Life in 4 Paragraphs by A Cunning Hero

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I went to the library today to get a novel I reserved a few days ago, and incidentally I got myself this book and finished it in two hours – Life in 4 Paragraphs by A Cunning Hero. “A Cunning Hero” is actually Aneurin Chong’s pseudonym (anagram eh?).  This book has a prologue written by Antonio Lei (aka A stupid ant); I don’t know who this person is, but he is from Trinity College, Cambridge, and I search online and find that he actually has written some theses on Mathematics. Anyway, it consists of 10 poems on life (Creation, Water, Harmony, Morning, Emotions, Money…), each encompasses 16 lines. It is simple, humorous but thought-provoking. I like this one the most, it is called “30000 Days”.

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In the end, A Cunning Hero introduces songs by a Japanese singer named Chihiro Onitsuka, who is famed for having a ultrasonic voice with hypnotising effect, and is at best in complementing the poems with her songs. 🙂

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The Young Clementina by D. E. Stevenson

51DPOYn8x7LThis is the very first book I read by D. E. Stevenson. The reason for me to have picked up this novel was not because I had knowledge about this author (ignorant as always), but was enthralled by its beautiful cover, and the first sentence at the beginning, “I wonder how a hermit would feel if he had spent twelve years in his cell and were called back to the world to take up the burden of life with its griefs and worries…”, providing with the back-cover which states the occupation of  the heroine as a long-devoted librarian, I think it may bring me some inspiration. Not resonance, just inspiration.

The Young Clementina, a book about how a little lie from a little sister would become a ruin among the heroine, Charlotte Dean, and her bittersweet love interest, Garth. (I immediately think of a song by Bee Gees called I Started a Joke!) This little sister Kitty, was not an evil character, but just being gay all times and a bit preemptive and demanding to the other family members, especially her old sister Charlotte. Charlotte, about 35 of age, worked as a librarian which focused on a niche market on travel books and journal in London. She had been working there for more than 10 years and remained unmarried.  Since Garth found out about the secret, he changed from a considerate, easy-going boy to a cynical, scornful, imperious but a pitiable heir of Hinkleton Manor, and the Secret was waiting to be unveiled by Charlotte, but not until the end of the novel would she realize the little lie had spoiled all things concerned.

This lie worked to such an effect that not only shadowed over the father but also the daughter, Clementina. Clementina was about 13 of age. The relationship between her parents and the negative change in the attitude and personality emerged from Garth had made themselves an isolation to the neighbourhood, which was more of a society teeming with gossips and rumours. Clementina’s character developed into rather detached, inhibitive and self-conscious when other people, even her closest acquaintances and family members, trying to pry into her thoughts.

At first, I felt a bit absent-minded when reading the story, especially on the chapters about horse-hunting; but then it got warmer to me, especially coming into contact the little chat between Clementina and Charlotte, in which they mentioned about Clementina’s favourite character of Little Dorrit, after that I continued reading it till the grand finale.

“I like Tatticoram best,” she said.

“But Clementina, she was so ungrateful.”

“She couldn’t help it, Aunt Charlotte,” Clementina said eagerly. “They wanted things from her. They wanted her to be grateful. You can’t be grateful to people who are always expecting you to be grateful. They were always pawing her.”…(amazing how a thirteen-year-old child could read a novel consisting of 900 pages!)

The conversations between these two are not my only good bits from this book, Mr. Dean, a parson of the village, strongly contended against the use of a ready-made diary compared to copy books for an more effective use of daily recordings:

Buy a bought diary is anathema to the true diariest—take Pepys as your model, His diary was not divided into equal parts—a bought diary starts with the erroneous assumption that all days are alike, or at least equal in length…For Monday I may require three pages, for Wednesday three lines…On Monday I am tempted to be telegraphic, or even to miss out some essential portion of my theme, on Wednesday I am tempted to be verbose.

Apart from that, the portrayal of the friendship between Charlotte and her imaginary friend, Clare, is also interesting. Read it till the end so you’ll see what would turn out of the relationship!

All in all, it is a novel which does not wrench your heart; although not so much riveting, it warmly invites you to the world of Charlotte Dean and the return to the countryside she had long yearned for. However I found this book has an abrupt ending that I think, is rather being  pretentious of the Author trying to emphasize the positiveness of the novel!

I’ll see you soon m’lord…

EAAGALFinished The World of Blandings and the short stories therein: The Custody of the Pumpkin, Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best, and Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey! Love all the three and the last one stands out as my favourite. Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best is also full of silly jokes; the scenario by Freddie is also interesting composition. I am as stunned as the guv’nor when the script involves a black jaguar.

However my brain cannot accommodate too many distrait prunes at one go as there are, I think, so many similar “spirited escapades” to get them digested. I have be granted a leave from Plum for now. But here below is my favourite paasage from  Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey. So beautifully declared by James Belford:

“You need a voice that has been trained on the open prairie and that has gathered richness and strength from competing with tornadoes.

You need a manly, sunburned, wind-scorched voice with a suggestion in it of the crackling of corn whisks and whisper of evening breezes in the fodder.”

Love Blandings Castle. Definitely will look in on Lord Emsworth and the Empress soon!

Embarking on the journey of reading Effie Gray’s biography!

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To get prepared for embracing myself in the world of Effie Gray in reading a biography named Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais by Suzanne Fagence Cooper, which focuses on the most notable love triangle in Pre-Raphaelite era, I’m putting some paintings of Sophy Gray, Effie younger sister, up on the post! This one below was painted by Effie Gray’s second husband Millais when she was at around the age of 14. Actually Sophy had appeared as models on Millais’s painting quite a number of times.

Portrait of a Girl (1857)
Portrait of a Girl (1857)

While I researched more information about her on the internet, I have also found that Charles Edward Perugini, Kate Dickens husband after the death of the former one Charles Allston Collins (Wilkie Collins’s myounger brother, also an artist), portrayed this muse as in painting; though date is not known with certainty (found this information on the internet, will check out on the biography for further information and anecdotes).

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I can’t wait to read this biography!

Something Fresh by P. G. Wodehouse

Something-Fresh6a00d83451bcff69e2011572171b38970b-300wi1188711“Right ho! What a jolly read!  It is a plot-laden novel, but light-hearted, funny and entertaining; moreover, its ending leaves you with a warm-fuzzy feeling.” – Such tedious talking isn’t it? For all the Wodehouse fans here, surely you have all come across such comments on links, but right now I just can’t think of anything more suitable and cleverer to bolster this post. I have been lazy this week, and my brain is jammed all over. But seriously I am really into this novel.

I read Something Fresh as a one of the stories in an omnibus called The World of Blandings.  Before that I have read Summer Lightning as my first try on Blandings Castle novels, and found it just as amusing as first reading Jeeves and Wooster. I started to transform myself into a bait on  Wodehouse’s writing, and I also prodded myself into reasoning why I love his formula so much. All his characters, no matter great and small, have a common trait, that is often being lunatic and paranoid in their situations that they often end up contriving plans that they think wise and sophisticated; however all their plots would just cram into places where they don’t fit. It happens in the case of Invaluable Efficient Baxter – “a chappie can’t take a step in this bally house without stumbling over that damn feller Baxter”- being all there in the business and often plunges into action; he always crashes and fails. I just could not wait reading Leave it to Psmith and see how he leaves himself a blot by “committing a vile flower-pot crime” against Lord Emsworth!

Apart from the misfortune of Efficient Baxter, I also love how the younger and  aristocratic generations are always considered as eyesores to the elders. The  Hon. Frederick Threepwood is one of my favourite Nature’s prune in this novel. He, rather than competing against George Emerson for the rapture of Aline Peters, slips over the stairs for the cat and ends up staying in bed reading Gridley Quayle in afternoons. Even the elopement does happen, he just searches for something adequate to say to the deputation to suppress his dream state of mind, just like his father. What I like about the prestigious aristocrats are that they all are not in the prospect of  the promise of marriage and wandering about like mad hatters!

As much as the omnipresent playful prunes and plots, I also like the deception bits that prevails throughout the story. Ashe Marson, the writer of the detective stories of Gridley Quayle, is one of the interesting characters in the novel. At the opening chapters we see him doing the Swedish Exercise that arouses all laugh and finger-pointing attitude of other spectators in the hotel in Leicester Square. But who can guess that he would get embroiled in a maelstrom in disguising himself  as the valet of the dyspepsia Mr. Peters, and carry out the task of recovering a sought-after Scarab with Joan Valentine who, on the other hand, camouflages as the maid of Aline Peters as Miss Simpson.

Moreover, I have gained more knowledge of the aristocratic household, for example, in where the servants and staff located at dinner, whether of the Steward’s Room or the Servants’ Hall; when the breaking down the social barriers could take place (occurs 2 times, one in abusing Baxter and the elopement case);  the  servants’ honourable disagreement with another feller on “getting Above Himself”, and also the method in addressing one another,

“Ashe noted as curious fact that while the actual valet of any person under discussion spoke of him almost affectionately by his Christian name, the rest o the company used the greatest ceremony and gave him the title with all respect.”

The ending of this story, so philosophical, just to examine the circle of life bumping and going of the gong you met in life. Such are the aberrations and the funny narration of human nature I love in the stories of Blandings Castle. I can’t wait to read other shorter stories in The World of Blandings!