Jane Austen’s Mr Bennet

Among the inexhaustible pleasures of Pride and Prejudiceis the character of Mr Bennet. Married to a vulgar drama queen and the father of five daughters, three of them deeply disappointing, he passes the time reading in his library, from which he emerges to savour the foolishness of those around him, willfully fail to communicate with his wife, and utter unforgettable lines: ‘You […]

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Guy Deutscher’s The Unfolding of Language

Have you ever wondered how the majestic case structure of Latin nouns came about? Every one of them has a number of suffixes that identify it as being in a particular grammatical case (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative or ablative; some nouns have specific vocative or locative forms as well), usually in both singular and plural forms. Latin is awash with […]

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Thoughts on the Novel

The winning of the Nobel Prize in Literature by Orhan Pamuk in 2006 (posting 2011/06/08) adds his name to the increasingly lengthy list of laureates from non-Western countries. What’s going on here?   There may be an element of policy on the part of those who award the prize; one cannot help noticing that the ranks of female winners are expanding at […]

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Orhan Pamuk’s ‘My Name is Red’

This novel opens with the murder of a miniaturist in Istanbul late in the sixteenth century that we learn of in the words of the deceased; it is entirely told in the first person, different voices succeeding one another in a technique that is initially confusing but ultimately yields some very clever story telling. From this murder, not the last one, ripples spread that encompass different […]

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Good plain English

An actor playing the role of Dr Faustus in the play by Christopher Marlowe told me that he finds lines of Shakespeare easier to memorize than those of Marlowe. The latter, who belonged to a group known as the University Wits, wrote in a more academic way than his contemporary, who allegedly had ‘small Latin and less Greek’, and his words do not stick […]

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Diarmaid MacCullough’s A History of Christianity

I missed reading this book when it was published in 2009, but what’s two years against the two millennia it covers? Actually MacCullough cheekily says that his book covers the first three thousand years of the history of Christianity, thereby allowing himself some coverage of the Greco-Roman and Jewish background, but his detailed treatment starts with the birth of Christ […]

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Burckhardt’s Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy

It’s good having the time and intellectual energy to reread some classic works, among them this study, which I last looked at when an undergraduate. Burckhardt was a Swiss German, and in this work, first published in German in 1860, he produced one of the major interpretations of Renaissance Italy. Basing his study on a close reading of many texts, he produced some […]

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William Gibson

A taste for an edgy kind of cyberpunk fiction may not be an elevated one, but the novels of William Gibson have excited me since I began reading them. This is partly because of the fast pace of the action, appropriately laid out in very short chapters, partly because he writes of damaged and vulnerable characters in the power of intimidating […]

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