e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Holmes and Watson revealed

Holmes and Watson cover artI enjoyed this book. It is well written and scholarly without being pedantic or heavy.

However, I did find it odd reading a biography of people who don’t exist. For instance, as many biographers do, Ms Thomson speculates on what her characters were doing in the times not covered by the published stories. For real people this attempt to fill in gaps makes sense – they must have been doing something. But for fictional characters the true answer is ‘nothing’, and most of the time their creator probably didn’t give the question any thought.

Reading this book has made me want to know more of the real facts and I hope to find a good biography of Conan Doyle in the nearish future.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys the Holmes stories and who likes a stylish, fictional biography. If you haven’t read any of the stories you’ll miss out on a good deal of the references and nuances, so I suggest you get a few of them in before starting Ms Thomson’s work.

Cover art from goodreads.

Summer passing in haiku

woodlandCarpe Diem again has an interesting and thoughtful prompt. This time the originator is Jane Reichhold who has published on haiku and modern kigo. The prompt is summer passing – a look at the fleeting nature of time, the seasons, life.

My contribution:

Today the woods are green;
soon they will be gold.
How quickly summer passes.

The flâneur and the boulevardier

Rosler-LeFlaneurIn March I did a post on flânerie – the literary stroller and his environment. It was a new concept to me, but since then I’ve seen a couple of references to it. One of these introduces another stroller – the boulevardier and analyses the difference between them.

Add to these the urban explorer and the window shopper and you have a city full of wanderers. Striding past them are those who have a destination and roaming between them, the homeless.

The countryside doesn’t seem to be full of wandering – people work or hike or rush through in cars.

The cities mentioned in the various sources are modern and European – the flâneur and boulevardier seem to be 19th century French and the window shopper 20th century big cities. Were there such roamers in ancient Rome? in mediaeval Paris? or 18th century Beijing?

A Conference focussed on The Golden Age of Detective Fiction Writers

Bodies logoI came across this event via CrimeFest. It sounds like a great day out for any fan of any golden age detective writer.

A Conference focussed on The Golden Age of Detective Fiction Writers.

Mountains haiku

Once again an inspiring post on Carpe Diem. Basho is the model this time.

Today ideas came to me quickly, though, as usual, they needed time to work into the haiku form.

The mountain path
travels down as well as up.
You must follow both.

The way through the woods

 The path through the woods

 


This path, through woods green
with new growth, was trodden
by my ancestors.

Cinquain poems

I’ve recently been introduced to a kind of poetry I haven’t met before – cinquain poetry. This literally means five-line poems, but under the influence of forms like haiku some of the five-liners have gathered sets of rules and formalities, and the term ‘cinquain poem’ now has a more limited meaning.

There are several different patterns and hence different types of poems – American, didactic, lantern etc. Some of them count syllables and some count words.

A common pattern is:

One word
Two words
Three words
Four words
One word

There is also two, four, six, eight, two syllables.

For some the rules are more prescriptive:

A noun
Two adjectives describing the noun
Three –ing words describing its actions
A phrase about it
One word that sums up or is a synonym for the first

I haven’t had much experience with this kind of poem, but here is one of mine as a sample:

Oaks
Ancient, green
Growing, spreading, rustling
In the wild wood
Trees

BOOK REVIEW – MADDERAKKA BY MOTERWRITER

E A M Harris:

I’ve recently been reading about the literature of marginalised peoples (I’ll blog about it one day) so was drawn to this review. I haven’t read the book but it sounds fascinating. A romance that doesn’t ignore political realities must be unusual.

Originally posted on M C Raj Author:

Our Time Now – A review of the novel ‘Madderakka’

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass

Author M C Raj’s novel ‘Madderakka: A Romantic Journey Through Cultures’ is a love story that celebrates the human spirit in its highs & lows. The protagonists in this love story are not just a couple of individuals but representatives of two indigenous communities from separate parts of the world. Veeran is an Adijan, member of the so called untouchable caste from India while Ramona is a Sami woman from Norway. An anthropologist and a philosopher meet under special circumstances and romance blooms between them. They also discover the similarities in rituals followed and oppressions faced by their…

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The Dreyfus affair from a different angle

9780099580881I’ve enjoyed several of Robert Harris‘ historical thrillers and An Officer and a Spy was no exception. His stories take place over a wide range of space, time and subject: this one is fin de siècle France and the Dreyfus affair.

I suppose that most people will have heard of this major miscarriage of justice. I had a vague idea that Alfred Dreyfus had been wrongly accused of something and sent to Devil’s Island, a penal colony in South America, but beyond that I knew little. I now know a lot more. As a story of amorality, corruption and sheer wickedness it takes some beating. It is also a story of the power of the press and public opinion and seems very modern for that reason.

The central character is Georges Picquart, head of the French counter-espionage (called the Statistical Section). He is present when Dreyfus is thrown out of the army, in which he was an officer, for allegedly selling secrets to the Germans. Later, in his counter-spy role, Picquart discovers that Dreyfus was innocent and another man was the traitor. He gathers evidence and tries to present it to his superiors. But they are at first not interested and later actively hostile. Picquart has stumbled on corruption and cover-up at the heart of government and suffers for his attempts to put things right.

Although there is little actual violence there is no doubt that Picquart is in increasing danger as he refuses shut up and go away.

Picquart was a whistle-blower who seems to have spent some time trying not to be. I think we would recognise him today more easily than his contemporaries did. As an example of someone who risks his career and public persona, and even his life, to right a wrong, his story is worth reading in all historical periods.

Walking the city – modern flânerie

Online magazine, Stepaway, has released its latest issue today. I’m naturally excited, not just because it contains one of my flash fictions, but because it resurrects a literary idea – the flâneur or gentleman stroller.

To modern minds someone who has no job and spends his time wandering around the city in a kind of literary mood might sound anti-social, but in 19th century France, where he was born and lived, he was an explorer, a connoisseur of the streets and quite acceptable.

I doubt if the French flâneur would have had a high regard for modern urban explorers – investigating crumbling ruins or forgotten tunnels would ruin his elegant clothing and annoy his valet.

Stepaway magazine aims to put a modern spin on flânerie and looking at the current edition they succeed. The title comes from a poem by Frank O’Hara. His strolling was a bit constrained as he wasn’t unemployed, but nevertheless he did his best in the tradition. A Step Away from Them begins:

It’s my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored
cabs.

I often wander around cities and many of my poems start when I’m on the move. I think other writers find the same. I don’t know if the original French strollers ever produced literature, but they are believed to have appreciated it and have inspired scholars and writers – enough justification for their wandering ways.

245x145xWalkThisMay15.jpg.pagespeed.ic.MSDH7-nCsSFor those more interested in serious walking, there is a National Walking Month (May 2015). This is a much more serious type of walking, but it is a chance to explore the streets and their literary possibilities.

The website belongs to an organisation called Living Streets which has a tagline of

Putting People First.

I’m all for that. I hate parts of cities where only vehicles can go.

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