Archive for the ‘Americana’ Category


Just spent a satisfyingly idle hour on Flickr looking at a slideshow of one photographer’s work. He clearly loves America – classic cars, people and buildings; lots of sheds! To the question “How do they get those cars so clean?” the only answer must be time and effort. Which is probably what lies behind everything worthwhile really. Yes, those cars are worthwhile in my book. Whole slideshow takes me back to my trips in April ’88 and June ’02. Nostalgia is what it used to be. Thanks Marty.

Sounds like a firm of solicitors or a band. Today we talked about The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, set on the coast of Maine, USA.

Most people liked it, some a lot, some a little but a fairly vocal minority not at all. Soporific and unrealistic, thought some.  I loved it and was pleased to borrow a different edition with some other Jewett work included, as this one story Morag had introduced us to in our Wednesday class made me want more, even in the light of some comments that this was her best writing, putting the rest into it’s shadow. We’ll see. One viewpoint off the internet suggests that Sarah was influenced by the Trancendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and others.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/ralph-waldo-emerson/

Once I’d found out what that was I could see the reasoning behind that observation and understood more clearly one of the aspects of The Country of the Pointed Firs that made it so agreeable to me. I must be a Transcendentalist, (maybe). Off to Leek next week for a tour of the Arts and Craft Movement in the town.

Lovely few moments listening to Jim Dwyer talk about his childhood and subsequent career in journalism, all in Manhattan. His mention of Charles Snyder and the story behind his memorial took me back to our recent studies in the Thursday class of some American architecture and somehow or other I got round to reading of the conflicts between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs in New York in particular but in urban design theory and practice in general.   Out shopping earlier and picked up the ( charity shop £2 ) DVD of Mean Streets which had to be watched so I took the Big Apple in my head to bed. And then there’s Chinatown,  Jack. Will I get to Chicago this year, I keep asking myself, as the exchange rate – sterling to the US dollar – gets worse and worse?

Gave a first donation of platelets yesterday in Stoke-on-Trent. Oil level warning light in the car on the way with the accompanying message “Switch off engine immediately” was worrying but probably explainable after several days of snow and temperatures below zero and not using the car . Not the sort of thing one expects in a Nissan either. After checking levels and a quick burst of acceleration needed to enter fast moving traffic it went off and I still arrived in time, though slightly flustered and a little apprehensive anyway. Seventy five minutes, a big drink of water, staff who know how to smile and a bag of yellow stuff later I was ready to make the next appointment. The machines cost £50 000 each. Taxes and time well spent.

Whilst watching the machine’s display racking up the numbers and beeping occasionally, I managed to read a bit more of Manhattan Transfer by John dos Passos in anticipation of our focus on him this Thursday. Tomorrow though it’s McTeague by Frank Norris which I have enjoyed and look forward to seeing what the rest of the group think, as I suspect that none of them are as keen on Am Lit as I am, though they are always outspoken and often generous in response to any writing they enjoy. Last year one thought that Sherwood Anderson‘s Winesburg Ohio was the worst book she had ever read! Some stills from the film Greed, (with its extraordinary production history and based on McTeague) remind me of scenes from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, also based on a book, this time by the wonderfully mysterious B Traven.

Through Wells (Love and Mr Lewisham) and Housman ( A Shropshire Lad) in a sort of fin de siecle way on Wednesday this week and then Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams and e e cummings on Thursday. Religion and sex, especially sex, dominated the responses to all these works. Differences and similarities in attitudes to promiscuity and homosexuality, between the period of these writers’ work, 1890- 1940 and our own times made a happy balance in the lectures and ensuing discussion with the attention we paid to traditional lit crit.  The latter revealed again the wide variety of ways of reading there are, even among 20 or so people.   We don’t really have formal lectures because all three tutors allow and sometimes invite interruptions. They get them uninvited too, such is the enthusiasm and confidence of we students – most of us are clearly over 60 after all. Perhaps this also explains the ease and considerable delight just about everyone shows in talking about sex….

After the morning with the poets I had lunch in Reubens in Newcastle-under-Lyme with a friend who assists at a catholic church. Afterwards she gave me a guided tour of the church, the sort of thing that is always a treat even given my atheist convictions. They have a relic in this church – a piece of a martyr’s arm, kept in box hidden away in a wall unfortunately! Two sculptures by Eric Gill too (interesting hyperlink there) . So loads to think and reflect on that day, to say the least.

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