Thursday, May 31, 2007

Butlers : real and fictional

Also in today's blog [at the end]

Checking the comment situation
Liz Calder interview

The third leader article in yesterday's Daily Telegraph was about butlers.

"The world faces a worrying shortage.
As the number of wealthy households expands, so does the demand for butlers. Those who keep a tally of these things say as many as two million are needed around the globe. Can there be enough suave imperturbability to go round? A butler - not to be confused with his inferior, the valet - is a multi-talented beast whose duties may range from ironing the morning copy of The Daily Telegraph to managing dozens of staff in a number of houses.
Rock stars love them, so do Russian oligarchs, and at least one Labour minister couldn't possibly function without his gentleman's gentleman. They may be redolent of a bygone age, but they are, as a species, natural-born survivors.
Whatever the modern world throws at them, they ensure that good order reigns with a murmured "very good, sir" issuing from the stiffest of upper lips."

Earlier this week I mentioned that Mr Bookworm had brought home two second-hand books: A Sensible Life by Mary Wesley which he has read and enjoyed, and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro which I have read and was bored by.

I long to know what Mr B thinks of it. It's possible he will find it as enthralling as did the judges who awarded it the 1989 Booker prize, and the people who filmed it with Anthony Hopkins in the starring role.

On page 8 of the Tiscali bio of Hopkins, I found this –

"In Merchant/Ivory's The Remains Of The Day, he was superb as James Stevens, butler for James Wilby and a man so repressed that duty has become everything to him. Thus he loses a chance at happiness with housekeeper Emma Thompson and looks away when Wilby foolishly sympathises with Hitler. With realisation comes torment, and Hopkins is in his element, seemingly dormant then suddenly on the verge of a volcanic emotional eruption. He well deserved his Oscar nomination."

Maybe the film moves faster than the interminably slow novel. If our public library has the video, I'll be interested to compare it with the book.

For those who have neither read nor seen The Remains of the Day, it's a long-winded reminiscence of a life spent in the service of the late Lord Darlington of Darlington Hall, now owned by an American, Mr Farraday. The principal characters are the butler, Stevens, and the housekeeper Miss Kenton. The action takes place over six days, but it seemed to me like six years, so slow was the pace.

On Saturday [June 2nd] Kazuo Ishiguro is the subject and star of a conference at Liverpool Hope University.
On the conference page of the university's website, I read this –

"Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the finest writers of his generation. Although primarily a novelist, he has also written short stories, television scripts and a screenplay. Ishiguro’s work explores issues of class, ethnicity, nationhood, place, and the functions of art itself. As a Japanese immigrant coming to Great Britain in 1960, Ishiguro has used his unique perspective to write international novels that contain ‘a vision of life that is of importance to people of varied backgrounds around the world.’ This diversity is underscored by the surreal masterpiece, The Unconsoled (1995), and his latest novel, Never Let Me Go (2005), a stunning affirmation of Ishiguro’s ability to investigate moral dilemmas without compromising the art of fiction."

Is it possible for a first class piece of fiction to leave an enthusiastic reader unmoved?

The book has 137 reviews at Amazon UK and 174 reviews at Amazon US, all but a few wildly enthusiastic. Clearly I am out of step here. Or are the reviewers writing what they think they should rather than what they really feel?

Checking the comment situation

First, a word to Gloria who noticed the strange times at which I appear to be posting blogs. I'm a lark, not a night owl, Gloria, and I used to post between getting up at six-ish and breakfast at eight-ish. But I found that when I did that the posts would often appear under yesterday's date. So now I post after breakfast around nine-ish.

Why the times shown are not accurate I have no idea.

If the people who made comments on Tuesday's blog will scroll down, they will find that their comments are now where they should be.

On investigating, I found ten comments suspended in limbo. I hope this won't happen again, but will make a point of checking.

Liz Calder interview

Much as I wanted to hear this, downloading Real Player seemed to involve downloading a lot of other programmes I was unlikely ever to use. In the end I decided to play safe and not download any of them.


At 31 May, 2007, Anonymous Treva said...

Speaking of butlers, Anne - I have always had a soft spot for your character Piers Ashford the butler hero in All My Wordly Goods - rather more exciting than James Stevens.

At 31 May, 2007, Blogger Anne Weale said...

Kind of you to say so, treva.

I hope you found the sequel to AMWG which was called Time & Chance in the UK and The Fountain of Delight in the US.

I'm currently writing a book called Return to Longwarden, but it has to be fitted in with another non-fiction.


At 31 May, 2007, Blogger Lorna said...

Good morning/afternoon Anne, I also admired Mr. Ashford and your Longwarden series, and have a question about it.

The copy of Time & Chance that I own has an interview with you in the back of the book, where you said that you were working on another Longwarden book, with the working title of "Past Forgotten". Whatever happened to that book? Were you unable to finish it?

Thank you,

Sacramento, CA

At 31 May, 2007, Blogger Trish said...

Anne I don't know if you might find this useful?

When posting your Blog in Blogger at the bottom of the window (just above the Orange Publish Post key) is a blue link that says *Post Options*... if you click on this it will drop down to show you several other options - one of which is the date and time stamp - which you can adjust as you so please. And then you simply hit the *Post Options* link again and the drop down options will disppear.

This means you can not only *fib* a little about the exact time you posted to make sure you get the right day (thereby blogging to suit your own schedule rather than Bloggers) - it also means that, should you need to, you can store several *drafts* in advance and then edit them as you so desire.

I find this a very useful tool - although I do have to be careful when in the drop down options not to change the reader comments to Do Not Allow - as I have been caught that way several times!

Hope helps

At 31 May, 2007, Blogger Richard Havers said...

Anne, a friend of mine had a butler for a few years but when his then girlfriend and now wife moved in the butler went.

At 01 June, 2007, Blogger Anne Weale said...

Thanks for your advice, Trish.

I've been using Post Options for some time but they don't seem to work properly before 9 a.m. and the time shown is invariably wrong.

By the way, when I clicked on your name above your comment, a Profile Not Shown screen came up, which seems odd as your name is "live".

Thanks again. Anne

At 27 November, 2011, Anonymous Tidy Heide said...

My father has a butler since I was young. He lived with us and considered as our family. He then moved out when his son took him in other country to migrate.

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