Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seamus Heaney, Beowulf, and the Great Hall: That Was One Good King

Seamus Heaney's passing yesterday left me empty.  I listened to his voice and read his words so often as to feel I had lost a friend.

Below, the opening of #seamusheaney 's incomparable translation of #BEOWULF :

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by

and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.

There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,

a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
beyond the whale-road had to yield to him
and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.

Cue the synchronicity police: The greatest living English-language poet died just a few days after an important archaeological discovery relating to his masterwork. 

A few days ago, this link shared news of an extraordinary recent discovery in Denmark: the physical site of the location of the great hall where the ancient monarchs ate meat, drank mead, celebrated their victories, mourned their losses. The poem tells us that the noises of feasting there attracted the murderous beast Grendel (and, perhaps, the beast within men). Remnants of the beams of the old mead-hall were found near Copenhagen, along with many artifacts.  I wonder what Heaney made of that. Perhaps they'll find the dragon next.

In the realm of English letters, the king has just passed. That was one good king. You can hear him reading his never-to-be-forgotten translation of the great poem here:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yet More Words of Encouragement from the Teeming Millions on JIHADI

This nice note came in from +Rocky Cole on the six-years-in-the-making video excerpt from Chapter One of +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) , (which video can be found here):

Brandon, I liked what I heard. We all write at our own pace. I will note that Barry Eisler's first John Rain novel was begun in 1997 and finally published in 2002. He went for slow quality. Keep writing. -- Rocky Cole

I have gotten similar words of encouragement from (among others) +L. T. Dalin , +Claudette Anne Pearson , +Paul Kater , +Sharon Ford , +Daoud Ali , +Adella Wright , +A. Wrighton , +Nina MJ , +C.M. Skiera , +Julie Griffith , and +Ksenia Anske on this obsession of mine. There are 82,000 words in the main file now, but I feel I can only vouch for 60,000 of them on a good day. The book, which thinks it will be 100,000 words long, now strides forward at a reliable pace of 600 words per day, Monday through Friday. Hold me to that.

Though I haven't personally heard from +Kurt Vonnegut , +Vladimir Nabokov , or +Toni Morrison (each of whom I consider a senior consultant on the project), I did stumble across this video, in which Ms. Morrison offers insights that have helped a great deal. My story, too, is drawn from a hidden, much-revised history, one whose most important details lie not in the official record, but within the human heart.

Only about a quarter of Chapter One has been posted in video form. I'm not sure whether I should post more. Stay tuned!