Reacting against what she called the "dim bucolics" of the Georgians, she and her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell constituted a kind of aristocratic bohemian vanguard after World War I. Sergei Diaghilev's see Vol. Eliot and, improbably, Alexander Pope among the early influences on her work. A skilled publicist as well as poet, Sitwell exploited her upper-class nonconformity in numerous public controversies.
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A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox vulpes libris : small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
This was a dream job because she got paid for reading, and was able to work at home all night and sleep all day, as was her wont. Along the way she wrote a few books of her own, a biography of her grandmother the first Asian American novelist though Diana is New York Jewish and actually only one-eighth Chinese but never mind , and several Jane Austen sequels.
Jane Austen was her natural refuge and solace from a life spent plowing through eight hundred page manuscripts about robots, dragons, dwarves, Mafiosi, and bombs.
Now having said goodbye to all that, she contemplates her massive To Be Read stockpile with a mixture of liberation and dread. She lives in California with poet husband, librarian son, and three mercifully illiterate cats. English Eccentrics is a compendium of English oddities, an intrinsically eccentric volume in itself, written in a densely packed, rococo style, laced with dark sardonic wit.
Unquestionably stuffed with fascinating historical curiosities, anecdotes, and snippets, it is like an extremely clever anchovy: a small taste goes a long way. I would read one, two, a few weird bits described with ornateness and affectation, and then feel like throwing the book against the wall like an incessantly chirping insect. Quacks — may come from the Coptic quok , hmm … never knew that. Man buried upside down. Hunter who hated horses and rode to hounds on a bull.
Whatever next? Emerson begging the lugubrious Margaret to tutor Emerson and Carlyle on the sense of humour they so lacked. Carlyle was a particularly difficult subject as he insisted on talking without interruption and never let Margaret speak.
The learned lady is balanced by the next chapter on men of learning, in which Herbert Spencer is seen traveling in a hammock slung in a train, his manuscript tied around his waist with string. The section on travelers is dominated by the exotic imposter Princess Cariboo, whom the exiled Napoleon wanted to marry; and this anecdote is followed by one about a fake cannibal chief.
I learned about a great many things, an unknown number of them apocryphal, such as the octogenarian squire who tried to fly, bathed his owls, and affectionately adopted a sloth in South America; and the Countess of Desmond who died at falling from an apple tree. This indigestible yet exasperatingly fascinating tome which may I say is ideally suited for intellectual bathroom reading , left me with a certain curiosity about the mind that compiled, or concocted, it all. As a young women, when her parents were embroiled in bankruptcies and scandals, she left the family home to live in near poverty in a small flat in London with her old governess.
Her talents were then highly rated, as were those of her two younger brothers Osbert and Sasheverell, and they formed a colorful trio whose publicity tours were only too fiendishly successful.
In truth, what I enjoyed most in this Sitwellian immersion was a mesmerizing YouTube interview with an Edith aged, tragic, a masklike fantastically garbed grotesque, yet clearly innately humane and kind. Still, I may be forgiven for hoping for something more ordinary and orderly from my next foray in the TBR pile …. Really fun read of a review, and if you can tell me how to get a job reading books for adapting into movies I can send you my CV….
Hmmm, I feel sorry for Ms. Sitwell, it sounds like she was unfulfilled with her strange, but interesting life, though I realize that her younger years were sad. Her memoir might be interesting, though you have me worried about her style of writing. This was an entertaining debut. Welcome to VL, Ms. Ken, unfortunately those jobs have dried up drastically over the last decade or so…the technological changes in the movie business, and the way things are farmed out at the least expense, so assistants are having to read scripts for no extra pay.
Sad to say. I have long admired the Foxes and am really thrilled to have a piece here! This was a very nice reminder: I think I gobbled this book whole as a teenager, and have been very keen on Edith Sitwelliana ever since. Her book on Elizabeth 1 and Mary Q of Scots is very good indeed. She was a technical poet par excellence, and a very wise voice, for all her personal unwisdom. Wonderful entry in Vulpes Libris reviewers, Diana, and you may know that I do not shower compliments — quite the contrary!
I really enjoy what you have written and shall reread the review. Perhaps it helps that I know you and I know the book as well as the Sitwells. I read the book small bit by small bits: I could not have swallowed it in gulps. Not the easiest one to start reading your TBR stack s but definitely a very good one — and a classic.
Merci et bravo! You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new posts via email. Follow us on Twitter: twitter. Subscribe to this site's feed via FeedBurner or click here for an email subscription. Like this: Like Loading Nancy Vermette May 6, Steady on, Diana! Great review. Keep working through that mountain of TBR!
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English Eccentrics by Edith Sitwell
A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox vulpes libris : small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard. This was a dream job because she got paid for reading, and was able to work at home all night and sleep all day, as was her wont.
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The English Eccentrics
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