Friday, August 21, 2009

A Soldier's Declaration: "the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it".
Cambridge University Library have launched a fund-raising campaign to aquire the archive of First world War poet Siegried Sassoon's personal papers. these include a draft of the controversial anti-war statement "A Soldier's Declaration". The archive is comprised of seven boxes of material, among which are "Sassoon's journals, pocket notebooks compiled on the Western Front, poetry books and photographs, love-letters to his wife Hester, and letters sent to Sassoon by writers and other distinguished figures".

The 'Soldier's Declaration', made in July 1917 was "an act of wilful defiance of military authority. Sent to his commanding officer, it states his refusal to return to duty and his belief that the war, which he "entered as a war of defence and liberation", had become "a war of aggression and conquest" which was being "deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it."

The declaration was subsequently read in the House of Commons on July 30, and caused a storm which only abated after fellow officer Robert Graves persuaded the authorities to send Sassoon to Craiglockhart Hospital for the treatment of shell-shock.

The power of Sassoon's statement resonates as powerfully now as when first written:
"I AM making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow-soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Forensic reading...

Read how new techniques can reveal the mysteries of the text in Mark Clarke's paper: "Seeking the Invisible: Forensic Science at the Parker Library"
from Medieval Academy News

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The real Raymond Carver

James Campbell examines the way in which the editor's razor created the work of Raymond Carver:

" The pleasure of reading Carver, who died in 1988 at the age of fifty, derives partly from his bizarre scenarios and from absurdist dialogue which yet retains the quality of overheard conversation; equally, it comes from pace and phrasing, even paragraphing and punctuation, which the author controls with what are practically musical skills. In the early stories, there is often an ambiguity in a line of speech, or a cloud over the action, which ultimately contributes to the reader’s thrill of engagement."

Read more in the Times Literary Supplement.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Passion for Mercy: Ross MacDonald

Tobias Jones offers an assement of crime writer Ross MacDonald, arguing that MacDonald eventually outstripped those writers like Hammett and Chandler he aspired to imitate, with the creation of the fictional detective Lew Archer:

"Over a series spanning 18 novels, Archer became something paradoxical: a memorable character about whom the reader knows next to nothing, the man with the punchy one-liners who is actually a good listener. Macdonald once wrote of his famous creation that he was "so narrow that when he turns sideways he almost disappears". The thinness was deliberate because Macdonald wanted his detective to be like a therapist, a man whose actions "are largely directed to putting together the stories of other people's lives and discovering their significance. He is ... a consciousness in which the meanings of other lives emerge."

Jones, like other writers who have looked at MacDonald, picks up on the psychological aspects of MacDonald's books, but like them he misses one of the things that makes MacDonald's work stand out above other writers - the way in which he locates the ultimate cause of individual and family breakdown in sociological causes - particularly war and the pursuit of power and wealth. Although these factors are always in the background it provides a missing element that makes so many other psychological thrillers lacking by comparison. One other aspect of MacDonald's work that I find exciting is the frequent backdrop of environmental disaster, threatening communities and individuals - forest fires, oil spills - which heighten the tension and provide cotnemporary relevance.

Read the whole feature in The Guardian.