Marius: p. 195, Howard Jacobson’s THE ACT OF LOVE

For almost 200 pages of Howard Jacobson’s novel, she has been feeling revulsion for a character called Marius, who is introduced by the narrator as a lech, a womanizer, a shallow, vapid stealer of women.


In fact, this is the person who the narrator deems most likely for his wife to fall in love with. This is an Othello fable where Othello hopes his Desdemona is unfaithful, because he pines to be a voyeur. (This is a very British tale. Can’t imagine such a plot device going down well in her home country. But maybe a blog reader can enlighten self about this?)

On p. 194 of THE ACT OF LOVE, the narrator gets fed up with Marius’s dilly-dallying. He decides to provoke him. He’s been following Marius around for days, and Marius doesn’t seem to have a clue how to seduce the narrator’s wife. So he follows Marius to a coffee shop on High Street.

Marius: Why are you stalking me?

Narrator: Who said I was stalking you? I mentioned I’d seen you with a beautiful woman, that’s all.

Marius: And what’s that to you? Are you a private investigator?

Narrator: No. I’m more what you’d call a pervert if you really want to know what I do.

Marius: And you think telling me this will make me feel better about talking to you? What would you do if I told you to get lost?

Narrator: If I thought you meant it, I’d get lost.

Marius: If you thought I meant it! Is this what a pervert does? Hangs around people who tell him to get lost while he decides whether or not they mean it? Why don’t you just call yourself a glutton for punishment and have done.

Self really, really loves this conversation.

It’s so interesting that self is beginning to feel quite a lot of empathy for Marius! Who would have thought, this late in the book?

Jacobson, you’re so sly!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Close Up 4: Street Signs, Birds, Roses

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, CLOSE UP, is all about the details.

Street signs are so fascinating. This one's in York.

Street signs are so fascinating. This one’s in York.

Self can never get enough of those birds in Russell Square:

Russell Square, London

Russell Square, London

These buttery yellow roses were in full bloom when she arrived at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in June:

Roses near the Farmyard Cottages at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig: June 2015

Roses near the Farmyard Cottages at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig: June 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Juked: “First Life” (Multiple Choice)

Drinker says, Negative outcomes. (How did Big ever make it to Academy? Slow as slow)

Sunlight and glass, prisms and mirrors. My mind is floating out there, beyond the windows. Out there, where swish swish swish goes something, maybe the wind.

Drinker says, That’s the problem, right there. Hello? Dragon? Hey, Dragon?

Am so happy to have “First Life” in Juked this month (also self’s birthday month, Woot Hoot!).

Went live while self was in Ireland, hey good one.

Also love the tag: “multiple choice.”

It’s very amusing to go through all the pieces on the Juked website and try to figure out why they’re tagged the way they are. There’s a slyness involved in tagging. The best ones are brilliant.

Self got her novel-in-progress to a good 140 pages. She cut about 20 pages in the last week, so what’s left is pretty solid.

Bless for picking “First Life” as their Story of the Week and for tweeting about it:

Self loves that the post on “First Life” is tagged Uncategorizable — BWAH. HA. HA. HAAAAA — and that there’s a sentence “love the names, by the way.”

Dear blog readers have no idea — NO IDEA — how hard it was for self to come up with those names, and here self will list them for you for your elucidation:

Dragon. Her. Big. Drinker. Lizard.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Howard Jacobson’s THE ACT OF LOVE, p. 186

This novel has taken self to places she could never have imagined going before. Such as The Wallace Collection.

The Act of Love is about jealousy. And obsession. And it is very, very funny.

Jealousy, as I have remarked before, is incalculable in its ferocity and reasoning. Though I had imagined them in each other’s arms a thousand times, the thought of them joined in Baudelaire disgusted and upset me. Did she have to cuckold me in literature as well? The word-fucker she was! I breathed hard, as green-eyed as the next man.

Which brings to mind that yesterday (or the day before), while self was visiting with the McGavins in Southampton, she saw a present John’s teaching colleagues had given him: a sixteenth century plaque, carved out of a kind of wood called “sweet chestnut” (which has fragrance, a fragrance not musty but — sweet? Even after all these centuries, imagine that, dear blog readers!), of a little green man. These kinds of faces popping out of the greenery, a strange English impulse of the imagination. Like faeries in the woods.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Close-Up 3: Joan and John, Abigail and Pigeons

Dear Joan and John McGavin, are you ready for your close-up?

Here, dear blog readers, is a portrait of the hip-pest couple in England, on their wedding day:

Joan and John: We are the Cool-est!

Joan and John: We are the Cool-est!

Dear Abigail: Are YOU ready for your close-up? Because you are the most entertaining eight-year-old in all of England:

Abigail sang for us Sunday. Oh my goodness! Paging Simon Cowell!

Abigail sang for us Sunday. Oh my goodness! Paging Simon Cowell!

Russell Square is a beautiful little square with a café and benches and a fountain. Self has taken many pictures of it. But this was the first time she zoomed in on the birds. Thank you, WordPress Daily Post, for providing the prompt! Here are pigeons, ready for their close-up:

A Confabulation of Birds at the Russell Square Fountain

A Confabulation of Birds at the Russell Square Fountain

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Close Up 2: The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London

Today, dear blog readers, London was actually crammed with people. Tourists, mostly. It was not so fun.

Nevertheless, self summoned the necessary mojo to go exploring, and she found herself in another leafy square, confronting the great splendor of Hertford House, in Manchester Square.

And here are three photographs she took in the museum housed within, The Wallace Collection. She considers them suitable for the theme this week — CLOSE UP — because she had to go closer than she normally would, and left out the frames.

All three subjects are rather risqué, if the museum guide is to be believed. Especially the first one: Fragonard’s “The Swing.”


Fragonard’s “The Swing” Originally, the lady was to have been pushed by a bishop. But this was evidently too much. So, instead, we have an elderly gent sitting on a stone balustrade, in the shadows behind.

But the lady is swathed in layers of clothes! Where, self wonders, is the provocativeness?

Next, a marble bust (Bad Pun?) of Marie-Louise Thérese-Victoire, daughter of Louis XV and aunt of Louis XVI, who was, according to the museum materials, “noted for her piety and appetite.” Rather an odd combination of words. When you look at this marble bust, and think that this lady must have been middle-aged when it was executed, well holy smoke, just look at that shelf she has!

Marble Bust of Maria-Louise Thérese-Victoire, Aunt of Louis XVI

Marble Bust of Maria-Louise Thérese-Victoire, Aunt of Louis XVI

Finally, a beautiful oil painting, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, of Margaret, Countess of Blessington (of which self has much to say, for this painting has a prominent place in the novel she is currently reading — no, not Clockwork Prince, the other one: Howard Jacobson’s wonderful and satirical The Act of Love, which is about an antiquarian book dealer who haunts Great Russell Street and museums.)

Margaret, Countess of Blessington, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Margaret, Countess of Blessington, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence

More, later. Self is famished and needs to hunt up dinner.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE: Demon’s Ball, Chiswick, Part 2

Ah, supernatural fiction. Ah, changelings and demons and faerie glens.

Self is still reading about the Demons Ball at the Lightwoods (interspersed with her other reading: Howard Jacobson’s The Act of Love, set on Great Russell Street of all places; The Guardian; and Lucifer Princeps, the book about angels and nephilim and the netherworld, which has NOT, despite all self’s anxieties, been keeping self up at night, thank goodness!)

Today, self is off in search of a really neat supernatural bookstore, one she found on the web, which is a long way from her usual haunts. So she’d better off. She plans to walk there. London yesterday was wet, wet, wet. But today is as beautiful as summer. So, walk. When her feet give out, she’ll duck into the nearest tube station.


Tessa, still masquerading as Jessamine, has managed to distract Nate enough so that she didn’t actually have to kiss her own brother. Which would have been YUUUUCK!!!

She finds herself conversing with a faerie:

“Did you know your mother had eyes just like yours, gray sometimes and blue at others?”

Tessa found her voice. “Who are you?”

“Oh, my kind doesn’t like to give our names, but you can call me whatever you like. You can invent a lovely name for me. Your mother used to call me Hyacinth.”

“The blue flower,” Tessa said faintly. “How did you know my mother? You don’t look any older than me — ”

“After our youth, my kind does not age or die. Nor will you. Lucky girl! I hope you appreciate the service done you.”

Tessa shook her head in bewilderment. “Service? What service? Are you speaking of Mortmain? Do you know what I am?”

“Do you know what I am?”

Tessa thought of the Codex. “A faerie?” she guessed.

“And do you know what a changeling is?”

Tessa shook her head.

“Sometimes,” Hyacinth confided, dropping her voice to a whisper, “when our faerie blood has grown weak and thin, we will find our way into a human home, and take the best, the prettiest, and the plumpest child –and quick as a wink, replace the babe with a sickly one of our own. While the human child grows tall and strong in our lands, the human family will find itself burdened with a dying creature fearful of cold iron.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books Self Is Interested After Perusing The Guardian’s Summer “Text on the Beach” Issue, 23 July 2015

Self used to do this. A LOT. Post about books she was interested in reading after picking up a copy of The New York Times Book Review (which she used to subscribe to. Until last year), The New York Review of Books (which she also used to subscribe to), The New Yorker (which she still subscribes to, but hasn’t read in six months) and The Economist (which she no longer subscribes to)

Anyhoo, after that very lengthy introduction, here is self with The Guardian’s Summer Reading issue, and after going through the whole thing, self has culled just three books. She must be in some kind of slump?

Here are her three:

  • Grey, by E. L. James — What what what? Self actually read the first two pages in Hodges Figgis in Dublin. And what do you know, she liked it! But The Guardian review is so silly. “Come again, if you insist . . . ” Self still wants to read it.
  • My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante — “The first part of the Neapolitan trilogy in which almost nothing happens.” (OK, these reviews are one-note and boring. Sorry, Jim Crace, Reviewer. Self will read in spite of)
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Let self dispense with the utterly dispensable: i.e., the review. And let’s just say, if this novel is indeed a riff on Gone, Girl, she likes. So “Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl On the Train” is a barrel of laughs.

Just for that, self is popping over to the London Review of Bookstore (Hey, last AWP Book Fair, in Minneapolis, she actually saw a table for the London Review of Books! She’s not sure if they’ve been coming every year, but this year was the first time she noticed them)

Side Note:  Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is in every bookstore window, all over Dublin and London. So happy for her. Promise to read the book, at least five years from now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Close Up: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is CLOSE UP.

Which is a prompt self finds quite easy to post about, because her camera is always on the macro setting. She loves examining detail.

So, here goes!

While on a “Jack the Ripper” walking tour of Whitechapel, self found herself getting distracted by, of all things, doors! Honestly, there were a number of times self found that the tour group had rounded a corner while she was taking random photos like the one below:

Door, Somewhere Around Whitechapel

Door Knocker, A Street Off Whitechapel

And here is a close-up of a fabulous dessert self had in the town of Rostrevor, in Northern Island. Irish cream (sigh), self could drink it by the bucket!

Dessert! Rostrevor, Northern Island (Self was with poet Csilla Toldy, who was performing at the Fiddlers Green Festival with Irish singer Fil Campbell)

Dessert! Rostrevor, Northern Island (Self was with poet Csilla Toldy, who was performing at the Fiddlers Green Festival with Irish singer Fil Campbell)

And here is a picture she took in St. Stephens Green, last week. She’s always amazed by the water in that lake. It has a very heavy, almost mineral quality. She thought it might have just been a trick of her imagination. But the ripples on that water are so clearly defined. Well, that’s Irish water for you!

It was a sunny day in Dublin (though you'd never know it from the photograph!)

It was a sunny day in Dublin (though you’d never know it from the photograph!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sandra Bland, p. 17 of The (London) Guardian, 23 July 2015

Self is just going to post the excerpt without comment because the article speaks for itself.

(It’s just beneath an article about Jon Stewart and Obama exchanging FEELZ for Obama’s final appearance on The Daily Show)

Bland was arrested in Prairie View, Texas (near Houston). The article was filed from Prairie View by Tom Dart.

Video footage of the arrest of a black woman who died in Texas police custody shows a police officer threatening to “light her up” with a Taser, in an encounter that has sparked national outrage.

The Texas public safety department (DPS) released the footage amid questions surrounding the arrest and subsequent death in a county jail of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old who had just moved to Texas from Chicago to start a new job but died three days after her arrest this month by trooper Brian Encinia.

The video shows an initially routine traffic stop for failing to signal a lane change turn into an aggressive encounter as Encinia, apparently furious that Bland refuses to stop smoking, repeatedly orders her to get out of her car, yells at her, says he will “yank” and “drag” her out, then appears to draw his Taser and shouts, “Get out of the car. I will light you up. Get out. Now.” Once out and restrained, Bland complains off-camera that she is in pain and has been “slammed” to the ground.

Stay tuned.

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