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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Daily Diary: The Waste Land, Don Juan, Meatloaf

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trouble getting the bus out this morning; it takes four of us to push it through the accumulated sludge, which seems to be lingering on the ground. The insistent drip from the roofs tells that the snow must be melting, but there is so much ice beneath it that cars are still having difficulty, as their wheels only expose themselves to the compacted skiddiness beneath the fluffy surface.

CL has gone up to Aberdeen for a course, then off to Denmark. He says that the snow is patchy up there now.

In idle moments, I dip into the BBC's coverage of Alistair Campbell at the Chilcot Inquiry. Campbell is sticking very much to the smoothly prepared script, and gives little away, excepting the fact that Blair had written a letter to Bush a couple of years before the Iraq war agreeing to support the US: "If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there. That would be the tenor of the communication to the president." This does not seem to bother Campbell, or imply that the war was a done deal long before the permutations ran through the UN, since it shows that Blair commendably put the diplomatic route first. What he does not acknowledge, though, is that given that the US was the only state to have genuine diplomatic leverage in the region, and given that the US was pandering to the UK in seeking a formal UN mandate for war, the US's knowledge that the UK would go to war anyway must have a priori undercut any diplomatic efforts, making them half-hearted at best.

Re-read "The Waste Land" and am struck - though it is of course made explicit in Eliot's notes - by how central a figure Tiresias is, in that by crossing gender lines he/she allows us to perceive that all the other characters are versions of each other. Ponder doing some sort of automatic reading exercise, whereby one immediately and spontaneously jots down anything that seems to echo or resonate with earlier parts of the poem. Though not willing to pick up my pen - I am no Madame Sostoris - I hear emerging from the rhythms and recurring motifs: hair, stone, water, eyes.

Also finish reading Canto I of Don Juan. Byron's obscene rhymes raise a smile on numerous occasions. What impresses me most, though, is his squeezing the new word, "burglariously" into an iambic pentameter line:
What are the hopes of man? Old Egypt's
KingCheops erected the first pyramid
And largest, thinking it was just the thing
To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid;
But somebody or other rummaging,
Burglariously broke his coffin's lid:
Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.
A man with an equal capacity for verbal noise-making, Meatloaf is interviewed on Front Row, as he prepares to judge a new opera-reality TV show. He seems very articulate, and gets angry when Mark Lawson asks him what the "I won't do that" is in the song "I would Do Anything to Love." Reading aloud the lyrics, it is clear that this is not an ambivalent phrase designed to allow the listener to complete the gaps with their dirty mind, but actually quite touchingly related to the preceding phrase from the song, as in "But I'll never stop dreaming of you every night of my life...No I won't do that."

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Posted by Alistair at 11:08 am


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