“You have but two topics, yourself and me, and I’m sick of both.”
— Samuel Johnson to James Boswell

Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England on this day in 1709 to Michael Johnson, a bookseller, and his wife, Sarah Ford. (via elizabethminkel)

(via elizabethminkel)

“Don’t you understand we go together like bangers and mash? Like cream tea and scones? Like a put-upon everyman character actor and a big posh flamboyant manic pixie dream boy with cheekbones you can balance a Bafta on?”
— In this brilliant sketch by Scriblit for Lewis Macleod Is Not Himself, "Benedict Cumberbatch" tells "Martin Freeman" why they will be together forever.

How to turn down a marriage proposal, Charlotte Brontë style:

My dear Sir

Before answering your letter, I might have spent a long time in consideration of its subject; but as from the first moment of its reception and perusal I determined on which course to pursue, it seemed to me that delay was wholly unnecessary.

You are aware that I have many reasons to feel gratified to your family, that I have peculiar reasons for affection towards one at least of your sisters, and also that I highly esteem yourself. Do not therefore accuse me of wrong motives when I say that my answer to your proposal must be a decided negative. In forming this decision — I trust I have listened to the dictates of conscience more than to those [of] inclination; I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you — but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you. It has always been my habit to study the character of those amongst whom I chance to be thrown, and I think I know yours and can imagine what description of woman would suit you for a wife. Her character should not be too marked, ardent and original — her temper should be mild, her piety undoubted, her spirits even and cheerful, and her “personal attractions” sufficient to please your eye and gratify your just pride. As for me, you do not know me, I am not this serious, grave, cool-headed individual you suppose — you would think me romantic and [eccentric — you would] say I was satirical and [severe]. [However, I scorn] deceit and I will never for the sake of attaining the distinction of matrimony and escaping the stigma of an old maid take a worthy man whom I am conscious I cannot render happy.

[…]

Farewell—! I shall always be glad to hear from you as a friend

Believe me
Yours truly
C Brontë

I love her description of what she thought his ideal wife would be like: not “too marked, ardent and original”, but mild, pious, cheerful, and attractive enough to “gratify your just pride”.

I also love how, by listing all these qualities that this imaginary wife would have, she’s very gently pointing out that she is none of these things - too original, passionate and interesting to marry the likes of him.

Given that the man in question, Henry Nussey, was the brother of one of her close friends, it’s all the more admirable that she managed to be completely clear about how much the idea of being his wife repulsed her, while never writing a word that he could hold against her or that would make her friendship with his sister strained.

What a woman.

Via brainpickings.org

beatonna:

Wee Shakespeare

There have been some really interesting responses to my projectparadesend's post a few days ago about what it’s like to get into Ford Madox Ford.

Firstly, many thanks to sofaregina, who pointed out that you can read all of the Julian Barnes introduction on the Guardian here. (I assume they published this as a promotion for the TV adaptation - the timing seems to fit.)

tragicmaise made the excellent point that this isn’t the easiest book to get sucked into from the very first page:

What I was trying to say is that the book is intimidating to pick up.  It’s not the easiest book in the world to get sucked into on page 1.  It’s a bit disorienting at times, and at others, I feel that Ford has imparted some very important information that I totally don’t understand.  But once you get into the trenches, it gets more and more absorbing.  I was actually swooning a bit during Tietjens’ and Valentine’s late-night carriage ride…maybe because I’m imagining Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role!

I certainly found this during my half-hearted first attempt to read it after the TV adaptation aired in 2012. I think I ditched it about halfway through Some Do Not…, so when I breezed passed my previous stopping-point recently, completely engrossed, I was a little bit proud of myself.

On the specific point of Barnes’ “muddy”/canals analogy for getting into Parade’s End, I was very amused by asortofbookevent's comparison to being fascinated by sewers:

The canal analogy reminds me of a friend who is really passionate about sewers (with whom I once toured les egouts in paris)… There is a distinct pleasure to discovering a less-celebrated author! Especially one so prolific as Ford.

I also loved the tag “#respect the canal fandom”. It’s one I would be proud to populate. Let’s go on a canal boat journey, unreconstructedfangirl!

recentlyfolded added that Parade’s End is the sort of book that demands thoroughness of you, even if you don’t notice that it’s happening at first:

I didn’t realize I was doing anything particularly special in my reading until my husband looked at the heavy paperback that was bristling with stickynotes and weighted opon on my desk as I worked my way through a list of things I needed to google (translations, references, basically anything that in a better edition would have been annotated).

"Are you taking a class on something?" he asked.

"What? No. Why do you think…?"

"I haven’t seen you read a book that thoroughly since we were in college."

I looked at the book and at my screen and back at the book.

"Well, I’ve not read a book that needed to be read so thoroughly since college, I don’t think.”

I’ve found the same - I unconsciously started carrying a pencil everywhere I took the book, so that I could make notes and underline things and squiggle queries in the margins. I haven’t read like that since doing my degree, really, but it doesn’t feel forced or like a chore - it just feels like part of the pleasure, the way you get immersed in Ford’s world.

So, in conclusion, I think at least some of us like Julian Barnes’ analogy, and many have noticed that this isn’t a book you can read half-heartedly - it demands all of you. On we go…

unreconstructedfangirl:

Here’s me, dorking it up with elizabethminkel at the Sherlock Holmes bench, London! We also visited SPEEDY’S and readjusted the knocker on Sherlock’s door! Yay! Plus, we enjoyed some of Benedict Cumberbatch’s excellent restaurant recommendations with a lovely meal at Yalla Yalla in SoHo with Elizabeth and carolinecrampton. A Project Parade’s End meet up!
:-D

Can I just say that Benedict Cumberbatch has great taste in Lebanese food?
(Also, projectparadesend is awesome irl as well.) unreconstructedfangirl:

Here’s me, dorking it up with elizabethminkel at the Sherlock Holmes bench, London! We also visited SPEEDY’S and readjusted the knocker on Sherlock’s door! Yay! Plus, we enjoyed some of Benedict Cumberbatch’s excellent restaurant recommendations with a lovely meal at Yalla Yalla in SoHo with Elizabeth and carolinecrampton. A Project Parade’s End meet up!
:-D

Can I just say that Benedict Cumberbatch has great taste in Lebanese food?
(Also, projectparadesend is awesome irl as well.) unreconstructedfangirl:

Here’s me, dorking it up with elizabethminkel at the Sherlock Holmes bench, London! We also visited SPEEDY’S and readjusted the knocker on Sherlock’s door! Yay! Plus, we enjoyed some of Benedict Cumberbatch’s excellent restaurant recommendations with a lovely meal at Yalla Yalla in SoHo with Elizabeth and carolinecrampton. A Project Parade’s End meet up!
:-D

Can I just say that Benedict Cumberbatch has great taste in Lebanese food?
(Also, projectparadesend is awesome irl as well.) unreconstructedfangirl:

Here’s me, dorking it up with elizabethminkel at the Sherlock Holmes bench, London! We also visited SPEEDY’S and readjusted the knocker on Sherlock’s door! Yay! Plus, we enjoyed some of Benedict Cumberbatch’s excellent restaurant recommendations with a lovely meal at Yalla Yalla in SoHo with Elizabeth and carolinecrampton. A Project Parade’s End meet up!
:-D

Can I just say that Benedict Cumberbatch has great taste in Lebanese food?
(Also, projectparadesend is awesome irl as well.)

unreconstructedfangirl:

Here’s me, dorking it up with elizabethminkel at the Sherlock Holmes bench, London! We also visited SPEEDY’S and readjusted the knocker on Sherlock’s door! Yay! Plus, we enjoyed some of Benedict Cumberbatch’s excellent restaurant recommendations with a lovely meal at Yalla Yalla in SoHo with Elizabeth and carolinecrampton. A Project Parade’s End meet up!

:-D

Can I just say that Benedict Cumberbatch has great taste in Lebanese food?

(Also, projectparadesend is awesome irl as well.)

This is my favourite from a week of great cartoons by Jason Novak  (captioned by Eric Jarosinski) at theparisreview.

How to Sleep

by Philip Larkin

Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb —
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.

Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
Convent-child, Pope,
They choose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-leveled sands.

So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again —
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
And a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.

I used to live alone. Thanks to a chance meeting in the street with the friend of an ex, I was briefly able to circumvent the ridiculousness of the London housing market and rent several rooms, just for me.

I became part of a trend, a self-indulgent singleton with an entire address in which to work on my eccentricities. I thought a lot about all that solitude prior to moving in, though. Would I get lonely? Would I miss having other people around, who weren’t invited guests? Would I become an irrevocable solo-dweller, incapable of domestic compromise in years to come? I went into it cautiously, braced for the moment when the isolation would start to make me miserable.

It never arrived. Months went past, and then a year, and more, and I was still waiting for the loneliness to arrive. I changed very little. I made more of an effort to make plans with friends and colleagues on weeknights now that I had no expectation of any social contact once I got home, but that was about it. I had my low patches, weekends where I barely got out of bed and cried for no reason I could name, but I’d done that when I lived with other people, too. Most of the time, it was blissful: watching films in the bath, leaving piles of books everywhere, storing spare socks in the kitchen like Zizek.

Then my rent went up and an old friend was looking for someone to move in with him. I humped all the boxes back down out of my strange little eyrie and ceased to be a lone ranger. My fears about being unable to compromise anymore were unfounded. For months, it was a perfectly congenial arrangement (we both like 1990s computer games and not cleaning the bathroom too often), but I never for a second considered that it could be better than my selfish solitude.

Until today, that is. I haven’t been feeling very well the past few weeks (lots of anxiety, quite a bit of nervous weeping, very little sleep). I’ve lost hours at a time sitting perfectly still, staring into space and thinking of nothing but the fact that my heart is beating too fast. I kept putting off getting any help, telling myself it was just a “bad week”, and I would be better soon.

Finally, I booked a doctor’s appointment for this morning. I had very little intention of actually going, though. By my perverse reasoning, the doctor’s surgery is where you get bad news, so it’s best just never to go there, and then nothing bad will ever happen to you. 

My flatmate knew all this. He leaves for work before I do, so was gone when I woke up. However, he had left a bright pink note saying “DOCTOR” on every single thing I would need to touch before I could go out: my toothbrush, the shower, the milk, the juice, the kettle. An enquiring text solicited only the same response. “DOCTOR”, the message read, sternly. 

image

The cumulative effect was so positive that I smiled through the necessary morning tasks, collecting each note as I went. When I left the flat, I walked straight to the doctor’s surgery.

For the first time, I felt glad that I no longer live alone.

appendixjournal:

The animated GIF that accompanies this Matter article is a work of art. 

“I don’t particularly want to read stories about writers, poets, college students or college professors.”
I love Roxane Gay. At work, we’ve tried to express a similar kind of sentiment in our contributor FAQs
“There is also a reason fiction with all its subterfuge is so popular: the truth isn’t always that interesting.”
— On B S Johnson, Sheila Heti and (not) writing what you know.