Tag Archives: Rudyard Kipling

New Books: June

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Yep- only four this month. I’ve realised that if I keep buying at my previous rate, I’ll run out of room to house them, and I also will never get around to reading them all. So only four.

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky –  Crime and Punishment     £1
  • Rudyard Kipling –  The Jungle Books     50p
  • Colette –  Gigi and The Cat     50p
  • Milan Kundera –  Slowness     99p

I am tempted to go into a long rant about Penguin and their odd way of packaging their classics, but I won’t. Suffice to say that ‘The Jungle Books’ were published in 1894 and 1895, and so shouldn’t qualify as a Modern Classic, and now are published in the black Penguin Classics range. Anyway- it’s a nice edition of it, which I’ve been looking for for a while.

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Christmas Books

It’s taken me a few days to get around to writing this post, but here I finally am. These first few are ones that I picked and therefore knew my partner was saving for me for Christmas:

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  • Jostein Gaarder –  The Ringmaster’s Daughter
  • Jerome K. Jerome –  Three Men in a Boat
  • J.G.Ballard – Crash

I also knew about this next one. You may remember a month or so ago that I was unable to pick up my old edition of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and that I had decided to purchase one of the pleasantly-designed boxsets (see the discussion with myself in this previous post). Well, a while back I had a rather lucky find at the local library booksale:

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This was also saved until Christmas, and was a ridiculously good find- £20 worth of book for 10p! ‘The Hobbit’ isn’t included, but I should be able to pick that up at some point.

I also had:

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  • E.M. Forster – Maurice
  • F.Scott Fitzgerald –  The Last Tycoon
  • Truman Capote –  Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • William S. Burroughs –  Junky
  • Rudyard Kipling –  Puck of Pook’s Hill (off my parents)

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  • Private Eye: A Cartoon History
  • Nicholas J. Higham & Martin J. Ryan –  The Anglo-Saxon World (off my parents)
  • The Private Eye Annual 2013
  • Private Eye: Eyeballs

Quite a nice amount of reading to be getting on with!

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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):

just so stories

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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More newly acquired books (and ‘Reclaimed Books part 1’)

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Please forgive the truly abysmal quality of the above photo (and the below photo, too, to be fair); the iPhone I normally take the pictures on has finally died, having soldiered on for about a year and a half with a slowly disintegrating screen. I’ve had to resort to dangling the laptop upside down and using the camera on this, which made for some interesting contortive poses trying not to get my arm in shot. Anyhoo. These are the four books I’ve acquired recently (I assume that you won’t be able to pick out the titles on the image):

  • Rudyard Kipling-  Kim     50p
  • Jostein Gaarder-  Through a Glass, Darkly     50p
  • George Orwell-  Nineteen Eighty-Four     99p
  • Zelda Fitzgerald-  Save Me the Waltz     99p

Now, I already owned a copy of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ that I bought from the Oxfam in Turl Street, Oxford, but I managed to drop it in a puddle a few minutes after purchasing it, and haven’t been happy with its crinkled state since then. I’ve meant to get a new edition, but had reservations due to technically still already having the book, and because I liked the cover of my edition so much:

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The cover of my rain-soaked edition of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’

The spine had a nice flourescent stripe down it that really helped it to make a statement on the shelf, but I hadn’t got round to reading it due to the awkwardness of trying to turn the crinkled pages. The copy I recently purchased, however, had an introduction and a note on the text that are absent from the edition I did have, so this is actually a far better buy.

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Now, I come onto the part of this post that is titled at the top ‘Reclaimed Books part 1.’ By this, I mean these are a few books that were at my parents from before I moved out and which I have picked up (or ‘Reclaimed’). As such, these aren’t new, but I’m showing them here as I will eventually get posts up on them (or most of them) when I read them- even if this isn’t for a while yet. Eventually, when we manage to purchase some shelving and I sort all of my books out (archaeology, anthropology, poetry, classics, music, space and other random things), I will put pictures on here and then post on any of these as and when I read them or feel like mentioning them, but for now my recent purchases, these and a few others are all that I can read as they are all I can physically put my hands on without burying myself under boxes and paperwork. Anyhoo- as you can only read three of the titles in the image, these are the books I ‘Reclaimed’ (from L to R):

  • William Golding-  The Scorpion God (I have already read this, but may read it again)
  • William Golding-  The Spire
  • T.S.Eliot-  Murder in the Cathedral (I have this in his ‘Collected Poems and Plays’, but like to have stand-alone copies too)
  • John Wyndham-  The Day of the Triffids
  • John Milton-  Paradise Lost
  • Stephen Hawking-  A Brief History of Time
  • James Joyce-  Dubliners

At the moment, I’m still reading ‘Metamorphosis and other stories’, but expect review and thoughts etc. in due course.

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Reading update

I haven’t posted on here for a few days, but in this time I have managed to procure some new reading matter, and have made progress with another book. However, I haven’t started the Kafka book I said I would read next. This will be digested in due course. Anyhoo- my new books can be seen below:

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Incase the titles are a tad difficult to read, here they are from left to right, along with the price that I paid for them:

  • Lewis Carroll- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (two volumes)  10p each (yes- really!)
  • Ian Fleming- Diamonds are Forever  50p
  • John Ruskin- On Art and Life (Penguin Great Ideas No. 15)  50p
  • Penelope Lively- Heat Wave  25p
  • Carol Ann Duffy- The World’s Wife  25p
  • Rudyard Kipling-  Just So Stories  £1.49
  • Thomas More- Utopia  £1.49
  • Seamus Heaney- North  £1.49
  • Martin Amis- Money  £1.49

I have currently been distracted away from the Kafka collection by another Penguin Classics book titled The Cloud of Unknowing and other works, which is a decent-sized volume of 14th century Christian teachings about the sheer impossibility of actually perceiving and understanding God, which I have recently learnt is actually a way of thinking that is taken up by the Eastern Churches, but not so much in the West. In the West the view is generally more along the lines of God being a friendly, approachable father-figure, whereas in the East, he is a powerful and unreachable being who cannot be represented in human terms and who can never be fully understood by simple mortals weighed down by sin and their perception of the body. To truly know God, The Cloud teaches that a person must become a contemplative, and be able to stop perceiving and thinking about his own existence to focus solely on God. The …other works of the title are shorter pieces believed to have been written by the same anonymous author upon similar themes, and it is in fact quite a good read. A tad heavy going at times, but it certainly gives food for thought and has provided me with a few new ways to look at both myself, my faith, and my perception of God. Also, the whole idea of a ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ is a great metaphor and image to use in my poetry…

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Once I’ve finished this, I plan to read the Heaney and Duffy poetry collections, and then the two Lewis Carroll books, before finally getting to the Kafka. I promise to provide opinions etc. when I finish these.

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Writing and the threat of rejection

I’ve said on the ‘About’ and ‘Poetry and Literature’ pages along the menu near the top of the page that I am currently writing poetry with the distant hope of getting published. The only thing that is stopping me is the fear of almost certain rejection when I come to submit my work to various publishers. Annoyingly, many companies that take on poets will only accept a handful of individual poems as a submission, rather than entire manuscripts, and so when I have finished this book I need to somehow single out the best few poems to send off. The only problem is that the book does not really contain many stand-alone poems, with most working with others to form a part of a much larger whole with a central narrative and interconnected themes- a bit like Ted Hughes’ ‘Crow’. Or, perhaps more accurately, Ted Hughes’ ‘Birthday Letters’ (Hell, I love that book).

One thing that has made me feel better about future rejections is that I’ve just read C.S.Lewis got rejected around 800 times (!), as well as Sylvia Plath, Rudyard Kipling, William Golding, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, H.G.Wells, Anne Frank and Louisa May Alcott also facing rejection. Then of course there is J.K.Rowling, whom we all know the story of. Perhaps I shouldn’t despair before I’ve even begun…

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