A Week With Words (10)

I have had a busy week. On Wednesday evening I met a friend for an all-too-rare drink after work, on Thursday I attended a talk on J. R. R. Tolkien and on Friday I visited Westminster Cathedral. By the time I got home the tiredness of the day – and accumulated tiredness of the week – precluded much activity. I fell asleep listening to Bruce Springsteen’s (super) album The Rising.

As with last week, therefore, I kept up with my reading till Wednesday. Therefore, I managed a little more of David Hogarth’s Devia Cypria and that was that.

On Going books

Devia Cypria
David Hogarth

Sticking with the Dev. Cyp., I have now finished the main body of the book and am onto its appendix. I’ve enjoyed Hogarth’s account of his journey across Cyprus in search of its ruins. It’s true he never found anything spectacular (or, at least, memorable – to me. Don’t take that as an objectively true statement as I am very likely to have forgotten a great find mentioned at the start of the book. I need to take notes!) but his writing style is very engaging. With only a little imagination, you are tramping through the wreck and ruin of the past with him.

As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee
P. D. Murphy

The good news is that after cutting short his trip across Spain (see last week’s post), Murphy resumed it again following a diversion to Ireland in search of his father.

The bad news is that Murphy’s one-sided references to the Spanish Civil War are starting to annoy me. Now, I have to (re)affirm here that I do not know a great deal about why Franco rebelled against the Republican government. For all I know, therefore, Murphy’s bias towards the Republicans is fully justified. Maybe it was a straight forward fight between good and evil. I suspect, though, that the truth is more complex. When human beings are involved, it usually is.

Murphy claims that

… the Catholic Church [sided] with the ruthless dictator Franco in its successful attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government…

(Its attempt? You mean to say that the Church started the war? Well, in such as I have heard about the Spanish civil war, I certainly haven’t heard that before.)

If the Church sided with Franco, it would be really useful to understand why she chose to do so. Murphy’s references are too brief and simple on this point. At one point his text also becomes seemingly risible.

Franco may have gone but the Church has still its grip on Spanish society, its lands, its gold, its power.

Murphy visited Spain in 2012. Maybe the Church really is still all-powerful like he says but I rather doubt it, I really rather doubt it. The above quotation is the only example in the book of a frankly rabid tone by Murphy. I hope it remains so.

Having said that, it is great to be able to read and argue with an author. This is why – even when it is not going well – reading can still be fun.

The Lord of the Rings
J. R. R. Tolkien

I finally found out Tom Bombadil’s real name! Iarwain Ben-adar. I knew it began with an I but that was it. This week, I finished The Council of Elrond. When I pick the book up again (or rather, open it up on my iPad, I will leave Rivendell with the Nine Walkers. Just before they leave, I’ll take in one of my favourite moments in the book.

Aragorn sat with his head bowed to his knees; only Elrond knew fully what this hour meant to him.

I have always loved this scene. I don’t know why. It is very brief but so, so intense. Perhaps it is because the War of the Ring is happening because of his ancestor, Isildur and the future – if it happens at all – will happen because of him. It’s as if the weight of history past and future has come to rest on Aragorn’s shoulders and we see him for a split second almost buckling. Fortunately for Middle-earth, though, he will not break.

John Keats
Nicholas Roe

This week on Twitter @Pfangirl (whose Tomb Raider story Easier to Run I looked at – here – a few weeks ago) mentioned a comic book series titled Rat Queens that she has been enjoying. She shared the following image from the trade paperback of the comic.


I mentioned to her that I was surprised to see the word ‘cunt’ used here. As swear words go it is one of the most extreme. Perhaps not in America where Rat Queens was published? An American will have to tell me, but presuming that the word is as extreme there as in the UK I was surprised that the Comics Code Authority allowed it.

Well, as it turns out, the CCA is no longer used by American comic book publishers (see here) but so far as Rat Queens is concerned that is by-the-bye as it was published by an independent publisher. If I recall correctly, they did not adhere to the code even when I was reading comic books in the 80s and early 90s let alone until the CCA finally went defunct in 2011.

The reason I mention all this is that at the same time as I saw that picture, I opened up my copy of John Keats and read about a party Keats attended in 1817 where, apart from drinking lots of wine, he took part in a discussion on ‘the derivation of the word ‘cunt” (p.203). So much for Keats being all about airy fairy things like nature!

  • Pfangirl has written about Rat Queens on her blog here

In case you are interested in the etymology of the c-word you can find an article on it on Wikipedia here

This entry was posted in Nineteenth Century Literature, Twentieth Century Literature, Twenty First Century Literature and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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