The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Monday, November 07, 2005


"To treat all subjects in the highest, the most honourable, and the pluckiest spirit, consistent with the fact, is the first duty of the writer."
RLS, "The Morality of the Profession of Letters"

Which I guess one could argue is a prescription impossible to disagree with, given that everyone knows and approves of honour, pluck and highness in general; what I take from it is the concept of professional honesty - as soon as you get the idea you're being screwed by the writer, that s/he has done hir job lazily, crassly or purely for the dough, it's time to leave. Speaking of which:

"His unpredictable, dangerous moods and Tudor low cunning had at long last been neutralised by the omnipotent hand of death." (The Last Days of Henry VIII, by Robert Hutchinson.)

As opposed to Jacobean incompetence or Windsor Teutonism? Even disregarding the adolescent, airport-trash style which appears to blight it, I'm beginning to develop a deep and sincere hatred of modern popular history.

Took a glance at Elias Canetti's Party in the Blitz today. I won't be pursuing it, but in the introduction I did come across one of those useful compound German words, which Canetti used disparagingly of the many English parties he attended in the '40s: Nichtberuhrungsfeste, which is to say, "ritualised celebrations of non-contact".


At 18 November 2005 at 11:36 , Blogger Yvonne said...

Nichtberuhrungsfeste, which is to say, "ritualised celebrations of non-contact".

Sounds about right. You may also enjoy Watching the English by Kate Fox (an anthropological study of the English - very funny and all too true).

You're right, the quote from The Last Days of Henry VIII was distinctly purple prose.

At 22 November 2005 at 22:53 , Blogger The Silver Eel said...

That one I haven't read, though I've heard good things about it. I have listened to the audio book of The English by Jeremy Paxman. It's very good and entertaining, though after half an hour of listening to Paxman one wants to go and lie down for a bit in a dark room.


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