Friday, 19 January 2018

151 - Queen/Dickinson/Joosten

Short Story
Ellery Queen: The Adventure of the Seven Black Cats (1934)
This story was hard to resist from the first sentence on:
The tinkley bell quavered over the door of Miss Curleigh's Pet Shoppe on Amsterdam Avenue, and Mr Ellery Queen wrinkled his nose and went in.
He goes on to solve the dastardly crime, of course. A fun story, and I think it's the first I've ever read of Ellery Queen, which seems ridiculous, but there it is. I'm woefully ignorant of Ellery Queen so I just looked him up, and apparently the stories were jointly written by two cousins who used Ellery Queen as both the nom-de-plume and the name of the main character. I'm sure everyone else already knew this, but I didn't. It was a great idea.

Emily Dickinson: The Soul Selects Her Own Society (about 1862)

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

Melanie Joosten: Notes on Writing and Doing Good
This was an interesting and well-written essay about Joosten's thoughts on her own writings. I'm not sure what it has to do with the subject of the book (old age), but it was worth reading.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

150 - Ferry/Dickinson/Joosten

Short Story
Jean Ferry: The Fashionable Tiger (Le Tigre Mondain)
This is a story about animal abuse that occurred in vaudeville shows in the name of entertainment between the two world wars. Like the author, I hate this sort of thing. I'm glad it doesn't happen in shows today, but there are, unfortunately, plenty of animals in circuses and used in 'sport' -- abused for human amusement.

Emily Dickinson: My Life Closed Twice Before Its Close
My life closed twice before its close –
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me
So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
The first line had me puzzled, although the poem is obviously about death and immortality. What does the first line mean? The consensus is that it's referring to deaths of those close to her, and this makes sense. Is the third event her coming death? Or the death of another  loved one? Another poem you can go back to over and over again. I really like Emily D.

Melanie Joosten: Big Sisters
An essay by the young feminist lamenting the divide between women like her and those who have gone before and are now old women. She speaks powerfully for young feminists to support and defend those who are still 'invisible' and still suffering after a lifetime of being treated as 2nd class citizens.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

149 - Bradbury/Poe/Joosten

Short Story
Ray Bradbury: The Happiness Machine
The happiness machine made me think of the Internet and sites like YouTube and Facebook. We're so busy engaging with cyber-life and vicarious happiness, we tend to forget the real life, and the real happiness around us.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven
A strange supernatural poem about a man lamenting the death of his lover Lenore. He's visited by a strange raven who sits on the door repeating the word Nevermore. Very rhythmical with lots of internal rhymes and alliteration.

Melanie Joosten: Home at Last
This is a sobering look at the housing problems of many older Australians, particularly long-term renters and those who lose their homes for one reason or another. Government policies are directly responsible for much of the suffering of homeless elderly people in this country. Home at Last is a scheme to try to find accommodation for such people.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

148 - Collier/Poe/Joosten

Short Story
John Collier: Variation on a Theme
A story about a gorilla who writes a novel. I didn't find it particularly amusing, but I did find it more than a bit silly. I suppose it could be seen as a satire on the literary world of the time.

Edgar Allan Poe: Annabel Lee
This is a creepy poem about love transcending death.

Melanie Joosten:  Invisible Women
A very interesting, well-written, and respectful essay about older women and how society treats them as if they were invisible, and their ageing as if it were a disease.

Monday, 15 January 2018

147 - Collier/Noyes/Joosten

Short Story
John Collier: Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon!
I was not impressed with this one as the plot holes were enormous and it was far too implausible for me. Not one of his better stories.

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958): The Highwayman
I like this poem. It's so rhythmical it's almost impossible to read it without hearing the galloping horse, but it sounds like a poem from the 19th century rather than the early 20th, when it was written. I always like poems that tell a story, as this one does.

Melanie Joosten: The Right to be Old
This is really a critique of the current 'positive ageing' model, which says: 'it's okay for you to keep on living, so long as you don't become old.' Old age is seen as a medical problem rather than a natural part of life. We need to change this, of course, but the problem is, I think, that young people just can't imagine themselves being old, and so they find it hard to relate.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

146 - Collier/Shakespeare/James

Short Story
John Collier: Thus I Refute Beelzy
I liked this one, about a small boy with an invisible friend who turns out to be all too real.

William Shakespeare: Sonnet 106
When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
In praise of ladies dead, and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express’d
Even such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And, for they look’d but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:
For we, which now behold these present days,
Had eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
I've written a few sonnets, and they are very difficult to write. It takes lots of drafts (well, for me anyway) to get a sonnet to sound unforced and unnatural.

Clive James:  He That Played the Fool
A review of a biography of Kenneth Tynan by his widow, Kathleen. Well, I hate to admit it, but I'd never heard of Kenneth Tynan, who was apparently the most famous theatre critic of the 20th century. The essay made me want to look him up, especially as I've reviewed theatre myself, but in a much smaller way. It seems Tynan was a brilliant theatre critic but one who didn't give a damn about anyone's feelings, and who was a horrible, cruel, and quite nasty man. And therefore (in my uneducated opinion) perhaps best forgotten.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

145 - Collier/Burns/James

Short Story
John Collier: Bird of Prey
A strange story with more than a touch of horror about it.

Robert Burns: John Anderson, My Jo
A beautiful love poem about two people who have spent their lives together and are growing old together.

Clive James:  Making Programmes the World Wants
This essay, or rather speech, was written in 1991, when TV was still worth watching. There were two channels in Britain: BBC and ITV, and both made excellent programmes. They probably still do, but I wouldn't really know -- when the number of channels here multiplied and air time became filled with endless 'reality' shows, I stopped watching (in 2002), although I occasionally watch DVDs of shows people tell me are good. Now I spend my evenings reading a story, a poem, and an essay.  :)