The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Book Two, The Neapolitan Novels. Youth.

Europa Editions, 2015, 467 p. Translated from the Italian Storia del nuovo cognome (Edizioni E/O, 2012) by Ann Goldstein.

 The Story of a New Name cover

I was not overly impressed by Ferrante’s first novel of her Neapolitan Cycle, My Brilliant Friend, and wasn’t actively seeking out any more of them. I saw, though, the remainder of the quartet priced very reasonably in a second-hand book shop and felt I couldn’t pass them by. I’m now glad that I did, for this second instalment seemed to have much more to commend it than the first. There was certainly a better flow to the narrative.

This may be because this book didn’t have the almost relentless focus on courses taken and exams passed that the first had – those are still here but muted by the fact that narrator Elena Greco is by and large undertaking these herself and not contrasting her successes and failures so much with her comperes – or that her attention has shifted to gender relationships.

There is naturally more focus here on sexual politics than in a book about childhood friends. Her brilliant friend Lila’s marriage is blighted from the start by the conflict sown by that incident at the end of Book One of the trilogy where the shoes she designed were given on her wedding day by her husband-to-be to her sworn enemy. Lila is immediately subjected to that physical chastisement by her husband – prompted by the desire to be seen to be a man and followed by the phrase, “look what you’ve made me do ,” – to which women of her milieu seem to be resigned and turn a blind eye to in others. But dark glasses can only cover so much. Curiously, Elena’s first boyfriend, Antonio, despite his seeking (and selfishness for) his own sexual pleasure at her hands, behaves with sanctimonious (albeit in his case temporary) abnegation by denying her similar succour on the one occasion when she implicitly offers her body to him.

One aspect that seemed out of kilter, though, for all her academic excellence, was Elena’s apparent obliviousness to the wider world. She contrasts her lack of self-assurance, of knowing how to behave, the attitudes to have, in comparison to that of the scions of the middle class she meets in her high school and – later – University days. Her school professor more or less introduces her to newspapers – which Elana confesses to finding boring and confusing, under the influence of a University boyfriend she affects interest in left-wing politics but she never seems to connect them to her childhood neighbourhood. Poverty is something that simply exists, to be struggled against, naturally, but not considered systemic or alterable. Lila is of the opinion “that there was nothing that could eliminate the conflict between the rich and the poor,” because those at the bottom always want to be on top and those who are on top want to stay on top.

Nunzia, Lila’s mother, has one of the most striking lines in the book, ‘For your whole life you love people and you never really know who they are,” while Nella, the mother of the object of Elena’s unrequited affections, Nino Sarratore, in relation to Lila’s attractions tells Elena of men’s great fear in the face of female beauty, “that their thingy won’t function or it will fall off or she’ll pull a knife and cut it off.”

From certain incidents (most notably the narrator’s eventual loss of virginity being referred to as reproduced in detail in a later fictionalised telling) it would seem we are being invited to assume that Elena’s story is a disguised account of Ferrante’s own life but that would be to deny any degree of authorial artifice. In any case our narrator’s coming to wider prominence is not pseudonymous as ‘Ferrante’’s is in the real world. There is certainly a density of apparently lived experience, a proliferation of detail, a fecundity of (re)construction; but it is an author’s job to try to represent the world.

And once again, the novel ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. Not portending as much of a potential conflict between characters as that in My Brilliant Friend but a tease just the same.

Pedant’s corner:- In one of the blurbs at the front: “both The Days of Atonement and Troubling Love are tour de forces” (tours de force that would be.) In the Index of Characters; “Elena, who likes the story a lot, and gives it to” (no need for the “and”.) Otherwise: “I knew only I was not what I wanted at that moment,” (it was not what I wanted,) insure (ensure,) enroll (enrol,) milleniums (millennia,) curtsey (curtsy,) “I handed in my … tests when my schoolmates … had barely started on it.”

Dundee’s Art Deco Heritage 8: Fairfield Social Club, Drumgeith Park

Again, I’ve passed this countless times on my way to and from Brechin but only stopped to photograph it in August last year.

From road – complete with skip:-

Fairfield Social Club From Road.

From access road – skip again:-

Fairfield Social Club, Drumgeith Park, Dundee

The entrance doors are decoish too:-

Fairfield Social Club Entrance

Side view:-

Fairfield Social Club Again

Rear:-

More of Fairfield Social Club

Ian Sales’s 2010s

The last of Ian’s lists in response to the BBC’s one. He’s appended the whole 100 at the end of his final post.

I’ve read six of these but can’t remember if I read D C Compton’s Synthajoy back in the day.

Women of Wonder is on my tbr pile.

81 Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence (1928, UK)
82 Seven Miles Down, Jacques Piccard & Robert S Dietz (1961, USA)
83 Synthajoy, DG Compton (1968, UK)
84 China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F McHugh (1992, USA)
85 Correspondence, Sue Thomas (1991, UK)
86 Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (2013, USA)
86 God’s War, Kameron Hurley (2011, USA)
88 Evening’s Empire, David Herter (2002, USA)
89 Spomeniks, Jan Kempenaers (2010, Belgium)
90 The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers (1946, USA)
91 Leviathan Wakes, James A Corey (2011, USA)
92 Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, Malcolm Lowry (1961, Canada)
93 Girl Reading, Katie Ward (2011, UK)
94 The Wall Around Eden, Joan Slonczewski (1989, USA)
95 Women of Wonder, Pamela Sargent, ed. (1974, USA)
96 HHhH, Laurent Binet (2012, France)
97 The End of Days, Jenny Erpenbeck (2012, Germany)
98 Nocilla Dream, Agustín Fernández Mallo (2006, Spain)
99 Party Going, Henry Green (1939, UK)
100 The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1931, USA)

Monikie War Memorial

Monikie is on the B961 road between Dundee and Brechin.

On the way back from the game at Brechin on 25/8/18 I stopped to photograph its Memorial Hall.

Monikie War Memorial Hall stitch

There is an inscribed Memorial in the grounds of the Hall but it is of relatively recent construction, perhaps for the 100th anniversary of the Great War:-

Monikie War Memorial

Names and dedication, “The Great War 1914 -1918.”

Close-up Monikie War Memorial

Western aspect. Inscribed, “In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow.”

Monikie War Memorial Western Aspect

Eastern aspect. Inscribed, “Between the Crosses Row on Row.”

Monikie War Memorial Eastern Aspect

On the Hall’s external wall is a Great War 100th anniversary memorial plaque:-

Anniversary Dedication Monikie War Memorial Hall

I photographed two of the names of the fallen attached to trees in the small park area within which Monikie’s War Memorial stands.

L/Cpl James Spalding, Black Watch, killed in action, France, 16/6/1915, aged 22:-

Monikie War Memorial Tree

Pte John Irons, Royal Scots Fusiliers, killed in action France, 12/8/1916, aged 24:-

War Memorial Tree, Monikie

Glebe Park, Brechin, Addendum

From the path to the park which contains Brechin’s War Memorial there is a good view of the reverse of the beech hedge which forms the western boundary of Glebe Park. You can also see the David Will Stand in this photo:-

Beech Hedge, Glebe Park, Brechin

The following two photos were taken of Sons new strip for 2018-19 (now superseded again) at the game on 25/8/18, a game we should have won.

Sons New Strip for Season 2018-19

Sons New Strip 2018-19 Close Up

Two More For Interzone

 Re-Coil cover
 Sixteenth Watch cover

My tbr pile just increased by two.

Re-Coil by J T Nicholas and Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole both arrived (courtesy of Interzone) this morning.

Both authors are new to me. Re-Coil is Nicholas’s fourth novel.

Cole is apparently best known for writing Fantasy but Sixteenth Watch is SF. Looking him up today on the internet I note that he has made an apology for sexual harassment in his past.

Brechin War Memorial

After all those visits to Brechin to see the mighty Sons of the Rock play away against Brechin City last year in August in preparation for yet another visit I finally looked up where Brechin’s War Memorial is located. It turned out it’s very near the football ground in a pleasant park area.

It’s an impressive sandstone column:-

Brechin War Memorial

Side view:-

Brechin War Memorial From Side

World War 2 Dedication. “To the glory of God and in grateful remembrance of those who gave their lives in the Second World War 1939 – 1945.” Below the names, “Greater love hath no man than this.”

World War 2 Dedication, Brechin War Memorial

Great War Dedication, “To the undying memory of the men of the City and Parish of Brechin who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1919. Their name liveth for evermore,” and names Ada – Cla:-

Brechin War Memorial Great War Dedication

Great War names Cob – Hod:-

WW1 Names, Brechin War Memorial 8

Great War names Hoo-Pai:-

Great War Names Brechin War Memorial

Great War names Pet – You:-

Brechin War Memorial Great War Names

Other Conflicts; Kenya, Northern Ireland, Korea, Malaya. Plus additional names for France 1916, Burma 1945, and Mediterranean 1942:-

Brechin War Memorial, Other Conflicts

Peregrine: Primus by Avram Davidson

Ace, 1971, 222 p.

Peregrine: Primus cover

The Peregrine of the title is the bastard son of a king, sent out on his own as he approaches manhood. The setting is in the declining years of the Roman Empire, an age of petty kingdoms and the burgeoning of Christianity as a Europe-wide religion. In this respect Peregrine is a heathen still, as was his father.

Davidson adopts a joky, referential, allusive style – with cod Roman numbers (VVVXXXCCCIII) and embedded quotations, “wine-dark sea,” “they looked at each other … with a wild surmise,” “minding the stoa,” “confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks,” – as his hero, along with page Dafty and mage Appledorus, goes out into the world partly in search of his elder brother Austin (also one of the King’s by-blows.) Along the way Peregrine falls into the company of Hun Horde Seventeen. You get the drift.

Peregrine, as his name suggests, is a traveller: not only that, but also, when fantasy bleeds into Davidson’s tale, at times a falcon.

This is not a novel to be taken very seriously. It’s a jeu d’esprit on Davidson’s part but passes the time well enough. I note that once again he employs the word wee to mean small. There’s Scots ancestry there somewhere.

Pedant’s corner:- “he had seen nought but” (‘nought’ means ‘zero’, it does not mean ‘nothing’. That would be ‘naught’.) “Gee” (an unlikely expletive for someone from a non-Christian culture, also an anachronism given the setting, but then we also had ‘mom’ and other twentieth century USianisms,) wisant (wisent,) “was still damp and a smelled briny” (no need for the ‘a’,) talley (tally, though always used in the plural so ‘tallies’,) a missing end quotation mark, boney (bony,) Sextuagesima (I’ve heard of Sexagesima and Septuagesima but not Sextuagesima. Davidson may have been signalling the speaker’s ignorance here,) cameleopard (usually camelopard,) coöperation (plus points for that diæresis,) “‘I didn’t use to wonder’” (I didn’t used to wonder,) “several battery of snores” (several batteries,) revery (usually reverie,) “lay of the land” (it’s lie, lie of the land.) “The Hun digested his slowly.” (The Hun digested this slowly,) Philozena (elsewhere always Philoxena,) “‘it’s an ideal was to get conversation started’” (ideal way,) abhore (abhor,) highoffice (high office,) apothegms (apophthegms,) asofoetida (asafoetida or, better, asofœtida,) “the congregation were delighted” (the congregation was delighted,) miniscules (minuscule,) “he had born hither” (borne hither.) “‘And where do you think to do?’” (And where do you think to go?)

Game Off

I was spared the torture of watching today’s game on Sportscene Results for two reasons.

One: Sportscene Results wasn’t on because the Scottish Premiership is having a midwinter break. (This is another example of BBC Scotland’s contempt for lower league football which they tend to ignore as much as possible. Having said that I do though have to commend them on the TV show A View From the Terrace which does give the smaller clubs and their players most of its attention.)

Two: The game was off due to a waterlogged pitch. Not surprising given the weather we’ve been having.

In one sense the postponement was welcome. We’re down below the bare bones in terms of player numbers and a week off yields more time to get injured players fit.

Whether it was a good thing depends on how the game goes on the rearranged date.

As it is, not too much damage was done in terms of the teams below us as Forfar drew and Peterhead lost.

It’s the Cup game against Aberdeen up next. A free hit – except if we get utterly gubbed.

Carmyllie War Memorial

For years on my way up to Brechin to see the mighty Sons of the Rock play at Glebe Park against Brechin City I have been passing this War Memorial – a granite pillar by the side of the B961 seemingly in the middle of nowhere at a junction with an unnumbered minor road (to the left in the first photo below.) There’s not really a place to park but on making that same trip in August 2018 I made sure to stop.

Carmyllie War Memorial

As you can see it’s beautifully kept.

The inscription reads, “In proud and loving memory of men from Carmyllie District who fell in the Great Wars 1914 – 1918. 1939 – 1945.” Great War names are below, plus one for World War 2.

Carmyllie War Memorial Pillar

A memorial bench is set behind the pillar:-

Carmyllie War Memorial Bench

Great War names, plus one for World War 2:-

Carmyllie War Memorial Names

Again Great War names, plus one for World War 2:-

Names Carmyllie War Memorial

The lack of Second World War names on these rural memorials may be due a combination of the loss of men in the Great War and the decline in numbers of men involved in farming which occurred between the two wars as a result of mechanisation.

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