The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

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Oh yes, July 14th and all that… And since we were discussing Dickens, and mentioned A Tale of Two Cities, I thought I’d put here a very, very old and very compressed silent version of Sydney Carton’s story:

Yes – the whole tale in little more than twenty minutes… Well, it was thirty minutes, originally – because this 1911 ATotC was released as a three-reeler*, but only this two-reel version survives. Still, who knows, maybe the complete one will turn up someday… These things keep happening, don’t they?

Meanwhile, it is always fascinating to see how screenwriters worked back then, with the need to cram several hundred pages of plot and characters into a handful of minutes. True, sometimes they relied on a reasonable certainty that their audiences already knew the story – and this might well be one such case – but we can’t tell for sure, because we still miss one third of the adaptation as it was originally conceived by Eugene Mullin.

For one thing, who knows whether the half-hour version would still have one little title card informing us that it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…?

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* Three weekly one-reel installments, actually – and wouldn’t Dickens have loved that!

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Dickens for (Italian) Children

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A few days ago I was talking books with a reasonably educated and definitely adult acquaintance – and, on saying that I’ve read a good deal of Dickens through the years, I earned a raised eyebrow and this question: but isn’t Dickens a children’s author?

Right then I raised an eyebrow in turn – but I have to admit that my acquaintance had reasons to think so. Very Italian reasons that have little to do with the audience Dickens wrote for… Continue reading

Tom’s Host of Furious Fancies

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I first came across Tom o’Bedlam via Kipling – in Stalky & Co., when Beetle (or was it M’Turk?) copies in his notebook the eerie and fantastical last verse:

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end:
Methinks it is no journey.

Continue reading

Blocked?

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There is this competition, you see – short stories, historical setting… I really, really want to submit. I’ve known about it for quite some time – and, in fact, for some reason, at first I thought the deadline was in late April. So I began brainstorming ideas back in March, and went through old notebooks, mining for those little Could This Be A Story notes, or hastily sketched half-page notions, and wrote down lists of promising ideas… and then hit on something I liked. Something that was tied to my work in progress. Something promising.  Continue reading

The Time I Very Nearly Gave Up Writing

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Some twenty years ago, on an early summer day like this, I was sitting in a street café in Pavia, waiting for a friend. I’d just bought myself a book at the bookshop next door – and, anticipating a longish wait, I ordered a grapefruit squash, and started to read.

The book was William Somerset Maugham’s Theatre – quite perfect for me, judging from the back-cover blurb – and so there I sat, very much enjoying the picture: street café, book, summer day… And as I read… Continue reading

Music in a different language?

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MusicNotesVarD-500x500I’m not terribly surprised to learn that the brain will process music and language in similar ways… Intuitively, I’ve always had this notion that both work by structure, pattern, rhythm, repetition, juxtaposition, combination of sounds, expression and codification of meaning…

This very interesting article by George Tsoulas for Conversation, offers a clear explanation and an overview of the current studies on the subjects – together with a few good links.

So it would seem that, after all, music is a different language. Or perhaps every language is a different music?

 

But What’s a Poem?

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Rant ahead, I warn you. A mild rant – but still.

So I took this MOOC – let’s name no names – about poetry. I don’t write poetry, but I greatly admire the skill of compressing meaning into a limited amount of words, structured and highly shimmering. I’ve always yearned to achieve at least a little of that focused effectiveness… And last year, in the spirit of “you won’t know until you try in earnest”, I’ve decided to stop yearning, and try instead. So I took a MOOC – and liked it a good deal. I’m not saying that I wrote good poetry, mind – but exploring the mechanism was absolutely fascinating. Continue reading

Leslie Banks

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Today would be the 128th birthday of Leslie Banks – Shakespearean actor, director, and screen villain – who managed to turn his potentially career-crippling war injuries into an element of versatility…

He played, among many other roles, the unpleasant Uncle Joss in Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, and the Chorus in Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. He also played a memorable Captain Hook in New York, and the eponymous Clive of India.

Here you can see him as the Earl of Leicester in the 1937 film Fire Over England.