Refreshing breaks: how fragmented stories can be fulfilling reading | Books | The Guardian
I had rehearsed my reactions to being faced by mountains;. Trying to look on the bright side of them and appreciating their grandeur; preparing so thoroughly that I forgot to pack the sun cream. I was blinded by the level, benign beach and shady palms. This was all mine to run across and roll about on and dance along. What do I pack? It could be cold and rainy, could be a tropical paradise. I had better pack everything. I feel it in my bones. Have I remembered to pack everything? I may need scuba gear, climbing gear, warm clothes or bikini.
I think the bikini unlikely but I try to fit it in the case. I lie awake considering all possibilities and trying not to, knowing it futile. I wake early. I hope I have everything packed. I can leave the mack in the case. I wait for the taxi, full of anticipation. Wanna show me? Oh look at that girl, oh so fair…with hair of curly golden locks of sunkissed hair.
It will never be. You see a commercial, you shed a tear.
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The flower wilts day by day. What was bright and shiny slowly turns to grey. There are cries for help and tears running down, there are smiles too of course, here and there, but then comes the frown. I scream and I yell but no one hears. Now we talk about life in months…there may not be years.
The hardest part of any battle is not the end where peace lies ahead, but the fight itself where fear and pain rear their ugly head. The hardest part of watching my daughter suffer this illness is not knowing one day that she will be at peace with her father. Listening to the cries for help that I cannot answer. When my stomach gurgles with rage, you think its indigestion But what is broken is more the appropriate question.
You creep and crawl Inside my body parts Turn innocent gas Into unexpected sharts. You took away My beautiful golden hair Now just a bald head Resides atop there. God gave me a smile Polished up a crown Even bejeweled and bedazzled it Said this will never let you down. It can reset you then let you drown alone It can thump you and dump you like a stone It can strangle you and dangle you over a cliff It can make the supple buckle and become stiff. It can be spiteful and frightful any time of day It can harass you then cast you away It can make you grumble and keep you humble too It can make you cry and say goodbye but never really leave you.
Poems about cancer We are very grateful to all of you who have made such an effort to share your personal and poignant poems about cancer with us. My Dad I feel so empty feel so blue so scared of what my life will be like without you. We are asked to write a 4-minute play for three players.
It promises to be extremely interesting, and fun, listening and watching all those mini-sketches. Do come and join us. We meet fortnightly in Community House, East Parade at 7. Different things kick off the urge to put thought to paper. Sometimes, as in professional writing, the writer is bound by subject and time, and the manner in which it is presented.
It was an extremely interesting evening, with thoughts and explanations given as well as constructive criticisms. There was even one theory proposed using alphabetical letters to help to clarify rhythm and structure. The next meeting on 4th July is a Manuscript Evening, and all who are interested in writing are warmly invited to come to our meetings which are held fortnightly in Community House, East Parade, Harrogate at 7. Our last meeting was a Manuscript Evening, and there were several excellent manuscripts read aloud. Some of these were the submissions for the annual Article Competition, but as we ran out of time at that meeting, we heard them at this one.
You will be told later at what date this competition will be heard on the radio! If you are interested in coming to see and hear our group which meets on alternate Wednesdays, phone or Professor Paul Hardwick of Trinity All Saints College, Leeds was once again our very welcome speaker at our last meeting, which was the adjudication of the annual Article Competition. Paul then read some of his own poetry, and also described a poem in which he spoke to a photograph of an RAF chap of years ago, telling him of life today, and then speaking as though to someone years from now.
Sadly there was no time for any of the articles to be read, but our next Manuscript Evening on 6th June promises a bumper harvest! The last meeting of the Circle was Manuscript Evening, when our readings ranged from short stories to poetry. We had interesting discussions on each manuscript. Sue Hardy-Dawson who has recently had her own book of poetry for children published was pleased to announce that she has had one of her poems included in an anthology of poems written by women, but for everyone to read! There are poems to read and please. Our next meeting on 27 th May is the adjudication of our annual Article Competition by Prof.
Paul Hardwick. If you like writing — or even if you like listening to writing, you will be warmly welcomed. At the last meeting we combined the pleasure of accepting The Barnes Trophy presented by the family of our late member and friend, Chris Barnes, with our annual Spring Social Evening. Chris had meant a lot to us older members, and we greatly admired his talent in writing in all genres.
He had gone the extra mile on our behalf and had written a short comment on each contribution. This describes the frustration of a dissatisfied customer trying to persuade his garden centre to send his order to replace very unwanted garden gnomes. We then had our Social Evening, where tremendous choices of comestibles were awaiting us. Although an evening in commemoration of a very gifted writer, friend and father, this was a very happy occasion. Paul Smith wrote a lovely story regarding a severely disabled girl unable to move any muscles.
She was visited by a green Welsh angel who promised her happiness. When the girl died quietly that day she was found smiling beautifully and had happiness over her whole face. Hilary Staley wrote of an athletic year old who habitually broke into houses where windows were left open, then departed after leaving a warning note about foolish behaviour. Sometime later on entering that room, the girl was discovered asleep on her bed! The little boy had been playing in his room, and unknown to his mother had succeeded in opening his window.
With great care the little boy was saved, completely unhurt. During all the fuss, the family plus recovered rabbit and their furniture piled into a van and took off. The dog returned, to find the house closed and no-one to let him in. Although seemingly difficult in school, he really wanted to learn, and she promised to coach him. The winner was Sheila Whitfield, and the runner-up was Hilary Staley.
Our visitor that evening, Matthew Wyatt read out some untitled pieces of dialogue. Following this there will be an opportunity to read manuscripts. If you like writing, you are very warmly invited to join us on alternate Wednesdays at 7. For more information phone We were delighted to welcome Mrs Ruth Bowes, a Past-Chairman and long-time member of the Circle to be our speaker at the last meeting. Ruth has written several books and told us of some of the trials and tribulations a writer encounters when trying to be published.
She was greatly encouraged both by a novelist who saw the potential in her writing, and also by one of her English teachers, who also encouraged her to write articles. However as the book was about four sisters, the story expanded until four books were written, each from the point of view of a different sister. It had taken some time before the first one was accepted by a publisher, and she discovered that every publisher has a different idea about what the book needs.
Know what you want to say, be it a family story, fantasy or poetry, but always know your limitations. This was a very interesting evening, and we much appreciated the easy and practical way in which she spoke to us. Our next meeting, an Internal Competition, is on 28 March at 7. Phone for further information. All potential writers are welcome to join us. Come and try us out to see if we are the ones to help you fulfil your dreams.
Some were manuscripts written by the readers, which included articles, poetry stories and even a short play. Some readings were personal favourites read and reread over many years — and each one added that special spark to a Christmas Manuscript evening. We had a very pleasant evening, good companions, good and varied readings, and a lovely supper. If you are interested in writing, and getting some friendly and constructive criticism if requested, please phone either or We look forward to meeting you.
She has had many of her short stories and novels published. In her introductory remarks she said that writing the short story is not an easy task. One important point — a short story is not a compressed novel. While being short, it should not be trivial, and should have a point to it. Readers are alert! Sue Hardy Dawson has had three of her poems accepted for publication. Our next meeting on Wednesday 6th December at 7. This is a happy and social evening, and a good time for newcomers to meet the rest of the members.
If you like writing, come and join us.
Having worked through the arguments, she voted that the Channel 4 presentation is successful. This led on to his private weekly reviews of the professionals and celebrities on screen. Her tongue in cheek revue contained quite a lot of clever humour. Chesterton, commenting that the stories transcribe well from the written word into television plays. The winner was Daphne Peters, and the runner-up was Anne Carcas. The next meeting on Wednesday 8th November at 7. If you are keen on writing, or interested in hearing what others write, you will be made very welcome at our meeting at Community House, East Parade.
There were many manuscripts read out, which generated a considerable amount of thoughtful discussion. This was an extremely good evening of hearing different works and also hearing differing views on each. In A. Orage, the editor of New Age , then perhaps the most noteworthy avant-garde journal of literature, politics, and art, accepted some of her work, and she began to contribute stories and sketches regularly. She wrote letters to the editor describing London street life, one letter like a prose poem full of the colors of "pilgrims straining forward to Nowhere.
She tried different styles and tones: rhapsodic descriptions of the unusual, caustic satire, careful probings of relationships for the existence or absence of "soul. The rain blurs most of what she sees, but at moments "light striking on the panes turned their dullness to opal and silver, and the jewellers' shops seen through this were fairy palaces. As Mansfield presents the confined, sodden details of the woman's experience back at her fourth-floor walk-up flat beyond Earl's Court, the young milliner focuses on the distances of her fantasy; the lights, color, and excitement generated by her clientele; and the elegant hats that she sells.
George's, Hanover Square. After the wedding "they motored down to Harry's old ancestral home for the honeymoon; the peasants in the village curtseyed as they passed. Much of Mansfield's early work is in the form of the sketch, highly popular in the journals of the time, in which a segment of life, like the shop girl's perspective, is described, but neither plot nor theme is developed sufficiently to warrant designating the work a story. Generally presenting the Germans from the point of view of a quiet, observant young English woman, the sketches satirize Germans mercilessly, depicting them as crude, gross, pompous, self-satisfied.
Some, like "The Baron," concentrate on German snobberies: the titled man at the resort will speak to no one except the young English tourist--to whom he confesses that he never speaks to anyone so that he can order double portions of food and elicit no comment. Others, like "The Luft Bad," mock the trivial and excessive Germanic concern with digestion and appearance among the ladies in the spa.
Although the English narrator turns some of the mockery on herself, even more is directed toward the man in the "luft bad" next door who "buries himself up to the armpits in mud and refuses to believe in the Trinity. A few of the sketches combine the usual German grossness and related obsessions with food and soul with pompous German assurance that the English need not fear invasion. In "Germans at Meat" one fat consumer named Herr Rat tells the English tourist that "You have got no army at all--a few little boys with their veins full of nicotine poisoning.
We don't want England. If we did we would have had her long ago. One said that she wrote about Germans extremely well but "dwelt a little too insistently on the grossness or coarseness, which is undeniable. Mansfield herself was apparently ambivalent about responses to the political implications of the treatment of Germans in her fiction. She hoped in that war could be avoided, but when it began she was both crushed and conventionally patriotic.
After describing a darkened, sad, excited London in a September letter to a friend in New Zealand, Mansfield concluded that "Although in many ways these are dark and depressing days, still they are brightened by the display of real and splendid courage on the part of all the people. The fact that England is fighting for something beyond mere worldly gain and power seems to have a real moral effect upon the people, and they are become more brave and more generous than one could have believed in days of peace.
She did not want it reprinted during the war, nor even after the war was over--when she thought the stories might still be read as easy propaganda. She questioned the propitiousness of publishing the volume for an American audience in May by saying that she thought the book a "most inferior Parts of some sketches and early stories reveal many of the narrative skills and psychological complexities of Mansfield's mature fiction. One of the most interesting of the stories is "The Modern Soul," which begins with a stereotype of the pompous German music professor explaining to the young English narrator why he incessantly eats cherries: "There is nothing like cherries for producing free saliva after trombone playing, especially after Grieg's 'Ich Liebe Dich.
The two older Germans, the professor and the actress's mother, talk incessantly of food and soul. They agree that the English are "fish-blooded," cold and without soul, or that "England is merely an island of beef flesh swimming in a warm gulf stream of gravy. But she is also attached to her mother and cannot think of leaving her. The narrator, attempting to be helpful, suggests that the actress have her mother and the professor marry, which would allow all to continue the artistic tour and leave the actress free to follow her own attractions.
The actress, a "soul" less modern than manipulating, is appalled and stages her own fainting spell, which leads to a comic conclusion suggesting that the actress will marry the professor after all and keep him as her "pillow," as the security of her respectability, while he may continue to bluster and consume cherries.
The "modern soul" is posture and hypocrisy; the varieties of sexual attraction are puzzles and complexities that human beings cannot handle. Bisexual themes and the complexity of human emotion characterize other early stories. The conflict it depicts between openly lesbian women and those who can talk only of food and men is obvious to the reader, though it is less so to some of the characters not conscious of the implications of their words. This story seems like the most flat and caustic of Mansfield's early satiric sketches. More skillfully done and complex is "New Dresses," written in although not published until The first of Mansfield's stories to model her own family circumstances in New Zealand, "New Dresses" adopts the point of view of the dissident, sloppy, tomboyish daughter ignored by both the remote, conventional mother who seems to care more for her children's clothes than for her children and by the boastful, ungenerous, egotistical father whose attention centers on his youngest child, the only boy.
Yet the dissident girl's insight into the ways in which she deliberately provokes her parents and into her own jealousy of her younger brother removes from the story the easy self-pity its situation might generate. A different geographical and social New Zealand background distinguishes another early story, "The Woman at the Store" This story is set in the blistering heat of the desert where the narrator describes how "the sky was of slate colour, and the sound of the larks reminded me of slate pencils scraping over its surface.
There was nothing to be seen but wave after wave of tussock grass, patched with purple orchids and manuka bushes covered with thick spider webs. They find the store, but they are unprepared for the complex emotions they encounter: sexual attraction, rage at the men who use and then abandon women, violent hostility within and outside the sexuality, and resentments of the isolated outback woman reflected in the middle-class traveling woman.
Although the conclusion is melodramatic, when the almost-mute child of the outback woman who has had four miscarriages reveals to the travelers that she has finally shot and killed her husband, the psychological explosions of identity and contrast match the primitivism and power of the isolated setting. It is a Lawrencian story written more than a year before Mansfield met D. Perhaps something central about Mansfield's emotions in the difficult, unstable, defiant, lonely, searching years from to the end of is visible in "The Little Governess," which was apparently written shortly before its publication in early by that time almost all that Mansfield wrote would be published immediately in one periodical or another.
The childlike fantasy begins with a young Englishwoman on her first trip alone to the Continent, where she is to meet in Munich the employer who has arranged to hire her as a governess in Augsburg. Warned about Continental impropriety and perfidy, she is frightened on the trip, mistrusts everyone, and refuses to acknowledge porters, eat food on the train, or tip bellboys at the hotel. When a polite old gentleman enters her carriage on the train, she is aware that he might be thinking "how tragic for a little governess to possess hair that made one think of tangerines and marigolds, of apricots and tortoise-shell cats and champagne.
She allows him to buy her strawberries, which she enjoys as the juice runs down her fingers. When they reach Munich early in the morning, she goes to the hotel where her employer is to meet her late in the afternoon; she intends to stay in her room until then. But the old gentleman, whom she still thinks of as a "fairy god-father," arrives and persuades her that he might innocently show her the town for just an hour or two. The tour stretches through "white sausages" with beer at eleven, lunch, and late afternoon ices, each entailing more physical proximity, until he takes her to his flat.
What is remarkable about the story is the flexibility of the governess's consciousness throughout the tour. She simultaneously seems to believe in the innocence of the city that her protective godfather is showing her--and to want him to violate her innocence, as she understands the sexuality of all the signs. She is conscious of time in the distance and of her need to return to the hotel, yet she nonetheless tells her godfather that her watch has stopped because she forgot to wind it on the journey--and he suggests just one further excursion or treat.
When his delicacy changes in his flat to direct sexual assault, she breaks free and returns to her hotel through the crowded streets "full of old men with twitching knees. The story ends with the governess alone and desolate, her knowledge of herself no consolation for her emptiness and estrangement.
The sense of estrangement, of a loneliness sometimes desperate, and the intense desires for varying connections seemed to dominate both Mansfield's emotions and her prose at least until she met John Middleton Murry in December Her loneliness and estrangements were personal, social, cultural, and national: the colonial in England, the posturing Englishwoman on the Continent, the new middle-class colonial trying to be part of Bohemian London, the rebellious observer still dependent on the grudged parental allowance.
She always felt herself to be the outsider--sometimes hating it, often welcoming it. In New Zealand, she longed for England; in England, she longed for the Continent, often further east than she had ever been. The meeting with Murry in late stabilized Mansfield's life to some extent, but not completely.
She still moved from one flat or house to another every few months--sometimes with Murry, sometimes without him. As late as January Mansfield, well known as a writer, had to write Ottoline Morrell for a financial reference in order to rent a flat. And affairs with both Murry and Baker as well as with other men and women continued, although with less frequency than in earlier years.
But a major change was the focus on magazines and an engagement in London literary life in the years just before the First World War. Murry had thought of himself as an editor and critic, an organizer of the arts, and while still an undergraduate, he had joined Michael Sadleir and J. Fergusson, a Scottish painter living in Paris, in starting a little magazine called Rhythm.
Mansfield, after a dispute with Orage, had sent Rhythm a story that soon led to her meeting Murry. She persuaded him to leave Oxford and move in with her--both of them to write, to engage in literary controversy, to maintain contact with other writers, and to edit the magazine. Rhythm gathered considerable talent but lost its financial backing, and Murry and Mansfield then reorganized it as the Blue Review , but that lasted only three issues.
They did, however, meet other writers and succeeded in becoming part of literary London. Lawrence, for example, stopped at the office of the Blue Review to submit work, and Murry, Mansfield, Lawrence, and Frieda Weekley soon became close.
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These proved to be a volatile set of relationships that kept changing, waxing and waning among the four for the rest of their lives. One of the principal beliefs that Mansfield, Murry, and Lawrence shared was a conviction about the singular importance of Russian literature. On the evening that Mansfield and Murry met, Murry later recorded, he was impressed by the assurance with which she spoke about the superiority of German to English translations of the Russian.
Yet for some time, Mansfield was hesitant about including Fyodor Dostoyevsky in the Russian canon, although his fiction was beginning to be translated into English around From the evidence in her journal, Mansfield began finding herself in Anton Chekhov in early By August of the same year, she no longer cared for Ivan Turgenev, the staple of an older English interest taken in the Russian, for example, by Henry James.
Such a poseur! Such a hypocrite! In trying to define his own critical position, Murry felt himself an "instrument" of Dostoyevsky and felt that his absorption in Dostoyevsky might lead him into forms of heightened self-consciousness. Mansfield was at first skeptical about the implicit mysticism, "a 'passionate' admiration for that which has no reality at all. Talk and argument with the Lawrences and the Campbells continued, as well as indulging in what were called "Dostoyevsky nights," apparently long sessions of drink, mutual self-analysis, and strong "displays of emotion.
They wrote often about their mutual desire to marry, find a quiet place in the country, write, and start a family, but increasingly these statements looked like myth through which each sustained illusions of the other.
They could not marry legally because Mansfield was still married to George Bowden, and though they often talked of her divorce and remarriage, they did not marry until 3 May At times Mansfield wrote as if she wanted only Murry and yet was disappointed with his inadequacies; at times, she wrote as if she could not stand him and claimed that she wanted to separate permanently from him in late All evidence indicates that their relationship was never very passionate, and Murry, writing much later, maintained that he had never known sexual fulfillment until his fourth marriage, when he was in his late fifties.
Mansfield was seriously ill throughout their relationship together, and her letters seem to reveal that she experienced more passion with others than she could sustain with Murry. Critics have sometimes explained the childlike quality of Murry's and Mansfield's love for each other as compensation for their unhappy childhoods, but they also acknowledge that both had experienced earlier ravaging, much less childlike sexual relationships and had sought a simpler, more innocent sexuality with each other.
So much of Mansfield's energy went into assuaging illness, becoming a part of literary London, and trying to find a way of living that could fit her fantasies and enable her to write that these years during which she was acquiring recognition are among her least productive. She still wrote satires, sketches, articles, and critiques, but her fiction seemed not to advance far.
In all of , for example, she published only "Something Childish But Very Natural," a long fantasy of a young suburban couple who meet frequently on a train and develop their plan for perfect love in a country cottage. The seventeen-year-old Edna, entranced by the idea of love but afraid that any physical contact will shatter her romantic dream, fails to arrive at the cottage where she and Henry, her eighteen-year-old platonic lover, plan to live out their dream.
She instead sends him a note, the contents of which are undisclosed but which leave Henry immobolized and defeated. Both are curiously passive figures, as if they have always known that living out their fantasy will be impossible. But the denial was impossible to maintain, especially as news of the deaths of friends like the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska began to reach them. Murry was rejected for service because doctors incorrectly thought that he might have tuberculosis. The war was inevitably central to everyone's consciousness. In January Mansfield's journal recorded that she was trying to write in the midst of constant turmoil and interruption.
She had for more than a month thought herself in love with Francis Carco, a French writer serving in the army on the Western Front. She also reported nights of reconciliation with Murry which she then felt guilty about and constant visits and letters from the Lawrences, filled with their own anguish, indecision, and plans.
Worse than all these, however, was the war, of which Mansfield wrote, "I have simply felt it closing in on me and my unhappy love, and all to no purpose. The affair was disillusioning, and she returned alone to Carco's flat in Paris, where she wrote steadily and seriously. During the next few months she spent time alternating between reconciling with Murry in London and writing in Paris.
In her journal Mansfield's passages of longing for Carco seemed to be replaced by quotations from Chekhov.
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She developed a new confidence in her writing, in the control she could manifest through her clear and distant observations of others and herself. In June Mansfield and Murry settled in Acacia Road, Saint John's Wood, where she felt more certain than ever that she had found the calm locus she needed for her work. While her brother's unit was training for service in France, she spent much of the summer in long conversations with him about their family and early days in New Zealand.
Although she had seen little of him in recent years, she now regarded him as the most discerning and sympathetic member of the family, the one with whom she shared most. Little more than two weeks after he landed in France, however, Leslie was killed, "blown to bits" on 7 October while demonstrating to his men how to lob a hand grenade.
Mansfield was desolate, filling her journal with long passages addressed to Leslie: "I've got things to do for both of us, and then I will come as quickly as I can. Dearest heart, I know you are there, and I live with you, and I will write for you You know I can never be Jack's lover again. You have me. You're in my flesh as well as my soul. I give Jack my 'surplus' love, but to you I hold and to you I give my deepest love.
Jack is no more than When he had settled Mansfield in Bandol in early December, Murry returned to his magazine work in London. In Bandol during the next four months Mansfield began writing the intense, apparently casual but deeply painful fiction that transformed her career. She started work on The Aloe , begun as her first attempt at a full-length novel and set in the framework of her growing up in New Zealand, a work drawing on those long conversations with her brother the previous summer.
Murry, in his introduction to the complete edition of her stories, wrote of her "turn back toward her early childhood as a life which had existed apart from, and uncontaminated by, the mechanical civilization which had produced the war. The consciousness, far from innocent, was represented in the aloe, the large bushlike tree known initially as African trees in the center of the "spread tangled garden," divided between the bewildering tall trees and "strange bushes" that suggest the father--and the "box borders" with a profusion of flowers that suggest the mother.
In the fiction the aloe is the "fat swelling plant with its cruel leaves and fleshy stem" that magnificently clings with "claws" to the ground and flowers only once every hundred years. For the young members of the family the aloe is sinister and uncontrollable but also a part of them. The Aloe was not published at the time Murry published the original version in but, revised and compressed in the summer of , appeared as Prelude , the second publication of Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press in Prelude , which presents family conflicts and alliances more subtly through varieties of floral description than The Aloe does, represents the Beauchamps' move to Karori, the large house in the countryside, in