While I agree in principle that fiction writers should avoid the passive voice and choose a strong verb in instead of resorting to adverbs, the passive voice and adverbs are functional part of the English language, and I use them when required by the shade of the narrative. I take my example from Evelyn Waugh who, it was said, never wrote a bad sentence. Take this sentence in Decline and Fall (chapter 9 about sports day). There were accusations of cheating:
No one spoke of the race, but outraged sportsmanship glinted perilously in every eye.
Would Waugh’s meaning be the same – have the same force – if one removed ‘perilously’ ? Or what verb could replace the already descriptive ‘glinted’ and convey the same meaning?
The character of Madame DeFarge in Charles Dickens’s A TALE OF TWO CITIES is the (UK) Telegraph‘s Daisy Bowie-Sell’s favourite Dickens character.
‘Madame Defarge, from A Tale Of Two Cities,’ Bowie-Sell writes, ‘is a one of Charles Dickens’s meanest characters and is the fifth in the Telegraph pick of the best Charles Dickens characters.’
Ideologues Captured the Canadian Publishing Industry
In 2016, when I enrolled in the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University’s Vancouver, B.C. campus, I had expected to find an industry of like-minded professionals who shared my love of the written word. And I did indeed meet many such colleagues. But I also got a glimpse into an industry that has become politicized to an extent that I scarcely could have imagined.
Publishing is not a career one chooses for the money. Nearly all areas of the industry are suffering economically. But since embarking on this course of study, I’ve found myself confronting challenges that have nothing to do with money. Regular Quillette readers will be aware that political and ideological forces have constrained the range of acceptable content in artistically and academically rarified fields such as creative writing (including poetry), media studies, music and performance art. What might be less appreciated is the manner by which these same forces are exerting pressure on the more mainstream area of publishing…
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born in 1903 to upper-middle-class Anglicans who lived in a suburb of London. He attended a boarding secondary school (Lancing College), read history at Oxford, published his first book (a biography of the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti) at age twenty-four, then his first novel a year later. Waugh married that same year (1928), divorced after two years, and converted to Catholicism. After the first marriage was declared null, he married a Catholic by whom he had seven children. He served honorably but ineffectively as an infantry officer in World War II, and was to publish thirteen novels, as well as seven travel books, three biographies, a volume of autobiography, and numerous essays and book reviews. Lionized in the 1920s as a trendy man of fashion, he became increasingly conservative in politics and churchmanship and notorious for his truculent contempt for the sham enthusiasms of modernity. He died on Easter Sunday, 1966, at his house in Somerset. Read on…
Enid Blyton, the popular children’s writer, died 50 years ago this week.
Astonishingly prolific, the author composed some 700 books between 1922, when she published her poetry collection Child Whispers, and her death in Hampstead on 28 November 1968, often rattling out 6,000 words a day at the typewriter.
She has sold more than 600 million books, which have never gone out of print, been translated into 90 languages and enjoyed a loyal following among young readers for generations, her characters from the Famous Five to Noddy capturing the imagination and inspiring a taste for adventure.
But Blyton has also been heavily criticised. The BBC refused to dramatise her output during her lifetime on the grounds she was a “second-rater”, while she has been derided for the patriarchal assumptions, snobbery and xenophobia evident in her novels and mocked as a conservative relic of a Britain that no longer exists. Read on…
by Rob Weinert-Kendt
I am not quite sure how it happened, but by the age of 13 I was a blissfully indiscriminate Anglophile—a devotee of Jane Austen, “Doctor Who,” Monty Python and the Beatles. The summer of my first teen year, I didn’t just wake up in the wee hours to watch the televised wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer; I dutifully recorded the audio of some of it on a small tape deck for easy replay. When “Chariots of Fire” surprisingly won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1982, it felt like a personal triumph.
It was in that impressionable state that “Brideshead Revisited” entered, and changed, my life. The 11-part television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s great novel aired weekly on PBS, the main supplier of my Brit fixes, and I sat gape-jawed at it, drinking it all in, even as its narrative took turns I didn’t understand at the time (some of which I still wrestle with, in different ways). The book soon became a beloved talisman as well. And while my initial attraction was the usual aesthetic one—the accents, the clothes, the vintage motorcars—the novel’s deeper strands wove themselves indelibly into my own story.
Continue reading ‘Brideshead Revisited changed my life’
I have always found it curious that some feminists count Jane Austen in the pantheon of feminist heroines. I ‘ve heard it ever since feminism made it to the public arena way back in the 1970s. Her rubbishing of men in the form of Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice and the beautiful exchange between Anne Elliot and Captain Harville in Persuasion are evidence of her anti-patriarchal credentials. These incidents, one was likely to think, prove Jane was just short of calling all males rapists. Perhaps that’s a little overstated. But you get the point.
I thought it strange because Jane was a devout Christian. For feminists of the Marxist sort, Christianity, the standard bearer of the patriarchy, is the deadly enemy of women. The strength of her religious feelings may not hit you in the face in her novels although she shows a distinct partiality towards the clergy despite her hilarious (and devastating) satire of clergyman Mr Collins. But her letters and other documentary evidence show the depths of her religious feelings and the sort of Christianity she subscribed to. More about that in another post.
So it was pleasing to see Vic Sanborn on her website (Jane Austen’s World) acknowledging Jane’s Christian faith in the announcement that ‘a “Praying with Jane” blog tour will begin October 31st’ on her website’. The blog tour ‘will showcase Rachel Dodge’s deeply felt first book, which centres around three prayers Jane Austen wrote’. Rachel Dodge’s book is Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen. See Dodge’s website for more information about this spectacular demonstration of Jane Austen’s Christian belief.
A REORGANISATION OF THE WINTERBINE SERIES
My original post was a rather complicated explanation of my extensive reorganization of the Winterbine series. The impetus to reorganize the series were the problems of chronology and the length of The Castle of Heavenly Bliss. These issues had been a nagging me. They were brought to a head when the Melbourne Catholic Reading Club made In This Vale of Tears the subject of discussion for one of their monthly meetings. To keep it simple, I have taken the backstory out of The Castle of Heavenly Bliss and In This Vale of Tears as the basis for a new novel.
The new novel is the first book in the series with In This Vale of Tears the second, and The Castle of Heavenly Bliss the third. The chronological sequence is now right. The fourth book is still in the planning which makes the series a tetralogy.
Book One develops the early story of Fr van Engelen, his niece Anneke, and Gerda Vrouwendijk with the location of the story in Australia, Holland and England (Sydney, Binawarra, Middelburg, Amsterdam and London). New characters, some Australian, will appear. The period will be from 1940 to 1972. The social background will be the Second Vatican Council and the 1960s student revolution. The themes of Gnosticism and the Goddess will be established. There will be no change to the story although some adjustments have been made in The Castle of Heavenly Bliss. This first book, with the provisional title Times of Distress (from Luke 21), will provide the groundwork for the following three books.
The manuscript will be complete in the second half of 2019.
Television or film productions of books – especially your favourite novels – can be disappointing. There are bad – even appalling – productions of Jane Austen’s novels. I am not too keen on the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice that appears to be the favourite of most Jane Austen lovers. Colin Firth’s Darcy is not the Darcy of the novel, and Mr Collins is such a farcical caricature of the novel’s clergyman that all the satire of Austen’s pompous hypocritical cleric is lost. That’s to start with. In the class of the appalling, I put the 2008 production of Persuasion, my favourite Austen novel. Whatever possessed the screenwriter to change a crucial part of the story is beyond me.
On the other hand, the most recent production of Sense and Sensibility (2008) with with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood is the best production of any of Jane Austen novels. It is very true to the novel. Hattie Morahan’s performance is pitch perfect.
I have recently been introduced to Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels. I find them almost as good and engaging as Jane Austen’s – at least the two I have so far read: Cranford and North and South. The television productions of these two books are first class, although Cranford is actually a combination of the novellas Cranford, Mr Harrison’s Confessions, and My Lady Ludlow.
I’m tempted to say that the television production of North and South (2004) is even better than the novel in bringing out the intense relationship between leads Margaret Hale played Daniela Denby-Ashe, and John Thornton played by Richard Armitage. Richard Armitage said in an interview the part was one of a lifetime. Indeed, he played it as one of a lifetime – a rough. smouldering, tormented mill owner who finds it difficult to control his passion for the cultivated girl from Hampshire who rejects him. Below is the link to a review on the tenth anniversary of the production:
10 Years Later, ‘North & South’ Remains the Greatest Period-Drama Miniseries of All Time
Postscript: It has nothing to do with the quality of the production, but Daniela Denby-Ashe has the most perfectly formed lips of any actress I have seen. The opening scenes display them in mesmerising closeup. I’m sure the producers knew what they were doing here. The reviewer claims the kiss at the end was the best television kiss ever. Women sent the BBC switchboard into meltdown. I was not particularly moved by the scene, although I imagine Daniela Denby-Ashe’s lips were an important motivation for Richard Armitage.