The Duke of Wellington once came upon a little boy sitting at the side of the road, crying as if his heart would break. “Come now, that’s no way for a young gentleman to behave. What’s the matter?” he asked. “I have to go away to school tomorrow,” sobbed the child, “and I’m worried about my pet toad. There’s no one else to care for it and I shan’t know how it is.” The Duke reassured him, promising to attend to the matter personally.
After the boy had been at school for little more than a week, he received the following letter: “Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington presents his compliments to Master —— and has the pleasure to inform him that his toad is well.”
"A while back I fell into one of those tiresome discussions where the other party says you take Julius Erving and I’ll take Larry Bird and you take Sarah Vaughan and I’ll take Ella Fitzgerald. There was no disposing of such nonsense except to observe that the years have taught me to be grateful for having them all, but I had to say that Sarah Vaughan is the greatest jazz singer I have ever heard. "What about Bessie Smith?" a bystander inquired. I could only answer that I had concluded that there could never have been a Bessie Smith; the molds where they stamp out human beings are just too small for stuff of those proportions." - Murray Kempton
Horror show: theatre-makers re-create terror of slum life -
In the 19th century, the Ancoats slum Angel Meadow was called ‘hell on earth’. Now Anu Productions have re-imagined it for a startling site-specific production, finds Alfred Hickling
"Yet perhaps the most startling discovery is the violent activity of the "girl rippers", feral gangs of women who, according to contemporary reports "pulled up their skirts, bared their breasts and went out into the streets to fight"."
"It is no coincidence that, just as it outgrows its limiting cultural biases, science fiction should also face protests from some members of the predominantly white male audience who believed it to be their rightful domain. What the conservative authors protesting the Hugo awards perceive as a liberal clique is simply science fiction outgrowing them, and their narrow conception of the genre’s worth. Of course, if those authors really wanted to de-politicise science fiction, they could easily help to do so – by admitting the genre’s historic bias and applauding its growth. And by doing everything within their power to welcome new authors from diverse backgrounds, instead of agitating for protest votes to push them out.
The real prize for science fiction is not diversity for diversity’s sake (although I happen to believe that would be prize enough). We live in a world of seven billion human beings, whose culture has not been reflected or rewarded in ‘the mainstream’. Science fiction – from cult novels that reach a few thousand readers, to blockbuster movies and video games that dominate contemporary culture – has the potential to talk across every remaining boundary in our modern world. That makes it, in my opinion, potentially the most important cultural form of the 21st century. To claim that potential, it cannot afford to give way to the petulant protests of boys who do not like to share their toys.”
“When you speak of those who comment on popular fiction, speak gently. They are childish in their enthusiasms, these commentators. They scratch endlessly in that gray-lighted immensity of forgotten novels, sniffing at the track of the past.
"Bits of brown paper cling to their clothing. Their eyes are huge. Soiled papers bulge in their pockets, notes scribbled in the stacks. For they have had valuable insights and scrawled these down, so that the thoughts might not escape, not one–although how easily blunted these are when transmuted from thought to the written word.
"Speak gently of these commentators. Their thoughts are not of this present. Their bodies consume dinners and feel the sun and even drive automobiles on public highways. But their minds, all interlocked with speculations on the past, balance the merits of books no one cares to read. In doing so, they achieve a sort of dusty happiness. Their candle dwindles. But little they notice that shrinking light. There is still another Nick Carter to read, another Cleek to consider, another cracksman to emplace in the shabby mosaic of their thought. They honor the forgotten. They search earnestly, stumbling from volume to volume, seeking to understand what is of dubious importance. Accident guides their minds as much as design.
“Drop a nickle in their cup and hurry by. For Heaven’s sake, hurry! That one wants to tell you about Jimmie Dale.”
Marie Corelli and The Sorrows of Satan | jessnevins.com -
First draft of my take on Corelli and Satan. From my forthcoming The Victorians for Freshmen.