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Trains and Buttered Toast: Selected Radio Talks

av John Betjeman

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1741120,770 (3.53)1
Eccentric, sentimental and homespun, John Betjeman's passions were mostly self-taught. He saw his country being devastated by war and progress and he waged a private war to save it. His only weapons were words--the poetry for which he is best known and, even more influential, the radio talks that first made him a phenomenon. From fervent pleas for provincial preservation to humoresques on eccentric vicars and his own personal demons, Betjeman's talks combined wit, nostalgia and criticism in a way that touched the soul of his listeners from the 1930s to the 1950s. Now, collected in book form for the first time, his broadcasts represent one of the most compelling archives of 20th-century broadcasting.… (mer)
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The BBC (British Broadcasting Service) felt that it had, under its Chairman Lord Reith, a moral obligation to educate and elevate the taste of ‘the masses’ – their listeners. In 1938 John Betjeman gave his first radio talk, on the architecture and renovation of Waterloo Bridge in London, and launched a broadcasting career that ran until the 1960s. His areas of interest were architecture and the ‘trashing’ of the English countryside, religion and, of course, books, authors, literature and poetry. One of his last radio talks , in 1959, was a celebratory reading of his own – by then - immensely popular poetry. He became, according to The Times, the ‘first Teddy Bear of the nation’, and that nation erected a charming statue of him, holding onto his hat whilst peering about in perpetual enthusiastic curiosity in the now renovated St. Pancras Railway station, whose architectural façade he was instrumental in preserving from demolition.

His popularity was established by these hundreds of radio talks and his participating in ”The Brains Trust” a quiz show in the common knowledge format, where this self-proclaimed “semi-intellectual” was able to show off a flexible extemporizing intelligence which appealed to those broad ‘masses’ of the BBC listeners. One of his producers, the later infamous spy Guy Burgess asked him to give a series of interviews and talks on the ‘British Eccentric’, explaining that he thought to himself ‘…. who more suitable to than you to talk about one of the others?

John was not a handsome man, Wilhelmine Cresswell, once briefly his fiancé, recalled in an interview later “ …his hair was like last year’s birds nest and his teeth were covered in slime’! Despite this, he made an equally successful migration to the medium of television and became one of the most popular British Poet Laureates.

Betjeman published over a hundred books of Victorian architectural comment, hymns, country guides and – of course – dozens of his poetry. His keystone work ”Summoned by Bells” was autobiographical and was made into a film. It is from that work that the title of this book was taken;
Safe in a world of trains and buttered toast
Where things inanimate could feel and think.


The pieces in the book are from his radio talks and cover a broad spectrum of his thoughts and interests – I would have liked more of his train-travel narratives or period pieces like those I enjoy from J.B. Priestley or Eeh Bah Goom Priestley as Betjeman described him with that wicked sense of humour he sometimes flashed.

However; Betjeman’s poetry, as distinct from the marvelously evocative town and country descriptive pieces in this book does not engage me very much, but, with that humour again, he writes “I ought to warn you that my verse is of no interest to people who can think. It jingles for the slaves of their own passions”.
1 rösta John_Vaughan | Jul 8, 2011 |
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John Betjemanprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Games, Ed. Stephenmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Games, StephenRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Wikipedia på engelska (1)

Eccentric, sentimental and homespun, John Betjeman's passions were mostly self-taught. He saw his country being devastated by war and progress and he waged a private war to save it. His only weapons were words--the poetry for which he is best known and, even more influential, the radio talks that first made him a phenomenon. From fervent pleas for provincial preservation to humoresques on eccentric vicars and his own personal demons, Betjeman's talks combined wit, nostalgia and criticism in a way that touched the soul of his listeners from the 1930s to the 1950s. Now, collected in book form for the first time, his broadcasts represent one of the most compelling archives of 20th-century broadcasting.

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