On books.

RDN on books, fiction and non-fiction, old and new. I have often also reviewed at the Social Affairs Unit website.

Haile Selassie: Exile and autocrat

I recently (May, 2022) spent a wonderful few hours at the villa in Bath, Somerset where Ras Tafari, Emperor Haile Selassie spent 1936-40 in exile from his country, Ethiopia, which had been over-run by Italy's Fascist troops. Selassie has resonated with me since I talked with two of his admirers. I interviewed Bob Marley in July 1980 and read Wilfred Thesiger's A Life of My Choice (1987) and at some point interviewed the grand old man of desert travel and SAS action. It seems that of the two only Thesiger knew the Emperor personally. Here are a few reflections on the Emperor, and his place in history and in Bath. Read more...

Published

20 July 2022

Shrink a library #2 (Filson Young)

This post attempts to put the books of Filson Young (1876-1938) my grandmother's second husband) into some sort of context. FY (as he was widely and familiarly known during his mostly very successful life as a writer) is the subject of a fine biography (available on this site). I aim to get rid of most of his books, because they are available online as full texts or facsimiles. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Shrink a library #1 (My parents’)

I am downsizing the collection of books I have inherited from my parents or bought for myself. Easiest to get rid of guiltlessly are those volumes (mostly per-1930) which can be found full-text or facsimile online (mostly at Hathi Trust, Internet Archive or the Gutenberg Project).

This post is a rough survey of my parents' library. I tend to list the hard copy volumes and note whether they are available online. If they are, I will let the hardcopies go to Oxfam, etc. My point is that their books represent a particular family background but more generally, the tastes of their time. Either way, they are a snapshot of a civilisation. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Let’s reproduce digitally, online, publicly

We are missing a huge opportunity to cheaply and globally spread pleasure and much else. I am a fan of the digital reproduction of real world artworks, indeed of hardcopy images of every sort, whether 2D or 3D. This piece discusses these issues as applied to maps, paintings, drawings, embroideries, fabrics and - last but by no means least - stained glass windows.  I am drawing attention to our generation's failure to post online digital images at medium or high resolution a far greater abundance of artwork. I am hoping to encourage publishers and owners of medium- and hi-res images, and curators of real world images, to get behind this sort of work. (Elsewhere I look at the 2D and 3D digital facsimile world of Factum Arte.)

I hope these four case studies may make the points. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Herkenrode Stained Glass book review #2

This is the second part of a passionate (and I hope modest) layman’s tentative review of the book The Stained Glass of Herkenrode Abbey [TSGHA] by Isabelle Lecocq and Yvette Vanden Bemden, published by the British Academy and Oxford University Press, 2022. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Herkenrode Stained Glass book review #1

This is the first part of a passionate layman’s ignorant and tentative review of the book The Stained Glass of Herkenrode Abbey by Isabelle Lecocq and Yvette Vanden Bemden, published by the British Academy and Oxford University Press, 2022. This first outing covers some overall impressions of the work, but concentrates on the opening 40-odd pages (out of the tome's 500-odd) which focus on the Belgian abbey; the creation and reputation of its 16th Century stained glass up until the end of the 18th Century The windows' rescue and adventurous passage to England is posted as "Herkenrode Stained Glass book #2". (Their arrival at Lichfield Cathedral, installation in the cathedral, religious symbolism and recent restoration will have to wait whilst I catch my breath and read things up.) Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Stanley North: Artist, conservator and ruralist

This posting could be subtitled: "Adventures in ancient and Modern taste". Or: "An illustrated sketch of a controversial paintings conservator, dedicated artist, craftsman and rural revivalist". Stanley Kennedy North (1887-1942) was my grandfather and I am hoping to see his work and role recognised, interrogated and archived. Read more...

Published

14 March 2022

A spiritualism serendipity

An odd and touching synchronicity occurred whilst I was going through my father ‘s bookshelves with an eye to downsizing the collection I inherited from him. I had seen a book of his, inscribed by hand as belonging to Vera Bax (his mother) in 1951 (additionally she wrote: “First read… Read more...

Published

11 March 2022

The inspiring story of a mental institution

This is a layman's review of Better Courts Than Coroners: Memoirs of a duty of care, Volume 1, 2011, by Barone Hopper (1937-2019). It's a marvellous book (BCTC, in Hopper's shorthand): a memoir both of its author, a psychiatric nurse, and of Graylingwell, the Chichester mental institution (1897-2002) in which he worked for several years from the 1960s and of which he became an informal but diligent historian and archivist. I had not heard of Graylingwell until I read in the Annals of the Chichester Carmelite convent at Hunston that in 1929 the community's handyman gardener went to be treated, and eventually died, there. (More on that towards the end of this post.) So here was a link between Chichester institutions which share late 19th Century formation and a similar lifespan before dissolution. Both were fascinating communities. Read more...

Published

10 March 2022

William James on being alive

RDN's credo, as at New Year, 2022 is culled from William James and, being paraphrased, runs: Humanity is a worthwhile joint enterprise and being useful to it makes sense of each of us. Read more...

Published

01 January 2022
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