Thursday, September 26, 2013


This Book was written by a World War Two veteran at the time of the Vietnam War marrying the Existentials coming to the fore in Philosophy commenting on the absurdity of life with a generation who were in line to go to War ( a time when like Michael Moore , even juniors who were 12 years old feared , and in some cases went to war when they hit 18).Hence the meaning of the oft-occuring leitmotiv "...and So it Goes.." which to us seems a flippant remark , but to the readers of the time was a loud and clear scream at the political system that systematically failed to end the wars called for by authority that butchered  the century.

The fuller title of the work also contains "The Children's Crusade - A Duty-dance with Death" which gives added thrust to the argument that in the case of an open-ended conflict like Vietnam ( and now the War on Terror) the political leaders and their backers are sending kids who are still in primary school to war , with the pre-ordained patriotic propaganda of participating in a noble cause not to dissimilar to the disastrous 13th century crusade that led many poor to their deaths and even begging long before they ever got to their destination.

This marvelous lecture puts into context the background , ideas , reception and current relevance of the Book.

It was thought for a long time the lead character Billy Pilgrim was fiction of the part of Vonnegut , but in this interview he reveals , amongst many other insights, he was based on a real person.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


This excellent review from the Observer calls the book just about right. This debut Novel does give the impression of fluff meets musac orientalism , nothing like the substance of Black Orchids by Gillian Slovo.For a debut Novel it just makes the cut , but being a candidate for Whitbread Prize says more about the power of corporate powers to control the reading market than the bursting forth of a genius in a cream always rises to the top manner.

"Throughout the book, Hari Kunzru has pursued an odd strategy of alternately arousing sympathy for his hero and quashing it. He will fill the reader in on things that Pran Nath/ Robert/ Jonathan can't know, but seems dim for not noticing, like the fact that Professor Chapel the anthropologist is actually an obsessive-compulsive who only does fieldwork when his accumulated tics make Oxford unbearable. Towards the end of the book, this strategy reaches its own odd climax. Jonathan agrees to accompany Professor Chapel on an expedition to Fotseland, though his motive is entirely to do with the professor's lovely, capricious daughter, Astarte."
Even the Amazon product description is moved to accept  "In some ways Kunzru is almost too ambitious. There is so much crammed into the pages of The Impressionist that some of it, almost inevitably, doesn't work as well as it might. However, as the shape-shifting Pran Nath moves from one identity to another, knockabout farce mixes with satire, social comedy with parody. And, beneath the comic exuberance and linguistic invention, there is an intelligent and occasionally moving examination of notions of self, identity and what it means to belong to a class or society. --Nick Rennison"

 The Book does try to convey the lesson that trying to change your identity to fit the norms of society will only yield , at best , a thin,vacuous , veneer of superficial hollowness ( something we see in the cringeworthy and pathetic aping of the West we see in Bollywood films).To be happy you have to be true to yourself , your heritage and more importantly the Universal values of Human Civility as dictated by your Childlike conscience.

In the video below Hari gives a lecture about writing in the computer age , which says a lot about the niche he is looking to fill , though the concern is what exactly does he want to fill it with.At this moment it seems more fluff than substance.


To be fair many readers have found this Book to be an excellent read as one reviewer on amazon is moved to comment 
"This is a riveting story centred on the subject of identity and whether anyone could impersonate another human archetype beyond the deep-seated core of the self. What lies beyond the self? And what damage does it do to a person to go there? Questions of race and psychology are raised by this perceptive and adventurous writer. This is a brilliant book: witty, energetic, searching, thrilling and beautifully written."


Friday, February 15, 2013


This biography is a work of art worthy of the great masters testimony.French scholars were being so snobby and snotty about how they had covered the history of Matisse it took a lady they had dismissed to bring the Man and his Work to the public notice in a manner befitting his contribution to our thinking.

Some reasons we have not heard of Matisse until just the last two decades is that a major chunk of his earlier work was brought by Russian Investors prior to the Bolshevik Revolution and was lost to full public viewing until the end of the Soviet Union as it was considered to bourgeoisie for early communist apparatchik tastes.Another portion of Matisse work was acquired by  the eccentric founder of the Barnes Foundation , who only allowed pre-invited guests or private viewing by appointment only.Barnes had a pathological distaste for the art critic fraternity , meaning the works owned by Barnes did not cross into the public mainstream for many years.Another more sinister reason was a combined spin news  campaign between Picasso , who had the extreme fault of being envious of a lot of Matisse talent , however absurd that could seem to anyone , and his chief-publicist , especially within the US , Gertrude Stein.

Ironically it was Gertrudes sister Sarah Stein that was a loyal and able patron for Matisse both in Paris and the US , giving him what little exposure and awareness he did manage to attract given all the disadvantages of paucity of publicity and illness when the Art movements were to become the rock business of the ages between the Wars.

Here is author Hilary Spurling speaking on the remarkable professional working relationship between Sarah and Matisse.

To his credit Picasso did become the exemplary warden and trustee , being given the key to Matisses vault by the artist himself, of the Artists works in Paris when Henri fled to the Southern French coast.Though Picasso may have played the friendly-rival game as far as self-publicity goes , his looking after of Matisses collection during the war years was of the highest unimpeachable conduct in potentially trying times.

Among the many anecdotes are the story of how Matisse introduced vibrant colours and shapes into Picassos life , the touching story of the gift of a white dove to Picasso by Matisse which was to become famous in many manifestations as a symbol of unity and peace in Picassos work.And an odd , though highly revealing , incident when in a group , at a time when Matisse was suffering from an illness that prevented him from painting with colours he was making art with scissors.With nonchalant ease he produced such a glorious piece of work in only a minute or saw he left the work stunned into appreciative gasp- Picasso left the room without uttering  a single word.

Recently the MOMA New York staged an exhibition comparing and contrasting the evolving works of Picasso and Matisse on themes they were working on in the form of a visual "conversation".What strikes one is how the Matisse stand up to , and many would say , surpass the works of Picasso , thus helping the lost reputation of Matisse to be restored to us in the best example possible.

The best way to honour Matisse is to let his painting do the talking , here are  of my favourites.

                                    Open Window , Collioure ( see more here)

                                           Portrait of Yvonne Langsberg

Here is a very illuminating and revealing documentary which examines the influences and inspiration of Matisse and his creations.( give it 1 min to get started)

Thursday, February 14, 2013


It is quite amazing there is barely a gap of a decade between "Kipps" and this book which seems to be an universe away in attitude, outlook and lifestyle.

There is an oddly cold, industrial and treating People as commodities to be used, exploited,consumed and ultimately disposed style that was shocking at the time but quite an apt description of the backroom horse-trading of politics and relationships today.

This article looks at some of the chronology of the events portrayed in the Book written just after the golden period of Edwardian England before the Empire would wane and just before the start of WW1

A lesson of the Novel also touches upon the argument if there can be a clear delineation between a political activists personal life and public service.The question is of someone is willing to betray and be unfaithful to those close to his personal life , then will this person not ultimately betray his cause in Public.The issue of Tommy Sheridan in Scotland is a case in point , no matter where one stands on the matter.

Beatrice Webb , one of the characters who is negatively "portrayed" in the book also had to ponder this very question, her answer was the   novel "lays bare the tragedy of H.G.'s life—his aptitude for 'fine thinking' and even 'good feeling' and yet his total incapacity for decent conduct."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


A most admirable way of introducing historical characters to todays reader in an educational , entertaining , easily accessible is in the form an anecdotal quasi-fictional narrative. 

It has been done to great effect in theatre plays like Alan Bennetts "The Habit of Art" and Novels from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn to Kundera which explore meetings of real life characters who could have met , or if they did meet we do not know what was said.

Any work of this nature has to be done with a surprising amount of responsibility , delicacy, integral dexterity and true to the nature of the subjects long term vision.

To her great credit Dinah Lee Kung passes all these vital and necessary benchmarks.Capturing the humour of everyday humdrum slapstick , and also imparting some truths about Voltaire a casual reader would be all the better to know.

The response of the readers in this non-academic readers forum gives a touching overview of how successful the author is in making Voltaire come to life in a three dimensional easy to approach manner.

For example we are made aware on page 94 Voltaire was a munitions dealer - " war profiteer" which is not known to the general reader , though should be known if they are to evaluate the Man who is synonymous with the chimes of Enlightenment.

To his credit  on page 344 he has this sage universal advice for Mankind internal and external .."If a man has tyrants , he must dethrone them."

Another issue to know about Voltaire is a charge of Anti-Semitism  , alas not an unusual charge with the great and good of European Enlightment Philosophy.

Again , to his credit , he has this quote attributed to him from a 1763 essay."It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?"

Sunday, February 10, 2013


This Book is the result of over twenty years of research , four years of writing.Lauded by many a mainstream media as "definitive" , for example.

"No biography is likely to tell you more about Morrison' - Adam Sweeting, Sunday Times"

"A compendium of detail, a neck-aching triumph of research" (Scotsman )

"Here is everything you wanted to know about Van Morrison... Rogan leaves no stone unturned" (Guardian )

"'Remarkably well-researched and deeply engrossing...Rogan's painstaking research yields an abundance of detail...Fascinating'" (Irish Times )

"'This characteristically accomplished biography shows the singer from every angle'" (Observer )

I , and many , if you read the customer reviews from Amazon would not be so lauding of a work in which there is more "payback" from the various inputs from Vans early career , and the authors on musical prejudices which are not of any artistic sympathy of the work Morrison produced , especially his most creatively innovative later albums prior to the Jazz age when he had to severely curtail his singing duties whilst on stage.

 No one will argue Van is the nice person , he is not.But the Art world is littered with flawed , outright nasty individual who still produced works that encourage the Human to foster and inculcate the very best of themselves.Robert Frost the poet , Wagner the music-dramatist are examples of Persons whose personal treatment of those around them was considerably worse than the beauty of art they made , often inspiring the height of Human Appreciation and ethical aesthetics.

In the end we get an overly bitter biography that focuses on the man , not the artist and the art.

Even among the many hatchet-job biographies that have crossed lines to condemn the subject , rather than analyse the achievement , Rogan takes things into a territory never before witnesses- an asymmetrical hatchet-job that defies time and place in a manner that would have impressed Einstein himself.Rogan comes up with the barley credible thesis that the fact Rev. Iain Paisley preached about a mile and half or so from where Van Morrison lived should have a significance on his character , outlook  and world view.The thing is in a city centre urban environment a mile and a half could be a universe away in attitudes and connectivity with others of similar or dissimilar views.Also the fact the age difference between them is almost two decadesalos makes a chronologically massive difference in shaping histories and attitudes.If this Rogan Doctrine was applied to me then there is a sound case that i am more in harmony ( if that word could ever be used) to Pastor Jack Glass than Van is to Paisley.

Van Morrison will always score 1 or, on the odd occasion , 2 out of 10 for being a Good Human Being.But the criterion we look to him is The Music ,sadly  it is a much neglected aspect of this Biography.

To balance things up the video below has Van Morrison discuss the only thing , to his credit , he wants to share with us , and the only thing we really want to hear him lecture us about , The Music.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


With the declaration of the War on Terror by the Bush Administration , ably followed by the likes of Sharon and Putin getting in on the act , the author considers who are terrorists , who are political parties using arms to get an equal seat at the negotiating table , who is a genuine terrorist for the sake of terror , is there such a thing as a State terrorist , and more importantly , who has the right to decide.

The first stop on the journey quickly dispel any false notion that only Muslims are terrorists.As he relates his experiences with groups in Sri Lanka (from the Ceylonese community ), Ireland and South Africa ( all examples of  former terrorists who now participate in democratically elected governing cabinets).He also shows examples of "terrorists" groups in Algeria;Palestine; Kashmir and Chechnya who are fighting imposed governments that were put in place by outsiders when these groups won resounding democratic elections.

Examples of how the Worlds largest superpower sets the criterion is given in page 92 " The United States spends more today on its military than the rest of the World combined , and when a nation has by far the most powerful army in the World, it tends to see problems through a military lens.An old seer once said that if all you have in your toolbox are hammers , then every problem looks like a nail."

All the Book is not about the Bush administration , In discussing the Balkans Conflict under Clinton , when Terrorists and Men of Peace mutated back and forth according to Western Interests in firstly enacted the "Spanish Civil War" solution of arms embargo giving one side exclusive military superiority , coupled with turning a blind eye so that time allied with realities on the ground could "solve" the issue we had first the Bosnian Muslims under siege in Sarajevo for almost two years , with the UN Peacekeepers disarming the defenders of cities in Bosnia on the pretext of enforcing the arms embargo and then completely failing to defend them from the harms of the militias armed by Milosevic ( at the time the only hope for peace in the region according to Western Governments).In time the Serbs made less gains , and had the embarrassing habit of committing  massacres in full glare of the TV cameras , coupled with the Bosnians slowly making gains we had another change of the political wind and Milosevic became the terrorist.His mistake seems to have been to take his militias from the Bosnian front and deploy them in the Kosovo region.As Rees explains on page 151 " the Kosovo involvement by the US  appears to have been triggered by fears of the "key" Macedonia".This was because Macedonians straddles the territory  of Greece , a member of NATO, and a conflict there could have had region wide repercussions  that drag external powers into the mix.

The video below is from a documentary of the same name made about the themes of the Book for Al-Jazeera.

You can get the whole series covering many conflicts from Ireland to Colombia by clicking on this sentence.

On the case of Afghanistan Rees goes back to the original sin for which many locals and British and NATO troops as well as large parts of the Population and Army of Pakistan are paying with the needless spilling of blood today , as we see on page 212 " Afghan border was drawn up in 1893" (The Durand  Line drawn up by Sir Mortimer Durand) " and effectively cut the Pashtun population in two."

The final conclusion of the Book is for most of the issues cited are terrorism today we cannot have military solutions ,at the end of the day , just like in Ireland, we can only have political solutions through  negotiations between representative recognised parties.Ultimately Rees "concludes that before the 'war on terror' can have its Armistice Day, the West will have to negotiate with those it considers terrorists."

Monday, February 4, 2013


One thing Tariq Ali is not the master of is sympathetic , understanding , sensitive erotic literature imbued  with poetic touching romantic feeling.The sex scenes are like a tour of the local greengrocer , we have mangoes a ripe , melons a plenty and other fruits of various roundness and elongation popping in out and out at the most inopportune times.It seems to be a case of inability to stop digging even when the cringeworthy embarrassments of plumed itemisation of every conceivable fauna has been brought to the stale-metaphor capitalistic commoditised  market stall.

 Tariq Ali is the master of the quip , charismatic orator , documentary maker , eloquent critic of ill-advised imperialist projects and , despite being a committed  communist  , that intellectual luxury of sons and daughters of post-colonial parents who can give their offspring the best education that feudal money can buy , a staunch ardent defender of Islam and the Muslims.

A quote from   the comments is worth quoting in full , from an M.A. Zaidi

Taris (sic) Ali's quintet series is a telling response to anyone accusing muslims as having no culture and civilization. The series is a sincere attempt by Tariq to convey the magnitude of the contribution made by muslims in the past 1400 years; which has so easily been forgotten. It was the insightful writings of muslim scholars that inspired Europe to greater heights and helped it transgress towards the Renaissance.

Sultan in Palermo revisits the Middle Ages, this time in Sicily, an island conquered by the Aghlabids in the 10th century then reconqured by the Normans in 1092. It takes as its main characters two major historical figures, Sultan Rujeri of Siqillya - or, as he is otherwise known, King Roger II of Sicily, and his protégé, Muhammad al-Idrisi, a cartographer. The book is set at a time where the sultan is at the end of his life and is maneuvering through politics insecuring the throne for his future generations. In a cavalier compromise the sultan had accepted the demands of the barons to persecute General Phillip (sympathetic to the muslims) on trumped up treason. The equilibrium on the muslim-christian nexus gets shifted. A peaceful society so far; is embroiled in tension and is gripped with the anxiety of persecution. In this atmosphere al-Idrisi seems torn between his affiliation with the king and his people.

I felt that "The Sultan of Palermo" failed to meet the penetrating and encompassing story of the earlier three novels. The disturbing fact is that in the perverse environment; where destiny is at the cross roads. Al-Idrisi was expected to be sagacious; exhibiting maturity; intellect and in-tune with his people. Instead he is a disdainful aphrodisiac enamored with the art of love than politics. On the eve of the execution of General Phillip; his gravest concern is whether to spend the night with his wife or his sister in law. There are more bedroom heroics than courtroom guile.

As stated , Tariq Ali is a passionate defenders of Muslims from Anti-Islamic attacks in the West from both the Left and Right.The lecture below is an example of the tireless work he has done in many forums in the UK and abroad.

On the issue of Islam , Tariq Ali does display a little ignorance of the difference in reform and reformation.Reform is when inalienable values adapt to changing technologies and modes of communication , trade and systems of governance.Reformation , on the other hand , is something that cannot happen in Islam , and why proponents of this concept are showing a lack of researched understanding on this profound essential , can only happen in religions that have Clergy and Church hierarchies.It is a little disconcerting that Comedian Stewart Lee has a greater understanding on this essential than does the slightly mis-informed Ali , for example in the video below he states Muslims pray four times a day when it is five.But , more so, he states the two periods Islam could have Reformed , namely Iberia and Ottoman seem at odd with the view Islam does not have a clergy and therefore the Leaders of the Empires were beholden to the "Church".The Ottoman empire was characterised by its devolved approach to governance and it even had devolved legal courts for various religions within its borders.Ottoman collapse was its failed experiment at macro-capitalist management ( which forced it into policies that changed the dynamic from devolved to centralisation , and were fought by all religions and communities alike), not any notion of Islam holding progress back.

And for good measure here is Stewart Lee with his clearer , less ideological blinkered , well  crystallised view on Islam.Apart from the humour the pertinent points to look out for begin at 2m19sec and 7m37sec.

Bizarrely , Tariq Ali looks to a form of Arab Nationalism , just when Arabs view this experiment as an humiliating disasterous failure from Nasser , to Assad and the PLO as a solution for the region.

This informative interview by the Socialist Review gives a good insight into Alis appreciation of Islamic contribution , but also his blackspot for current solutions and a pining for "Nationalism" that confuses the Left as to whether they should support Assad , in that he cant be as bad as the forces that will replace him.It also colours his views on other Muslim social Justice movements in the region which would win large landslides in genuine democratic elections were held.

  One theme that Tariq wants to tackle is the failure of secular nationalism in the Arab world to offer solutions to problems of poverty, underdevelopment and Western military and economic power. On the basis of the first four, we eagerly await this final chapter.

If you are interested in a genuine high level academic debate on Reform that can be carried out in Islam the video below has two heavyweight Islamic Scholars , Tariq Ramadan and Hamza Yusuf who inform of the perameters the debate can take and the possibilities.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Kennedy is a gifted comedian, deep philosophical commentator ,astute observer of Human inner wants and skilled writer that brings out sympathy for stricken characters who were hard-wired to lose by an unsympathetic system brought into corporate prominence before they were even born.They are victims already sentenced to hard-labour physically and mentally , whos very next breath and cynicism is a brave and lasting resistance.

As thoughtful Critic and Fellow Novelist Ali Smith so sharply puts it in evocative eloquence in the review above.

Paradise is a faultless performance of rhetorical nihilism, a dialogue with a world so blurred that it doesn't matter where you are, Dublin, London, Budapest, because nothing matters but the drama of being out of it; in other words, a world in which we don't even notice we're at war. "You can't think how something so large could have occurred so unawares, a whole war without your knowledge." Kennedy is the opposite of the oblivious artist. This double-vision of heaven and hell is her sharpest vision yet.

As a lot of the female baby-boomer generation hitting the forties or mid-forties come to this landmark childless , in shaky or non-existent relationships , on the first rung of unsatisfying careers and only atheism as a crutch to lean on in the autumn years it is refreshing to see a genuine woman comedian gifting us with her ironic , taking neurosis as a given , take on what is a serious question of what the gains of feminism have given to the first generation to be given a window ( which is now closing as cuts in education , employment and welfare that benefits woman most take place in a manner than suggests that retrospect in not a place we will pass again) to fulfill the potential of liberation.It is for woman to answer if the journey was all that was promised this generation who were told if they give up on Family and concentrate on career , then they will enjoy the harvest of both Family and a comfortable independent financially free life in later years.Well , we know have the later years and , for some, who took the bargain in trusting good faith are in a position to give an initial report card on whether the project was a success.Of course , they will have to wait a little longer to work to a point they can get their first pension - it was 60 when they started , now in approaching 68 , and it would be no surprise if it ultimately hits 75 before they actually draw one.It is ironic that the Mothers of this generation , who probably never worked ( unless they choose to having reared children for the early years) as they devoted full-time commitment to rearing their children have more contented and , on balance, enriched lives at the age of 68 , than will have their liberated progressive daughters in their forties when they reach that age.

This Novel identifies the victims of a war so subtly waged by corporate opinion , image and spin-makers  that we do not even realise there is a conflict ,yet alone a battle going on in which our hearts and minds are on the line.

Kennedy has her own informative website on many topics of concern and her latest projects.
One of the features in the website is her review of reviews in which she turns the tabled of some of the mainstream reviews of her Books as Good,Bad and Odd.

To get a balance picture it is worth reading the "odd" review from the gifted , evocative and highly qualified Claire Messud , who on this occasion does miss the irony of the Novel and the Novelist and the fact the story is being told in Character.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


page 116 .....This is what good guys do.They keep trying.They dont give up.

Many regard this novel as bleak, desolate and pessimistic.On the contrary this novel is one of great release and Hope.

Even more so than when it was winning awards in 2007 , the desperate cataclysmic state of the then  Triple A rated rates economies , we have a situation in which the dream of the state looking after the population from cradle to grave has come to an all shattering shuddering grounding collapse.

Even in the early solutions being sought by the tax payer in bailing out the excesses of the ruling architects of the most beastly social darwinian capitalists the poorest and most vulnerable , as well as the middle classes that cannot afford the tax and accountancy specialists advisers who can make billionaires pay pitiful taxes barley amounting to 1% , involve youngsters remaining with their parents because the cost of getting on the first rung of owning a house is out of reach , students having to pay for further education so that they will be in debt to a rate of over an years wages before they even come close to drawing a first salary , and pensioners forced to work way beyond the age they would liked to have retired because the yield of the pension will not come anywhere near to paying bills , never mind luxuries of leisure.Add to that the next generation of workers unable to get a start in their careers as the natural wastage of veterans retiring has dried up. 

The Hope the Novels gives from this bleak cycle of economic desolation is that when the state gives up its responsibilities we have to go back to the old , reliable, trustworthy, permanent institutions of Family and Community Bonds to see us through the collapse of the "Civilisation" of the Modern State.Families and Communities looked after each other before the creation of Modern States and Institutions and will continue to look after themselves when Post-Modern States and Institutions gave reneged on their responsibilities.

This article by Anis Shivani captures well the lessons to be drawn from this Book of the bleakness of the system , and the Hope of the eternal institutions that we can take the road required to escape its destructive all-embracing clutches. Though like most left leaning critiques , it is high on analysis but low on solutions.

When the capitalist system collaborates in its own end, it takes down all of humanity with it. It's an all-or-nothing proposition that doesn't brook compromise. Isn't this the true meaning of apocalypse today? Where and how do we escape, become anonymous? Capitalism aims to be all-encompassing, and all capitalist political ideology (including fascism and American corporatist democracy) aims to leave nothing of the individual to himself. The Road is a gut-wrenching attempt to seize the most intimate portions of the human soul and throw it to the dogs, to see what happens, what sticks, what works and what doesn't work, just as long as the existing enveloping apparatus is gotten rid of.

Friday, February 1, 2013


This is a morality tale of what happens when Love is consumed by Desire and Passions which take it outside the bounds and ends up killing it and all those around.

The English translation that first came out introduced the misleading title of "Hunchback" into the English speaking world when the more appropriate title of the original focuses on the play between Our-Lady and the Building of  Notre-Dame which was in a state of abject neglected disrepair at the time of the Novel.The resulting publication of the Novel helped cement a campaign for the proper restorative  maintenance of the building which we can all enjoy today.

The work itself was written by a young Victor not even thirty years old in a tight deadline of only five months.Like Dostoyevsky years later with the manuscript of "The Idiot" , high pressure working to a deadline and barely staving of debts meant Victor had to work from memory as the only drafts had been given to his increasingly impatient publishing commissioner.This has resulted in some giving unfair criticism about some of the alleged unevenness of the published Book , this is unreasonable giving the constraints Victor was under and what should be observed in this unique revolutionary grand narrative Novel is the flow, drama, comedy and ever-maturing genius that came out of so diminishing  of deeply trying circumstances in what was always going to be a forced venture without any opportunity to review , redraft or work over already submitting installments.

To this end is the development of Claude Frollo , all his loves are of great merit , passionately felt , virtuously honoured with great delicacy and sacrifice , yet when even one aspect of his love yields from caring , compassionate bonds to a possessive desire driven quest , all his love is destroyed , all his loves suffer enormously whilst he morally ossifies and degenerates into a mutated fiend before the readers eyes.One wonders if the study of the corrosive effects of love when it leads to consumptive  destruction via desire when it crosses the bonds of caring into obsession, moral decline and madness that bends the senses of Humanity that should be the bedrock of genuine love itself , given time , would have been developed at less frantic pace.

Many has misconstrued his detailed and nuances descriptions of the architecture as shabby attempts at fillers to flesh out the material.A better understanding would be the placing of the language of the great works of architecture being seen as a continuum from the early age of the Greeks through Romans to the Arts , Culture and crafts of France at a time in history when there was a great debate between aspects to retain and refresh from History or those to demolish in the name of progressive modernity from the days in the aftermath of the making of the Republic.Though his attitude to Religion can be summed up as "Clergy married to Nobility" he regarded landmarks such as Notre-Dame as part of the heritage of the People of France , well worth preserving for posterity.

A metaphor for his attitude is the equating the written Arts to the architecture of stone as a marriage that will cement the best elements of the past with the present.In the novel we have a manichean  conflict in which the fear is the printing press ( ultimately beholden to state hands) will destroy the beauty and poetic freedom of architecture , and ultimately the bonds holding People together.Whilst the written word can be suppressed at ant time , solid architecture would withstand brief historical flirtations.Victor is looking for values not to be subscribes in constitutions or pieces of easily disposable paper , but wants them etched in solid stone symbols and values architecture that will stand up for all timeThis article gives an indication of some of the themes.  

He saw the restoration of Notre-Dame , from the neglect of his time , as an extension of the evolution of classical values meshing into the best technical modern thinking of the past and present entering into the Hearts and Minds of Man.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


 Just like East of Eden , John Steinbeck wanting to write for his , and others, Children a tale that would impart the tender values , upbringing and sense of duty , honour , keeping pledges , delivering on words with actions that he grew up on as the young child.The work that opened his eyes as a child was an archaic Malory version of The legendary adventures of King Arthur and his Knights.

Initially , Steinbeck looked to make a translation of the Malory stories replacing older words which would in his view be an obstacle for Children with more common ones to enable fluidity and the story to run along at a uniform pace.Very early on in the work he realised the work of Malory was cumbersome , got bogged down on long lists of participants , and dwelt on epic battle scenes whilst forgetting to return to missing threads in the plot.This meant Steinbeck would have to spend a longer than expected devotion to the research , detail and fusion of the plot.

This article gives an excellent introduction of the considerable details of deep research ( a lot of it in England) , careful detailing of original manuscripts , and steadfast focus Steinbeck gave the project over many years.

 Read this novel to your children, read it to yourself, whatever you do, read it. It is magic, it is wonderful, but more importantly it carries with it a wide-eyed, childlike sense of wonder about the world, something which has never been more lacking than today.

Many have speculated why he did not manage to finish the project.The most reasonable explanations are that he , sensing the very chivalric values he held so dear , got diverted from a detailed study that would involve a lot of travelling to europe for a project that would entail a re-telling of the tales rather than the initial idea of a translating at a time in which he thought he was close to death.At this time the concerns of his legacy to his children and their peers was the urgent loss of decency in morals of society closer to home which inspired the Books "Winter Of Our Discontent" and shortly afterwards by "Travels With Charley: In Search Of America".Shortly afterwards the Winning of the Nobel Prize , and the irony of one of the Sons he was writing the project for Participating in the Vietnam War , with all the intendent  criticism of a letting down of his liberal values of previous years meant he could not give it the attention required as well as the initial goal being lost.

Steinbeck’s retelling is clearly a labor of love, unfinished as it may be. His language is powerful and aesthetically pleasing, the stories are exotic and full of adventure, the characters and broad strokes are beloved and familiar. When Steinbeck prefaces the chapter “The Noble Tale of Sir Lancelot of the Lake” with the simple, blunt remark, “And noble it is,” he gets at why we want to read these stories—or why we should want to, or why we should read them. They are just plain good, and he is good at telling them, and I wish he had managed to put his stamp on the whole thing.

The above quote comes from this article which explores more themes and working processes of Steinbeck during this endeavour.

 One of the best features of the Book is the appendix of letters written by Steinbeck to his Agent in which we get the sense of his creative process and how much effort and diligence go into even the most casual seeming passages of his work. Lastly , here is a beautifully arranged tribute song to the writer himself.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Jack Kerouac himself explained the difference between the Beat (Beatific ) Generation and the  Generation of the 20s.The 20s were looking for hedonistic escapism , whereas the beats were on a stimulation fueled search for meaning.

It is important to understand this as a lot of readers see the slightly mismonic title as an escapist drug trip with hedonistic superficial ambient pleasure-seeking celebrationist track.So much so even the Amazon Book description blurb confidently tells us  " Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream.".And we also had a recent documentary revisiting the landmarks on the 50th Anniversary of the Novel being presented by a parody of faux-hedonism , comedian Russell Brand.

Alas this way of looking at the Novel seemed to be at variance of the self-description of Kerouac himself "Dean and I were embarked on a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him."

On The Road should be looked on as an Account of a Pilgrimage of the Mind , and not necessarily a journey from inanimate location to another place and back on a road leading nowhere.

Though he is said to have written the main body of work in a feverish three week spell using a system he termed "kickwriting" , he would type and type until he reached a zone he would consider the real prose of his inner being  , it was not unusual for him to generate rolls and rolls of joined paper stretching to over twelve feet in a single sitting, looking to create the emotional urgency of his actual experience at the time of the event in the form of an emotionally chromatic impressionist painting, the work was then  tweaked and honed over a seven year process before he finally managed to get a publisher.

We also have from footage of Kerouac reading the manner to appreciate the diction of flow of reading his material.The narration voice takes the form of a jazz instrument in the context of a "spontaneous" performance.The video below gives a classic example to the tempo and delivery as he reads from the last page of the Book.

The Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac especially were a religious generation , the specific object of their quest was spiritual , without sounding like a cliche , the real journey was inward.

Below is an interesting lecture by Prof. Amy Hungerford on the Book and its place in post-war literature.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


This Novella with play dialogue experiment is on the theme of Continuity , how far you should go to make certain things come about and using what means.

The original title of the Play was from Blakes stanza "In The Forests of The Night" , and so we have the conflicting dilemma of Aesthetic Spiritual and Moral Beauty with Primal Want and Need.

In this easy to read Morality Play the lead character Joe Saul is in need of Continual Legacy that is apparently unattainable , his Wife is laboured with the finding of the solution to his Need for a transcendent fulfillment by having to conceive his desperately wanted Child with another Man , hence having to come up with the desperate fusion of Moral aesthetics with Primal requirements to try to find Happiness.A pact that requires putting faithfulness on the line.

The end result is more emotional painful tension and disintegration of trust than the resolution of a situation that ought to have yielded Happiness and Contentment.

The moral of this Morality Play is not The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions , but the road to faithful fulfillment is paved with Sincere Good Intentions as long as they do not cross over certain inalienable boundaries.

The Book also has significance as a tribute to his close friend Ed Ricketts , with whom he wrote The Sea of Cortez,  who had been killed in a road accident at about this time.

Monday, January 28, 2013


This Book examines the other side of having physical relations with those you do not , unless something drastic happens, with those you do not want to spend the rest of your life with , or the other who does not , sometimes you only find out later , does not want to spend their life with you.

The physical is ultimately sweet but short -lived.Real relationships are with the soul and spiritual fusion with the other.They are the only ones that last , the only ones that are a true source of genuine fulfilled happiness.

The worth of this Book is the pointing out of the negative long term consequences of physical car-crash relationships when the protagonists are mistaking carnal exchanges for the unattainable true love which only manifests when you are at one with the other person before you go exploring the physical side once having made a commitment to be a life partner.

Engaging in relations is a troubled and naive way to find love.Having tried to do this the character in the novel suffers the inevitable and expected pain, anxiety , anguish , despair , loneliness , tortured mind , angst ,grief of having traded the eternal golden gifts of Honour; Chastity and Virtue far to cheap to Men who want only the carnal exchange and have no genuine intention of returning love with love.The Woman is defeated by trying to find love and eternal happiness by selling herself to the vainest and cheapest gratification of Mens basest short term desires.Thus satiated they have no need to give anything , yet alone the most precious of eternal loving back to the woman who has sacrificed so much for so little in return.

Here is an interesting review of the Book from a Feminist perspective with also some pertinent comments.

The story of how a Woman can sell herself cheap by trying to satisfy her quest for long term happiness and well-being by physical means without ensuring a long term commitment from the partner can also be reflected in the image Anais Nin has in the spurious stereotyping of her contribution as an Erotic Fictional Writer , rather than a valued Human Being with a story and message to tell both Men and Woman as well as Society.

This 3 -part Documentary by an old Friend of Anais Nin Deena Metzger sets the record straight by rescuing Anais from the straight-jacket of narrow labelling and presenting us with an All Round Woman.


"The Kingdom of Music is not the Kingdom of this World" is a profound observance of this novel.The author took is seriously , dropping the format of the novel for the higher art that is Music.

Compared to the Books at the turn of the 19th century by authors such as Edith Wharton or the New Machiavelli of H.G.Wells this book can come across as lightweight and limped.But it is the understanding of the subtle musical undertones beneath the superficial title one understands why E.M. Forster was a favourite of so many authors as any casual glance of back issues of the Paris Review would indicate.

In the novel the Room symbolically represents the constricting social mores and customs that restrict development and freedom to express ones inner self , and the View represents the opportunities and paths that can allow a person to gain a character true to themselves.   

A Century later we seem to have come full circle in the social theme of the Book.Whilst society shut-off and suffocated opportunities for individual self expression at the beginning of the 20th century we now have come to a time when a person is considered a prude and misfit if they want to retain the eternal values of Honour ; Virtue and Chastity rather than selling them for a transient cheap price on the consumer commodity exchange for a cheap temporal carnal thrill.

Forsters own views are expressed in this statement of Mr. Emerson  "I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal. . . . I only wish poets would say this too: love is of the body; not the body, but of the body"?

This review gives a good summation of the book and also has helpful questions that will get the reader to think deeply and do justice to the work.

Almost 50 years later Forster added an appendix to some additions relating what would have become of the characters.

"I cannot think where George and Lucy live." They were quite comfortable up until the end of the war, with Charlotte Bartlett leaving them all her money in her will, but World War I ruined their happiness according to Forster. George became a conscientous objector, lost his government job but was given non-combatant duties to avoid prison, leaving Mrs Honeychurch deeply upset with her son-in-law. Mr Emerson died during the course of the war, shortly after having an argument with the police about Lucy continuing to play Beethoven during the war. Eventually they had three children, two girls and a boy, and moved to Carshalton from Highgate to find a home. Despite them wanting to move into Windy Corner after the death of Mrs Honeychurch, Freddy sold the house to support his family as he was "an unsuccessful but prolific doctor." After the outbreak of World War II, George immediately enlisted as he saw the need to stop Hitler and the Nazi regime but he unfortunately was not faithful to Lucy during his time at war. Lucy was left homeless after her flat in Watford was bombed and the same happened to her married daughter in Nuneaton. George rose to the rank of corporal but was taken prisoner by the Italians in Africa. Once Italy fell George returned to Florence finding it "in a mess" but he was unable to find the Pension Bertolini, stating "the View was still there and that the room must be there, too, but could not be found." He ends by stating that George and Lucy await World War III, but with no word on where they live, for even he does not know."

And finally here is EM Forster himself discussing his Novels and insights.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.” 186

Virginia Woolf wrote this experimental thoughtpiece at the same time painters were coming up with avant-garde cutting edge modernist styles using emotions and chromatic metaphorical constructs to capture thoughts and feelings rather than the traditional linear shapes.

The cover of the book (above) was designed by Virginias sister , the painter Vanessa Bell.Using words as a Palette , the book is also like a painting , freeing the page from place and chronology to create kaleidoscopic  relationships that criss cross time to make an emotional tapestry flucuating from Children to Adult relationships and back with subtle ease.

Vanessa thought the Character of Mrs.Ramsey brought their mother to life.

In this video we have the Professor of English Reynolds Price discussing the contents and value of this work.

You can find out more about Virginia Woolf and her contribution to literature in this 3 part documentary called "The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf".

Sunday, January 20, 2013


This book started with a working title "1805".Tolstoy looked to portray the state of Russians , elites and peasants alike , that led to the Decembrists Revolt in1825.The paradox of this movement was the dichotomy , and passionate ensuing debate , on the direction the Slav nation must take when in defeating the Imperialists Napoleonic Invasion the Russians could at last address the direction of their future without unhealthy overt external interference.They had militarily won the Right to enact A Slavic solution for a Slav problem.

One of the greatest narratives  , its many concepts and themes which transcend nationality, ideology and time in that it expresses universal values , actions that shape moments in Human History ,be it  temporal or those that cast shadows across the ages.

And so we get to the crux of why 1805 has to be the starting point of this debate.Catherine the Great had started the great Eurocentralisation of the Russian nation on a predominately Prussian Germanic Model ( being Prussian herself) , at one level releasing technologies into the agrarian and urban sectors , establishing an efficient methodical bureaucratic central governing mechanisms , all these supported by encouraging immigration of German skilled technicians and administrators and a wholesale reorganisation of the Church into an effective organ of the State.On the other hand a rigid class system was established for the elites and Serfdom of the Peasants was enshrined with a near religiously ordained caste system.

The pursuing of this system into the Period of the Romanovs led to a rigid ,stolid and satiated elite strata which had become completely uncaring and out of touch with the land and the culture in which it was born.So much so that French was the language of the rulings elites , and all cultural and ideas of progress from Europe were apishly followed whether they suited the Russian situation or not.

 Napoleon and a host of strong charismatic leaders that ultimately led nations into cataclysmic upheavals can be identified as fast-tracking into a decade or so a direction their respective societies would have traversed in a timespan of about forty years had none of these individuals shown up.No one entity these names are famous for leading went in a trajectory that would not have led to the same point in national objectives had governmental institutions been in charge instead of individual strongmen.Strong leaders of this nature do not go against the flow , rather they ride crest , fuelling momentum.With the defeat of Napoleon the Russian ruling classes realised not only independence for themselves , but an opportunity to determine and change society from within.

In the video below , the concept of Tolstoys perception that History is a mass fluid movement work of individuals and not the work of Heroes or Great Men.

Another of Tolstoys great universal observations is the combining of Newtons Law on Motion to the outcome of Wars.His contention is that no matter the material size of the invading force or the ammunition they have at hand , the ultimate victory in War will come to the side with the Greatest Human Spirit and Heart to Fight and Resist allied with  unlimited time to rebel and resist over years and generations.The Afghan resistance to the British twice , the Soviet Union and now NATO ( in which ultimately there is only going to be one winner) amply bears Tolstoys formula out.

“Military science says, the greater the numbers [of an army] the greater the strength. ... For military science to make this assertion is like defining energy in mechanics by reference to the mass only. It is like saying that the momenta of moving bodies will be equal or unequal according to the equality or inequality of their masses. But momentum (or ‘quantity of motion’) is the product of mass and velocity. So in warfare the strength of an army is the product of its mass and of something else, some unknown factor x
He goes on to debate what this unknown x may stand for and rejects the common explanations, especially the interpretation of x as the amount of genius of the commanding general. He goes on to say that [WP, 1224]:
“We must accept the unknown and see it for what it is: the more or less active desire to fight and face danger. Only then, expressing the known historical facts by means of equations, shall we be able to compare the relative values of the unknown factor; only then may we hope to arrive at the unknown itself.

You can get more information of the mathematical themes of War and peace in this Russian archival article.

And Finally the video below has a rendition of a Tolstoy Short Story with an Aphoristic message called "Evil Allures But Good Endures"