Of Women and their Elegance by Norman Mailer – Photographs by Milton Greene

Norman Mailer never met or had a conversation with Marilyn Monroe, but was inspired to write Of Women and their Elegancehis imaginary memoir chronicling around four years in her life whilst she was living in New York, simply by looking at the portraits taken by the fashion photographer Milton Greene. Mailer believed that Greene’s photographs, which presented Monroe in more modest poses and would go on to become some of her most iconic, revealed a side of her nature that was not to be found anywhere else. Basing much of what he wrote on the reminiscences of Milton and his wife Amy, Mailer argued, that although not everything in the book actually occurred, it was truthful in nature to whom she was as we recollect the past by mood as much as by fact. Whilst he never quite succeeds in portraying Monroe in a significantly different light from the usual masculine male perspective (and certain sections of the book do not seem plausible), in addition to her sensuality and sadness, he does endow her with a mischievous sense of fun.

As retold in this book, Milton Greene setup a production company with Monroe that made the films Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl. Monroe’s relationship with Greene was also featured in the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn.

The book in the photographs is a first UK edition, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1981. In addition to pictures of Monroe, it also contains other outstanding examples of Greene’s photography.

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Osbert Lancaster

For a man who tried to work as little as possible, Osbert Lancaster (1908-1986), the cartoonist and author of popular humorous books satirising society and architecture, achieved a great deal. After requiring an extra year to complete his studies at Oxford, he left with a distinctly unremarkable fourth class degree and from there went on to fail the law exams he needed to work as a barrister. Whilst he was a failure in both his academic and professional career, he did eventually become very successful in making people laugh.

In 1936 he joined the Daily Express as their cartoonist and for the next forty years he produced -without too much strenuous effort on his part – an estimated 10,000 cartoons that gently mocked and parodied the Upper classes. There he became known as the pioneer of the Pocket Cartoon: a topical single-panel single-column drawing, which was then widely imitated by other newspapers.

Described by his headmaster at school as "irretrievably gauche," over the years Lancaster cultivated his personality and demeanor into that of a slightly outmoded, upper class Edwardian gentleman, of the kind he poked fun of in his cartoons. This led one acquaintance to remark that "the mask has become the face."

The books in the photographs are from two first editions of his comical books on architecture, published by John Murray in the late 1940s.

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Love in the Time of Cholera is an epic saga chronicling the loves of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. It begins with the innocent and clandestine love affair of their youth. Fermina abruptly ends the romance after returning from a prolonged trip away she realises that her love for Florentino was something of an illusion. Her rejection of the hopelessly romantic and slightly awkward Florentino is followed by her marriage to the more pragmatic and self-assured Dr Urbino. The novel then follows the next fifty years of their lives: Fermina’s marriage and Florentinos many strange affairs with other women, before, finally their romance is rekindled in old age.

Cholera, a word that denotes both disease and passion, is a metaphor for the physical and emotional ravages of love. Almost akin to a form of seasickness, Fermina and Florentino on their voyages through life experience many forms of love, its loss and its recapture, before finally setting off into unchartered waters.

Marquez, who had to wait fourteen years to marry his own wife, was inspired to write the story based on own experience and those of his parents. However, whilst this served as material for the earlier parts of the novel, the love that blossoms in later life was inspired by a newspaper story about the death of two Americans, who were almost 80 years old, who met every year in Acapulco. They were out in a boat one day and were murdered by the boatman with his oars. García Márquez remarked that "Through their death, the story of their secret romance became known. I was fascinated by them. They were each married to other people."

The book in the photographs is a first English translation, published by Jonathan Cape in 1998.

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The Unorthodoxy of Orwell’s Animal Farm

'At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it.'

The quote above is an extract from Orwell’s essay The Freedom of the Press, his proposed preface to Animal Farm. In it he describes the difficulty he faced in 1943 in getting the novel accepted due to the self-censorship being exercised by publishers, at that time, of anything that was critical of WW2 allies, the USSR under Stalin. It was initially rejected by four publishers, including T.S. Eliot at Faber, on the grounds of political insensitivity rather than literary merit. Orwell argues in his essay that this form of voluntary censorship that conceals views against the prevailing orthodoxy of opinion could be as dangerous to freedom of speech as direct political intervention.

As Orwell also here contends, yesterday’s unorthodox expressions can become today’s accepted opinion. So this proved true for Animal Farm. By the time the novel was eventually published in 1945 criticism of the USSR was becoming more vocal, contributing to the novel’s instant success. Curiously, although there was space in the proofs for a preface in the first edition, none appeared and Orwell’s essay did not surface until 1972 when it was printed in The Times Literary Supplement.

The book in the photographs was published by The Folio Society in 1984 and was illustrated by Quentin Blake. It does not contain a preface.

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