Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….According to secret reports from the Commissariat’s foreign agents, the movies had reached every burb and hamlet of America. This transformation of the civilised world had taken place within a single historic instant. Despite its rejection of Byzantium, the West was creating an image-ruled empire of its own, a shimmering, electrified web of pictures, unarticulated meaning, and passionate association forged between unrelated ideas. This was how to do it: either starve the masses of meaning or expose them to so much that the sum of it would be unintelligible. Wireless cinema loomed. A man’s psyche would be continually massaged, pummelled, and manipulated so that he would be unable to complete a thought without making reference to some image manufactured for his persuasion. Exhausted, his mind would hunger for thoughtlessness. Political power and commercial gain would follow.

* * * * * * * * *

….Although she was determined not to yield to panic, and run, she ceased to pick her way between cart-ruts filled with water, but plunged recklessly into muddy patches, whose suction glugged at the soles of her shoes. She had reached the densest part of the grove, where the trees intergrew in stunting overcrowding.
….To her imagination, the place was suggestive of evil. Tattered leaves still hung to bare boughs, unpleasantly suggestive of rags of decaying flesh fluttering for a gibbet. A sluggish stream was clogged with dead leaves. Derelict litter of broken boots and rusty tins cropped out of a rank growth of docks and nettles, to mark a tramp’s camping-place.
….Again Helen thought of the murders.
….“It’s coming nearer – and nearer. Nearer to us.”

* * * * * * * * *

….Some of our neighbours have memories of the events that began with the shootings that hot summer. But new people are always arriving in the Park. And they often come under challenging circumstances, from the Caribbean, from South Asia and Africa and the Middle East, from places like Jaffna and Mogadishu. For these newer neighbours, there is always a story connected to Mother and me, a story made all the more frightening through each inventive retelling among neighbours. It is a story, effectively vague, of a young man deeply “troubled” and of a younger brother carrying “history,” and of a mother showing now the creep of “madness.”

* * * * * * * * *

….Although I knew nothing of chemistry, I listened fascinated. He picked up an Easter lily which Geneviève had brought that morning from Notre Dame, and dropped it into the basin. Instantly the liquid lost its crystalline clearness. For a second the lily was enveloped in a milk-white foam, which disappeared, leaving the fluid opalescent. Changing tints of orange and crimson played over the surface, and then what seemed to be a ray of pure sunlight struck through from the bottom where the lily was resting. At the same instant he plunged his hand into the basin and drew out the flower. “There is no danger,” he explained, “if you choose the right moment. That golden ray is the signal.”
….He held the lily toward me, and I took it in my hand. It had turned to stone, to the purest marble.
….“You see,” he said, “it is without a flaw. What sculptor could reproduce it?”
….The marble was white as snow, but in its depths the veins of the lily were tinged with palest azure, and a faint flush lingered deep in its heart.

* * * * * * * * *

….The year before war broke out, Punshon’s Dictator’s Way mocked the dictator of Etruria, ‘“the Redeemer of his country”, in his characteristic country-redeeming attitude so strongly reminiscent of Ajax defying the lightning’. The book was yet another Detection Club project addressing the idea of the altruistic murder. A thrillerish narrative is interspersed with pot shots against Hitler and Stalin (‘who have done so much to bring back prosperity to our world by inducing us to spend all our money on battleships, bombs, tanks, and other pleasing and instructive toys of modern civilisation’) as well as Mussolini, Oswald Mosley [leader of the British Union of Fascists] and the City financiers who gave them backing (‘Money has no smell and money knows no loyalty either’). Mosley had ‘always been a rich man and has a rich man’s idea all through’. Punshon’s contempt for brutal dictators extended to the Foreign Office: ‘They wipe their perspiring brows and say: “…Thank God for Hitler, he may want our colonies but at least he’s fighting Bolshevism.” I don’t know if they thank God for Oswald Mosley too. Perhaps nobody could go quite that far.’

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

34 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. The King in Yellow continues to intrigue and, of course, The Golden Age of Murder! Some Must Watch is a bit scary – I think I like it. (Those pesky Mosleys – can’t seem to rid ourselves of the buggers!)

    • The Kink* in Yellow had good points… and less good points. Haven’t quite decided on a rating yet. (*Should be King, but I like that typo, so it can stay.) Some Must Watch had good points, etc. The Golden Age of Murder, etc. (It’s been a strange old reading week – maybe it’s me. 😉 ) I know! But at least in the good old British style our fascist wannabe dictator was a bumbling incompetent…

  2. Oh, I do like the sound of Some Must Watch, FictionFan. I haven’t read that one yet, but White was talented. And how could you not want to read The Golden Age of Murder? I think you’re having quite a good book week!

    • It’s been an odd reading week – some I expected to love and didn’t completely, and some I was dubious about and ended up loving. The joy of reading! And none that I didn’t at least like… 😀

    • Ha! I think Oswald Mosley brings out the sarcasm in all us Brits who are old enough to know who he was. He never managed to be quite as scary as all the other fascist dictator types… 😉

  3. All of these sound interesting – I’m looking forward to in your take on The King in Yellow, which is a much-quoted fantasy icon.

    • It was a mixed bag, The King in Yellow – I’m still mulling over how to rate it. But it’s short and definitely part of the “weird” tradition, so worth reading…

    • Hm…hmm… I’m feeling really mean this week to all these poor books, but I wouldn’t rush out and buy Some Must Watch just yet… 😉 The Wheel Spins is great though! And The King in Yellow… well…hmm…

    • The Golden Age of Murder is well worth checking out, especially if you’re interested in all the vintage crime that’s been re-issued recently. Thanks for popping in and commenting! 😀

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