The British Library has fully digitized one of Leonardo da Vinci’s visionary notebooks, ‘The Codex Arundel’, and anyone is free to view and browse the prized historical artifact in amazing high-resolution detail.
The British Library has uploaded 570 high-res images of the notebook, which features a collection of papers written in Italian by Leonardo da Vinci (b. 1452, d. 1519), in his characteristic left-handed mirror-writing (reading from right to left), including diagrams, drawings and brief texts, covering a broad range of topics in science and art, as well as personal notes.
The core of the notebook is a collection of materials that Leonardo describes as “a collection without order, drawn from many papers, which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place according to the subjects of which they treat”, a collection he began in the house of Piero di Braccio Martelli in Florence, in 1508. To this notebook has subsequently been added a number of other loose papers containing writing and diagrams produced by Leonardo throughout his career.
‘The Codex Arundel’ offers a glimpse into one of the most brilliant minds humankind has ever known. Da Vinci has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal. [source]
Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”. [source]
Below you will find select pages from the fascinating notebook. You can see it in its entirety by clicking here.
Becoming by Fouad Azim
This is a story of blooming love and betrayal, about children coming of age, of conscience and the sociopaths who lack it; it is a story about trust and how true love empowers and heals us. In the end, it is a story about humanity and the eternal struggle between good and evil.
Nyla and Junaid are classmates learning about the world around them and in the process discovering themselves. They must endure and survive a path fraught with confusion and peril if they hope to emerge victorious, though not necessarily unscathed. They will learn of innocence and its loss, about how budding love can be snuffed out if not cared for and its formidable power when nurtured and protected. They will become closely acquainted with evil, with its insidious presence in plain sight and how it mangles and corrupts those it touches. They will have to confront and defeat it if they can. If you think you recognize some of the characters described herein, it is only because the human experience around the world and in the different cultures is not unique, and we all share some of the same burdens and the joys of similar emotions and trials as we go about learning to find ourselves.
The setting is the foothills of the Margalla Mountain range, a part of the lesser Himalayas, north of Islamabad in Pakistan, during the 1990s.
Pacific Book Review
Author Fouad Azim has written Becoming, an emotionally gripping novel about young love in the1990’s Pakistan which will enthrall readers.
Becoming tells the story of classmates Nyla and Junaid. Junaid is a shy young man who comes out of his shell once he falls in love with the intelligent and independent Nyla. Their fledgling romance is threatened by the jealousy of Jahal, an emotionally unstable boy who is determined to break them up. Nyla and Junaid must overcome Jahal’s wicked actions and other obstacles to discover true love.
This book is a unique coming-of-age novel about young love in a land far away from the United States, which is still a universal story. Junaid’s sensitivity and devotion to Nyla is admirable and makes him a relatable protagonist. Nyla is a strong character that isn’t just a passive love interest for Junaid. She’s a self-sufficient young woman that is brave throughout Becoming as she fights the cultural traditions that try to keep her from Junaid. Jahal is the perfect antagonist as the psychologically disturbed villain of the novel. Though he commits horrific acts, Azim’s writing doesn’t limit him to a one-dimensional monster. Jahal is more of a wounded soul than a soulless anti-hero.
Azim’s writing is evocative and poignant. The hills and caves of Pakistan are described so vividly that readers can imagine they are in the rugged terrain of the South Asian countryside. He also easily captures the complicated social lives of teenagers and how fraught young relationships can be in Becoming’s dialogue. Though there are some cultural differences between Western and Eastern culture in the book, the universal themes of the novel comes through to the readers. Azim also expertly handles sweet romance and dangerous drama throughout the novel. This story has exciting and suspenseful moments which will leave readers wanting more.
Becoming would be best for fans of the Kite Runner and Khaled Housseni. The novels both have similar stories about friendships in South Asian countries and both authors write masterfully about love. This book would also be good for fans of historical fiction, especially of fiction set in countries outside America. The novel would be perfect for readers of all ages. Becoming could would be great for young Pakistani or South Asian culture in general will learn a lot from this book as well. Fouad Azim’s novel shows how love can conquer hate, making Becoming an unforgettable novel which all readers will love.
The long read: When she was 30, Suzy Hansen left the US for Istanbul and began to realise that Americans will never understand their own country until they see it as the rest of the world does
My mother recently found piles of my notebooks from when I was a small child that were filled with plans for my future. I was very ambitious. I wrote out what I would do at every age: when I would get married and when I would have kids and when I would open a dance studio.
When I left my small hometown for college, this sort of planning stopped. The experience of going to a radically new place, as college was to me, upended my sense of the world and its possibilities. The same thing happened when I moved to New York after college, and a few years later when I moved to Istanbul. All change is dramatic for provincial people. But the last move was the hardest. In Turkey, the upheaval was far more unsettling: after a while, I began to feel that the entire foundation of my consciousness was a lie.
For all their patriotism, Americans rarely think about how their national identities relate to their personal ones. This indifference is particular to the psychology of white Americans and has a history unique to the US. In recent years, however, this national identity has become more difficult to ignore. Americans can no longer travel in foreign countries without noticing the strange weight we carry with us. In these years after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the many wars that followed, it has become more difficult to gallivant across the world absorbing its wisdom and resources for ones own personal use. Americans abroad now do not have the same swagger, the easy, enormous smiles. You no longer want to speak so loud. There is always the vague risk of breaking something.
Some years after I moved to Istanbul, I bought a notebook, and unlike that confident child, I wrote down not plans but a question: who do we become if we dont become Americans? If we discover that our identity as we understood it had been a myth? I asked it because my years as an American abroad in the 21st century were not a joyous romp of self-discovery and romance. Mine were more of a shattering and a shame, and even now, I still dont know myself.
I grew up in Wall, a town located by the Jersey Shore, two hours drive from New York. Much of it was a landscape of concrete and parking lots, plastic signs and Dunkin Donuts. There was no centre, no Main Street, as there was in most of the pleasant beach towns nearby, no tiny old movie theatre or architecture suggesting some sort of history or memory.
Most of my friends parents were teachers, nurses, cops or electricians, except for the rare father who worked in the City, and a handful of Italian families who did less legal things. My parents were descendants of working-class Danish, Italian and Irish immigrants who had little memory of their European origins, and my extended family ran an inexpensive public golf course, where I worked as a hot-dog girl in the summers. The politics I heard about as a kid had to do with taxes and immigrants, and not much else. Bill Clinton was not popular in my house. (In 2016, most of Wall voted Trump.)
We were all patriotic, but I cant even conceive of what else we could have been, because our entire experience was domestic, interior, American. We went to church on Sundays, until church time was usurped by soccer games. I dont remember a strong sense of civic engagement. Instead I had the feeling that people could take things from you if you didnt stay vigilant. Our goals remained local: homecoming queen, state champs, a scholarship to Trenton State, barbecues in the backyard. The lone Asian kid in our class studied hard and went to Berkeley; the Indian went to Yale. Black people never came to Wall. The world was white, Christian; the world was us.
We did not study world maps, because international geography, as a subject, had been phased out of many state curriculums long before. There was no sense of the US being one country on a planet of many countries. Even the Soviet Union seemed something more like the Death Star flying overhead, ready to laser us to smithereens than a country with people in it.
The Chinese governments crackdown on the internet continues with the news that Apple has removed all major VPN apps, which help internet users overcome the countrys censorship system, from the App Store in China.
The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China,which said in a blog post all major VPN apps including its own had been purged from Apples China-based store. The company shared a note from Apple (below) explaining that its app was removed because it includes content that is illegal in China.
The app continues to be available for users across the world outside of China, the company said.However, the process to create an App Store account in a different country is unknown to many users, so it is unlikely to fill the void of the missing Chinese app.
Another provide, Star VPN, tweeted that its app had also been removed.
Apple had not replied for comment at the time of writing.
ExpressVPN shared a note from Apple notifying it of the removal of its app in China
The App Store purge is hugely impactful because VPNs represent the only way that a China-based individual can bypass state censorship controls to access the internet without restrictions. The Chinese government effectively illegalized VPNs when new rules issued in January required them to receive government approvalin order to operate. That appears to be why Apple was forced to remove ExpressVPN and others like it.
Apple may believe it is best for its business to co-operate with requests from Beijing, but this App Store purge just created one of the biggest setbacks for the free internet in Chinas history.
Were disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding Chinas censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties, ExpressVPN wrote on its blog.
Todays news is the latest in a series of developments against the free internet from China.
Two popular VPN services were forced offline in China earlier this monthleaving their users, which included professionals who require access to the global internet for work, without an alternative. Government officials denied a story from Bloomberg that the countrys mobile operators had been told to ban VPN apps by early 2018, but other steps have clearly been taken.Reuters reported earlier this month that the Great Firewall, the term for Chinas internet censorship apparatus, had been upgraded with new capabilities.VPN services subsequently found that they had been hit by the most sophisticated attacks from China to date. High-end hotels have even ceased offer VPNs to guests.
Those new capability apparently also made it possible for the government to interfere with messaging apps. While now blocked entirely, WhatsApp users found that they were unable to send videos and photos through the chat app and issues seemed to extend to WeChat, Chinas most popular messaging service. The censorship seemed to be linked tothe response to the death of dissidentLiu Xiaobo, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, who lost a battle to liver cancer earlier this month having been denied permission to leave custody to seek medical treatment overseas.
Going direct to Apple is becoming an effective way to enforce censorship since the U.S. firmcontrols what apps are available in China.The tactic proved successful for China earlier this year whenApple removed the New York Times app from the local Chinese App Store. The Times and Wall Street Journal are among a number of international news sites blocked in China,according to censorship monitoring service Great Fire.
Its unclear whether similar action has been taken with Android stores in China. The Google Play Store is not present in China, where a handful of third-party app stores are the most influential distributors of Android apps.
Not-for-profit group GreatFire offers censorship-proof alternatives like its Android VPNFreeBrowserand other services that includea collaboration with The New York Times, but Apples iOS doesnt permit similar options.
Apple justannounced Isabel Ge Mahe as the first managing director for its Chinese businessand, beyond battling a sales slump in China, the long-time Apple executive is tasked with the difficult job of managing a relationship with Beijing.The U.S. firm recentlyannounced plansto develop its first China-based data center, a move that is thought to be related tothe countrys new cybersecurity laws which went into effect June 1.
This curates beautiful and lucid observations on the wildlife of a Hampshire village inspired generations of naturalists
The Rev Gilbert White was that now extinct species, the unmarried Oxbridge don in holy orders. A lifelong curate and a fellow of Oriel College, White devoted himself to observing flora and fauna at large in the natural world, a sequence of observations for which he became world famous.
In 1755, after the death of his father, he returned to the family home in Selborne, settling for comfortable obscurity in a remote Hampshire village, an enviable career move. On the face of it, the passage of his declining years would be tranquil and serene, with no greater vicissitudes than bad weather or poor harvests.
However, around 1767, he got into correspondence, first with Thomas Pennant, a prominent zoologist, and then with Daines Barrington, another important British naturalist. His exchanges with these men would form the basis of his Natural History, a compilation published in the year of the French Revolution. There could scarcely have been a more stark contrast between the timeless, resilient stability of English country life and the bloody metropolitan dramas of France. Where Rousseau and Robespierre championed the rights of man, White celebrated the earthworm, a small and despicable link in the chain of nature, which, if lost would make a lamentable chasm.
Its claimed that Whites Natural History is the fourth most-published book in the English language, after the Bible, Shakespeare and Bunyan, and it has certainly been in print since first publication, while the benign White himself is now recognised equally as a great stylist and a pioneer ecologist. His work, in literature and in nature studies, coincides with a pivotal moment in the reign of George III when zoology and botany were at the cutting edge of scientific inquiry. The young Charles Darwin would grow up with Whites Antiquities of Selborne at his side as a guide, philosopher and friend.
Whites book reveals him to have been a man of profound general knowledge, with an appetite for medieval civilisation that was far in advance of his times. He was also a beady-eyed student of nature. As many critics have noticed, the zoology and botany of the Natural History replaced the fabulous folklore and bizarre traditions of previous countryside writers, with Whites scrupulous observations and beautifully expressed summaries:
The titmouse, which early in February begins to make two quaint notes, like the whetting of a saw, is the marsh titmouse: the great titmouse sings with three cheerful joyous notes, and begins about the same time.
Whites specificity is at once magisterial and enchanting, for example, in this report on the survival instincts of the squirrel and the nut-hatch:
There are three creatures, the squirrel, the field-mouse, and the bird called the nut-hatch (Sitta Europaea), which live much on hazel-nuts; and yet they open them each in a different way. The first, after rasping off the small end, splits the shell in two with his long fore-teeth, as a man does with his knife; the second nibbles a hole with his teeth, so regular as if drilled with a wimble, and yet so small that one would wonder how the kernel can be extracted through it; while the last picks an irregular ragged hole with its bill; but as this artist has no paws to hold the nut firm while he pierces it, like an adroit workman, he fixes it, as it were in a vice, in some cleft of a tree.
The most famous slave memoir of the 18th century is a powerful and terrifying read and established Equiano as a founding figure in black literary tradition
Black literature begins with the slave memoirs of the 18th century. Equianos Interesting Narrative is the most famous of these, especially once it was taken up by supporters of the abolition movement, but he was not the first African slave to publish a book in England, or, if we remember Dr Johnsons manservant, Francis Barber, the first to have some experience of London literary life.
In the book trade, Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho (1782) were probably the first to mobilise English readers against racial discrimination and the horrors of the slave trade. Sancho would pioneer a flourishing genre that runs from Ottobah Cugoano in 1787 (Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species) to Mary Prince in 1831 (The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave). Thereafter, during the 19th century, black literature would continue to flourish, in Britain, with Mary Seacole (no 62 in this series) and, in the USA, with Frederick Douglass (no 68). In the 20th century, this tradition was sustained by largely autobiographical prose, often focusing on the imaginative reworking of the slave experience. Some outstanding recent examples include Grace Nichols: I Is a Long Memoried Woman (1983), Caryll Phillips: Cambridge (1991) and David Dabydeen: Turner (1994). All of these titles owe some intellectual debt to The Interesting Narrative.
Olaudah Equiano(c1745-1797), also known as Gustavus Vassa, was an African writer, born in what is now the Eboe province of Nigeria, and sold into slavery aged 11. Equiano subsequently worked as the slave of a British naval officer, purchased his freedom in 1766 and went on to write his popular slave memoir. No fewer than 17 editions and reprints, and several translations, appeared between 1798 and 1827. In hindsight, The Interesting Narrative became an influential work that established a template for later slave life writing and subsequently an important text in the teaching of African literature. Indeed, to Henry Louis Gates Jr, Equiano is a founding figure in the making of an authentic black literary tradition.
Inevitably, perhaps, The Interesting Narrative has been dogged by controversy from first publication. Equianos story was initially discredited as false (despite a preface including testimonials from white people who knew me when I first arrived in England). Even now, there are scholars who cast doubt on Equianos veracity, claiming that he plagiarised his story from other sources. Whatever the truth, the surviving text of his Interesting Narrative is sufficiently its own, in style and character, to merit serious consideration. Equianos story is certainly remarkable.
From the outset, he is concerned to establish his credentials as an ordinary, long-suffering African boy who has endured much and triumphed over adversity. He describes, at some length, the Eboe customs he has grown up with: circumcision, witchcraft and tribal patriarchy. As well as cataloguing his primitive beginnings, Equiano also celebrates the exotic and fabulous natural profusion of Africa, consciously playing to western fascination with the Dark Continent: Our land is uncommonly rich and fruitful, and produces all kinds of vegetables in great abundance. We have plenty of Indian corn, and vast quantities of cotton and tobacco. Our pine apples grow without culture; they are about the size of the largest sugar-loaf, and finely-flavoured. We have also spices of different kinds, particularly pepper; and a variety of delicious fruits which I have never seen in Europe; together with gums of various kinds, and honey in abundance.
Equiano, for all his modesty the hero of his own tale, also singles himself out for his natural eloquence. Its his strategy in the memoir to convince his readers of the injustice of slavery by writing withal in a tone of reason and conciliation. While he can pile on the horror of the middle crossing, strangely, he lacks any resentment and does not castigate his white masters in print for their cruelty. His tone is nothing if not complicit: I was named Olaudah, which, in our language signifies vicissitude or fortune; also one favoured, and having a loud voice and well-spoken.
Having established his origins, Equiano moves to describe his enslavement and transportation to the West Indies, and thence to Virginia, where he served as the slave of an officer in the Royal Navy, Michael Pascal, who renamed him Gustavus Vassa after the 16th-century Swedish king. Equiano travelled the oceans with Pascal for eight years, during which time he was baptised and learned to read and write. Pascal then sold Equiano to a ships captain in London, who took him to Montserrat, where he was traded with a merchant, Robert King. While working as a deckhand, valet and barber for King, Equiano earned money by negotiating on the side, accumulating enough savings to buy his freedom.
From a documentary point of view, Equianos account of life in mid-Georgian Britain is fascinating. He gets taken up by white society and patronised by the great and the good, but he is never quite free of floggings and incarceration. Nevertheless, he does manage to save the money that will buy his freedom.
What follows are Equianos adventures on the high seas, mixed with his conversion to Christianity. In fact, Equiano spent almost 20 years travelling the world, including trips to Turkey and the Arctic. In 1786, in London, he involved himself in the movement to abolish slavery. He was a prominent member of the Sons of Africa, a group of a dozen black men who campaigned for abolition. After the publication of The Interesting Narrative, Equiano travelled widely to promote the book, whose immense popularity became integral to the abolitionist cause and made Equiano a wealthy man. In 1792, Equiano married an Englishwoman, Susanna Cullen, and they had two daughters. He died on 31 March 1797.
After a strong opening in West Africa and his account of crossing to the West Indies, Equianos personal story becomes fragmented by Abolitionist special pleading. He closes his account with an appeal to his readers more tender sympathies: Torture, murder, and every other imaginable barbarity and iniquity, are practised upon the poor slaves with impunity. I hope the slave trade will be abolished. I pray it may be an event at hand. The great body of manufacturers, uniting in the cause, will considerably facilitate and expedite it; and it is most substantially their interest and advantage, and as such the nations at large (except those persons concerned in the manufacturing of neck-yokes, collars, chains, hand-cuffs, leg bolts, drags, thumb-screws, iron muzzles, and coffins; cats, scourges and other instruments of torture.
A signature sentence
One morning, when I got upon deck, I saw it covered all over with the snow that fell over-night. As I had never seen anything of the kind before, I thought it was salt; so I immediately ran down to the mate and desired him, as well as I could, to come and see how somebody in the night had thrown salt all over the deck.
Three to compare
Mary Seacole: Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (1857)
Peter Fryer: Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984)
Henry Louis Gates Jr: The Signifying Monkey (1988)
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano is published by Norton Critical Edition (9.95). To order a copy go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99.
Acclaimed Northern Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty has taken 16 years to finish his latest novel. A lot of things just got in the way, he says
In his jacket endorsement for Bernard MacLavertys Midwinter Break, the celebrated American novelist Richard Ford describes the new book as much-anticipated. It is a polite way of saying that MacLavertys fifth novel has been taken its time in coming. Sixteen years, to be precise, since his last, The Anatomy School, and longer still if you go back to the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s when this Belfast-born but Glasgow-based writer was everywhere, winning plaudits and prizes in equal measure for his short story collections (A Time to Dance, Walking the Dog and The Great Profundo), his novels Cal and Lamb, both of which he adapted as acclaimed films starring respectively Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson, his television series and radio plays, and his Booker-shortlisted Grace Notes in 1997.
A case of writers block? More life getting in the way of art, MacLaverty replies, perched nervously on the edge of his armchair in a central London hotel as we talk. I have a diary note from 2001, when Madeline [his wife] and I went to Amsterdam for a break in January. So I presume I was starting to think about the project from there, but there were so many things that came along to get in the way.
Among the distractions he lists and this affable and unassuming 74-year-old has a prompt sheet to hand were: an un-turn-downable invitation from Scottish Opera to write a libretto; two years as a classical music DJ on Radio Scotland; a five-year stint on a movie script based on Robin Jenkinss wonderful 1950s novel, The Cone Gatherers, which finally came to nought when the producer behind the project died; a collection of short stories; and Bye-Child, a Bafta-nominated short film of a poem by his close friend Seamus Heaney, which he directed in 2003.
And, he adds, Ive also had eight grandchildren in that time. Or we have. His four grown-up children, two boys, two girls, all live in the same postcode as he does, so he has his hands full. Its a new twist on Cyril Connollys line about the pram in the hall being the enemy of good art.
MacLaverty would be the last one to take himself so seriously, but his brief run through those 16 lost years reveals him as a man of many talents to which should be also added teaching stints at British, European and American universities. With so much he is good at, what would he choose if he had only time left for one more project? Id paint something good, he answers without a pause.
No hint of any autumnal narrowing of horizons here, but Midwinter Break is, by contrast, a tale of quiet disappointment, about long-married Gerry Gilmore, a retired architect, and his wife Stella, as they head off on a mini-break. Both are at odds with their lot and with each other. He is retreating into drink, she into religion.
She is thinking, MacLaverty says, on a different plain. This is not a story about old people. Its the story of two young people who got old and they have fallen out of step.
A two-hander, it covers the same broad territory as 45 Years, the 2015 Tom Courtenay/Charlotte Rampling film, based on a David Constantine short story. In the case of Midwinter Break, though, the past trauma that haunts the couple is bound up in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which they moved to Scotland to escape.
The parallels with MacLavertys life are plain. In 1974, he, too, made the same refugee journey with his young family. The Troubles were awful and bloody, he recalls, bombs and people being killed on their doorsteps.
His homeland, though, has continued to loom large in the books he has published in exile. You write from what you know, and one of the things you know is that you are not telling your own story, but bits of it are your own story. Its like tessellation of a mosaic. You take a bit that happened to you and you put it beside a bit that you make up.
It requires a delicate touch, he emphasises, and can be a time-consuming process. We are edging back around to that long space between novels but now he is more willing to address what has been keeping me back. Whatever backdrop, or even tone his books may share, he explains, the story you have just finished is of little help to writing the next one. He quotes Thomas Mann in his defence. Didnt he say, a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people?
There was at least one false start with Midwinter Break, he admits, with an opening section, set in the now derelict modernist Catholic seminary at Cardross in Argyll and Bute, that had to be scrapped.
Is he a perfectionist? MacLaverty gives a warm, intimate laugh. Im a writer. Theyre the same thing.
Religion is one feature of his novels. Though he long ago rejected the Catholicism of his childhood, it continues to fuel his imagination. I cease to believe in one aspect of it, but I continue to believe in the trappings.
Another hallmark is the spareness of his writing, not a wasted word or detail between the covers of what become as a result small masterpieces. Its not like putting together Lego, he agrees. You have to be very careful that you are weighing the words.
The phrase makes him remember something his mother once used. Shed found a wee dead bird. She picked it up and she said, youd have known by the weight of it that it was dead. He chuckles. And its the same with a story. You know whether you can accomplish it in six pages [as a short story] or whether it will take 200. And this one he points to the copy of Midwinter Break on the table between us is hefty material. It is about love and life and death and religion and what matters.
And then, of course, theres his other recurring theme, Ireland. All the novels nod to what is happening to Ireland, he agrees. Lamb  was at the worst of the Troubles. Cal  also had a downbeat ending, but then there were the ceasefires and things began to mend. So Grace Notes had an upbeat middle, and a downbeat end, or two endings. I was hedging my bets. And this one well, I mustnt say more about the ending, but Im mildly optimistic about Ireland. I dont think they are going to go back to slaying each other.
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty will be published by Jonathan Cape on 3 August (14.99). To order a copy for 12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99
Sonnets Walking the Great Divide by Cecil Welles
This book represents a sample of the author’s thought clarification. Somber, crazy, joyful, or eclectic in subjects, the sonnet format provides a steady bedrock of expression. Some subjects are deep, some barely scratch the surface, some try to resolve a conundrum, and some are a passing whim. All start with a single word or phrase with no end state in mind until the poem is done.
San Francisco Book Review 5 Stars
Most of us are familiar with sonnets through William Shakespeare’s work. Those poems were my first introduction to that particular form of poetry, and, to be perfectly honest, when someone asks me to think of a sonnet, my mind springs automatically to that most familiar: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Because of this association between sonnets and a centuries-dead man, the form is often seen to be archaic, and it isn’t often that anyone tries to challenge it. After all, sonnets aren’t the sort of poems that allow for much freedom. On the contrary: they have a very strict structure, and sometimes it seems the only freedom allowed is between English and Italian style sonnets.
However, sonnets don’t necessarily need to be revived through being drastically changed, nor does the language used to write them need to be archaic to match the time period we know them from. In fact, a skilled writer can find a great deal to write about while remaining within the form of a sonnet, and Cecil Welles has done a phenomenal job at bridging the divide between the sixteenth century and the twenty-first.
Each of the sonnets in this collection illustrates some aspect of Welles’s skill with words, and narrowing down which to mention in this review was difficult, but there were a few which stood out to me. One of the first poems, “Sanctuary,” gives the reader the image of a “Quaker gun,” a clever use of oxymoron that makes the reader pause for a moment. The next few lines explain the phrase, but not every such moment is so neatly tied up, and thus the poems become something of a puzzle, inviting the reader to linger over the words and attempt to draw out not only Welles’s intended meaning but some new meaning of their own. Other poems, such as “Chances” and “Girl-Child” show the poet’s skill at imagery, and throughout the collection he uses the sorts of literary devices we all learned (and some – myself included – forgot) in English class to great effect. My personal favorite was his use of the slant rhyme, as a pet peeve of mine is when poets have obviously forced two lines to rhyme. Instead of using unfitting words in an attempt to have rhyming quatrains, Welles uses words that almost rhyme to produce the same effect without making his poems feel simplistic.
Sonnets Walking the Great Divide is easily the best collection of sonnets I have read lately. Each poem is fresh and interesting, and together they make for a refreshing read.
Reviewed By: Jo Niederhoff
The author is a California native and Georgia resident who writes sonnets as a source of thought clarification. As a contradiction to poetry, his day job consists of applied mathematics, information management, history, analytics, and military science.
Author’s website: http://www.cecilwelles.com