Monday, May 13, 2013

Linkapalooza! — Kubrick, Mad Men style, Tudors made modern, Virginia Woolf speaks out

Today I'm sharing gleanings that are cool but don't quite merit a complete post.  Enjoy!
  • This 2001 documentary directed by Stanley Kubrick's long-time assistant Jan Harlan features interviews with many actors from Kubrick's films as well as directors like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. It's full-length, so you might want to come back to it.
  • From a Telegraph feature called "How historical figures would look today" comes these images of Henry VIII and his younger daughter. Elizabeth I looks a bit like Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie to me, while her dad's remake evokes the smugness of Kevin Spacey's character in Netflix's House of Cards.  Like many other people, I find The Tudors endlessly fascinating.

 Quite the dandy, Henry kept a collection of dolls dressed in some of his best outfits.
  •  Speaking of fashion, has anyone been following Tom & Lorenzo's dissections of costuming tropes on Mad Men?  Called "Mad Style," their episode-by-episode analyses of how color and couture convey character and unify themes are well worth following.
"Mother/Maiden/Crone has been reconfigured as Mistress/Maid/Executive – and in this story, they’re all seen as whores by the men around them." Click here for more on this episode.
  • For a few minutes' stimulation, this Buzzfeed list of 20 literary facts has a few items that don't pop up in most lists of this sort (plus it's well illustrated). 
  • Virginia Woolf gave a free-ranging commentary on writing for the BBC in 1937, the only time she was recorded on tape. Her accent is a bit surprising at first—a bit like the Queen Mum, or Posh Spice. Wish she could be reading from one of her novels, but it's jolly great to hear her speak, all the same. Belowis an excerpt from her talk; follow the link for the audio and a transcript.
Photograph by Leonard Woolf
For though at this moment at least a hundred professors are lecturing upon the literature of the past, at least a thousand critics are reviewing the literature of the present, and hundreds upon hundreds of young men and women are passing examinations in English literature with the utmost credit, still — do we write better, do we read better than we read and wrote four hundred years ago when we were unlectured, uncriticized, untaught? Is our Georgian literature a patch on the Elizabethan? Where then are we to lay the blame? Not on our professors; not on our reviewers; not on our writers; but on words. It is words that are to blame. They are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things. Of course, you can catch them and sort them and place them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. If you want proof of this, consider how often in moments of emotion when we most need words we find none. Yet there is the dictionary; there at our disposal are some half-a-million words all in alphabetical order. But can we use them? No, because words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. Look again at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt lie plays more splendid than ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA; poems more lovely than the Ode to a Nightingale; novels beside which Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bunglings of amateurs. It is only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order. But we cannot do it because they do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, by ranging hither and thither, by falling in love, and mating together. It is true that they are much less bound by ceremony and convention than we are. Royal words mate with commoners. English words marry French words, German words, Indian words, Negro words, if they have a fancy. Indeed, the less we enquire into the past of our dear Mother English the better it will be for that lady’s reputation. For she has gone a-roving, a-roving fair maid.


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  2. Ahem! Let's start over again.
    First, thanks for this box of chocolates. I looked at the literary facts, where it is claimed that Poe wrote "The Raven" with a parrot as subject. But Flavorwire recently said that Poe's inspiration was Charles Dickens's pet raven, Grip I (of two), who ate too many lead paint chips and croaked "Nevermore".
    About the Virginia Woolf comments: of course words are as common as peas, but good ideas are few and far between..which is why "Antony and Cleopatra", et. al. must remain the monuments they are, despite the efforts of an infinite number of typing monkeys.
    Saving the Kubrick video for a less hectic moment.

    1. I'm reading Ms. Woolf's remarks in full, and I don't get her statement that "to combine new words with old words is fatal to the constitution of the sentence." How else may a new word be introduced, if not on the arm of familiar words?
      Besides, many words are new to the reader that may have been moping about, unnoticed, for years. For example, it was a revelation to me that "learning curve" was older than I had thought, and originally meant something quite different. (A steep learning curve being a good thing, meaning easy to learn rapidly at first).
      With the new technology, new words come at us all the time, and we struggle to comprehend and use them properly.
      One word which has remained a wallflower ever since I first saw it, on Wikipedia, is disambiguation. She lies where I found it, barely understood, always unfamiliar.

    2. I must admit, I found her ramblings somewhat incoherent, and just succumbed to the mesmerizing sound of her voice.
      Thanks G., for your always astute comments and glosses!

  3. I loved the Buzzfeed article! A few of those I knew, but most of them were news to me. I definitely don't believe that Poe would have been the same with a parrot or Sendak would have been the same with horses.

  4. I very much enjoyed the "grab-bag" sort of format for this blog post! Something for everyone, and almost all of these were very interesting (still haven't found time to delve into the Kubrick).