William Blake “It is within”

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In your own bosom you bear your heaven and earth,
And all you behold, though it appears without,
It is within, in your imagination,
Of which this world of mortality is but a shadow.”

More William Blake on The Hobbledehoy

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Fictional account of Laurel’s life lovely 


The titular He of Irish writer John Connolly’s new novel is Stan Laurel, one half of the famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

Laurel is left behind in a small, unassuming flat in the Oceana Apartments in Santa Monica, Calif.near the end of life.

Oliver (Babe) Hardy is dead; their last film together was years and years before. A few fans call in, and he sends a few letters out. Plagued by poor health, he will die in 1965 at age 74.

The “he” remains just that throughout this long and engaging novel. Connolly, most famous for the Charlie Parker mystery novels, keeps Laurel’s name out of the equation throughout the book. He exists as a pronoun, though the novel is chock full of name-checks of many of the famous men and women of Hollywood’s silent era. (Even Winnipeg is mentioned as an early stop on the vaudeville circuit).

This unique device rings a Joycean tone, and the novel has lovely poetical flourishes. The performer Zera Sermon, we are told, “has more names than a war memorial.” And we are told of Hardy: “Babe takes whatever role is offered: fat cop, fat grocer, fat woman, fat baby, fat lover.”

The withholding of Laurel’s name creates an interesting distancing. More than once, we are reminded these famous figures were chimerical, and did not really exist outside of the magic shadows — motion pictures spun them into being.

This notion is captured in a lovely passage where “he” reflects on the impact the death of a half brother had on his partner Hardy:

“Sometimes he imagines himself peeling away Babe’s integuments, excavating the seams, so that Babe becomes thinner and thinner, smaller and smaller, until at last all that remains is the shining core of the man, the radiance within. But Babe is immune from such exploration, and when disease finally pares away the layers of Babe, all that is left is death.”

There is much of this peeling back and peeking into the interiors of these famous comics. In particular, Charlie Chaplin, who Laurel knew only briefly, is a constant in the book. There’s much ­lamenting over Chaplin’s well-documented reprobate behaviour toward very young women. Whether the real Laurel was as concerned throughout his life with this repulsive side of Chaplin, as he is in the novel, is not a matter of public record.

But these plaints are more scolds for a biographer. Whether or not He is a realistic portrait of the inner thoughts of the real Laurel as a young and aging man is not relevant to enjoyment. The novel, copiously researched, captures Hollywood’s Golden Age in flickering moments and flashing epiphanies that can be returned to, such is their appeal. For fans of the era and the beloved comedy team, this is a moving and thrilling read.

This unique novel sits besides Jerry Stahl’s equally odd novel about silent film star Roscoe Arbuckle, I, Fatty, as a valentine to a corrupt, innocent, tragic, thrilling and irretrievable time in the development of American cinema. It is highly recommended.

Lara Rae is a comedian and silent film buff. Her grandfather claimed to have attended public school with Stan Laurel in Glasgow.

Source: Fictional account of Laurel’s life lovely – Winnipeg Free Press

The Strange and Twisted Life of “Frankenstein” 

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley began writing “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” when she was eighteen years old, two years after she’d become pregnant with her first child, a baby she did not name. “Nurse the baby, read,” she had written in her diary, day after day, until the eleventh day: “I awoke in the night to give it suck it appeared to be sleeping so quietly that I would not awake it,” and then, in the morning, “Find my baby dead.” With grief at that loss came a fear of “a fever from the milk.” Her breasts were swollen, inflamed, unsucked; her sleep, too, grew fevered. “Dream that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived,” she wrote in her diary. “Awake and find no baby.”

Pregnant again only weeks later, she was likely still nursing her second baby when she started writing “Frankenstein,” and pregnant with her third by the time she finished. She didn’t put her name on her book—she published “Frankenstein” anonymously, in 1818, not least out of a concern that she might lose custody of her children—and she didn’t give her monster a name, either. “This anonymous androdaemon,” one reviewer called it. For the first theatrical production of “Frankenstein,” staged in London in 1823 (by which time the author had given birth to four children, buried three, and lost another unnamed baby to a miscarriage so severe that she nearly died of bleeding that stopped only when her husband had her sit on ice), the monster was listed on the playbill as “––––––.”

“This nameless mode of naming the unnameable is rather good,” Shelley remarked about the creature’s theatrical billing. She herself had no name of her own. Like the creature pieced together from cadavers collected by Victor Frankenstein, her name was an assemblage of parts: the name of her mother, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, stitched to that of her father, the philosopher William Godwin, grafted onto that of her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, as if Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley were the sum of her relations, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, if not the milk of her mother’s milk, since her mother had died eleven days after giving birth to her, mainly too sick to give suck—Awoke and found no mother. [ . . . ]

Continue & listen to audio story at THE NEW YORKER: The Strange and Twisted Life of “Frankenstein” | The New Yorker

The feminist energies of William Blake and Faith Wilding take over Chicago 

The Block Museum’s current exhibition, “William Blake and the Age of Aquarius,” is a study of time travel and tripping. It connects Blake’s ethereal radicalism to that of the 1960’s to that of the post-truth U.S., and in Chicago, Faith Wilding’s show at Western Exhibitions. [ . . .]

Continue Reading at: The feminist energies of William Blake and Faith Wilding take over Chicago – Chicago Tribune