bias behind her research, and Evans-Pritchard in his three celebrated studies of the Sudanese Nuer fails to mention the fact that he was employed as an anthropologist by the British to report on these communities could best be brought under colonial control, and also fails to show the ways in which the British-imposed culture had manages to impact upon their laws, economy, religion and general way of life. Instead, we are presented with a false image of the Nuer as a people untouched by the ‘modern’ world, when in actuality, the ‘facts’ recorded are all as they stand post-contact.

I believe that ‘Heart of Darkness’ should be read by anthropologists as well as lovers of fine literature, and would recommend it as essential reading for everyone. The technique of a ‘story-in-a-story’ narration is slightly jarring (as I found it to also be in ‘Frankenstein’) in the way that one character recounts a book-long story recounted by another character, but i was not put off by this and hope to revisit the text again, armed on this occasion with a pencil ready to annotate and to count up the repetition. And when it comes to the stamp collection, I think that it will provide me with a fresh perspective on this too.

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Banksy’s ‘Cave Painting’

banksy cave art

 

Just a quick post- I came across this earlier, and wish I’d known about it sooner. I love it! I’m a fan of Banksy anyway, but adore this image due to it not only including a mocked-up archaeological image, but also because it comments powerfully on the treatment of and attitude towards graffiti art in the 21st century. Historical and archaeological graffiti, whether it is cave “art”, or the scrawled latin phrases seen at Pompeii and other Roman sites is seen as a record of past views, thoughts, styles and cultures, whereas recent graffiti is something to be despised and abhorred if it not in the correct place or of a temporary nature. Why can’t modern graffiti to the character and history of a place or a building in the same way? It is the archaeology of the present, and we will mourn it when it is gone. Anyway- something to think about!

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The joys of library booksales

Before I start, let me just say that the books you are about to see haven’t all been bought from library booksales, despite what the title of this post says. However, we have managed to strike ridiculously with the sale in our local library, as our two boys now have about 15 or more new books for little over £3. Who would argue with that?

I didn’t get as many, but have acquired a few recently from other sources too. Before I list these, let me just mention these two books first:

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Please forgive the absolutely atrocious quality of the photo, but they are:

  • Plato-  Republic     50p
  • Francis Pryor-  Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons     50p

I meant to do a blog post on these over a week ago, but just never got around to it. The latter book has refueled my interest in the Anglo-Saxons (I haven’t really picked up on this recently, in part because all of my Saxon archaeology books are still sitting in large fruit-boxes in our boxroom, along with the majority of our other books), and it actually seems to be an academic text masquerading as a populist history work. Always nice. However, the main thing I want to say about these is just that I was quite shocked with the way the woman behind the counter in the charity shop looked at me when I handed them over to pay. Do people in our area not read such books? Are ancient Greek philosophy and Anglo-Saxon archaeology beyond the scope of people here, are were they just beyond her? I don’t know. Anyhoo. The other recent purchases stand as follows:

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  • Anthony Kamm-  The Romans: An Introduction     50p (library book sale)
  • Roald Dahl-  Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life     10p (library book sale)
  • Albert Camus-  The Plague     25p
  • Jean Rhys-  Voyage in the Dark     50p
  • Anon.-  Sweeney Todd or A String of Pearls     50p
  • Jules Verne-  Journey to the Centre of the Earth     50p (Folio Society edition!)
  • Stephen Hawking-  A Brief History of Time: The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition     50p (library book sale)
  • Lewis Carroll-  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass     10p (library book sale)

As you may recall from a previous post, I already own a copy of the Hawking work, but thought that 50p wasn’t bad for an updated edition; similarly, you may recall from a previous book-buying post and my ‘Thoughts on…’, I already have individual copies of the Carroll books, but for 10p… Well, there’s an intro. in this one, a series of notes, extra text not in the ones I had, and also the spine isn’t faded (as my individual copies were). Oh, and it’s published by Oxford University Press, too. Not bad. Also, the Roman book is published by Routledge, which is a very good publisher of archaeology texts, and appeared regularly in the bibliographies that accompanied my essays at uni. This book would actually have been handy to have had then, as it covers a lot of background about the Romans that would have been useful for essay background and revision.

I plan to get up soon several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts, as I’ve been reading quite a bit recently (as I said in my last post), and hope to get these done soon. The books I will be looking at are ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘Roverandom’, ‘The Torrents of Spring’, ‘Just So Stories’, and ‘Diamonds are Forever’- so quite a bit to come!

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The Strange Case of the Spontaneously Combusting Mummy

I haven’t posted on here for a few days, and am planning to get up a grand total of 4 ‘Thoughts on…’ posts (I’ve been reading quite a bit recently), but this caught my attention.

I have harboured an interest in the ancient Egyptians since I was 10, and before having children, I had intended this to be my chosen area of study, and later employment. Life intervened, however, and since then I have now realised that my real love in archaeology is the landscape and the Early Medieval period in England and Europe. Despite this change in focus, I have still held an interest and fascination in Egypt, and it was with great joy that I travelled several years ago with a very good friend of mine to the O2 in London to see the exhibition of treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

tutankhamun-exhibition-london1

I cannot adequately describe my amazement at the grave-goods on display- “Wonderful things” indeed- in part due to the sheer quality and the beauty of the craftsmanship, and also because of the fame of some of the items that I was able to see in the flesh, as it were. However, since then I think any further discovery surrounding the boy pharaoh has paled in comparison, and I have paid these new finds about the cause of death or his life less and less attention. Until now, that is.

Egyptologist Dr Chris Naunton has re-examined some of the notes made by Howard Carter back in 1922 and analysed a fragment of flesh that was removed from the mummy to reveal that a chemical reaction caused by the embalming oils used led the body to burn within the inner-most coffin once it had been sealed. I don’t know the ins and outs of this research, as I can’t find a lot of information regarding it, but there is a programme on Channel 4 later in the week, and so I hope to be able to say slightly more on this once I’ve watched it.

Personally, I think that this sounds an interesting idea, and when you look at some parts of the body, it does perhaps look as though it may have been burnt, but… I don’t know. I’m not entirely convinced, to be honest. Surely there would have been some sort of heat damage to the inner-most coffin and the bandages, and Carter does record some sort of burn damage, but- I need to find out more to make any proper comment. Expect a follow-up post to this one!

 

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