Archive for the ‘English Literature’ Category

In R J Dent’s Library – Oscar Wilde

October 8, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the poems, essays, short stories, letters, plays and novel by the decadent creator of The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde:



In R J Dent’s Library – Oscar Wilde


Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Rupert Thomson

October 5, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the works of a unique and talented author – Rupert Thomson.

In R J Dent’s Library – Rupert Thomson

Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Anthony Burgess

October 3, 2013


A look in R J Dent’s library at the stories, essays, and novels of the author of A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess.



In R J Dent’s Library – Anthony Burgess


Text (c) R J Dent (2013) 

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Aldous Huxley

October 3, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the stories, essays, non-fiction and novels of the renowned author and intellectual – Aldous Huxley.





In R J Dent’s Library – Aldous Huxley


Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Daphne du Maurier

October 2, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the stories, essays, biographies and novels of Daphne du Maurier.



In R J Dent’s Library – Daphne du Maurier


Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Ian McEwan

September 30, 2013


A look in R J Dent’s library at the stories, novellas and novels of award-winning author – Ian McEwan.




In R J Dent’s Library – Ian McEwan


Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Ted Hughes

September 27, 2013


A look in R J Dent’s library at the poetry, stories, translations and essays of former Poet Laureate – Ted Hughes.



In R J Dent’s Library – Ted Hughes

Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Angela Carter

September 25, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the works (novels, short stories, translations, essays and plays) of fabulist, fantasist and magic realist – Angela Carter.

In R J Dent’s Library – Angela Carter

Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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John Fowles

June 4, 2010

John Fowles (31 March 1926 – 5 November 2005) was an English novelist, poet and essayist. In 2008, The Times newspaper named John Fowles among their list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945’.

His first published novel was The Collector (1963).

It is about a lonely young man, Frederick Clegg, who works as a clerk in a city hall, and collects butterflies in his spare time. After winning some money, Clegg kidnaps a girl and keeps her prisoner in his house. Here’s the trailer of the film adaptation:

Fowles’ next book was The Aristos, a non-fiction work, subtitled ‘A Self-Portrait in Ideas’.

The Aristos is Fowles’ attempt to articulate a philosophy of life.

Fowles’ next publication was The Magus (1966). It was the first novel he’d written (but the second novel he published.

The Magus tells the story of Nicholas Urfe, a teacher on a small Greek island. Urfe finds himself embroiled in psychological illusions of a master trickster that become increasingly dark and serious. Fowles has written an article about his experiences in the island of Spetses and their influence on the book, and he has also specifically acknowledged some literary works in his foreword to the revised version of The Magus. These include Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), by Alain-Fournier, for showing a secret hidden world to be explored, and Jefferies’ Bevis (1882), for projecting a very different world. Fowles also refers in the revised edition of the novel to a Miss Havisham, a likely reference to Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861).

Here’s a clip from the movie starring Michael Caine:

Fowles’ next novel was The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969).

It is a period novel inspired by the 1823 novel Ourika, by Claire de Duras, which Fowles translated to English during 1977 (and revised and published in 1994).

Here is the trailer of the film, scripted by Harold Pinter:

Fowles was a great aficionado of Thomas Hardy, and, in particular, likened his heroine, Sarah Woodruff, to Tess Durbeyfield, the protagonist of Hardy’s popular novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891).

In 1973, Fowles published a collection of Poems.

Fowles’ next work of fiction was The Ebony Tower (1974).


The Ebony Tower is a collection of five short novels with interlacing themes, built around a medieval myth: The Ebony Tower, Eliduc, Poor Koko, The Enigma and The Cloud. Here’s an extract from The Ebony Tower TV adaptation, starring Laurence Olivier:

After revising and re-issuing The Magus: A Revised Version (1977), Fowles published Daniel Martin in 1977.

Daniel Martin has been taken as a Bildungsroman, following the life of the eponymous protagonist. The novel uses both first and third person voices, whilst employing a variety of literary techniques such as multiple narratives and flashback. The author suggests that the book is concerned with ‘Englishness – what it is like to be English in the late 20th century.’ To many, it is Fowles’ least successful novel.

The Tree (1979) is an autobiographical book by John Fowles.

In it, Fowles discusses the essence of nature and its relation to the creative arts and especially writing.

In 1982, Fowles published Mantissa, his first new full-length novel since 1969’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Mantissa is a razor-sharp comedy; a battle of the sexes fought within a man’s disintegrating mind.

A Maggot (1985) is Fowles’ sixth major novel.

Its title, as the author explains in the prologue, is taken from the archaic sense of the word that means ‘whim’, ‘quirk’, ‘obsession’, or even a snatch of music. Another meaning of the word ‘maggot’ becomes apparent later in the novel, used by a character to describe a white, oblong machine that appears to be a spacecraft. Though the author denies that A Maggot is a historical novel, it does take place during a precise historical time-frame, May 1736 to February 1737, in England. It might be variously classified as historical fiction, mystery, or science fiction. Because of the narrative style and various meta-fictional devices, most critics classify A Maggot as a postmodern novel. It is John Fowles’ last work of fiction.

Wormholes – Essays and Occasional Writings is a book containing writings from four decades by the English author John Fowles.

It was published in 1998. Most of the contents are short, non-fiction pieces that had been written for various purposes since 1963, including forewords to other authors’ books, and pieces written for science journals or other periodicals.

Finally, there are The Journals – Volume 1 (2003), and The Journals – Volume 2 (2006), which chart John Fowles’ early life (Volume 1) and writing career (Volume 2).

Here’s a complete bibliography:

  • (1963) The Collector
  • (1964) The Aristos
  • (1965) The Magus
  • (1969) The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  • (1973) Poems
  • (1974) The Ebony Tower
  • (1974) Shipwreck
  • (1977) The Magus (A Revised Version)
  • (1977) Daniel Martin
  • (1978) Islands
  • (1979) The Tree
  • (1980) The Enigma of Stonehenge
  • (1982) A Short History of Lyme Regis
  • (1982) Mantissa
  • (1985) A Maggot
  • (1985) Land
  • (1990) Lyme Regis Camera
  • (1994) Ourika (by Claire de Duras) Translated by John Fowles
  • (1998) Wormholes – Essays and Occasional Writings
  • (2003) The Journals – Volume 1
  • (2006) The Journals – Volume 2

Here is a short film (by R J Dent) about the works of John Fowles:

If you’re new to John Fowles, it might be worth starting with The Collector, The (revised) Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman or Mantissa. That way you get John Fowles at his best.

James Joyce

June 2, 2010

James Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish writer and poet, widely considered to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Along with Marcel Proust, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf, Joyce was a key figure in the development of the modernist novel. He is best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922).

James Joyce

Joyce’s first published work was Chamber Music, a collection of poems published in May, 1907. The collection originally comprised thirty-four love poems, but two further poems (“All day I hear the noise of waters” and “I hear an army charging upon the land”) were added before publication.

One of the poems in Chamber Music was set to music by Syd Barrett. Entitled Golden Hair, it can be found on Barrett’s first (1970) album, The Madcap Laughs. Here’s an audio clip of Golden Hair, performed by Barrett:

In 2008, Fire Records released a two-disc compilation featuring all thirty-six poems set to music by some of today’s finest contemporary alternative acts, including Mercury Rev, Gravenhurst, Ed Harcourt, and Willy Mason.


Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories, first published in 1914. The fifteen stories were meant to be Joyce’s naturalistic depiction of the Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

The collection as a whole displays an overall plan, beginning with stories of youth and progressing in age to culminate in The Dead. Here’s the finale to John Huston’s The Dead:


In Dubliners, great emphasis is laid upon the specific geographic details of Dublin, details to which a reader with knowledge of the area would be able to directly relate. The multiple perspectives presented throughout the collection serve to contrast the characters in Dublin at this time.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel, first serialised in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915, and published in book form in 1916.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man depicts the formative years in the life of Stephen Dedalus, a fictional alter-ego of Joyce and a pointed allusion to the consummate craftsman of Greek mythology, Daedalus.

Exiles is Joyce’s only play. It draws on The Dead, the final short story in Joyce’s first major work, Dubliners.

Although Exiles was rejected by W.B. Yeats for production by the Abbey Theatre, its first major London performance was in 1970, when Harold Pinter directed it at the Mermaid Theatre.

In 1936, Joyce wrote The Cat and the Devil, a children’s story, originally written by Joyce for his grandson. It was published in 1978.

Ulysses is Joyce’s second novel. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. Considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature, Ulysses has been called “a demonstration and summation of the entire movement”. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

There are three versions of Ulysses, the 1922 edition:

The 1937 edition:

And the 1986 ‘corrected text’ version, which is considered controversial in that it has divided opinion as to being the best or the worst of the three versions:

Ulysses is renowned for its final chapter: Molly Bloom’s stream-of-conscious soliliquy. Here’s Part One:


And here’s Part Two:


After Ulysses came Pomes Penyeach, a collection of thirteen short poems.

Pomes Penyeach was written over a twenty-year period from 1904 to 1924, and originally published on 7 July 1927 by Shakespeare and Co. for the price of one shilling (twelve pennies) or twelve francs. The title is a play on ‘poems’ and ‘pommes’ (the French word for apples) which are here offered at ‘a penny each’ in either currency.

Finnegans Wake is Joyce’s third and final novel and a work of comic fiction, significant for its experimental style and resulting reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language. Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in 1939, two years before the author’s death, Finnegans Wake was Joyce’s final work.

The entire novel is written in a largely idiosyncratic language, consisting of a mixture of standard English lexical items and neologistic multilingual puns and portmanteau words, which many critics believe attempts to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams.

Here’s an audio clip of James Joyce reading from his masterpiece:


Owing to the work’s expansive linguistic experiments, stream of consciousness writing style, literary allusions, free dream associations, and its abandonment of the conventions of plot and character construction, Finnegans Wake remains largely unread by the general public.

Anthony Burgess edited Finnegans Wake into A Shorter Finnegans Wake, a masterful exercise in sleight-of-hand cutting and tactful editing. It’s still not an easy read, but it does make Joyce more accessible.

In 1991, Faber and Faber (who were once champions of Joyce’s work) published Poems and Shorter Writings. This included all of the poems, the epiphanies, Giacomo Joyce and the 1904 essay, Portrait of the Artist.

If you haven’t read anything by James Joyce, then try A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or even Ulysses. They’re both very good novels.


Here’s a look in R J Dent’s library at the works of James Joyce:

If you don’t fancy Joyce’s prose, you could try Chamber Music. The poems in that particular collection are ethereally delicate and beautiful, which probably means they’re worth reading, if nothing else.