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"Gwyneth Jones" free book downloads

Monday January 18th, a mild damp misty morning; birdsong

Just a brief post, to point out that the three Bold As Love novels I've re-edited and Spirit are now available permanently on this site, see under "Webpage Links". And remember, if you download one of my pdf books it is yours to keep , just as if you'd bought print and paper. I can't delete it from your kindle access, I can't decide I don't like chapter five or that I should make the ending more upbeat, dip into your text and change it.

I was quite interested in the kindle idea, until I found out about the breaking and entering aspect. Tuh. People are such sheep!

NB, should you be in Brighton tomorrow and free at lunchtime, you could come along to the Chapel Royal, North St., where Gabriel is playing a recital. Here's the details. The Bach is the Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor from Book I

Spirit Or The Princess of Bois Dormant: Free Online

Wednesday 13th January, after dark, snow on the roofs, can't tell if it's freezing out there, I'm going to try and take the train to Manchester tomorrow:should be fine, wish me luck.

Holiday reading interrupted for a special announcement, it's the New Year, and as promised the full text of Spirit has returned, download here, free online. Soon I'll get all the online books on sidebar links on this new blog. If you want a word file not the pdf, just ask.

So Google are pulling out of China. I'm not saying they shouldn't, but what a blow. How abandoned all those people must feel.

Madame de Stael:#1

Wednesday 13th January, Fresh snow in the night and snow falling all morning, but the air is warmer and the snow is melting now, twilight gathering, the skies still low and unbroken grey. Finally, the winter holiday reading feature.

Corinne, or Italy, May 1807, Madame De Stael.
Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, daughter of Jacques Necker, Louis XVI's Finance Minister, the man who (amazingly) became the hero of the first phase, the hopeful bit, of the French Revolution. Madame De Stael (she married the Swedish Ambassador when she was twenty); "French Revolutionary Activist and Theorist of European Romanticism", "The most influential woman in Europe. . . the the Spirit of Eighty Nine in person. How come I've never read anything by her before now, given my views and the fascination that period has for me? Because she was a woman? Guilty. I'm not immune, I'm afraid nobody is, to our immemorial cultural assumption that the men are more interesting, whatever the field of endeavour. Because, owing to her being a woman, "her fame has not survived"? I'm not so sure. How many of you out there are well up on her great rival, Francois Eugene Rene De Chateaubriand, the other highly influential French writer and politico of those times? I think there was something else deeply wrong with Germaine De Stael, of which more later. . .

Over Christmas, and partly while felled by flu, I read a fragment called "Ten Years Of Exile", which is interesting but fragmentary, and her second novel Corinne, Or Italy. I should now formally warn against spoilers (stupid concept, really). You're duly warned. Corinne is the story of a young Scottish, or English, De Stael thinks the terms are interchangeable, nobleman called Oswald (a name that sounded different at the time, I can only think cf Harold), who takes a trip to Italy to nurse his great grief after the death of his father. He's the strong, sensitive, vulnerable yet hunky type, given to modest heroism between bouts of spitting blood. He encounters Corinne, on a day when she's being crowned for her poetry, in a kind of Ancient Roman Triumph. He's deeply smitten with this beautiful, talented, independent woman, who is a public figure, just about as famous as God, though never in an an arrogant way. He follows her to Rome and they begin an intense courtship, based on sight-seeing trips. Corinne shows Oswald Italy, and at the same time shows him herself. At least one of their sightseeing trips breaks the bounds of even free and easy Italian convention, but Corinne doesn't care, as she's convinced that though he hasn't declared himself, Oswald must intend to marry her. Finally, he explains that if he marries her, and he might not, she's going to have to give up her public life. He loves her talents, but as her husband he'd expect them to be reserved exclusively for his private consumption. They have a big emotional scene, Oswald returns to England. He's meant to be making up his mind who he'll choose, between Corinne and the modest, insipid young girl his dead father had picked out for him. Instead he meets the girl, who is actually Corinne's half-sister, and falls for her. Corinne finds out, is devastated, and does the noble thing. Oswald finds out, too late, that Corinne had found out, is devastated, realises Corinne is really the love of his life. . . Young girl finds out she's usurped her sister, is devastated... Etc, etc, repeat until at least one of the principals succumbs to early tragic demise.

I'm sure you recognise the formula, because it's still going strong, and the first English versions are still widely read: Mr Rochester, Heathcliff were only a couple of decades in the future. The Moody Romantic Hero, the Passionate Woman who is a match for him, optional Suitable Girl in a supporting role; plus the vital armchair tourism element. What makes Corinne different (viewed just as Napoleonic chic-lit) is that she's interrogating the hide off that Romantic Hero, as popular then as now, and his moods, and his egotistical vaccillation between lovers, and his tormented soul. De Stael sets Oswald up as the acme of "sensitive" masculine cool, and then shows how he thinks only of himself, and destroys the lives of any poor woman who loves him. This is an interesting concept to start with. Plus, the armchair tourism is exceptional. De Stael knows a huge amount about Ancient and Modern Italian sites, history, customs, landscapes. She's also done all the travel, and uses her own experiences with skill and relish. This book would make you want to take ship at once for that vanished Italy, preferably crossing the perilous passes of the Alps at night, and in a snowstorm. Note the fever-haunted desolation of the Campagna, where nothing grows and you risk your life in spending a night there. Nobody gets bitten by insects in the marshy wilderness, but that's probably good-taste censorship. Nothing too disgusting is recounted about bedbugs, fleas or awful latrines in inns of passage either.

The actual fiction element is the weakest feature, as De Stael is an eighteenth century writer who tends to speeches rather than dialogue, and set pieces rather than narrative drive. Famously, she dismissed Jane Austen, on the other side of the divide, as "vulgar". The political element, surprising in a romantic novel, is unmistakeable. Corinne is the Anti-Napoleon. She's the Queen of Peace, Mistress of the feminine-coded arts. Champion of liberty, equality, amitiƩ, (thanks to greywyvern, you are right I was just being lazy); plus another one, which Mme De Stael has just invented, diversity. In real life, at the time when this book came out, "Italy" was just a bundle of political interests, arranged around some battlefields where Napoleon had recently triumphed. De Stael invents a nation, and presents her concept of self-determined nationhood in opposition to the monolithic, police state European Empire Napoleon had just invented, thus cruelly betraying all his intellectual and artist admirers, not to mention the people, and the Revolution.

The sad thing is, they say (her biographers say) that she thought Napoleon would admire her new book, even that he'd see the lesson in it, and be grateful. Writers get the strangest ideas, especially if their position is oppositional, and they're so used to robust criticism they assume their opponents must be cool about it too. Big mistake when you're dealing with a vain, ruthless self-made Emperor who doesn't like women to have an intellect anyway. The novel was a huge success with the public, Napoleon was furious, and set out to destroy De Stael.

More later. I'm going to have to stop. Ginger has a new trick. When she is really not going to be ignored anymore, she gets behind my keyboard, puts her nose under it, and tries to shove it off the desk. Makes me laugh so much, she almost scuu ddde

Winter Holiday #

Monday January 11th, snow eroding from roofs and pavements, still freezing; thick low skies

Correction. There aren't any actual hippies in Dhalgren. Your hippie is, or was originally, a hard-core radical political animal, with all that implies in range from idiot, corrupt freeloader to dedicated selfless visionary. In Dhalgren there's only a "commune" of clueless flower-children getting back to nature in the park. They have several hapless projects (weaving, washing their own clothes) and are held up to derision for same, but the "coffee out of the beans" reference really comes from Philip Marsden's Polish Travel/Memoir The Bronski House, it's the report of a former Polish aristocrat, looking back long afterwards to the days when she was young and her world collapsed around her ears. The day when the servants were gone, and the family were left staring at these small, hard brown objects, with literally no idea how to transform them into that rich, comforting dark liquid which always used to appear in a silver pot. . . The connection being about people who are completely unaware that they are helpless parasistes on a mightily unfair system. Come to think of it, I also reccomend The Spirit Wrestlers, Marsden's Russian book, same kind of deep cultural exploration in form of travelogue.

Yesterday, blizzards having failed to materialise, Peter and I took the bus out to Stanmer Park. A whole lot of people were tobogganning on the east slopes, we went for a walk in the woods instead and I'm glad we took the road less travelled. Our last snow was freezing as it fell, and there wasn't enough wind to drift but enough to drive it gently: every tree, every branch, every twig was burdened with white, flags and plumes, and the woods went on and on, everything familiar looking different, we went round and round, up along the ridge, managed to lose ourselves at least once: meanwhile discussing quite seriously whether we should take a shovel, rugs, a torch, water and food in the car, when we made our daring expedition north. Maybe the mediafolk are right, and what looks like a harmless winter day is just trying to fool us. . . These woods, esp the part that used to be Stanmer Great Wood, are nearly all young growth, dated by the hurricane of 87, which flattened nearly everything. Every so often a fragment of the old great beech vistas survives.

We decided against the blankets and thermos. Those mediafolk are insane. Now Gabriel is back in London, and the Winter Holidays are over.

Since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

For me, by Houseman's reckoning, that figure should now be twenty. All the more reason to waste nothing.

Winter Holiday

Friday January 8th, hard frost, snow roofs, snow-skies; light-suffused grey with a gilt hem.

This morning both cats refused, categorically to go outside. I ejected Milo, squalling, Ginger protesting: Ginger bounced straight back in again, but she went out for a while of her own accord later. The reason for this cruelty? Well, they have a litter tray each and Milo is using his (but he wees in the bath, which is all right as long as you know. . .) Ginger is not using hers, which makes us uneasy. Either that little cat is constipated back up to her neck, or we are going to find evil withered little offerings somewhere very cunning and obscure. Last night, after two episodes of Wire 4 and watching Gabriel beat the half-way fortress of the 2D Wi Mario, Peter and I spent at least half an hour searching for Dhalgren, which I clearly remembered leaving on the sofa in plain sight, about 7pm when I decided to listen to Stravinsky and work on my Alpine jigsaw instead... Today I found it, behind the leg of the low table we use for eating on all but the most formal occasions, pushed back into the window alcove,looking exactly like a chunk of wood, not a book. I'm getting there, I'll have finished it by the end of the day. A lot of things I don't remember, a lot of longeurs (polite term for boring bits) I found equally tiresome the first time round. Why does this book deserve Masterworks status? Google hits. Can't argue with Google hits, and I won't, they are the stuff of the SF-Establishment. My job is to analyse, and to give (no, this is my pleasure) a historical perspective. I was about ten years old when the autobigraphical events on which this book is based actually happened, but when they're supposed to have happened, believe me I was there. Casting a cold eye. "Middle class" kids (middle class means something different in my country, nb), born and bred parasites who do not have the faintest idea how to get the coffee out of the beans, pshaw, and think it is cool to ape the behaviour of the helpless and the lost. . .

Anyway, I have listened to the news, and found out where our doorstep milk has gone. Into the slurry pit, every pint of it, reports a dairy farmer from Partridge Green, sounding absolutely gutted. Have watched the bluetits on the buddelia seeds, hopefullywatched our uneaten suet ball (birds are not used to finding shop-food in our garden, for obvious reasons). Have listened to Gabriel practicing the Appassionata downstairs, have coloured-in my Shrinkles stegosaurus (she still looks angry, probably because the text says she has an "unusually small brain", which of course is why I say "she"), have eaten Christmas cake.

In 1963 (it says here, on the bbc site) the temperature didn't rise above freezing for two months. Schools did NOT close, and there was no such thing as central heating, so people had coal fires or just got cold. I remember the fires, twisting the papers and clearing the ash (training that would come in d***ed useful later in life), the tobogganing, once by moonlight, and one particular icon, a broken egg that remained intact under the ice, swimming in the fragments of its shell, on Wilson Rd, right until March.

Books and composers stack up, I mean to post about my Winter Holiday reading soon.

I thought I wouldn't ever want to watch the Wire again, after majestic Stringer Bell, evil and noble, got his just desserts. But I find I do.

Intercalary Days

Monday 4th January, clear skies, hard frost.

Intercalary days. . . It's still officially Christmas in this house, where we keep the oldstyle festive season, so the decorations are still up, the one we call the Chinese Foil Lantern shedding its traditional glittering pattern over the ceiling for Ginger to admire, as I eat my working-day marmite toast. Writing the intro for the Gollancz Masterworks new edition of The Time Machine will occupy me this week, that and re-reading Dhalgren. (I once had a book up for inclusion in the Masterworks list myself, but it didn't come to anything, ah well). Male black cap poking around in the sycamore, our charm of goldfinches on Linda and Ron's feeders as usual, the one red camellia flower that opened just before Christmas succumbed to bruising, is there any kind of winter weather these winter blooming beauties like? Anyway, thank you Diana I am pretty much better now. I'd have liked a month's gentle convalescence in an Alpine spa of some kind, but overeating madly seems to have done the trick okay.

In fine weather, the sky in January is the bluest you ever see it in England.