Saturday, January 29, 2005

R L Stevenson: Slinger of Ink

"All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. "
There's a new biography of Robert Louis Stevenson out there in bookstores. Here is an excellent review of the book. I am excited to know that there's work still being done on him. (Disclosure: I am a great fan of his as I grew up with his works).Though there is a another biography by Mr.Frank McLynn, I believe this one takes the cake.

There's a tendency I noticed in people to dismiss Mr.Stevenson as a writer of childrens tales(probably because of popular works introduced in school like "Kidnapped" or "Treasure Island"). These people might not have read "Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde" or "Master of Ballantrae" (which is a subtle study of human nature). For all those budding writers out there, there is hardly a substitute of his essays on "Art Of Writing".

"With the half of a broken hope for a pillow at night
That somehow the right is the right
And the smooth shall bloom from the rough
Lord, if that were enough?"

He wrote a lot of poetry ever since he was a kid but they are usually tinged with a deep philosophical insight of human nature, occasionally self-pity and mostly optimistic of the next things to come.(He believed that he outlived life but its still good fun)

"Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life." - An Apology for Idlers

So he got out whenever his health permitted, which brings us to another facet that he is extraordinarily talented.Travel Writing. I definitely enjoyed Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes" ( Cevennes is mountain range of south central France) while I am yet to read his other travel works. The style is much akin to Naipaul's early travel literature with humor and insight.

As the article says, his self-abuse led him to various diseases but finally succumbed to Hameorrage when he was in South Samoam islands.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live, and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
“Here he lies, where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”



Hirak said...

Thanks for the donkey(!) link

Paddy said...

[Hirak] You mean as in pinning the tail?

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