Showing posts from November, 2015

The Eye of the Storm

Patrick White
Andrei Tarkovsky says something to the effect in his diaries that you should only ever adapt second division literature for films (that does not appear to have prevented him working on Dostoyevsky though the project never came to fruition). With that, possibly sage like, advice in mind, I could only approach the film of Patrick White's 'The Eye of the Storm' with trepidation.

If you attempted to show forth the book in all its multi-dimensional giftedness, you would have to fail, where every sentence is akin to a painting wanting you to pause and be interrogated by its meanings and where nothing is explicated if it can be simply shown. White, himself, wanted to be a painter and the art of painting is to slow you down, draw you back and in. Even though both film and painting are visual arts, they exist in a tension of momentum. White wanted to be read slowly, with contemplative pauses, with scrutiny of the reader's visual, visceral, felt response. Film, ho…

The Place of the Lion

The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks
Mr Berringer has fallen into an unconscious state leaving a space to be filled - a speaker must be found for his study group in the small, and fictional, English town of Smetham in Hertfordshire. Two of the ladies in the group approach a young local woman, working on her doctorate, Damaris Tighe. There is an apparent symmetry between Mr Berringer's work and her own - both are interested in the archetypal patterns that give shape to the world but whereas Mr Berringer is a practising adept of the magical, Ms Tighe is strictly a scholar presently tracing Plato's influence on Abelard and not in any form 'a believer'!
Mr Berringer's trance state, however, is about to upset Damaris' unbelief because he has opened a rift in the fabric of the world, the archetypes, having taken animal form, are afoot in the world, drawing their multiple types towards them for good and ill, mostly ill, for their power is abroad but not their virtue…

The Magician of Lublin

The magician is 'good' with women, exceptionally good. He has a wife, his theatrical assistant is also his mistress, a third woman, deserted by her own husband, clings to him and a fourth, the widow of a professor awaits him eagerly in Warsaw.

It is this fourth who sparks the crisis. She is a Christian, the magician a Jew and she wants him to convert and seek recognition (and his fortune) in the 'West' settling first in Italy so that the climate can assist her daughter's health. To make this possible, the magician will have to not only abandon his faithful wife but also his religion; and, he will have to find money, a finding only possible by theft. The theft ought to be easy (he has already promised himself that he will return the money when he is a famous and better remunerated performer) as he is both agile and an accomplished springer of locks. It is not to be - his attempted burglary of a miser goes awry - either through divine intervention or unconscious sli…

Christian de Cherge and forgiveness

Unsurprisingly today I found myself reminded of the letter of Fr Christian de Cherge murdered by Islamist extremists in Algeria in 1996, prescient of his own death, he meditates on its reality and consequence. 

Like the victims in Paris and Beirut and onwards.. he did not chose his death but he did chose how to see it. It was inflicted by those who imagined they served a greater cause but for whom no cause justifies death, the destruction of God's perfect creation. We, being human, are called only to honour life.  In the greater vision of God, in whom there is no forgiveness because God is forgiveness, they will be stripped and judged and loved. Would that they touched God's compassion and mercy in this, their life so that they had acted differently and thus could enjoy true surrender in a merciful life lived thoroughly.  Long and hard are the routes of those who fail to surrender into mercy.

Here is Fr Christian's letter of whose life the film "Of Gods and Men" is…

The Third Inkling

Grevel Lindop's new and excellent biography opens with Charles Williams, who was, by poverty, forced to abandon his formal education at seventeen, lecturing to spellbound, ever increasing, audiences at Oxford University in 1940. He was allowed to lecture only because it was wartime when the normal rules did not apply or could be judiciously bent.

Would William's reputation have been more ascendent and sustained if a university had been his sustenance and support, as it was for his friends C.S. Lewis and J. R. Tolkien? Probably not Williams, with the exception of 'The Inklings', found Oxford somewhat 'sterile' preferring the imaginative bustle of his native London; but, being more popular and better remunerated would.

For Williams' work had to be produced alongside a full time job at the urbane but ferociously busy London branch of the Oxford University Press supplemented by part-time lecturing, hack work and jobbing journalism. It often, even at its best, …

At 50,000

Being ever so slightly nerdy, I have been tracking the statistics of this blog and have happily passed the 50,000 individual page view mark (that is wholly arbitrary perhaps but worth a celebratory nod).

Broken down by country of origin, the United States (first) and the United Kingdom (second) represent almost a half of all viewers, followed by Russia, France and Ukraine. But have spread my tentacles from Argentina to Japan, from South Africa to Australia.

The three most popular posts have been:

The first two, I suspect, because of the images rather my sparkling prose!

I am happy to be viewed at all and trust that viewers/readers take some measure of delight from what they see/read.

Thank you for dropping by.

Degrees of separation

Reading Grevel Lindop's new biography of Charles Williams, I was struck by degrees of separation: in the case of Williams only one; and, the one who, in the acknowledgements, is recognised as giving Lindop the impetus for writing the biography in the first place; namely, the poet, Anne Ridler. I had met Anne at St Mary the Virgin, the University Church in Oxford, that we both attended; and, I religiously went to her house once a month to attend a silent prayer group for which I, periodically, prepared the readings and facilitated. Then I knew barely anything of Williams. He was to me a footnote to the Inklings, important to C.S. Lewis especially, but no more. How I regret this now! Had I known, and of Anne's willingness, eagerness to discuss him, I would have pounced!

But it is worse for another of Williams' friends, deeper yet than Anne, one of the women whom Williams saw as one of his muses (and acolytes), also, floated into my reach - Lois Lang-Sims - a member of the F…

The music of heaven

Paul Tortelier playing the the Prelude from J.S. Bach's first cello suite. This is the one of two pieces of music that I want played at my funeral and, in want of a professional cellist, the recording should be by Tortelier for his musicianship and his humanity.

He was a true believer in the potentiality of music to unite beyond difference and of beauty to save the world if attended to aright. I remember the vivid engagement of the master classes he gave in Oxford and of a memorable evening in London at a performance of Walton's cello concerto when he dedicated it to peace and gave a wonderful impromptu plea for reconciliation of all to all from the stage in heavily accented, heartfelt French.

Splendidly he relates in his autobiography seeing a beautiful town in (I think) Belgium disfigured by garish adverts for Coca Cola and being moved, him and his students, to a night time of guerilla poster stripping!

The Bach suites are extraordinary pieces - a serenity binds each one as…

The iconography of eternity

The Musician by Cecil Collins
Music was essential to Collins as a referent to what he was seeking to embody in paint. Music is forming sound wholly real and wholly itself. It does not imitate the world, represent it. It sounds the chords out of which the world is woven. So to for Collins, as Brian Keeble makes beautifully clear in his 'Cecil Collins: The Artist as Writer and Image Maker', at his most luminous Collins' images embody the archetypal forms of the world without dissolving into the realistic particularities of the world. They carry you across into a contemplation of the essential forms from which the world is made.
Collins' art is essentially Platonic -the forms are alive, flexible, transforming - and iconic - you are seen through them by a glimpse of eternity.
As here, the musician is recognisably one and yet in a place that is 'nowhere' particular - an ideal form yet an idea that is alive, pregnant with the possibility of offering a purifying soun…

Do souls go bump in the night?

The nineteenth century was a time of rapid, radical change. Matthew Arnold's 'Sea of Faith' appeared to be ebbing, leaving many high and dry, left without the traditional patterns of religious faith and yet unable to embrace the new progressive, scientific materialism. Was there an alternative? Could the tools of scientific empiricism aid belief, reconfigure it for a new age?

This was a driving question behind the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research in which a high minded group of Victorian intellectuals sought to assess the evidence for powers of the mind that appeared to step beyond the bounds of the 'laws of nature' currently understood. One of the principal architects of this was F.W.H. Myers (portrayed above) - a Cambridge trained classicist and (like Arnold) a Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools.

As well as the rise of scientific materialism (and positivism), the SPR had to contend (on its left as it were) with the phenomenon of spiritualism.…