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Posts Tagged ‘t.f. powys’

I hope to say a little more of some of these exceptional titles in due course; but let me first say quickly that as of now all are available to order in Finds:
FICTION
Scenes of Childhood by Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Power of the Dead and The Phoenix Generation by Henry Williamson
Lucy Carmichael and The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
Mockery Gap and Innocent Birds by T.F. Powys
NON-FICTION
The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer
Marshal Pétain by Richard Griffiths
We Come Unseen: The Untold Story of Britain’s Cold War Submariners by Jim Ring
The Memsahibs: The Women of Victorian India by Pat Barr
The Great Violinists and The Great Cellists by Margaret Campbell
The Art of Happiness by John Cowper Powys

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We’ve been away a while – busy times at Faber Towers, not least in respect of big new plans for the Finds list – and so news updates around this parish have been in short supply. But here is the roll-call of the titles just reissued this month (with another batch to follow!)
FICTION
I’m All Right Jack by Alan Hackney
The Papers of A. J. Wentworth, B.A. by H. F. Ellis
The Killing of Cinderella by Christopher Lee
Fables by T. F. Powys
It Was the Nightingale by Henry Williamson
NON-FICTION
A Curious Life for a Lady by Pat Barr
Lloyd George (Volume 4: War Leader 1916-18) by John Grigg
A Pre-Raphaelite Circle by Raleigh Trevelyan
Riviera by Jim Ring
Mr Secretary Peel by Norman Gash
Studies in Russian Music by Gerald Abraham

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The classic novel by Jean Rhys, whose definitive biography is now in Finds

It’s my pleasure to unveil another strong, diverse and enticing selection of titles newly reissued in Finds as of this month. The nominees for your reading pleasure are:

FICTION

A Spirit Rises – Sylvia Townsend Warner
Our second offering of stories from this brilliant and versatile author, much admired by (inter alia) Sarah Waters and Ali Smith. Dovegreyreader also offers a recent appreciation here.

A Test to Destruction – Henry Williamson
The eighth of the fifteen titles in the Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight sequence, the numbers of whose readers in Finds appear to be growing daily…

The Bath Detective – Christopher Lee
The first in a thriller trilogy by the acclaimed novelist, historian and broadcaster whose own website is here.

Mark Only – T. F. Powys
The latest in our restoration to print of extraordinary works by the more austere of the prodigious Powys boys (see previous post here)…

NON-FICTION

Jean Rhys: Life and Work – Carole Angier
The definitive study of the melancholy author whose glorious final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, confirmed Al Alvarez in calling her “the best living English novelist.”

The Embattled Mountain – F. W. D. Deakin
Bill Deakin’s scintillating account of his WWII mission into Yugoslavia to locate and assess Tito and his Partisans. Our earlier post on Deakin is here, and Mark Wheeler’s tremendous New Introduction here.

Secret Classrooms: An Untold Story of the Cold War – Geoffrey Elliott & Harold Shukman
A gem of an insight into how certain bright young scholars of the 1950s (among them A. Bennett, M. Frayn and DM Thomas) sidestepped National Service so as to be instructed in Russian for the betterment of the Cold War effort. Fine Spectator review here, and more to come on this blog…

Enid Bagnold – Anne Sebba
Our latest from Anne Sebba, a marvellous study of the brilliant and controversial woman who wrote National Velvet and The Chalk Garden. See Anne’s personal author site here.

Lloyd George: From Peace to War, 1912-1916 – John Grigg
We continue to reissue Grigg’s magisterial sequence, hailed by the Telegraph as overall “one of the most brilliant biographies of recent times”, this third volume the winner of the Wolfson Prize.

East End My Cradle – Willy Goldman
An unforgettable, affectionate evocation of 1930s London life from an author hailed in his time as “a sort of Proust of the Whitechapel Road.” Longer appreciation to follow on this blog v soon…

The Coming of the Barbarians: A Story of Western Settlement in Japan 1853-1870 – Pat Barr
An evocative and apt title for Pat Barr’s indispensable account of the opening to Japan first forged by US Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry – a story that inspired, inter alia, Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History – Roy Foster
An inspired collection of thematically-linked essays praised in the LRB by Colm Toibin as ‘important and original’. (Toibin also hailed Foster as ‘the most brilliant and courageous Irish historian of his generation’, and his fascinating essay is fully available here.)

How the English Made the Alps – Jim Ring
An exciting anecdotal study of how 19th-century English poets, Christians and natural scientists sought out the highest peaks of Alpine glory, driven – as E.S. Turner put it in his LRB review – by “lust for adventure, scientific curiosity, vanity, national pride, the need for spiritual uplift, the geological urge to disprove Genesis, the expansion of railways, the tourist mania, the deathly pilgrimages of the tubercular and, finally, the primitive and irresistible joys of the piste…” Phew!

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The Powys family, JC standing second from right, TF to his left

The union of Reverend Charles Francis Powys and his wife Mary Cowper Johnson evidently contained some rare creative power, producing as it did eleven children, seven of whom became published authors. (The Powys Society website ably chronicles and celebrates this family saga.)
The most celebrated of the offspring was, of course, John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), he of Wolf Solent (1929) and A Glastonbury Romance (1932), the latter famously rated by George Steiner as ‘the only novel produced by an English writer that can fairly be compared with the fictions of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.’
Since 2008 Finds has returned to print a selection of JC Powys’s earlier novels – Wood and Stone (1915), Rodmoor (1916), After My Fashion (1919), Ducdame (1925) – and also of those that followed his greatest successes – namely Morwyn (1937), The Inmates (1952), Atlantis (1954), and The Brazen Head (1956). Late last year this republishing plan resumed with his Autobiography (1934), in which he asserted:

‘I have tried to write my life as if I were confessing to a priest, a philosopher, and a wise old woman. I have tried to write as if I were going to be executed when it was finished. I have tried to write it as if I were both God and Devil.’

This is merely to give some flavour of what JC Powys tried that so few then or since would or could hope to emulate… We follow on this month with the reissue of his The Meaning of Culture (1929) and In Defense of Sensuality (1930).
Meantime we proceed also with the returning to print of John’s but-slightly younger brother Theodore Francis (T.F.) Powys (1875-1953), a decidedly more ascetic figure but no less of a literary powerhouse. Mr. Tasker’s Gods (1925) opened our republishing, this month we have his selected stories, God’s Eyes A-Twinkle, and to follow in coming months are Mark Only (1924), Fables (1929), Innocent Birds (1926) and Mockery Gap (1925).
For those coming fresh to the Powys’s works, back in 2001 the philosopher and critic John Gray wrote a splendid comparative appraisal of JC and TF in the New Statesman. He noted first the enduringly ‘modern’ sensibility of John Cowper:

‘His novels are studies in introspection, in which only subjective sensation has reality and the central business of life is the search for a personal mythology. Seeing human relationships as encounters between solitary consciousnesses, he has no interest in class or ambition. He writes about sex without the least trace of moralising. An inveterate sceptic, he sees religions and philosophies as works of art, to be used for their aesthetic qualities and discarded when they cease to please. Even today, these are faintly subversive attitudes…’

By comparison Theodore Francis is the sort of writer whose work might be as easily blazed in mosaics in some moss-grown temple as printed on demand and in e-book… But this deep-rooted quality is what should speak to the contemporary reader. As Gray goes on:

“By all conventional standards, T F Powys is the least modern of writers. His novels and short stories are set in a landscape as far removed as possible from anything smart or urban – a fantastical version of English village life, in which human emotions work themselves out against a backdrop of brooding countryside… He sets his tales in a grotesquely exaggerated rural landscape, not because he has any nostalgia for the way of life it may once have contained, but because, by doing so, he is free to strip human beings down to their barest elements – their lust, greed, cruelty and stupidity, and the mixture of dread and yearning with which they respond to the prospect of death… The greatest value of his work, though, is in showing that it is still possible to write about the primordial human experiences to which religion is a response. Secular writers tend to steer clear of them, and end up stuck in the shallows of politics or fashion. On the other hand, Christian writers are mostly precious and unpersuasive, like T S Eliot, or else more or less openly fraudulent, like Graham Greene. Very few 20th-century authors have the knack of writing convincingly of first and last things. A religious writer without any vestige of belief, Theodore Powys is one of them.’

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The young Elizabeth David, whose last work is reissued in Finds this month (see left)

Precisely what, you may ask, is Finds making available to readers this month? Answer, as ever: a grand assortment of outstanding fiction and non-fiction titles that deserve renewed attention, and these are they:
FICTION
Margaret Kennedy, The Midas Touch
Siegfried Lenz, The Heritage
T.F. Powys, God’s Eyes A-Twinkle
William Sansom, Bed of Roses
Sylvia Townsend Warner, Winter in the Air and Other Stories
Henry Williamson, Love and the Loveless
NON-FICTION
J.D. Bernal, Science in History vol.3: The Natural Sciences in Our Time
Elizabeth David, Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices
F.W. Deakin, The Brutal Friendship: Mussolini, Hitler, and the Fall of Italian Fascism
Amos Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors
John Grigg, Lloyd George: The People’s Champion, 1902-1911
Timothy Mowl, Stylistic Cold Wars: Betjeman Versus Pevsner
John Cowper Powys, In Defence of Sensuality
Notes and perspectives on a few of these will follow.

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