Category Archives: Literature

Waugh on the merits

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 writer’s 10 finest children’s books

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…

‘Brideshead Revisited changed my life’

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.

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Jane Austen was a devout Christian

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.

Announcement about the Winterbine Tetralogy

A REORGANISATION OF THE WINTERBINE SERIES

My original post was a rather complicated explanation of my proposed reorganisation of the Winterbine series. To keep it simple, I will take 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 will be 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 would then be right. The fourth book is still in the planning which makes the series a tetralogy.

Book One will develop the early story of Fr van Engelen, his niece Anneke, and Gerda Vrouwendijk with the location of the story in Holland and England (Middelburg, Amsterdam and London). New characters, some Australian, will appear. The period will be from 1946 to 1972. The social background will be the 1960s student revolution. The themes of Gnosticism and the Goddess will be established.  There will be no change to the story although I will make small adjustments in The Castle of Heavenly Bliss. This first book, with the provisional title A Time of Distress (from Luke 21), will provide the groundwork for the following three books.

I will begin developing Book One in January 2019 after I have finished with Tony Abbott: The Times of Revolution. Stay alert for developments.

North and South DVD review

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.

The Catholic Novel is my genre of novel writing

Until now I have not felt the need to place my fiction writing into any particular genre, happy to let the novels speak for themselves. I adopted this attitude even though the three novels I have written fit into the genre of the Catholic novel. 

I did not want to put any limitation on them. I was convinced that the stories’ framework would not inhibit the interest of the discerning reader. I was right about this. A number of readers said that the Catholic characters and circumstances did not prevent them from liking the novel. 

I have changed my mind and think it best that I ‘come out’, so to speak.

First, I don’t see myself writing as anything other than a novel in the genre. I have two novels planned, one already at 45,000 words, and they will be in this market. There is no point in hiding the fact. Indeed, it will link me to that market.

Second, there has been such a polarisation in Australian society that I feel I must make an explicit stand on where we are heading. The issues of ‘same-sex’ marriage, the Safe Schools program, and euthanasia are just a few of the issues that have, and will continue to polarise Australian society.

Third, in coming out, I would like to promote the market and encourage readers and writers to have a closer a look at the novels and novelists in the genre of the Catholic novel. To this end, I will make comments and provide links to writers and their works.

What does the genre of the Catholic novel entail? I have devoted a page to explaining what is it and who are its foremost proponents. 

Complete works of Evelyn Waugh in preparation

Evelyn Waugh’s writing is being comprehensively re-edited at last, more than 50 years after his death. 

Under the general editorship of his grandson Alexander Waugh, Oxford University Press, in association with the University of Leicester, where Waugh’s biographer Martin Stannard is based, is publishing a Complete Works, bringing together all of Waugh’s extant writings and graphic art, including much that has never been seen before (some 85 per cent of his letters, for example). It’s a huge undertaking and a thrilling prospect for all who love Waugh’s prose. Read on…

Reader review of In This Vale of Tears

By Millicent on Goodreads

I don’t usually review books but I was lucky enough to win this book through Goodreads so I thought I would share just a few small thoughts on it.

I really enjoyed In This Vale of Tears, it is not usually the type of book I would read but I thought perhaps it was time to expand my book horizons, and I’m glad I did.

The characters where all interesting and developed well and I found myself really putting myself in their situations regardless of if they related to me or not. In saying that though, although it is heavily themed with Catholicism, you find much more out of it than just religion, as I think most of the issues that the characters are dealing with, most people would be able to relate to.

The imagery was beautiful and it was a reminded to me that I should be reading more books set in Australia.
Overall an enjoyable read!

Jane Austen’s vigorous defence of the novel

 For many years Northanger Abbey was the only Jane Austen novel (of those published) that I neglected. It was my least favourite. And I don’t know why when I look back. It was probably the impression I gained from reading it as a school boy. When I eventually became inspired enough to pick it up, prompted by one of its television productions, I was surprised to find how modern it was in its depiction of the relations between young men and women.
 
Few males would not know what a flirt is like and the manipulative tricks she can get up to.  Such a flirt was no different in Jane Austen’s day, it seems. In Isabella Thorpe she has depicted the type exactly – and satirised her mercilessly.

Continue reading Jane Austen’s vigorous defence of the novel