…and it’s an homage to libraries, a return to flash fiction, a tribute to Robert Burns, a bit of original poetry from Peter Davey, and the continuation of Tom Jones. Enjoy!
Read by Xe Sands
And my friends, it has finally come down to the last piece from the intriguing, edgy, fresh Little (flash) Fiction collection. Andrew F. Sullivan is seeing us off. Been a fabulous, challenging road – and I’ve loved it. Hope you’ve enjoyed it as well.
This story strikes me as the intro to a very intriguing novel. I get a bit of a Southern Gothic feel from it and wonder if Sullivan has considered (perhaps is?) broadening this into a short story at the very least. Hmm.
Now, by Peter Davey
Read by Sonia Vilim
A lovely spontaneous piece from the heart of a wonderful human being Peter Davey – a professional artist who has always written stories, novels and poetry and has come to devote more time to this in latter years.
The clock beats among the rafters
Here time becomes a rhythm, here in silence
rhythm holds the point of timelessness
As crows in silence out across the moor
on outspread wings float upwards on the wind
As clouds along the distant skyline
move, transform, accepting sunlight, shadow
Now, this moment
is caught without the abstract
forward look of hope, the backward look of pain or warm nostalgia, now
are drawn within the orbit of a single consciousness – the shadow lengthening,
the golden sunlight deepening to bronze
no long move towards
inexorable night, no long move towards
unending darkness, vacancy
but in acceptance of the darkness
turn eternally within a rhythm of their own
the rhythm of the beating clock
which holds the point of timelessness
Image: Sketch by Peter Davey
Burns Night Special: To a Mouse, by Robert Burns
Read by Mark Turetsky
The Scottish poet Robert Burns is celebrated every year on his birthday, January 25th. Burns Nights are generally filled with poetry reading, bagpiping, speechifying, haggis, and, naturally, the consumption of Scotch Whisky.
This particular poem, To Mouse, is one of Burns’ more famous poems. It contains a line which is best known in translation: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley,” usually translated as “The best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.” I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about the word “schemes” in this context, but there it is. John Steinbeck famously borrowed the phrase for the title of one of his best-known novels, Of Mice and Men.
This poem is addressed to a mouse after the speaker has plowed through a mouse’s nest in December, and is distraught with sympathy for the now homeless beastie. Legend has it that Burns wrote it after doing that very thing. I’m not the most agriculturally minded person in the world, but I don’t think there’s much use in plowing a field in December, especially in a cold climate like Scotland. The poem is written in a Scots dialect, which I’ve done my best to replicate, though I’m sure I got some of it wrong. For that, my apologies. Just know that I’ve done it with affection.
Image used under Creative Commons License. Image by Smaggers on deviantART
Congressional Library (excerpt), by Amy Lowell
Read by Diane Havens
Imagist poet Amy Lowell’s portrait of the Congressional Library, a poem largely ignored in its day, is a vivid and passionate tribute to the beauty of the building and the country it represents.
This is the second stanza celebrating the magnificent library we all share, but I’ll include a few lines from the previous stanza here to amplify it:
“We, the people without a race,
Without a language;
Of all races, and of none;
Of all tongues, and one imposed;
Of all traditions and all pasts,
With no tradition and no past.
A patchwork and an altar-piece,
Vague as sea-mist,
Myriad as forest-trees,
Living into a present,
Building a future.”
Tom Jones – Book 3, Chapter 5, by Henry Fielding
Read by Mark Turetsky
Book 3 Chapter 5 of Tom Jones.
This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones over the course of four years.
This week, we learn a little bit about what makes young Blifil tick. Apparently, he’s gained the favor of both Square and Thwackum, who both hate each other. His secret? Agree with whatever Square says when Square is around, agree with whatever Thwackum says when he’s around, and shut up when they’re both around. We also learn a bit about why Allworthy has hired two so combatively antagonistic men to educate his two “children.”
But the real meat of this story is in the discovery that Tom has been protecting Black George the gamekeeper all along, and George’s dismissal from Allworthy’s service. Once again, the wisdom of the mob shines through, and they all pity Black George (despite despising him before he was fired) and praise Tom Jones, while considering Blifil an untrustworthy fink. Of course, both Square and Thwackum side against Tom Jones, despite Square acknowledging that Tom’s behavior has the ring of virtue, but it’s all toward the telling of a lie, and therefore immoral (so perhaps Square’s a proto-Kantian).
Another bit of errata: this book begins with Tom being “about fourteen years of age,” but in this chapter, Blifil is sixteen. Since there really hasn’t been enough action to merit two years of time (and also Blifil should be around one year younger than Tom), one has to wonder what Fielding was up to. With a book as full of complex relationships as this one, you’d think he’d have a better handle on the age of his main character from chapter to chapter.