Listen to Heartwork’s incredible ‘I Went to Parts’ here.
Listen to Heartwork’s incredible ‘I Went to Parts’ here.
Whilst The Literary Sisters is primarily a literary blog, I have always shown my love of music here, what with curating various playlists and posting music videos twice a week. I am always struck by those musicians who are passionate about their craft, and who write wonderful, thought-provoking lyrics which really strike a chord within me. One such musician, Dan O’Dell, formerly known as Dropout Dan and who now writes and performs under the name of Heartwork, has very kindly agreed to be interviewed.
Watch out for part two of the interview, plus a special making of the ‘Coloured Out’ EP video, tomorrow.
What is our life? A play of passion,
Our mirth the music of division,
Our mother’s wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for this short comedy.
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is,
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss.
Our graves that hide us from the setting sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
Only we die in earnest, that’s no jest.
I was not entirely sure as to whether this book would qualify as Irish literature, but I decided to include it nevertheless. Even though Iris Murdoch is mostly considered a British author, she was born in Ireland from Irish parents, and this book is also set in Ireland, so I guess this makes it an eligible choice.
The Virago Vintage Classics edition that I read started with an introduction by Stephen Medcalf, who was Iris Murdoch’s very own student. As he mentions in his introductory essay, The Unicorn is “set between two famous landmarks on the west coast of Ireland, the cliffs of Moher and the limestone country of the Burren”. I have never been to Ireland myself (yet), but merely looking at pictures of these places just to have the image in my head when I read the story, made me think that Ireland was the perfect place for such a gothic story to unravel.
The book begins with one of the main characters, Marian Taylor, who has been given the job of a governess in a remotely placed castle in the west coast of Ireland. There, Marian comes to meet and hear about many different people, including the ones also living in the castle but also some strange-acting neighbours.
Marian’s life at the castle is pretty uneventful at the beginning, until suddenly she starts noticing that the people surrounding her may not actually be as innocent as they look. The castle itself, as well as her employer Hannah’s life turns into a complete mystery in which everyone seems to secretly participate and Marian decides to look for answers to all the questions posed before her. Hannah never leaves the castle and she appears to be a prisoner inside her own property, while her husband is enigmatically away for a long period of time. As Marian gets more and more deeply involved into this mystery, she (and the reader alongside her) begins doubting the verisimilitude of the events that occur to her surroundings and to herself as well.
I have to admit that The Unicorn is a wonderfully written novel. I had not yet had the opportunity to read any of Murdoch’s other works prior to this one, and it made me really intrigued about her other stories as well. However, it did take me quite some time until I fully got into the story. I loved the ominous atmosphere and the landscape descriptions at the beginning, but the novel felt pretty repetitive and redundant to me from that point on. I had been re-reading Jane Eyre before starting this novel, so it felt very much like yet another copy of this gothic romance type.
However, after a few chapters, the events took such a sudden turn, that it made me really curious to see how the author would end up wrapping things up and finishing this strangely enchanting tale. Luckily, it did not end up being similar to the other gothic novels I initially had in mind. I liked how the novel was separated into seven parts, and in each part the narrator’s voice would be interchangeable between Marian and Effingham Cooper, a visitor of the people that live nearby, who is in love with Hannah. Each narrator presents the events under their own circumstances, and therefore the lines between who is lying and who is not are becoming rather blurred.
After reading the entire novel, and especially upon reading the introduction, I am certain this novel contained much deeper philosophical meanings and symbolisms than I could understand. I did not particularly like how the characters fell in love with each other in a flash and forgot about it when the tiniest distraction came along. It might have been done in purpose, to serve the establishing of the magical and mystical atmposhere, since it looked like everyone acted while being under some sort of spell, but I found it rather unnecessary. Perhaps I should come back to this book some time in the future, when I will be able to notice more in it than in my first reading.
P.L. Travers’ I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, first published in 1941, is a children’s novel, which seems to have been largely – and sadly – forgotten. Virago have just reissued it as part of their Modern Classics list, including Gertrude Hermes’ lovely black and white drawings. Travers writes in her preface that the characters and ‘the experiences recorded are authentic’.
The novel presents the fictional diary of eleven-year-old Sabrina Lind. With the Second World War raging, she leaves her cosy parental home in Sussex with her younger brother, James; their father tells them that their house, in the village of Thornfield, ‘had stood for over nine hundred years and was old enough to take care of itself and would probably go on standing no matter what happened. The pair have been invited to travel to the safety of America to stay with their aunt, Harriet, for the war’s duration: ‘Just when we were so sure nothing would happen, the German plane came over one night at one o’clock in the morning… Suddenly there were five loud explosions. After that there was a terrible silence and I knew that Father and Mother were looking at each other in the darkness and I felt myself getting small and tight inside. Then Father said quietly, “Meg, they must go””. Sabrina goes on to say, ‘We do not want to be cabin boys and see the world if there is a war on in England. We want to stay here. But we do not tell them [their parents] so because their faces will crumple’.
Sabrina has decided to record her experiences in an exercise book, each entry of which is undated: ‘Now I am going to write a Diary because we are going to America because of the War. It has just been decided. I will write down everything about it because we shall be so much older when we came back that I will never remember it if I do not. So this is the beginning… All of us felt the same thing, that this summer was not like all the other summers but only a Farewell’.
The narrative style which Travers has crafted is engaging, and Sabrina’s voice is believable throughout. Whilst her narration is, on the whole, unreliable due to her youth, she is an observer; she thus relays all of the information about the war which she hears from the adults around her, so as to set the scene further. It is most thoughtful in terms of the expressions which Sabrina uses: ‘Oh dear, what an exciting day. Not the birthday kind of excitement but the sort that makes you feel empty inside and the middle part of you all quivery like a telephone wire’. Her narrative also rather charmingly contains spelling errors, which makes the whole feel relatively authentic as a document; for example, ‘Walter and James went down into the crayter and found some jagged pieces of bomb and kept them for souvenires’, and ‘he does not like children trapezing over his garden’.
Sabrina and James are charming characters, and both are beset by what they believe to be pressing matters: ‘James is specially worried now about going to America because he has just remembered that in ten years he will be called up and that he ought to be here ready for that’.
Socially and historically, I Go By Sea, I Go By Land has been grounded so well. It would make a great introduction into the problems which the Second World War caused for civilians on British soil, describing as it does fears of air raids and rationing. The whole is very of its time, too. When asked about her future career prospects, for example, Sabrina says: ‘I might be a First Officer or perhaps a Clown in the circus because I like both but perhaps I would rather have some children’. Pel, a family friend and the woman whom the children are travelling with, announces that foreign waiters ‘are like all the Murders in Shakespeare, they burst in on you at any unexpected moment and have to be bribed before they will leave’.
I Go By Sea, I Go By Land is just as endearing for an adult audience as it surely will be to children. The novel is a lovely read, which has been well plotted throughout. We see how the children cope with being away from their parents and their feelings of homesickness, as well as the way in which they fit in to their new community. One can only hope that Virago reissue more of Travers’ books in the near future.
Bram Stoker is mostly well-known for his gothic horror novel Dracula, a tale which has inspired numerous adaptations in many artistic media. The story of Count Dracula is known by pretty much everyone nowadays, regardless of them being fans of the horror genre or not.
Dracula‘s immense success, however, has resulted in Stoker’s other stories to be rather neglected and not so widely read. The Judge’s House is a short story, first published in a magazine called Holly Leaves the Christmas Number of The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in 1891. The story was not published in book form during Stoker’s lifetime, since it was included in the short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories merely two years after his death, in 1914.
The story begins when Malcolm Malcolmson, a university student, decided to move into a rather old and abandoned house in a small English village in order to find some peace and quiet to concentrate on his studies. He rents the house for some months, despite the horrified looks on everyone’s face when he tells them about his decision.
Things go smoothly at first, as he manages to get a lot of his studying done (and drink quite generous amounts of tea in the process), but it is not long before strange things begin happening. The sudden appearance of rats in the house, the creepy and dusty portraits that loom over him and the unexplained presence of a hanging rope beside the fireplace are just some instances.
Since it is a short story, I do not want to get into much detail and give it out. I really enjoyed reading this, as it contained all the Victorian gothic and horror elements that I adore in such stories. Stoker’s writing is really captivating and it manages to keep you at the edge of your seat until you finally find out what happens.
On a side note, the edition I got of this story is a really pretty one belonging to the Travelman Short Stories, by Travelman Publishing. It does not have the format of a regular book, but rather that of a map. You open it like a map and read each page as it unfolds. I thought it to be an excellent and really innovative idea – traditional books are always beautiful but such unconventional formats are really refreshing once in a while. I also have one more short story by this series, William Trevor’s The Summer Visitor, which I will be reviewing in the next couple of days.