Tag Archive: T. S. Eliot


A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh (First published, 1934)

dustIn his chosen career as a novelist Evelyn Waugh has to write about human beings but you get the strong feeling from this cynical and morally vacuous novel that he didn’t like people much. He became a committed Catholic soon afterwards and presumably he took comfort from an organized religion that takes it for granted that we are all born sinners.

Its title comes from a line in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land – “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” – an allusion to death given that someday all of us return to dust.

Like a vindictive deity or grim reaper, Waugh moves his sad characters around like someone idly engaged in a game of chess with himself. None of them are presented in a flattering light and their actions are mainly driven by apathy, ennui or spitefulness. They are well off, comfortably placed and bored out of their skins.

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VIRGINIA WOOLF biography by Hermione Lee (Vintage Books, 1996)

leeVirginia Woolf’s life story is one that is continually being re-evaluated. After all, it was fully  two decades after her suicide in 1941 before she began to be more widely acknowledged as a literary great and a feminist icon.

Even so, there are still far too many (mostly male) detractors who will routinely belittle the achievements of Woolf. Hermione Lee recalls that as a student she was taught to regard her as a “minor modernist”, not fit to be ranked alongside Joyce, T.S. Eliot or D.H. Lawrence.

She also recounts a revealing (and humorous) story of a St Ives bookseller who decided to take advantage of Woolf’s association with one of her former homes but only had a vague idea of who she was. He put up a sign which read : ‘Talland House. Home of Virginia Woolf, wife of the famous novelist”. Continue reading

Der Watzmann by David Casper Friedrich

“Old men must be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity”
– T.S. Eliot – ‘East Coker’ from The Four Quartets.

Had a hard day on the planet?

Need some soothing music that quietens the soul but doesn’t deaden the brain?

Throw away those New Age tapes of dolphin sounds or bland electro-acoustic loops and check out my top ten albums for restoring a sense of balance and awakening consciousness. Continue reading

ADULT APP

At 2011’s Future Digital Innovation Awards, the app produced by Touch Press for  The Waste Land won the adult prize.

This doesn’t mean that the London-based digital publishers have sexed up T.S. Elliot’s epic poem but is, instead, a reward for a beautifully presented application that used the possibilities of the iPad  to the full.

I remember the excitement when CD Roms first came out only to find that these mostly proved to be clunky and uninspiring products. They now seem positively archaic by the side of the latest technology. Continue reading

MELANCHOLIA: ENDING WITH A WHIMPER

 This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper  - T.S Eliot - The Hollow Men (1925)

The Terrence Malick style montage of slo-mo imagery at the start of Melancholia  tells us from the outset that there will be no happy ending here. Death, not life is the key motif.

But the end of the world scenario is never really convincing. A few flurries of snow, a brief hail storm and the appearance of a 19th hole on an 18-hole golf course are the only real signs that something is amiss.

Earth seems to be going about business as normal despite it being on a collision course with the Planet Melancholia.

This has to be the strangest doomsday movie ever made with a privileged group of characters who exist, then cease to exist, in isolation from the rest of the world.  We see no mass panic and no attempt by the U.S. military to make a last-ditch attempt to save our bacon. One character goes online to check the rogue planet’s progress but no-one else is bothered enough to tune in to the TV or radio. Continue reading

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