Saturday, April 08, 2006

still here, just bin busy...

I haven't posted for a long time which is bad, in part because I have effortlessly created yet another thing to feel guilty about. The reasons for not posting are as follows:

I have been extremely busy at work putting my newfound Microsoft Access skills to moderately satisfying use.

When I am at home, Amanda uses our computer for money-making deadline-beating actual work and not vain twittering.

I have had food poisoning, which is not something I recommend. Scrub down your work surfaces and boil wash your tea towels. And don’t think that a Full English is safe because it cost over £6 (Barney’s of Hove – I can’t prove it, but I know what I know).

Anyway, I have done some reading and I would like to recommend one thing and steer you away from another.

Good news first. Blaise Cendrars’ poetry as translated by Ron Padgett quite made me forget my mephitic malady. He’s back there in th’1900’s, a little ahead of the surrealists and cubists, but still hopped up on the fresh minted liberties that Henri Michaux called ‘la grande permission’. He was a world traveller from the age of fifteen, lost an arm in the Somme, named lots of Chagall’s paintings, witnessed the Russian Revolution, and coined the best nickname of all time when he called his friend the painter Delaunay ‘Simultaneous Delaunay’. His sequence ‘Panama, or My Seven Uncles’ is a beautiful and fantastic fable shot in the lost pastel colours of the roller-maps of empire, tall tales like those told by the Irish in America, of the terrific responsibility of apprehending the newly accessible scale of the world. If you can’t decide between looking at a bit of early Picasso, watching an Indiana Jones movie, or drinking exotic aperitifs in the afternoon, then Cendrars is the boy for you. Other poems cover plagiarism, travel, menus, newspaper reports, descriptions of artificial egg production and Yoruba sculpture. I don’t have good enough French to be any judge but Ron Padgett’s translations seem delightful – the odd americanism only serves felicitously to underline Cendrars determinedly forward-thinking jazz age blue sky muse.

Now the bad news. If, like me, you are seized one day with a sudden need to fulfil your (hitherto mild, now insatiable) curiosity about the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, and can’t wait to get home to have a proper look on Amazon, but instead go into Borders, then DO NOT spend almost £9 on the Lynn Coffin translations. Not unless you’re curious about Akhmatova and hope that she writes with a galumphing plod that would shame the most tin-eared hack at Hallmark. Honestly, how? How could this crap ever have passed muster? And Joseph Brodsky wrote a foreword for it as well. I might actually try taking it back – that just occurred to me now.

Also – I can confirm that it is possible to subsist on oatcakes and weak black tea for a surprisingly long time, and that if you have freeview, then you can spend a day sick on the sofa watching Jeeves and Wooster, Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, an incredibly relaxing program about Britain with Dimbleby wittering on about Samuel Palmer and Paul Nash, something ‘educational’ about fossils, then The Simpsons. And they tried to tell us modern life was rubbish.

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