Monthly Archives: November 2010

Bette Davis Eyes

A folllow-up on the song, for she is absolutely one of my favourite actresses of all time!~~

I always said that if I were a man, I would love a volatile woman like Bette Davis. But in a man, it would just be wilful.


At 7pm

As AHC says, Happy Turkey Day!

But it is befuddling how no one seems to mention the word ‘Thanksgiving’, like it is a taboo word in fashion. Everyone is celebrating ‘Black Friday’, and in my email, all the notices are of sales for ‘Black Friday’.

I wonder though, why is it called ‘Black Friday’? Is it because all the turkey is gone?

Regardless, I can’t wait for the weekend, even if I still have another round of papers next week!

In Cold Blood;

The result of Mr. Capote’s discovery was ”In Cold Blood,” which was almost universally praised. John Hersey called it ”a remarkable book,” for example, but there were dissenters. Stanley Kauffmann, in The New Republic, sniped at ”In Cold Blood,” saying ”this isn’t writing, it’s research” – a sly borrowing from Mr. Capote’s witty thumbnail critique, years earlier, of the rambling books of the late Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac: ”This isn’t writing, it’s typing.”

The critic Kenneth Tynan took Mr. Capote to task for being too strictly a reporter and not making an effort to have the killers’ lives spared.

Many readers were struck by Mr. Capote’s verbatim quotations of long, involved conversations and incidents in his book. He explained that this came from ”a talent for mentally recording lengthy conversations, an ability I had worked to achieve while researching ‘The Muses Are Heard,’ for I devoutly believe that the taking of notes, much less the use of a tape recorder, creates artifice and distorts or even destroys any naturalness that might exist between the observer and the observed, the nervous hummingbird and its would-be captor.” He said his trick was to rush away from an interview and immmediately write down everything he had been told.

Mr. Capote was co-author of the movie ”Beat the Devil” with John Huston and wrote the screenplay for a film of Henry James’s ”The Innocents.” Mr. Capote turned his second novel, ”The Grass Harp,” into an unsuccessful Broadway play and, with Harold Arlen, wrote the 1954 musical, also unsuccessful, ”House of Flowers.” Mr. Capote also adapted a number of his stories, including ”A Christmas Memory” and ”The Thanksgiving Visitor,” for television.

Critics noted his deft handling of children as characters in his work, his ability to move from the real to the surreal, and his use of lush words and images. In 1963, the critic Mark Schorer wrote of Mr. Capote: ”Perhaps the single constant in his prose is style, and the emphasis he himself places upon the importance of style.”

I saw the trailer for the movie Infamous, and think I would like to watch it.

Audrey Hepburn’s Veil;

Some things which have captured my heart recently.

Audrey Hepburn’s veil in How to Steal a Million. I am not sure where it is from but it is pretty stunning and what an elegant robber! She looks so startingly wide-eyed and beautiful.

We have crossed over to the modern perhaps and now modern couture designers give an impressive structured take on the lace mask, but I still miss the simple elegance of the 40s, just a little lace mask to steal a million, and a svelte white glove!

I don’t foresee myself wearing a mask anytime soon though, but I am still very much a hat person. Take a look, for example, at this chic summer piece by Philip R, whom I absolutely adore (all Philips must be equally wonderful!)

J says it is very much a piece I would wear and I think so too. I would pair it, for example, with an after hours cocktail ring and do mundane things in it like read a book. But such a beautiful hat is simply not befitting for Singapore, so the best I can do is dream and draw pictures of hats.

I am very much a hat person, and if I had been more of a nifty seamstress, would have liked to pursue the milinery path most! And make different hats for the Ascot ladies every year. I think hearing their requests would be charming enough, and all the beautiful colours! I remember trying to coax Irving to join me for the Ascot once, and all he could think about was horses (though I love horses, and their graceful eyes!)

I really love Katherine Hepburn’s hats. I think she looks absolutely divine and feminine in them. I loved her tying the hat in Adam’s Rib, before her angry political husband!

I am not sure of my opinion towards bonnets however, and my conclusion is that they are too bulky. Nevertheless, I think some people wear bonnets particularly well.

If you could, what would your statement robber piece, or hat, be?~

Travel Writing

The nature of travel, often prolonged and unpredictable, is perhaps at odds with the concision of the essay form. Traveling lends itself to fragmentary modes—letters, notebooks, journals—which somehow swell to fill long books. Observations on manners, morals, and monuments; autobiographical and anecdotal digressions; the flow of narrative incident, reminiscence, and analysis—all seem to require leisurely and expansive treatment.
None of the earliest travel writers appears to have written in a form that could safely be called an essay. Herodotus produced a History of the Persian Wars, and Pausanius wrote a guidebook for second-century Roman travelers in Greece. The Venetian Marco Polo recounted his travels to China, and the medieval Berber, Ibn Battuta, told of visiting most of the known world. Explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries, including Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, and Sir Walter Ralegh kept journals and wrote letters describing the marvels they encountered. But none of them, it seems, wrote travel essays.
Montaigne’s famous essay, “Des cannibales” (1580; “Of Cannibals”), does not narrate his own travels, but reflects on the customs of different cultures, and the relative nature of barbarism: “each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice.” (Montaigne also kept a Journal de Voyage en Italie which was not published until 1774.) Francis Bacon’s essay “Of Travel” (1625) advises young men what to see, and recommends keeping a diary. In 1763 Richard Hurd published “On the Uses of Foreign Travel,” a dialogue concerning the value of travel.
In the 18th century nearly every major writer tried his hand at writing a travel book— Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, Johnson, Boswell, Goethe—but well-known travel essays are in short supply. In 1792 William Gilpin published his Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; On Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landscape. One might argue that the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, written in Turkey from 1716 to 1718, should count as travel essays. Wife of the British ambassador to Turkey, Lady Mary sent home hundreds of polished and witty letters, each a mini-essay about some aspect of Turkish life. Her trenchant observations on the contrasting merits of Turkish and British society place her among the most celebrated travel writers.
The great essayist William Hazlitt wrote “On Going a Journey” (1822), which extols the pleasures of traveling alone: “the soul of a journey is liberty.” In 1826 he published a series of essays, Notes of a journey Through France and Italy; though he calls travel a splendid dream, he concludes that “our affections must settle at home.”
The Victorians’ appetite for travel books has probably never been equaled, but they tended to devour multi-volume tomes rather than succinct essays. Richard Burton alone produced 43 volumes of travel, and none of the era’s classics—Frances Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), Alexander Kinglake’s Eōthen, or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East (1844), Charles Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta (1888), and Mary Kingsley’s Travels in West Africa (1897)—is short. If the definition of the essay can be stretched once again to include letters, Isabella Bird’s bestknown work, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains (1879), recounts in a series of lively vignettes her adventures in the American West.
Leslie Stephen’s delightful mountaineering essays in The Playground of Europe (1871) were originally written for the Alpine Journal. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Essays of Travel were collected in 1905, yet he is better known for his charming account of Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879). Rudyard Kipling wrote Letters ofTravel (1892–1913) (1920), a series of newspaper articles describing his visits to North America, Japan, and Egypt; later he published Brazilian Sketches (1927) and Souvenirs of France (1933).
Although the most popular 19th-century American travel writer, Mark Twain, wrote mainly long, humorous travel books—Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing It (1872), A Tramp Abroad (1880)—other American authors produced admirable travel essays. Ralph Waldo Emerson visited England twice, in 1833 and 1847, and later published English Traits (1856) on topics such as manners, character, the aristocracy, and universities. For most travelers, personal experience forms the basis of their narratives, but Emerson preferred analysis to autobiography. His essays are prone to sweeping generalizations: “the one thing the English value is pluck.”
Unlike Emerson, who claimed to travel unwillingly, Henry James was an inveterate and passionate traveler. He published several volumes of travel essays: Transatlantic Sketches (1875), Portraits of Places (1883), and A Little Tour in France (1884, revised 1900); some travel essays reappeared in English Hours (1905) and Italian Hours (1909).

James was familiar with Europe from childhood, and fascinated by the contrast between the Old World and the New. Like many of his novels, his travel sketches take Europe as both location and theme. He brought a wide culture to his travels, yet his purpose was not to instruct: “I write these lines with the full consciousness of having no information whatever to offer.” Instead he offered reminiscences and impressions, discriminating observations and sophisticated judgments, all in an urbane, cosmopolitan style.
D.H.Lawrence wrote a series of essays about his long stay in Italy, published in 1916 as Twilight in Italy. A restless traveler in search of a home, Lawrence lived in over a dozen countries and produced several more travel books, including Sea and Sardinia (1921), Mornings in Mexico (1927), and Etruscan Places (1932). Other important figures in 20th-century English travel are Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Peter Fleming, Robert Byron, Freya Stark, Eric Newby, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Dervla Murphy, Jonathan Raban, and Bruce Chatwin. The best-known contemporary English travel essayist is Jan Morris, author of numerous collections including Places (1972), Travels (1976), Journeys (1984), and Among the Cities (1985).
Shiva Naipaul’s Beyond the Dragon’s Mouth: Stories and Pieces (1984) contains a number of his travel essays about England, India, Africa, and the Caribbean.
V.S.Naipaul’s travel writing includes an essay on the Ivory Coast, “The Crocodiles of Yamoussoukro,” originally published in the New Yorker and reprinted in Finding the Center (1984).
In the United States, postwar travel essays are varied. James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” (1953) recounts his experience as the first black man to appear in a Swiss village. The New Yorker frequently publishes travel essays: those by Berton Roueché were collected under the title Sea to Shining Sea: People, Travely Places (1985), while a selection of Calvin Trillin’s humorous essays came out in 1989 as Travels with Alice.
Paul Theroux has made the persona of the grouchy rail traveler instantly recognizable; The Great Railway Bazaar (1975) was the first of many satiric travel books, and Theroux’s travel essays appear in a wide variety of publications. Tim Cahill writes irreverent adventure travel articles for Outside and other magazines; two collections of his essays are Jaguars Ripped My Flesh: Adventure Is a Risky Business (1987) and A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg (1989).

Although the self-contained formal essay may not be best adapted to encompass the sprawling variety and multitudinousness of travel, the genre continues to flourish, often disguised as letters, sketches, impressions, portraits, or dispatches. Currently, travel essays of one sort or another appear in a wide range of newspapers and magazines; occasional issues of Granta are devoted to travel writing by contemporary authors.


I think the list of travel books sound absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to start a new reading journey after the examinations! I think I’ll like to have more adventures and write a book one day. But I am worried that being that way will make me gradually indulgent. Oh yes, I have a strong dislike for Henry James and I will be skipping that. Paul Theroux is average, but oh the female writers! I think the females make such strong, independent travel writers, but the problem is that they think too much on their journeys and reflect too much into themselves and the history. The men are a bit more gutsy and have beautiful quiet moments and their adventures of a reflective kind.

Oh and I never knew Evelyn Waugh had travel writing! This, I have to try. Graham Greene is likely to be dark and pondering, but he is a granite boy sort of fellow.

Please tell me, my secret literature lovers (like Irving), that you will be following through on this list with me, as I explore the cities!

Which travel writers do you recommend, and which particular texts?

Singin in the rain;

He is a weak singer compared to the rest of the Glee cast, and some parts were too pop-oriented, but it does look like so much fun!

I want to be one of those men in the background with one of those umbrellas!

I wish they got proper traditional umbrellas. Those are pretty NY-ish, but imagine the impact of many good old traditional black British umbrellas!

And oh my goodness she is Gwyneth Paltrow!

But why do I keep thinking of Phoebe from friends?

Rosemortem: The “eye of the beholder” saying is specifically in reference to the concept of beauty, not art; the two are not mutually exclusive. There is a very applicable Afrikaans saying which, roughly translated, means “they’re not used to anything” – meant to describe people who don’t know any better about something, usually related to their inexperienced taste. If we have no bar to reach and surpass, then there can be no discernment between mediocrity and genius. I for one don’t want to live in a world where we have lost our ability to discern the difference.