There has been the most ominous-looking light over north London for several hours now - a sort of copper colour. The sky is covered by a greyish cloud with wisps of whiter cloud drifting across it.
No rain, a bit of a breeze wafting through the trees in the street, but so far, nothing stronger.
The effect is somewhat John Martin-esque, or possibly requiring figures to run through the pocket park behind the house crying 'Heathcliff!' 'Cathy!'. Or at least, the foreshadowingly brooding overture to such.
I assume this is something to do with Hurricane Ophelia, even if so far this part of England is not supposed to be affected. This morning when I went shopping it was sunny and unusually warm, but I put that down to the Little Summer of St Luke.
This week's bread: the Blake/Collister My Favourite Loaf, white spelt/wholemeal/einkorn flour, made up with the remains of the buttermilk.
Saturday breakfast rolls: the adaptable soft roll recipe, 4:1 white spelt/buckwheat flour, maple sugar, dried blueberries.
Today's lunch: New Zealand venison loin medallions, panfried in butter, served with sweet potato oven fries, cauliflower florets roasted in pumpkin seed oil with cumin seeds (I think these could have done either with being cooked a bit longer, or broken up into smaller pieces), fennel cut into thinnish strips, healthy-grilled in olive oil, and splashed with elderflower vinegar.
Oh, David Mitchell, I normally like and approve of your columns, but this one?
Which made me think of pretty much all societies, 'throughout history', where just because there was a belief in a higher power didn't mean that there wasn't massive conflict over: who was the real higher power and how best to worship that higher power. And even when there was a generally accepted overall belief system, there are differences within between schools of thought and practice (cf persecution of Christians or Muslims who are not of the predominant category within a particular nation). Heretics get persecuted at least as much as infidels.
And you may like to think
I know in my heart that had I been brought up in such a setting – say, in Anglican Victorian England – I wouldn’t have quibbled with those answers and would’ve been comforted by them.
That would Anglican Victorian England which a) pretty much invented the concept of honest doubt and b) within the C of E, massive conflicts between High and Low Church, no? Not so cosy.
Paging Mr Blake and the Ever-Lasting Gospel. Written at the same time that a large number of actual clergymen had gone into that line of work because they were the third son and it was a living, and why would anyone trouble themselves over the 39 Articles? and it gave them plenty of time off for hunting.
What are you currently reading: Hirade, 'The Guest Cat'; Jordan L Hawk, 'Hexslayer'; a truly weird assortment of stuff for work.
What have you recently finished reading:
Griffith Review 56: Millennials Strike Back by Julianne Schultz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm kind of late to the party on this one - I actually saw a preview article from Griffith Review 57, went to order that, and saw this existed. Ordered both, then by the time they arrived I was Too Damn Busy.
Having said that: this was a really good read. My copy is filled with little flaggies. Particular highlights:
Omar Sakr's poem Ordinary Things.
Ashely Kalagian Blunt, Today is already yesterday
Sophie Allan, Under the skin: home, history and love in patriarchy
Other outstanding pieces by Timmah Ball, Fiona Wright, too many more to name.
An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked a lot of things about this! The brother-sister dynamic between Pen and Greta is particularly great. The final love scene is very Relevant to My Interests (TM). The showdown with the revealed murderer is A+, go Greta. The dynastic solution is quite nifty.
My only qualm is I picked the villain all wrong (which is... good, for a number of characters) and I still kind of feel like I should've been right.
The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this better than the first in the series, at least. Sebastian's work always reads a bit flat, the historical world-building a bit thin, after KJ Charles, though.
Of Mice and Men: The Play by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
UGH. I don't LIKE Steinbeck, and I fundamentally don't like this narrative. But the production I worked on was *phenomenal*. A number of characters who would otherwise have been cringey stereotypes (notably the nameless wife and Crooks) fill with life when there's an actual human on the stage, who has clearly *thought* about them and why they act as they do.
And you can't deny Steinbeck has a knack for dialogue, for exactly the right words, for setting up parallels in one speech and another. The bit where Whit and Slim are reading the letter-to-the-editor while Carlson is talking Candy into shooting his dog is a particularly good example.
On the other hand: what a lot of racism, sexism, ableism, et bloody cetera.
Aaand that's it! For once, I have finally caught up reviews to cover my most recent reading. See you in a fortnight or when I've finished three things, I guess!
Up Next: Too Many Things
Music notes: bought 'Beautiful Garbage', which I couldn't afford to buy when it was first released (I had a single from it, though). Listening to P!nk's greatest hits a fair bit, especially 'Raise Your Glass'
Article in today's Guardian Weekend by a bloke whose wife earns a lot more than he does in a high-powered job, and he is stay at home dad. And it's not egregiously annoying, but I was taken aback by this line, which is a quote from something else:
The post-industrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength
The guy in question was a journalist and his friends do not sound as though they were pursuing careers as stevedores, miners, steelworkers, etc etc, before the economy took a downturn. They had office/creative-type jobs.
And surely it's been true for quite a long time that, just as the majority of men have not been called upon to defend their country in arms, the majority of men have not been working in fields where size and brute strength were necessarily particularly relevant.
This is a point I tend to think of when I see some man sounding off about women can't [X] or there has been no female [Y], and I think, you know what, mate, I don't suppose you're all that fit for doing [X], and on the basis of your Facebook post/tweet, I don't think you're the new [Y]. They take the credit to themselves for any achievement by a man that demonstrates, they suppose, the ultimate superiority of their gender, rather than having a component of chance and opportunity (cf V Woolf on J Shakespeare).
Which I don't think is so much the case with women? if we cite e.g. Ada Lovelace, or Serena Williams, it is more to say, well, actually, women can.
Because, at first, larf, I far lay on the ground, about this: First Meeting of Society to Establish a Minister for Men passes off without incident
But two door supervisors were deemed necessary on Wednesday evening to stop anyone entering the Pulteney Room who was not sympathetic to the views of the fledgling Society to Establish a Minister for Men.
What was scheduled to be the first meeting up the M5 at a pub in Cheltenham earlier this week was cancelled after – according to O’Pie – the landlord was warned there would be repercussions.
“We thought we had better be safe rather than sorry,” he told the Guardian. “We don’t want people to be frightened by feminist people shouting with banners.* I’ve had that before, it’s ridiculous.” But he added: “I’m being totally paranoid because nobody has turned up.”
The Pulteney Room and its environs were not packed. Around a dozen people, including one 18-year-old woman, attended the meeting. And there was just one protester outside.
As the Bath Choral Society rehearsed in a nearby room, O’Pie set out the society’s objectives. The Guardian was not allowed in, but was provided with a handout in an envelope labelled: “Please read BEFORE you condemn.”
The handout argues that “male-specific problems and issues” rarely appear in the media, are deliberately neglected in schools and universities and are not addressed anywhere in the political system.**
It states that male MPs do not represent men but female politicians do represent women, because they “think, bond and therefore act as a political gender group across party lines”.
**In the splendid tradition of 'Why is there No International Men's Day'***/White History Month/Straight Pride'.
***19th November, for your information.
This, we may add somewhat wearily, in a week during which Men Are Terribly Poor Stuff And They Get Away With It was turned up to 11 or more.
O’Pie, a father of three, said he was not disappointed at the turnout and vowed to press on.
O’Pie is a veteran of the Fathers4Justice movement, which involved activists taking part in stunts and demonstrations dressed as superheroes. He has written a book called Why Britain Hates Men: Exposing Feminism, and earlier this year, he and Holbrook unsuccessfully took on the Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips by delivering leaflets asking constituents if they really want a “feminist as your MP”.
One is inclined to think 'lone crank', and that anybody who turned up was either coming in out of the rain, waiting for their spouse to emerge from the Choral Society rehearsal and their phone charge had died, or were merely there for the lols.
On the other paw, when I think of all the good causes that began with a very few people regarded as crazy or evil, historian is not entirely sure that this paradigm does not also work for really bad causes.
(And I really don't think it's going to discourage people putting their bags on the seats: in fact I envisage them building a defensive redoubt of the things.)
People don't want to talk to one another on public transport, or at least, not to random strangers. I am moderately amused that this is being put into practice in one of those parts of the country which one vaguely assumes is not like the Anomic Metroples, full of atomised sad lonely individuals who can only be brought to exchange words in the face of disaster, when Blitz Spirit kicks in and we all start singing London Pride.
Though, honestly, Wiltshire and Dorset? are we not then in Hardy Country? would you want to get into conversation with a Hardy character on a bus? We think not. Who knows what it would lead to? (even if they were not clutching a boar's pizzle.) Also, they would be on the wrong bus going in the wrong direction.
What I read
Finished the book on the Frankaus - less on Pamela than I should have liked, and the overall structure was non-linear but not thematic, so occasionally a bit confusing. It looks as though as a literary family they had serious form over including real people thinly disguised, or at least, plausibly identifiable, in their fiction, and also in not being entirely reliable narrators of events in their own lives.
Simon R Green, Dead Man Walking (2016) and Very Important Corpses (2017), 2 & 2 in the Ishmael Jones sequence, which combine the usual eldritch horrors and snarky fighter/s against the powers of darkness within a riff on the country-house (or other isolated enclosed community) mystery.
Matt Wallace, Envy of Angels (Sin du Jour #1) (2015): because this was a freebie of something that keeps popping up on my recs lists. Enjoyable - would not say 'hilarious' - might read another.
Margaret Maron, Take Out (2017). The long-awaited return of Lt Sigrid Harald (though there was a cross-over with the Deborah Knott series), and as such, a fair amount of catch-up on various existing strands, and that problem that the last entry in the series was over twenty years ago, but this takes place in real time just after that, which can sometimes feel a bit weird.
On the go
Finally have a copy of Roberta Rubenstein, Literary Half-Lives: Doris Lessing, Clancy Sigal, and Roman à Clef (2014) - not only was her relationship with Sigal the inspiration for Saul Green in The Golden Notebook (and other works) he too made use of the episode in his own (I would guess, much less well-known) works (though I think I read Weekend in Dinlock very many years ago; also have a - charity-shop find - copy of his novel based on his experience at RD Laing's Kingsley Hall); and am working my way through it.
Apart from various things which have either finally appeared, or the ebook price has come down to what I consider reasonable for an ebook, have also got some academic press freebies for refereeing.
Spotted a newspaper placard saying something like 'Johnson threatened by imposters'.
And where my mind went to was a zap action* involving people in Boris masks and wigs showing up and taunting him in public places, which I think would be rather cool.
But apparently it is Boris fulminating that a 'sinister band of imposters' was using his name to post social media attacks on T May, P Hammond, etc.
*Though I'm not at all sure that that article is entirely correct, because it seems to be claiming that they were a means of LGBT protest in the early 70s, and there were various feminist zaps in the late 60s by e.g. the Redstockings and WITCH (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), like hexing Wall Street, and indeed I have a recollection that they were practised by other radical groups of the day.
I daresay I have perorated before about people - especially blokes - who become parents and It Transforms Their Life, not in the sense of before then they had never thought about changing nappies or hallucinating from sleep deprivation, no, it is a Deep Existential Thing of feeling a connection in a previously rootless existence.
Which is just one of the thoughts I have about this article*: I’m an atheist who goes to church – here’s why you should too.
(Because, of course, one size of Spiritual Awakening fits all. Also, I cannot help thinking about the psychoanalyst in Cold Comfort Farm who redirects Judith Starkadder's brooding Jocastan obsession onto old churches...)
Bring my codfish of burning gold, and a chariot of fire with Boudiccan swords on its wheels:
[S]omething about having a son – an impetus to strive for deeper meaning, a longing for some continuity with the past – made me think harder about spirituality.
And do we have the feeling that he's never previously been into a church even to look at the art/architecture/misericord carvings/stained glass? Or a wedding or a funeral?
And where is the infant's mother and what does she think about it all? And would he feel that same if the child was a daughter?
*This appeared some weeks ago: I was collecting bits and bobs for future ranting while we were in Krakow and I didn't have time or energy to be discursive.