A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 25 June 2012

Essential Tulips And A Gorgeous Madness

My favourite British daily newspaper is the Guardian (and its Sunday sister paper, the Observer). I don't see a copy every day, but I do buy the Saturday edition whenever possible, mainly for its excellent Review section on the arts. It's so well written. If I have the time, I'm quite happy to spend an hour or two doing the Quick Crossword, then reading/skim reading the whole supplement from cover to cover, perhaps marking out bits that have caught my attention. I see I've highlighted these three pieces from last Saturday's Review:

Nicola Barker on Thomas Merton:

'Up with the revolution of tulips. Tulips are not important, they are essential. Yes, sing. Love and Peace, silence, movement of planets.'

As soon as you start reading him [Merton], you find yourself transported to the wooden porch of his hermitage in Gethsemani, Kentucky. It is night-time. The crickets roar. You are perched on an uncomfortably comfortable stool, watching the fireflies flit through the darkness. 'Lord God of this great night,' Merton sighs, 'do you see the woods? Do you hear the rumour of their loneliness? Do you behold their secrecy? Do you remember their solitudes? Do you see that my soul is beginning to dissolve like wax within me?'

Stuart Jeffries interviewing the Swedish author Sven Lindqvist:

One of Lindqvist's earliest books was called Advertising Is Lethal. 'It's a critique of advertising and marketing. I wrote it when I had recently married and we had to buy everything to make a household. I revolted against the idea that I would have to do work I didn't want to do just in order to pay instalments on a sofa. I'd much rather not have a sofa and use my time to do some reading, writing, loving and experiencing life.' (Me too! SW)

The Saturday Poem: The Alibi by James Fenton:

My mind was racing.
It was some years from now.
We were together again in our old flat.
You were admiring yourself adjusting your hat.
'Oh of course I was mad then,' you said with a forgiving smile,
'Something snapped in me and I was mad for a while.'

But this madness of yours disgusted me,
This alibi,
This gorgeous madness like a tinkling sleigh,
It carried you away
Snug in your fur, snug in your muff and cape.
You made your escape
Through the night, over the dry powdery snow.
I watched you go.

Truly the mad deserve our sympathy.
And you were driven mad you said by me
And then you drove away,
The cushions and the furs piled high,
Snug with your madness alibi,
Injured and forgiven on your loaded sleigh.

All wonderful quotes, don't you think?


Dominic Rivron said...

Re newspapers. My sentiments exactly. There must have been Saturday mornings when you and I have been doing almost the same thing, minute to minute.

The Solitary Walker said...

?!?! Mmm...

Rachel Fox said...

Funny.. I was just looking at a Fenton book on my shelf this afternoon and thinking "maybe I should read you again"!

The Weaver of Grass said...

I always read the poem first Robert - some of them are really good. I like the Family section on a Saturday too and I am a great fan of Araucaria with the cryptic crossword. At holiday times he does a specially unusual one - I won it once and it was the highlight of my crosswording career.

The Solitary Walker said...

I've hardly read this poet, Rachel, but I think this poem is really clever.

The Solitary Walker said...

Weaver — I know you are a cryptic crossword buff, Pat, but to have won a prize for one, that's really something! I kind of understand how to do the cryptic ones, but need a lot more regular practice, which I don't give myself. Consequently, if I attempt one it can take me all day to half-compete it. Not very good, I know.

Goat said...

Yes, great quotes. I always enjoy the Guardian when I find one and check it out online sometimes - though it's not the same. The paper and the perfect size of it are missing.

By the way, what's a "sofa"?

Ruth said...

I got as far as the Merton quote and stopped reading.

I was so happy to think that tulips are essential. And then I was in bliss in that firefly-lit darkness in Kentucky, because that is precisely what we have been experiencing every night. We walk back to the meadow, and fireflies light the trees all the way to the tippy top. There are no mosquitoes [yet], and this light show truly does "melt my soul within me."

Thank you. I'll be back to finish the rest.

The Solitary Walker said...

The Guardian is one of the things I miss when I'm abroad, Goat. That and Marmite, of course.

Sofa = settee, couch, divan...

The Solitary Walker said...

I too am very happy indeed to think that tulips are essential, Ruth.

Goat said...

Well, I thought this was as good a place to post this as any. Did you happen to see this in the Guardian? Sounds like a pretty amazing spot for a short getaway:


The Solitary Walker said...

Or a long getaway — yes, I read it today. An incredibly beautiful and remote area of France. I want to go back, I only scratched the surface on the Chemin. Stevenson must have whetted your appetite too.