The Pebble Chance: Feuilletons and Other Prose
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In the game of bocce, no matter how intensely you study the world's surface, there is always a chance an unseen pebble will knock your ball in an unexpected direction. In these essays, poet, antiquarian bookseller, and celebrated travel writer Marius Kociejowski chronicles serendipitous encounters with authors, manuscripts, and eccentrics, in which “the curious workings of fate” and “art's unbidden swerve” intervene to shift the course of fortune.
Carried by keen wit, aphoristic prose, and a rich sense of characterization, and featuring chance meetings and comic misadventures with such figures as Bruce Chatwin, Zbigniew Herbert, and Javier Marías, The Pebble Chance is a sumptuous offering of belles lettres exploring the incandescent moments when skill and providence collide.
misinformation could have been in the air? Imagine, then, how ill-prepared I was for the man who arrived that evening, his face like an angry tulip, ruddy with much too much booze. We shook hands and Graham, raising his hand as would a pup its wounded paw, held it in mid-air for a moment, wiggled his fingers a little, and then said in a shocked voice, “Why, you’ve gone and broken my flute finger!” This, of course, was the famous Graham stance, all blarney and mock belligerence. I introduced him,
together like the fowls of heaven, when warned by a vague yet instinctive dread of the approaching form.” As the printed text runs to almost a thousand pages, concealment of the manuscript must have been a problem. In one extraordinary episode, during which armed men search Charlotte’s room, she distracts them “with the sight of a blue-bottle fly through a microscope” while a servant removes some letters which had been lying on the table. She manages to keep writing even through her imprisonment
a couple of streets filled with snow drifts—not even a dog. In a small square, over a pretty big house, there was a sign: “Lucky Strike Saloon.” And below that: “A dry throat is dangerous to your health.” I dismounted, shoved away the snow from in front of the saloon door with my boots, and went inside. On the shelves behind the bar sat some empty bottles. The floor was covered with a layer of broken white and green glass. The mirror between the shelves was broken—probably by a bullet, and on one
Bishop of Antioch, who had been martyred almost a hundred years earlier, moved from the Christian cemetery at Antioch to a spot in Daphne near the Temple of Apollo. (This, incidentally, is the first recorded instance of a saint’s translation.) Julian the Apostate, whose shortcomings were magnified at the expense of his many virtues, sought to reverse the Christian tide. When, in 362, he came to Daphne he was informed of “bodies” in the neighbourhood, whose presence “blocked” the oracle. After a
that one of the most experimental poets of our time should set aside his own voice. My own favourite translations of his are those that perhaps he himself was most surprised to have made, the lovely Andalusian poems, which come via Spanish translations of the Arabic. I think it may be the only time he has translated at a remove, but the results feel magically close. Petition for a Falcon O king, whose ancestors were noble of mind and blood, To whose favors, a rope of pearls, my throat has