Lecture on Cecil Beaton at Ashfield Library, Saturday September 3, 11 AM

Oh the glamour!

I am giving an illustrated lecture on one of my great idols, Cecil Beaton, next month at Ashfield Library:

Saturday September 3 11am at the Local Studies Room Level 2 Ashfield Civic Centre - Ashfield Library

Walter Mason will give an illustrated lecture on Cecil Beaton, beauty and My Fair Lady - a look at the life of the world's most glamorous photographer.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the Death of Dickens at Ashfield Library, Thursday 4th of August





The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the Death of Charles Dickens

        An illustrated lecture by Walter Mason

Ashfield Library, 11AM, Thursday the 4th of August



Charles Dickens’ final novel was never finished.

What did the world make of a half-finished book by the most famous author in the world?
He died on the 9th of June, 1870.
Who made his famous death sketch, and why did Dickens’ daughters hate it?
He had a premonition that he would never finish this novel.
How did he change his publishing contract in an uncharacteristic manner?
After he died an American Spiritualist began to channel his spirit and completed the novel.
Come and learn about the whole fascinating story.

Weekly Reading Report

Forgive me for missing last week. I was so bust reading and taking notes that I forgot to actually report on my literary activity. On a vaguely literary front, I went to see the Whit Stillman movie Love and Friendship (based on Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan) and it was superb. One of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I am planning on going a second time, and I recommend you rush out and see it now.
Now as for books:




I just finished Debbie Malone's Awaken Your Psychic Ability.  I have worked with Debbie a few times over the years, and she is one of the sweetest and kindest beings on the planet. This book was fantastic, very practical and filled with information, meditations and tidbits about the angels. I actually plan on reviewing it properly elsewhere, so keep your eyes out for that. In the meantime, if you have ever had an unusual encounter or seen something before it happened, grab a copy of this book.




I have picked up again Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. I have just started teaching a creative writing course at Sydney WEA, and they are a beautiful little group of people. Natalie's words and her methods always inspire me, and I probably read through this wonderful collection of essays and reflections on writing a couple of times a year.



Have finally finished Doreen Virtue's The Courage to be Creative, and was constantly thrilled by it. This book is all things to all creatives, and I absolutely destroyed it by turning over corners, marking passages and filling the book with notes. Loved it from beginning to end, and it has energised me tremendously. I would recommend it to all writers, but I know that many writers are terribly cynical and would never allow themselves to be so excited by Doreen's eccentric vision of creativity. She does, after all, discuss the creative power of unicorns.



I loved The Courage to be Creative so much that I picked up another Doreen Virtue book: The Miracles of Archangel Michael. Actually, I have had this one since the beginning of the year, but it has languished on my "Must Read" pile till now. A very dear friend and advisor (alright, it's the divine Maggie Hamilton) told me that I should turn to Archangel Michael in facing a personal and professional block I faced. I am still facing that block (many of you know what it is) but maybe reading this book will be just what I need to shake my anxieties free.

Weekly Reading Report

Further research for my upcoming course on the English Comic Novel in the 20th Century has caused me to pick up a book from my shelves that I had never quite gotten around to: The Life of E. F. Benson by Brian Masters. And I am pleased to say that it's excellent - a beautifully written, constantly fascinating biography that tells me heaps of things I didn't know. An absolute must-read for Benson fans, I should think.



The same research has had me dipping in and out of Laura Thompson's Life in a Cold Climate, a truly excellent biography of Nancy Mitford which has been issued a couple of times, I think - I discovered that I had the original edition and the new edition from Head of Zeus. Jolly good, though and light and funny just like its subject. Would please any Mitford fan.



Finally, I've been getting all poetic with Aden Rolfe's Fake Nostalgia. Rolfe is a very young Sydney poet whose work I first heard rather than read. He invited me to a "listening" to a podcast he had written, and it was simply superb. Also made me think that people should do that kind of thing more often - 100 or so people sitting in a cocktail lounge intently listening to the wireless. Anyway, False Nostalgia is more brilliance from this youthful pen, and I wonder how anyone could be so clever at that age. Makes me wish I hadn't wasted my entire youth on drugs and sex. Oh well, too late now. But do check out Rolfe's work - I can only assume he will become a bigger and bigger name on the Australian literary scene. Incidentally, the book is published by Giramondo who are responsible for so much brave and interesting Australian writing.


Weekly Reading Report

It's late, I know. I spent the weekend in Adelaide, teaching workshops at the SA Writers' Centre, and I had a great turnout and met some really lovely people. But It's taken me till now to recover sufficiently to let you know about the current books in my life.



I have been reading and loving Hazel Holt's exquisite A Lot to Ask: The Life of Barbara Pym. It does have the world's daggiest cover, and people looked at me oddly when I was reading it at the airport, but what a charming, fascinating and at times very funny book. A must-read for all Barbara Pym fans. Holt is fascinating because she was actually a part of Pym's life - they worked together for twenty years.



I bought three books while I was in Adelaide, because I felt my luggage needed some weighing down. The one I picked up immediately and started reading was Doreen Virtue's latest book, The Courage to be Creative. I started reading it instantly, and was utterly charmed by it. I took it in to my first workshop and told the students about it, and many of them were keen to read it, too. One of them went straight out and bought it! People in the writing world probably don't know Doreen, but she is a megastar in the world of the New Age, one of the people who made Angels really big in the 90s with her beautiful cards. This new book is part memoir, and talks a lot about how creative people are normally misfits. I was identifying like crazy. But really, it's well worth reading.



They also had a nice stand of Vintage Classics, and I can't resist those handsome red spines, so I picked up Graham Greene's Reflections, because as you know I love Greene, and I don't have this.





I also grabbed Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception, because Hazel Holt writes a lot about Barbara Pym's love of Huxley's books (he inspired her to write) and I have never read a single one.



And the book I have been diving into and been reading exciting snatches of this past week is I Am She: Her Story by Ann Elizabeth Castle. I have worked with Ann in the past, and earlier this year she came to a talk I gave on Bhutan, which is when I got a copy of the book. It is a beautifully illustrated and constantly illuminating exploration of the feminine sacred, and I would love her to keep on producing other books in this style. Wide-ranging, esoteric and utterly absorbing.

Weekly Reading Report

Last weekend I gave a talk at the NSW Dickens Society, and they very kindly gave me a $50 gift voucher at Abbey's Bookshop. I wanted to use it quickly, as I have a tendency to let vouchers sit around. So on Wednesday, after my Odyssey class, I went down to Abbey's to use it up. There were plenty of things I wanted, but I saw they had Nicola Barker's The Cauliflower.




I have wanted this book for a while, since my friend Robert at the Vedanta Centre mentioned it to me. I have been very interested in Sri Ramakrishna for about twenty years, and have read many books about him - including Christopher Isherwood's Ramakrishna and His Disciples and Romain Rolland's The Life of Ramakrishna. I am very interested in seeing what a 21st century author might have to say about him in a work of fiction.




I still had money left on the voucher, so I also got the new Edmund White novel, Our Young Man. Of course, I started on that one almost immediately, and am just about halfway through it. It's odd. But I adore Edmund White, and even when he's odd he's incredibly, compulsively readable. Lots of handsome men, sex and real estate. What more does one want in a book? But I have to admit that these days I enjoy White's memoir more than his fiction.

I gave a talk on Noel Coward at Ashfield Library on Saturday, and a very sweet friend came along and brought me little pile of books she had found for me at second-hand sales. It was a lovely gesture, and exactly the sort of thing to delight my heart. If only people knew how deliriously happy I am with a couple of second-hand books. Better than emerald rings (which are mentioned in White's book).



Most importantly she gave me the most exquisite, mint-condition, first edition of Cecil Beaton's Fair Lady, a collection of the diary entries he made while making that film. Seriously, it's such a fine edition it looks brand new, even though it was printed in 1964.




She also gave me a paperback of Beaton in the Sixties, a 2003 collection of his unexpurgated diaries. Both of these are handy and of great interest at the moment because I am putting together a talk for September on Cecil Beaton. Of course, I have always loved the man.



The only other book I am giving some time to at the moment is Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. I have been reading it very slowly, mostly because you can. I really enjoy whatever I do read - it seems to be an excellent book. Useful, too, because I am giving a couple of workshops at the SA Writers Centre this week, so I am always looking for new inspiration.

Weekly Reading Report





I am giving a talk on my beloved Noel Coward on Saturday June 18, so I am totally absorbed in The Autobiography of Noel Coward. This is a collection of Coward's two published autobiographies, Present Indicative and Future Indefinite, along with the ten extant pages of his unfinished work of memoir, Past Conditional. It is, of course, all you would expect from Coward - funny, camp and sophisticated, and strangely honest (despite his avoidance of the constant question of his sexuality). I look forward to returning to the book each day.




While randomly picking up books at home doing my research for Coward, I found myself immersed in Tennessee Williams: An Intimate Biography by his brother Dakin Williams. I am always interested in anything to do with Williams, and now I keep picking this book up, "just to read a couple of pages." It helped me find out that Noel Coward starred in the film of one of Williams' plays, in a part originally written for a woman. Seems perfect.




The book in my bag is a new self-help title from the revered Louise Hay. Life Loves You is an absolute delight, though it's a bit cheeky as a publishing project - it is basically an account of chats between Hay and the book's real author, Robert Holden. That said, it's terrific fun, and I have found it incredibly inspiring and helpful. I recommend you grab a copy and, like me, keep it in your bag. It's the perfect pick-me-up when you are waiting for a train. 



The final book I have been dipping into this week is Richard Ellmann's Oscar Wilde. this is, of course, one of my favourite books, and it had an enormous influence on me in my youth. I have promised to re-read it this year, but every time I pick it up it seems so enormous that i find it difficult to commit myself. Even still, every time I read a couple of pages I am reminded of some fascinating fact I have forgotten, or some unexpected 19th century connection I had never really made before. It really is a superb book.

 
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