Saturday, March 18, 2006

"Seen from Paradise" by Dorothy Richardson

At last, she has a place to get away from friends and family--just a cottage in Cornwall, but paradise to one trying to write in peace and solitude. And then friends go and write to say they're coming to invade her privacy with tub-plants and orders to fulfill (after all, it is their place). But, honestly! Read by Scoot. Time 13:57.

Don't you just love authors' bios which begin with the likes of "daughter of an impoverished gentleman"? And then "obliged to earn her own living" and "working as a secretary-assistant to a dental practice"? We mean, as if writers were like ordinary people or something! Not that we're not sorry to hear of Dorothy Richardson's mother's suicide in 1895, but we're more interested in learning how she beat James Joyce and Virginia Woolf and practically everyone else to the punch when it came to inventing stream-of-consciousness prose. It's nice to know, too, that good old socialist H. G. Wells (really, why have we neglected him for so long?) championed her cause and that she was fairly successful as a journalist in a day when such things were not so common. But a bit daunting, we admit, to be reminded that her massive novel series, Pilgrimage, took over her life after 1912. Only one of us here has read all thirteen (admit it--just a bit tedious!) books, but now at least another of us can say that he has read at least this one story, first collected in 1989 in Journey to Paradise.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"The White Paper" by Jean Cocteau

Dockside at Toulon, sailors come and go, whistling boleros. One besotted admirer falls in with a tattooed brute fresh from the brig and sadly in need of a "fetish chain." Ooh--kinky! Read by Scoot. Time 9:14.

Film-maker, artist, novelist, dramatist, boxing manager, provocateur, and above all, poet: Parisian Jean Cocteau was one of the most important figures in the history of the arts of the twentieth century. Another one of those people who knew everyone and influenced them all. (Yes, even you, Ernest Hemingway!) Actually, this story is only "attributed to Jean Cocteau," though his indelible stamp is upon it and there is no question that he illustrated the collected "confessions" from which it comes. Where to begin with M. Cocteau? Well, you could start with his days of opium addiction and the novel Les Enfants Terribles. Or look at his surrealist masterpiece, Blood of the Poet. Maybe read the play he wrote for Edith Piaf between hot affairs with Princess Nathalie Paley and actor Jean Marais. Or just skip right on to his resplendent 1946 film, Beauty and the Beast. Obviously, we all have a lot of work cut out for us.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Showing Off" by Rose Macaulay

We're cheating here a little, because this is not technically a short story, even if it is a type of fiction in the form of a Ruth Draper-ish monologue in Rose Macaulay's delicious collection of Personal Pleasures, and we want to include it because we love this author and wanted to include her on this site somehow. Here, we meet someone we've all met at one time or the other, someone who's done and seen everything but doesn't have the sense to stop straining credibility and our ears. Read by Scoot. Time 5:22.

Among Rose Macaulay's thirty-five books one may find much to amuse oneself, particularly works such as Dangerous Ages, about three generations of women dealing with the thoroughly modern 1920's, and especially The Towers of Trebizond, which aside from having a curiously ambiguous narrator, is a marvel of wit and wisdom. She really did deserve being made a Dame of the British Empire, but should have been awarded it long before her death in 1958 at the age of seventy-seven. We are thankful for the fact that she pursued literature instead of becoming the historian she had once intended to become. She might have been unhappy in love, but at least that allowed her to laugh both at herself and the world.