flicker of horror

December 22, 2015


Well, after a tea which fully supported the substantial appearance of that fine old hostelry the Turk’s Head, opposite the Abbey, we decided to cycle back in the cool of the evening, it being then only five o’clock. For more reasons than one, every inch of our road will live in my memory, and I do not think Alan Granville will forget it, either. Even to this day — and the incident I am about to relate took place some years ago — I notice that whenever the subject of “sweet evening shadows” comes up, his eyes bear a flicker of horror, and he mutters something inaudible.

M P Dare
A Nun’s tragedy

soup of the day


Contemporary environmental anxieties present the perfect chance to revisit British science fiction writer John Wyndham’s Cold War-era stories of mutations, climate change, and nature revenging itself on humans via carnivorous plants. Wyndham himself would hardly have been surprised at his continued relevance. Indeed, his body of imaginative fiction — from his most famous work The Day of the Triffids (1951) to, as discussed below, 1953’s The Kraken Wakes, 1955’s The Chrysalids, and 1957’s The Midwich Cuckoos — argues that our reactions to disaster should be guided by the evolutionary truths imposed by nature itself, however obscured those truths have become by everyday life. At the height of his popularity in the 1950s, Wyndham’s speculations drew deeply from a tradition of British adventure literature and its accompanying preoccupation with the character traits of survival and dominance. At the same time, Wyndham wrote in the aftermath of a cataclysmic world war and in the context of a worsening threat of nuclear death and social collapse. He consciously placed this state of affairs in tension with the tranquil life of affluence that the post-war West had supposedly achieved. Thus, as an author concerned both with his own historical moment and with the ultimate survival of the human species, Wyndham offers works rich in symbolic potential.

Miles Link
‘A Very Primitive Matter’: John Wyndham on Catastrophe and Survival


I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it fails; in criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it succeeds. Evidently we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.

Just so a Party-spokesman might have labelled departure from the misery of the Führer’s or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery. In the same way these critics, to make confusion worse, and so to bring into contempt their opponents, stick their label of scorn not only on to Desertion, but on to real Escape, and what are often its companions, Disgust, Anger, Condemnation, and Revolt. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the “quisling” to the resistance of the patriot. To such thinking you have only to say “the land you loved is doomed” to excuse any treachery, indeed to glorify it.

J.R.R. Tolkien
On Fairy-Stories


December 22, 2015


We’re all beautiful in a blackout.
It’s better in the dark.
We lose ten pounds, ten years,
just by shutting our eyes.
We glow by starlight.
The moon highlights
our many adorable places.
Hidden imperfections are scattered
here and there over our bodies;
we only have to find them out,
the joy in the seeking.

Honestly, you’ll have to trust me –
after midnight I’m as cute
as a button being undone.
I’m sweeter than the water
you imagined was wine.

Bruce McRae

I Am Vertical

December 22, 2015


But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them —
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

Sylvia Plath



December 22, 2015


Santa’s Naughty List

December 22, 2015