Month: January 2013

love = risk

A writer I admire greatly wrote this on Twitter yesterday:

“I want them to fall in love with language: But love = risk”

It has been playing on my mind ever since.

Its such a simple phrase, but it highlights some of the complexity and potential in words. It made me think about the fragility of nouns and verbs: so often I feel like I can’t articulate what I need to, like the exisiting canon of vocabulary just doesn’t go far enough, isn’t deep enough, cannot expand to express the breadth I need it to.

It also brings to mind the Fin de siècle authors I have been reading recently. In 1877, Mary Cholmondeley wrote in her journal:

        “What a pleasure and interest it would be to me in life to write books. I must strike out a line of some kind, and if I do not marry (for at best that is hardly likely, as I possess neither beauty nor charms) I should want some definite occupation, besides the home duties.”[

I love the fact that, in all the tumult of the Fin de siècle, amidst all the intrigues of the New Woman debate, the Marriage Question espoused (!) by Ouida and Grand; a life of writing is seen as valid alternative (though it saddens me that Cholmondeley’s battered self-esteem seems to be her main justification for such a choice.

Sometimes I think we have only scratched the surface of what words can do: their dangerous, subversive, intimate potential.

And I want to be someone who fully explores that. I want to plumb the depths of their design.



And so, I effortlessly segue

…from research topics to reminiscing…

I spent a Christmas gift card on some new music today, after spending several days trawling through online libraries, not wanting to waste it, not being able to chose, deliberating between dub-step and Bowie (not really…)

Anyway, so I am now sitting in my lounge listening to songs from 1991. This is making me feel old. How can this possibly have been 22 years ago!!

I am feeling the in-congruency, sitting here surrounded by technology that would have been a dim and distant dream back then. I remember desperately wanting a portable CD player! 

Maybe the balance is restored by my retro mobile phone collection, though even most of those dusty Nokias would have seemed the height of technology back then.

The passage of time is a funny thing. 

Burned Pages: Fin de Siècle Books and Babies

I got excited today.

I always do, when I become aware of connections between books that momentarily take my breath away. I know that sounds OTT and over-dramatic, but its like the feeling of falling into a word.

I’m not sure if anyone else gets that: usually you just skim over the top of the verb or noun in question, but every now and then there is one that absorbs you utterly for a few moments. I fell into ‘sponge’ the other day: how it looked on the page, how it sounded in my head… its like all of linguistic possibility is summed up in that moment.

Today we were exploring Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley. Now, I read a lot of books, especially with my MA course requesting three a week at present, and I’m pretty adept at skimming merrily over the top of narratives and yet still being able to glean a lot from them. It’s been a long time since I have encountered a text that has caused me to stop, that has stirred my emotions, that has stuck in my mind for days afterwards. RP did all of these things.

It’s hard to blog about the text’s emotional impact without giving away the surprising ending, which I don’t want to do, lest an unsuspecting ‘Google-r’ comes across this and is distraught. I know I would have been if I hadn’t been able to encounter the shock at my own speed.

I have spent the afternoon doing some research into another favourite author of mine: Antonia White. My plan is to write a research paper exploring how Cholmondeley’s fin de siècle text is similar in focus to White’s writing. She was born in 1899, which coincidentally was the year Red Pottage was published.  

I am interested in the genesis of Modernism. last term, I looked at its roots in texts like The Water Babies and F. Anstey’s Vice Versa. Sometimes it feels like I am writing the same essay over and over again, merely creeping forward a few years every time. I love seeing the same questions springing up, the same dissatisfaction which pushes for real change. I feel exhilarated when I can step backwards and trace connections, see the bigger literary picture. There’s such life there for me.

So now I need to go away and try to create some sort of cogent thesis from this. Herein always lies my problem: how do I gather up all those disparate threads and wide-scale connections and turn them into something focused, whilst still allowing me the space for kite-flying.

Red Pottage – Project Gutenberg

Oxford DNB Entry – Antonia White