Tag Archives: Sylvia Townsend Warner

animal style

Maskull Lasserre outliers shoes

“Outliers” shoes by Maskull Lasserre
via Dezeen, for trailing a bit of wild behind you.

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female Satin bowerbird

The most notable characteristic of bowerbirds is their extraordinarily complex courtship and mating behaviour, where males build a bower to attract mates. There are two main types of bowers. One clade of bowerbirds build so-called maypole bowers, which are constructed by placing sticks around a sapling; in some species, these bowers have a hut-like roof. The other major bowerbuilding clade builds an avenue type-bower made of two walls of vertically placed sticks. In and around the bower, the male places a variety of brightly colored objects he has collected. These objects — usually different among each species — may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even discarded plastic items, coins, nails, rifle shells, or pieces of glass. The males spend hours arranging this collection. Bowers within a species share a general form but do show significant variation, and the collection of objects reflects the biases of males of each species and its ability to procure items from the habitat, often stealing them from neighboring bowers. Several studies of different species have shown that colors of decorations males use on their bowers match the preferences of females.

Uy and collaborators have shown that mate-searching females commonly visit multiple bowers, often returning to the male several times, watching his elaborate courtship displays and inspecting the quality of the bower and tasting the paint the male has placed on the bower walls. Many females end up selecting the same male, and many under-performing males are left without copulations.

Bowerbird basics from Wikipedia.

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Wikipedia also tells us there are improbable fish that live amidst the dunes in Brazil’s Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, and as far as I can tell they are real fish, not prank fish. The park is dry much of the year, but seasonal rains punctuate it with lagoons. Are the fish who briefly make these lagoons their home brought there in egg form by birds — perhaps storks? — or are their eggs cryptobiotic, like free-range Sea Monkeys, waiting patiently in the sand for the rainy season to arrive?

Lençóis Maranhenses lagoons

Lençóis Maranhenses lagoons from Wikipedia.

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“The Centaurs” by Winsor McKay, 1921.

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pug tricks

The University of Virginia’s “The Mind is a Metaphor” database is sortable in various ways, one of which categorically focuses on animals. Personally I have found spaniels to be much trickier than pugs, but maybe there is something here that resonates with you.

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Doris Day will kill you

Be kind to animals or Doris Day will kill you.
Photo from If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger.

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If you should find yourself lost in the sticks and in need of a decent meal, just go and sit by the monkeys.

look for monkeys

Snippet from Eating and Drinking: An Anthology for Epicures, which I blogged about over here. Indeed, I’ve yet to see any evidence that monkeys are not fickle little fuckers. Look how these British monkeys behaved during the recent Jubilee celebrations, for example. You can tell they’re not going to bother finishing those cupcakes, and that in a matter of moments they’ll be prodding the jelly and throwing oranges on the ground for no good reason.

monkeys at Jubilee tea party

Monkey tea party pic by Ian Turner/BNPS from the Guardian.

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the Tote-Road Shagamaw

The Tote-Road Shagamaw, as captured in Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, has front paws resembling those of a bear and back legs resembling those of a moose, and craftily alternates walking on one set or the other to evade hunters. It is, however, trapped in its habits, and predictably inverts itself every quarter of a mile.

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dog and cat seed bombs
seed bombs for cats and dogs

One way to be kind to animals: provide them with fresh, tender grasses and grains to nibble at or pee on. Seed bombs formulated to appeal to cats and dogs (“a mixture of catnip, cat grass, wheat, oats, and rye”) are $7/sack from visualingual on Etsy.

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Trufa is a vacation home in Spain designed by Ensamble Studio and constructed with the assistance of a cow named Paulina. A hole was dug; hay bales were stacked inside and concrete poured over them; the resulting concrete truffle was unearthed and sliced open; Paulina went to work on the hay. In this manner, over the course of a year, the living space was cleared.

Trufa interior

Paulina the cow

Trufa photos via Dezeen. The interior one is by Roland Halbe.

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axolotl

The axolotl is an endangered Mexican salamander found exclusively in the lakes and canals of Xochimilco. They can regenerate lost limbs, and live for ten to fifteen years if not caught and roasted for someone’s snack. Source: National Geographic.

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Tsumori Chisato cat shoes

Cat shoes by Tsumori Chisato, ¥12,600 at Humor.

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From The Element of Lavishness: Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner & William Maxwell 1938-1978:

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some Sylvia for your pocket

I’ve been meaning to write about Sylvia Townsend Warner here for literally years now, but to really do her any justice I need to go back and re-read many things of hers I read fairly recently. Which is hard to make myself do when I’ve got such a large pile of other, new-to-me things I’d like to get to first. (Same problem with various films, which I’d never write about after having seen only once). I will indeed do it anyhow at some point because I think it’s important, but in the meantime I see no reason not to send you off about your business without a few enticing little scraps of Sylvia to tuck in your pocket.

This first one in the series is from the short story “Furnivall’s Hoopoe,” which appears in the collection The Music at Long Verney. If you’re a New Yorker subscriber you can read it in their archives here, as it was published in their Jan. 3, 1970 issue. They published a great many Sylvia Townsend Warner stories over the years — she became very good friends with her editor there, William Maxwell, and you can and should read some of their correspondence in The Element of Lavishness — and in my opinion being able to plunder their archives at one’s leisure for her alone is well worth the cost of a subscription.

Jan. 3, 1970 New Yorker cover

the Jan. 3, 1970 cover

There are plenty of other passages I might have opted to start off with, and loads of them where she’s doing something more dazzling in a writerly way, but this one captures some very true things about love and that’s been on my mind lately. Particularly the other day, when I found myself thinking about The Great Gatsby in connection with a food blog post (spoiler alert: it’s somehow just as depressing miniaturized and briefly outlined with clams as it is as a novel), and again just a couple of hours after I’d written it, when I found myself having a long talk with an unhappy friend about her married girlfriend. Maxwell wrote the foreword to The Music at Long Verney well after Townsend-Warner’s death in 1978 and briefly but rather heart-breakingly describes her own love troubles with her very long-term girlfriend Valentine Ackland:

Sylvia was not distressed by Valentine’s casual infidelities, but when she fell in love with a spoiled American woman who thought she might (and then again thought she might not) want to live permanently with Valentine, Sylvia suffered deeply and even made herself homeless until the crisis had passed. As she wrote a friend, ‘I was gray as a badger and never at any time a beauty but I was better at loving and being loved.”

Having read much of her work, I find her believable on this point. Fortunately the crisis did pass and they went on living together until Ackland’s death from breast cancer in 1969. Ackland opened an antiques shop in their home in 1952, which is an interesting background tidbit about The Music at Long Verney; five of its stories are set in the same (fictional) antiques shop. According to Wendy Mulford’s This Narrow Place: Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland Life, Letters and Politics, 1930-1951, Valentine and Sylvia had a routine worked out for dealing with annoying customers whereby Valentine would ring a little bell to summon Sylvia, who would then call her away for some important reason or other. Anyhow, on to the little scrap of Sylvia, which fortunately is far more economical and humorous than my introduction to it. I regret having to give it to you in two pieces but those are the breaks.

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Christmas stocking blog post

 

Click on the pudding for the first treat.

click on the pudding for a treat!

x-mas pudding via the NYPL digital image gallery

 

I won’t make you unwrap the next one. It’s Ben Hinds’s “All I Want For Christmas (Is A Go-Go Girl).”

 

Santa and his reindeer are all tripping their faces off! Click on the Santa below for an interesting article on how “many of the symbols and icons we associate with Christmas celebrations are actually derived from the shamanistic traditions of the tribal peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe.”

Santa is a shaman

 

There, now you are ready for Mark E. Smith reading a Christmas ghost story by H.P. Lovecraft.

 

If you’re going to listen you should have a yule log going at the same time for maximum effect. Here is more than two hours of hot yule log action for you.



yule log via this helpful Gothamist post about NYC bars with fireplaces

 

English readers can go on spacing out in front of the yule log while this next one plays because it will probably be familiar. A small survey of Americans reveals that almost none of us have seen it. Slade doing “Merry Christmas Everybody” on Top of the Pops. A fascinating cultural hairdo artifact!

 

Semi-related inspiration for how to do your eyelashes for Christmas dinner: Carnaby Street at Christmas in the 60s:

Carnaby Street xmas

photo via Retro to Go

 

Are you baking a massive pile of cookies? I am. If you are too, you will be very pleased with the butter calculator I am going to show you. You can go from sticks to grams to ounces to tablespoons, etc., like a magical butter wizard. Click on the cookies below for the link.

xmas cookies

 

Bonus extra for New Yorker subscribers: “Tebic” by Sylvia Townsend Warner. They ran it in the March 1, 1958 issue but it’s quite Christmassy. Click on the issue below for the link.

New Yorker xmas

 

There’s one more thing at the bottom of the stocking: a psychadelic Korean Christmas album from 1969. I don’t think anyone has uploaded the whole album but if you click on the cover below you can listen to “Auld Lang Syne” over at Now-Again Records.

He 5 Christmas!

step 1 : find attractive paper

An inspiring quote from Sylvia Townsend Warner, who I can’t believe I haven’t written about here yet. She deserves a proper, wordier post and she’ll get one sooner or later, but in the meantime here is something to think about, from the dust jacket flap for The Flint Anchor (The Viking Press, 1954):

a quote from Sylvia Townsend Warner

She omitted to mention that it is essential to be brilliant. It’s nonetheless heartening to catch a glimpse of a writer saying “I’m a writer because I wrote something,” not “because I obtained a MFA,” not “because I’ve done time in workshops full of thunderingly insipid people who share my high regard for the consensus of People Who Are Into Consensus.” I’m surely a little excessive in my disdainful eye-rolling on this matter but sometimes it looks like the dominant school of thought has come to be that people ought to set about making prose the way they used to set about obtaining, say, a certificate in HVAC repair. Viva anti-professionalism!

The book itself is inspiring me too, to collect blue books and keep them all in one place. As in this photo from the lovely Bookride:

blue books! from Bookride

The Flint Anchor cover

In the comments on that post there’s a tantalizing mention of a collection of books with mirrored covers. It brings to mind — to my mind, anyhow — the idea that it would be a worthwhile pursuit to fill a room with such books, all four walls, floor to ceiling, like Andy Warhol’s Factory for the obsessively literary, a combination library / bar / installation where people could pull a random book off the shelves and browse, or just admire the room. A 100′ roll of mylar is only $53. Have you got a spare room and some amphetamines and nimble hands for folding, comrade?