Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scott Fitzgerald / Thank You for the Light

Francis Scott Fitzgerald



by The New yorker, AUGUST 6, 2012

Mrs. Hanson was a pretty, somewhat faded woman of forty, who sold corsets and girdles, travelling out of Chicago. For many years her territory had swung around through Toledo, Lima, Springfield, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne, and her transfer to the Iowa-Kansas-Missouri district was a promotion, for her firm was more strongly entrenched west of the Ohio.
Eastward, she had known her clientele chattily and had often been offered a drink or a cigarette in the buyer’s office after business was concluded. But she soon found that in her new district things were different. Not only was she never asked if she would like to smoke but several times her own inquiry as to whether anyone would mind was answered half apologetically with “It’s not that I mind, but it has a bad influence on the employees.”
“Oh, of course, I understand.”
Smoking meant a lot to her sometimes. She worked very hard and it had some ability to rest and relax her psychologically. She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road.
The last week of her first trip on the new circuit found her in Kansas City. It was mid-August and she felt somewhat lonely among all her new contacts, so she was delighted to find at the outer desk of one firm a woman she had known in Chicago. She sat down before having herself announced and in the course of the conversation found out a little about the man she was going to see.
“Will he mind if I smoke?”
“What? My God, yes!” her friend said. “He’s given money to support the law against it.”
“Oh. Well, I’m grateful for the advice—more than grateful.”
“You better watch it everywhere around here,” her friend said. “Especially with the men over fifty. The ones who weren’t in the war. A man told me that nobody who was in the war would ever object to anyone smoking.”
But at her very next stop Mrs. Hanson ran into the exception. He seemed a pleasant young man but his eyes fixed with so much fascination on the cigarette that she was tapping on her thumbnail that she put it away. She was rewarded when he asked her to lunch and during the hour she obtained a considerable order.
Afterward, he insisted on driving her to her next appointment, though she had intended to spot a hotel in the vicinity and take a few puffs in the washroom.
It was one of those days full of waiting—everyone was busy, was late, and it seemed that when the clients did appear they were the sort of hatchet-faced men who did not like other people’s self-indulgence, or they were women willingly or unwillingly committed to the ideas of these men.
She would say, “We think we cover a different field. It’s all rubber and canvas, of course, but we do manage to put them together in a different way. A thirty-per-cent increase in national advertising in one year tells its own story.”She hadn’t smoked since breakfast and she suddenly realized that that was why she felt a vague dissatisfaction at the end of each call, no matter how successful it had been in a business way.
And to herself she was thinking, If I could just get three puffs I could sell old-fashioned whalebone.
She had one more store to visit now but her appointment was not for half an hour. That was just time to go to her hotel but, as there was no taxi in sight, she walked along the street, thinking, Perhaps I ought to give up cigarettes. I’m getting to be a drug fiend.
Before her, she saw the Catholic cathedral. It seemed very tall, and suddenly she had an inspiration: if so much incense had gone up in the spires to God, a little smoke in the vestibule would make no difference. How could the Good Lord care if a tired woman took a few puffs in the vestibule?
Nevertheless, though she was not a Catholic, the thought offended her. Was it so important that she have her cigarette, when it might offend a lot of other people, too?
Still. He wouldn’t mind, she thought persistently. In His days, they hadn’t even discovered tobacco. . . .
She went into the church; the vestibule was dark, and she felt for a match in the bag she carried but there weren’t any.
I’ll go and get a light from one of their candles, she thought.
The darkness of the nave was broken only by a splash of light in one corner. She walked up the aisle toward the white blur, and found that it was not made by candles and, in any case, it was about to go out—an old man was on the point of extinguishing a last oil lamp.
“These are votive offerings,” he said. “We put them out at night. We think it means more to the people who give them to save them for next day than it would to keep them burning all night.”
“I see.”
He struck out the last one. There was no light left in the cathedral now, save an electric chandelier high overhead and the ever-burning lamp in front of the Sacrament.
“Good night,” the sexton said.
“Good night.”
“I guess you came here to pray.”
“Yes, I did.”
He went out into the sacristy. Mrs. Hanson knelt down and prayed.
It had been a long time since she had prayed. She scarcely knew what to pray for, so she prayed for her employer, and for the clients in Des Moines and Kansas City. When she had finished praying, she knelt up. An image of the Madonna gazed down upon her from a niche, six feet above her head.
Vaguely she regarded it. Then she got up from her knees and sank back wearily in the corner of the pew. In her imagination, the Virgin came down, like in the play “The Miracle,” and took her place and sold corsets and girdles for her and was tired, just as she was. Then for a few minutes Mrs. Hanson must have slept.
She awoke at the realization that something had changed, and gradually she perceived that there was a familiar scent that was not incense in the air and that her fingers smarted. Then she realized that the cigarette she held in her hand was alight—was burning.
Still too drowsy to think, she took a puff to keep the flame alive. Then she looked up at the Madonna’s vague niche in the half-darkness.
“Thank you for the light,” she said.
That didn’t seem quite enough, so she got down on her knees, the smoke twisting up from the cigarette between her fingers.
“Thank you very much for the light,” she said. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hemingway / The Paris Wife

Hadley and Ernest, 1922

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – review

Paula McLain's novel gives Ernest Hemingway's Paris years an affectingly romantic cast

Hadley and Ernest Hemingway
Hadley and Ernest Hemingway in Chamby, Switzerland, 1922. Photograph: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
A few years back, the novelist Curtis Sittenfeld had the bright idea of fictionalising the life of Laura Bush. American Wife told the story of one Alice Blackwell, the gentle, liberal first lady of a wealthy, vulgar and dim-witted president. It was a clever sidelong way of peeking into the Bush administration, and prefigured both the name and modus operandi ofThe Paris Wife, a novelisation of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage from the point of view of his quiet and good-tempered spouse.
    The Paris Wife
  1. by Paula McLain

Like George Bush, Hemingway has over the years degenerated into a crude caricature of himself: "Papa", the drink-sodden bully who roamed the world with a shotgun in one hand and a whiskey in the other. By returning to the heady Paris interlude that began his career, Paula McLain retrieves a more appealing figure: a suitable romantic hero, in fact, for what turns out to be a pleasantly affecting love story.
Hadley Richardson (McLain has elected to keep her characters' real names) is 28 when she first meets the glamorous young war hero at a party. Wholesome, a little old-fashioned – "I don't know any jazz, so I'm playing Rachmaninoff" – she's resigned to a spinsterish existence, living unmarried and unemployed in the upper floor of her sister's house. Despite the cobwebs she is, as Ernest quickly spots, "a good clear sort", and so he marries her and whisks her from St Louis to the whirlwind of 1920s Paris, where the likes of Ezra Pound, F Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein can be found thronging every boulevard.
The period and setting are hardly untrodden territory for novelists and biographers alike, and McLain owes a great debt, as she cheerfully admits, to A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's own posthumously published memoir of his Paris years. The difference between the two is that the action here is largely seen through Hadley's eyes; the domestic takes precedent and there is more emotion and exposition than Papa would permit.
Even stripped to the core, the story possesses a classically tragic arc, and it's not hard to see its appeal to a novelist bent on refleshing bare bones. Ernest and Hadley – Tatie, as they call each other – begin their expat life in a flush of love. He writes, she cooks, and they drink away the evenings "until we were beautifully blurred and happy to be there together". The first ripple of disharmony comes when Hadley decides to bring all Ernest's manuscripts – three years of work, copies included – with her in a valise to a rendezvous in Switzerland. Of course the case is lost, and the disaster exposes a fault line between the pair that's only further strained when Hadley discovers she's pregnant.
Full of mistrust after these inadvertent betrayals, Ernest is ripe for the seductive advances of Pauline Pfeiffer, a "pretty otter" of a woman who will eventually become Mrs Hemingway number two. McLain, who has done an excellent job of assuring the reader of Hadley's saintly qualities, clearly doesn't have much time for this snake in Dior, who accompanies the Hemingways on holiday on the proviso that she takes the afternoon shift in the marital bed.
Hadley is a deeply touching character, dignified even as she loses almost everything she's loved, and making her goodness both convincing and interesting is an impressive feat. Indeed, this book is a more risky affair than its sometimes sugary surface betrays. Taking up the Hemingway story inevitably means comparisons with Papa himself, and McLain courageously draws fire by including interludes written from his perspective: hard-bitten monologues with such lines as "You might as well bring yourself down and make yourself stinking sick with all you do because this is the only world there is." It's not exactly up there with John Cheever's classic parody, but it certainly does the job.
An appealing companion volume to A Moveable Feast, then, but once it's finished, turn back to the original, with its cool, impressionistic prose. It can hardly be said that the least interesting thing about Hemingway is the way he lived his life, but let's not forget that it's his writing that endures.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Daphne du Maurier / Jamaica Inn

Daphne du Maurier
Du Maurier's novel Jamaica Inn reverberates with adventure and excitement as Mary Yellan, the heroine finds herself deep in danger in pirate territory.
Du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn gives a perceptive overview of life in the 1830s around the Cornish coastline of England. Pirating and wrecking and smuggling was at its height resulting in great danger to ships navigating around the southern coastline. This is the scene around which she bases her novel. The following book review should give the prospective reader a good insight of the novel.

Jamaica Inn: The Setting
The story is set in a landscape which is familiar to Du Maurier, the moors of Cornwall and in many ways what she describes taking place at Jamaica Inn during the early 1800s is very close to the truth. Mary Yellan is the youthful heroine, orphaned in her early twenties and with no one to turn to, she is forced to sell the family farm and make her home with her married aunt, this being her dying mother’s final request. Mary’s adventure begins when she heads for Jamaica Inn, located between Bodmin and Launceston, where Aunt Patience’s husband, Joss Merlyn is the landlord.

Jamaica Inn: Mary’s Arrival
Mary’s arrival at Jamaica Inn is marked with a darkness that only grows as events unfold. Mary’s childhood image of a happy-go-lucky Aunt Patience is shattered when she encounters her, a broken and tearful woman, subservient to the ruthless bully who is her husband. Her Aunt Patience is too fearful to impart any information to her so Mary discovers the sinister goings on at Jamaica Inn through her own curiosity and fearless perseverance. She finds out that Joss Merlyn is involved in everything from treachery to murder.

Jamaica Inn: Mary Finds Some Solace
Amidst all of this, Mary has to battle with feelings of passion for Jem, the brother of Joss not knowing whether he is involved with Joss whom she plans to expose. Romance, however is not part of this novel; Mary is down to earth and sees the cycle of life as being inevitable and outside her control, romance a mere temporary aberration in life. Her only source of solace is the Vicar of Alturnam; seeing him as a man of God, she trusts and confides in him only to discover that her trust was misplaced.

Mary Leaves Jamaica Inn

There is a continuous build-up of action which keeps the reader engaged until the end. There is both despair and relief for Mary and she is finally able to leave the darkness of Jamaica Inn behind her. She leaves with Jem knowing that there will be trials and tribulations ahead.

Jamaica Inn and Du Maurier
Whilst Du Maurier had a rather privileged life, she has excelled remarkably in portraying the lives of ordinary working class and farming families. This expose emanates through the language used and the behavior of the individuals resulting in an extremely true-to-life drama in which Du Maurier seems to be at one with Mary’s psyche. The outcome is a real life drama which is balanced and focussed on the hardships and realities faced by people, in particular, women.
There is no ludicrously happy ending for Mary, rather a glimmer of happiness as May’s life moves on from her ordeal. The reader is left with no doubt that Mary will face many more problems during her lifetime. The drama unfolds quickly making this a book that is difficult to put down until the end has been reached.


Du Maurier, D. (2008). Jamaica Inn, Virago Press:London


by Daphne du Maurier

The cold walls of Jamaica Inn smelt of guilt and deceit. Its dark secrets made the very name a byword for terror among honest Cornish folk. Young Mary Yellan found her uncle the apparent leader of strange men who plied a strange trade. But was there more to learn? She remembered the fear in her aunt’s eyes…..

Out on wild, rough moors there were only two people to befriend her – a mysterious parson and an insolent, likeable rogue who broke the law every day of his life.

Written by Daphne du Maurier. First published in 1936 by Victor Gollancz ltd. This edition published by Pan Books 1976.

Set on the wild, windswept moors of Cornwall in the early 1800′s, Jamaica Inn is a beautifully written gothic romance cast amidst the murderous backdrop of the nineteenth century criminal underworld.

Following the death of her mother and the gradual ruin of their family farm, our heroine, 23 year old Mary Yellan, decides to sell up and leave town to go live with her mother’s sister Aunt Patience. Mary has had little contact with her Aunt over the years, only remembering her as a pretty, smiling woman who had lost contact with the family when she married ten years ago. Now Patience lives with her husband, Joss Merlyn, the landlord of Jamaica Inn on Bodmin moor.

Suspense and foreboding literally drip from the pages aswe accompany Mary on her rain lashed journey through a desolate November night to get to the inn. Right from the start the omens aren’t good and they certainly do not get better. Once she arrives Mary is greeted by a barren, unlit husk of a building out of which looms the powerful and frightening figure of her uncle, Joss Merlyn. The inn is as bleak inside as out and Mary is dismayed when she finally meets her Aunt – an unrecognisable shadow of her former self, reduced to a nervous, tattered wreck by her vicious, drunken husband.

Well, as a bleak November night unfurls into a bleak and dreary mid-winter, things get stranger and scarier for Mary. Jamaica Inn never seems to be open to the public and only caters to a select band of vagabonds befriended by the bullying landlord. Strange noises and furtive comings and goings in the dead of night hint at a darker purpose to this inn and all is soon revealed to Mary by landlord Joss himself when he slips into a drunken stupor, revealing the shocking truth behind his business.

From the moment she set foot in the inn her heart has been telling her to flee but, determined to do right by her Aunt, Mary decides to stay, perhaps even to bring justice and an end to the practices of her murderous Uncle. But she has to tread carefully as her own life is in peril and early on our canny heroine knows she should trust no-one – not even her Uncle’s brother Jem, a horse thief who steals her heart and swears he has nothing to do with his brother’s dastardly deeds. And what about Francis Davey, the soft spoken, albino Vicar of Altarnun, who comes to her rescue more than once when she finds herself stranded on the moors. Perhaps Mary has found an ally in him – or has she?

Like Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Jamaica Inn is one of my favourite winter reads. This is a tale steeped in mystery and suspense which grips the reader right up to the end. And this book is dark - really if you thought your Christmas was looking grim have pity on poor Mary Yellan. The prose is beautiful, full of atmosphere and brimming with all things gloriously gothic. We have murder, madness, passion and mayhem; stark landscapes, stormy seas and blood curdlingly horrifying crimes. It’s no surprise that Daphne du Maurier’s works are still in print to this day (though I think I prefer the cover art on my edition!). This is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark winter’s evening. Five out of five stars.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Daphne du Maurier / The Birds

La Bocana, Colombia, 2012
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas
The Birds 
by Daphne du Maurier 

On December the third, the wind changed overnight, and it was winter. Until then the autumn had been mellow, soft. The leaves had lingered on the trees, golden-red, and the hedgerows were still green. The earth was rich where the plow had turned it. 
Nat Hocken, because of a wartime disability, had a pension and did not work full time at the farm. He worked three days a week, and they gave him the lighter jobs: hedging, thatching, repairs to the farm buildings. 
Although he was married, with children, his was a solitary disposition; he liked best to work alone. It pleased him when he was given a bank to build up or a gate to mend at the far end of the peninsula, where the sea surrounded the farmland on either side. Then, at midday, he would pause and eat the pasty that his wife had baked for him and, sitting on the cliff’s edge, would watch the birds. Autumn was best for this, better than spring. In spring the birds flew inland, purposeful, intent; they knew where they were bound; the rhythm and ritual of their life brooked no delay. In autumn those that had not migrated overseas but remained to pass the winter were caught up in the same driving urge, but because migration was denied them, followed a pattern of their own. Great flocks of them came to the peninsula, restless, uneasy, spending themselves in motion; now wheeling, circling in the sky, now settling to feed on the rich, new-turned soil; but even when they fed, it was as though they did so without hunger, without desire. Restlessness drove them to the skies again. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

John Cheever / Gallery

John Cheever

Fotos de Jill Krementz

en Yaddo, 1934

Cheever by John Dyer

Hope Lange

TIME marzo, 1964
Susan Cheever con sus hijos Sarah y Quad

John Cheever en la película "El nadador"

Cheever by Stephen Martin