Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What I’m reading #71

Seven reasons not to do work for free.

This TLS review of Peter Clarke’s Mr Churchill’s Profession (the title is a play on the title of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession, which is about prostitution) reminds one that Winston Churchill was a freelance journalist, and a very successful one. At 24 he was one of the highest-paid in the world. Money quote:
Clarke has thoroughly scrutinized Churchill’s personal finances by way of his correspondence, his bank account, his tax returns and even his predictably impressive wine merchant’s bills (running annually at “about three times the earnings of a male manual worker at the time”).
Second money quote, from Evelyn Waugh on Churchill’s Marlborough, a biography of his ancestor:
“I was everywhere outraged by his partisanship & naïve assumption of superior virtue”, Waugh ruthlessly replied to Randolph. “It is a shifty barrister’s case not a work of literature.”
More on Finnegans Wake, last mentioned here in April and this will be the last time this year, promise: but this is by Michael Chabon in the New York Review of Books. He is wonderful about Ulysses which:
struck me, most of all, as a book of life; every sentence, even those that laid bare the doubt, despair, shame, or vanity of its characters, seemed to have been calibrated to assert, in keeping with the project of the work as a whole, the singularity and worth of even the most humdrum and throwaway of human days. I had just begun it when news came of the death, from cancer, of my best friend’s teenage daughter, and over the week that followed I found myself reaching gratefully into the book’s pages, tucking my cold hands into its pockets for comfort and warmth. It was a lighted house in a dark night.
When I reached the last page I immediately turned to the first to read it all over again, and then I made my way back through the stories, the first novel, the poems, unwilling to relinquish the company of Joyce. I read the letters and the Ellmann biography, and checked out the lone play, Exiles, even though I hate reading plays almost as much as I hate listening to recitations of other people’s dreams.
After that there was nothing for it: the bottle must, at last, be unstoppered, the safety perimeter breached.
What he means is, he read Finnegans Wake. And he is wonderful about that. Money quote, which is just as true of Ulysses:
Read aloud—ah! read aloud—it was fun, headlong fun, as you shot the rhetorical rapids in a spinning, swamped whitewater raft.
It is a brilliant piece and even if you have no interest in the Wake, or in Michael Chabon, it’s worth a look.

Word of the day: sprunting. Let’s hear it from Mark Forsyth in the Daily Telegraph with the latest lexicographical news:
Some of the words you find in old dialect dictionaries make you want to build a time machine and head straight off. Given the choice, I would emigrate to 19th-century Roxburgh, where they had a single word – sprunt – meaning to run after girls among the haystacks after dark. The idea of a place where that activity was so common that they needed a one-syllable word for it makes me feel that I was born too late.
Monitors: Chris Slane, Steve Whitehouse

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