Tag Archives: Yale University Press

Hull

hull

Hull
Pevsner Architectural Guides
By David and Susan Neave
Yale University Press – £14.99

There’s something about the city of Hull that is both fascinating and alluring, yet oddly off-putting in equal measure. What’s more, it’s hard to decipher which of these feelings ultimately take precedence. Although either way, this all together authoritative, practical and wonderfully illustrated guide of one of England’s leading ports since the Middles-Ages, really isn’t hard to decipher.

In fact, it’s something of a shame that there aren’t many more books like this on more British cities. Reason being, it’s far more than that which it’s secondary title proclaims. It’s just as much an all round guide and essential background reference, as it is an architectural guide.

For instance, this Pevsner Architectural Guide of Hull also includes a number of Excursions toward the rear of the book. ‘Excursions,’ being something, which in all honesty, one wouldn’t normally associate with Hull.

As such, from page 187 onward, there’s background information as well as maps, on the surrounding environs of: Hessle and the Humber Bridge, Cottingham and West Hull Villages, East of Hull: Hedon and Burton Constable, not forgetting of course, the absolutely wonderful small town that is Beverley.

The latter of which, I had the utmost pleasure of enjoying for a morning, and cannot help but agree with the following: ”Beverley is one of England’s most attractive country towns, and deserves to be better known. Its historic core, with medieval street plan, is remarkably intact. The town has many fine houses, predominantly Georgian, a rare medieval brick gateway, a handsome market cross, and a superb Guildhall, but its greatest architectural works are the Minster and St. Mary’s. No other town in England can boast two parish churches of such exceptional quality […]. Any exploration of the town should start at the Minster, where the history of Beverley really begins. Bishop John of York, who founded a monastry on the site of of the Minster in the early C8, was canonized as St John of Beverley in 1037, and it was the development of his cult which encouraged the growth of a town to provide for the needs of pilgrims and churchmen” (‘Beverley – 8.5 miles from Central Hull’).

Moreover, the bulk of the book really does focus on the city of Hull itself, which all told, lends the city a certain panache; especially when one colour photograph of a delightful old building is placed alongside, another. And then another.

Augmented with maps and an array of drop boxes which feature something most idiosyncratically indicativeof Hull itself – the Georgian Docks, Hull’s Victorian Sculptors (Earles and Keyworth’s) or Hull’s Telephone Boxes (cream-painted for the city’s independent telephone company), this book is resoundingly well detailed considering the amount of information it has set out to ultimately convey.

At 233 pages in length (excluding a really helpful Glossary and Index of Artists, Architectects and Other Persons Mentioned), Hull may be conceptual in application, although it really is concise in its appreciation of a much overlooked, very English city.

David Marx

 

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Devotion

patti

Devotion
By Patti Smith
Yale University Press – £12.99

I lay there replaying a slow pan of the banished human chain winding through a relentless flurry of white petals. Chrysanthemums. Yes! Branches of them and the wretched train of life blurring past. Yet returning to the same bit of film I had viewed earlier, I find no such scene.

          (How the Mind Works)

She lived only for skating, she told herself; there was no room for anything else. Not love, school, or scraping the walls of memory. Negotiating a bouquet of confusion, the lace on her skate broke in her hand. She quickly knotted it, then unfastened the skirt of her new coat and stepped onto the ice.
– I am Eugenia, she said, to no one in particular.

          (Devotion)

Amid the current tirade of so much terrible, terrible writing – seems just one appearance on the deplorable I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here entitles one to a publishing deal so’s to (try) and write of feeble, over-blown self-importance – it is something of a moral, as well as literary catharsis, to be reminded that writing of this calibre still exists.

Is still being reached for.
Is still being pondered over.

Damn it, is still being written; it kinda takes your breath away.
And then some.

There again, we are talking about Patti Smith, authoress of astounding visionary prowess; who, has often stood alone (down the years). Alone amid the sheer sparkling resonance of having raised the literary bar to such an unequivocal extent, it’s hard to think of a current writer who comes anywhere near close (the terrific Canadian poet, Bruce McRae perhaps).

Close that is, on such a regularly unforeseen basis:

Only the relics of consumption
wrapped in the silk of existence

          (Ashford)

Devotion, the title story, has to be one of the most soaringly beautiful short stories I have ever read. It encapsulates and embraces the imagination like nothing else this side of W. H. Auden. It is so tender, yet simultaneously dark in equal measure, it nigh defies description.

To be sure, any form of description and evaluation would not do it justice.
It cries out to be read.

As part of the ‘Why I Write’ series, Smith writes in concordance with both her heart and a surrender to the knowledge of her vast and most honest experience; a quality she makes devastatingly clear in ‘A Dream Is Not a Dream’ where she writes:
”What is the task? To compose a work that communicates on several levels, as in a parable, devoid of the stain of cleverness.
What is the dream? To write something fine, that would be better than I am, and what would justify my trials and indiscretions. To offer proof, through a scramble of words, that God exists.
Why do I write? My finger, as a stylus, traces the question in the blank air. A familiar riddle posed since youth, girded with words, a beat outside.
Why do we write? A chorus erupts.
Because we cannot simply live.”

Indeed, we cannot simply live.
And this all too powerful, and overtly reflective book is a stark reminder of such: ”[…]. And Christ? Perhaps he did not dream, yet knew all there was to dream, every combination, until the end of time.”

David Marx

Hitler’s Compromises

Hitler's Compromises

Hitler’s Compromises –
Coercion and Consensus in Nazi Germany
By Nathan Stoltzfus
Yale University Press – £30.00

Air raids did not crush the German will to fight as some Allied leaders had projected, although they did burden the regime’s capacity for totalitarian control by drawing its credibility into question. Air raids also disrupted home and family life, sharpening the conflict between private sphere values and Nazi demands.

                                              (‘Evacuations, Protests, Soft Strategies’)

Wouldn’t one be right to question the divisive line between ”private sphere values and Nazi demands?” Surely they ultimately overlapped to such a dire extent that Nazi demands were all encompassing; thus eliminating the private sphere (value) to a level of being null and void?

Either way, this more than illuminating book sheds an abundance of light on the degree to which Adolf Hitler and his inner circle demonstrated a high-octane, if not fundamentally insightful political skill, in ensuring a consistently strong home-base of support. A quality where the Nazi leader came into his own by proffering a fine, unquestionable political finesse – finesses being a word not oft associated with Hitler.

Yet, all things considered, maintaining such delicate support when all around was being blown to smithereens, quite literally, was clearly no mean feat. Indeed, this more than comprehensive examination of Hitler’s regime reveals a plethora of strategic compromises the Nazi leader made in order manage dissent.

By focusing on his use of both charisma and terror, Hitler’s Compromises – Coercion and Consensus in Nazi Germany, asserts – among other things – that Germany’s dictator made very few concessions to maintain power.

In and of itself, this is further substantiated by the continuation of the above opening quotation, where author (and Dorothy and Jonathan Rintels Professor of Holocaust Studies at Florida State University) Nathan Stoltzfus, writes: ”The ensuing grumbling challenged the regime’s control over information and its propaganda claims that the overwhelming majority of Germans were united under Hitler’s leadership. Ironically, the air raids did draw the Germans together in a ”community of fate,” in the solidarity of fear, and when this happened, the regime turned to ingratiating itself with the besieged people by playing the role of their best ally.”

Strong societal/social stuff.

There again, ”Hitler did not think he could achieve total state power without forming a total society […]. Nonetheless, in the context of the national humiliation and dislocation the Germans experienced after World War I, Hitler made surprising headway with brass-knuckled solicitations in gaining unquestioning fealty.”

The narrative of these 298 pages (excluding Preface, Notes, Acknowledgements and Index) are overtly well considered and researched, not to mention deft in delivery. As Jill Stephenson of the University of Edinburgh has stated: ”This book is based on a wealth of sources. It rehearses various episodes that give us an insight into the relationship between the Nazi regime and some sectors of society, including the Christian churches, women evacuees in wartime, and the gentile wives of Jewish German men. This is done in greater detail than in many accounts, and the detail is very illuminating. It’s message is that, again and again, Hitler chose to compromise with a group that stood up to him and his regime rather than risk outright confrontation, especially in wartime.”

National, internal confrontation towards Hitler isn’t something we often think of when it comes to the Nazi regime; which, for all intents and persuasive purposes, appeared to work (most of the time).

As such, for a further understanding on such subtle, political assimilation within German society throughout Hitler’s reign, this book most definitely hits the mark throughout.

David Marx