Wednesday 23 November, 2022

Danish pastry croissant

Breakfast in the Royal Library in Copenhagen with Olafur Eliasson’s Cirkelbroen (Circle Bridge) in the background.

Quote of the Day

”It’s as though Musk has taken Facebook’s “Move fast and break things” motto and reduced it to “Break everything fast.” Last night, reports of mass resignations inside Twitter seemed so dire that Twitter itself seemed to be documenting its own demise, like HAL 9000 singing “Daisy”, ever more degenerately slurred, near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I lost count of how many of the people I follow were seemingly posting what they expected, last night, to be their last-ever tweets.”

  • Jon Gruber

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Joseph Haydn | Partita in G major, Hob.XVI:6 (1766) | Igor Petrov


Long Read of the Day

The Shortest Night of the Year

Nice essay by Dorthe Nor. It’s an extract from her book, A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast.

Midsummer. The pace of growth can’t keep this up. The corn is turning from green to golden, and everything draws energy from the sun. Today is the longest day. The shortest night lies ahead.

I walked in the heat from the rented cabin on the top of Skallerup Dune, around forty miles south of the northernmost tip of the country, down to the water, amid the scent of rosehips, Rosa rugosa, sweetbriar roses, dog roses, roses everywhere. The soil is fat and damp. Yellow water lilies grow in the hollows. Sediment deposited in the Ice Age continues all the way down to the water’s edge; the dunes have verdant skin. On the beach, there are preparations for a Midsummer’s Eve bonfire. Some children, it must have been, have made a witch with stiff broomstick arms and a wild look in her felt-tip eyes.

It’s the time of year when we burn a female doll. It’s a tradition, an annual thing in Denmark, an act that has clicked into place. We Danes are more or less in agreement: all of this is a game we play. Burning the evil has its roots in ancient rituals and seventeenth century witches at the stake—we can agree on that too. But it’s only in the past century that the ritual has come into fashion, and whether it’s a cosy custom or a problem is something to be discussed over strawberries picked for the celebration. She will be burned…

Read on.

My commonplace booklet

From Andrew Curry’s splendid blog:

One of his readers responded to his piece on ‘The Waste Land’ with a story about T.S. Eliot reading the poem to the British Royal Family at Windsor Castle during the Second World War, prompted by the writer and critic A.N. Wilson in an interview with Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother:

Elizabeth: “We had this rather lugubrious man in a suit, and he read a poem. . . . I think it was called ‘The Desert.’ And first the girls got the giggles, and then I did and then even the King.”

Wilson: “ ‘The Desert,’ ma’am? Are you sure it wasn’t called ‘The Waste Land?’ ”

Elizabeth: “That’s it. I’m afraid we all giggled. Such a gloomy man, looked as though he worked in a bank, and we didn’t understand a word.”

Wilson: “I believe he did once work in a bank.”

“I couldn’t help but wonder”, writes Andrew, “if Eliot might have been trolling the Royals a little. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats had been published in 1939, and he must have known that these poems would have played better than ‘The Waste Land’ with the extremely middlebrow Windsors”.

Having listened a few times to recording of Eliot himself reading the poem, I’m always struck by how lugubrious it is, so I can understand why the royals were first baffled and then amused by the incongruity of it all. For me, it first came alive when I got on my iPad Fiona Shaw’s reading which had been produced by Max Whitby, a brilliant film-maker and TV producer.

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