Monday, May 29, 2017

Estrid Bannister

Muse, lover, diplomat and translator, Estrid Bannister (born Estrid Jelstrup Holm, 1904) lived life on her own terms. She was the inspiration for the bestselling novel by Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen, Barbara.

My interest in Estrid was re-kindled when I recently obtained a well-thumbed copy of the original Penguin Barbara (#631, One shilling and sixpence), featuring her translation. The current edition with a translation by George Johnston (Norvik Press, 1993) is serviceable and more thorough, if somewhat pedantic. Reading Estrid's version was a revelation. Aside from the strange sensation of reading a book where the translator, in real life, was the basis for the main character, I found that the POV was decidedly more sympathetic to Barbara’s story and less favorable towards the miserable Parson Poul, who, knowing full well what kind of woman Barbara was, falls for her anyway and tortures himself for the rest of the book.

There is more to Estrid’s story. After Jacobsen died from tuberculosis in 1938, Estrid made her way to England where she was an attache to the Danish Embassy during World War II. In the prime of her life, attractive and cultured, she did not want for company and ultimately ended up as the lover of one William Emrys Williams, an influential educator, writer (he was knighted) and one of the founders of Penguin Books. From a humble start in the 1930s, the Penguin imprimatur became known world-wide as a mark of high-quality publications, which continues to this day. In 1946 they introduced the now classic cover scheme:

Penguin Books

Estrid was on the Penguin payroll as a translator, where she had many titles to her credit. Her affair with Williams eventually cooled and when he died (in 1965) his memoirs, which would have undoubtedly contained details of his affair with Estrid, were burned by his secretary, who then committed suicide!

Estrid spent the final years of her life in Ireland. Her name became, with delicious irony, Estrid Bannister Good when she married Ernest Good, an Irish fisherman. Before she died in 2000, she had been interviewed by a television reporter, had a biography written about her and had the letters between her and Jacobsen published. Alas, all these resources are in Danish only, but the reviews I've read of them suggest that she was indeed very much like Barbara, loving but unsentimental, and never letting conventional mores hinder her quest for a fulfilling life.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Reader - Week 21

Johnny Walker Black

The affair was for the older brother of one of our classmates. We were really too young to be at a drinking party, but we did have a rock n' roll band. The party was in the basement of a newly built house in a nearby suburb, big enough for our four piece combo and about twenty twenty-somethings. We were a good match for the crowd; our material was about five years out-of-date. It was what they were dancing to when they were teens. Performing love songs for young women enhanced them with an additional dimension than when we played for girls our age. As sexual objects, we didn’t exist for them, they desired MEN, not boys, but in order to ease through the social barrier they did require lubricants: music and booze. We supplied "fuck music" while the host had an informal open bar, beer and wine, as well as hard liquor and mixers. I think the idea was for the band to drink the mixers, but there was nothing stopping us from having a nip or two of the hard stuff. We kept on playing, it was well after midnight when ran out of material and began to play the songs for a second time. The bass player had a curfew, so one of the guys at the party drove him home while the host of the party convinced us to stay and play as a three-piece. I liked playing bass, so I picked up the slack. This was about the same time that the Johnny Walker Black that I had been sipping began to take control. We began playing a little faster, a little wilder, and the dancers responded correspondingly. Finally at three A.M., we gave up. We were too drunk to play. The host drove us home and we’d pick up our gear in the afternoon. 

When I walked in the door of my house my father and my older sister were up, waiting for me. It was all I could do to keep from giggling. My dad was sore and my sister, who had previously been the black sheep in the family, found it very amusing to see how far her “neat little boy” of a brother had fallen.  In the morning (four hours later), my dad made me go the early church service with them. When the organ began to play it seemed as if my head was exploding. 

Nothing more said about the events of the previous night.

Andy put the manuscript down. When he started proofreading, Jennifer had been arranging her things in the bedroom—the bedroom that had been Andy’s—but she hadn't made a sound for several minutes. He got up and went to the hallway that led to the bedroom.

The bedroom door was shut.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Uptown Girl

My old pal Nicole had an unveiling of her latest Barbie photograph Tuesday night at the Lyn-Lake Brewery in South Minneapolis:

A lot of the gang from my old workplace were there:

Don and Scott

Sheila and Nicole

As well as some of Nicole’s buddies:

60s Ken, 80s Ken, 60s Barbie

But the highlight was the unveiling:

This image will be on the featured poster for the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis, the oldest and most prestigious event of its kind in the upper Midwest.

Way to go Nicole!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Diminishing Returns

It was Art-A-Whirl weekend, I was back from Wisconsin to catch it on Sunday afternoon. I wanted  to like it, but I only managed made it through one building.

With the exception of Caitlin Karolczak (right), the art I did see seemed to be worse than in previous years. I think it’s a trend.

The absolutely dismal weather (it had been raining the whole weekend; it was warmer in Reykjavík Sunday than it was in Minneapolis!) didn’t help any. When I tried to go to the Northrup King Building it was way too crowded, with no parking spaces for miles around.

I just can’t muster up an interest in this event any more: there are too many people, and too much bad art.

I found the hallways to be more interesting than the studios:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Wisconsin in the springtime.

What could be finer, even if the weather was a bit chilly and overcast?

Friday found me marooned in a chain hotel in suburban Madison. After an impulsive email to my favorite artist/shepherd/free spirit Shoshanah,  a window of opportunity opened when she invited me to visit her and her vet as they ministered to an ailing ewe:

The ewe in question had been feeling poorly and, as she was expecting, warranted a visit from the kindly and wise sheep-doctor:

He explained what he was looking for (“If you can see the lambs feet, you know that delivery will be soon.”) and what the exam would entail:

Shoshanah held the ornery ovine’s horns while the doc worked on the other end:

Nearby, another ewe (with her day old lamb) watched the examination impassively:

No lamb yet, just a respiratory infection. After being probed, prodded and poked, the ewe took a little breather before rejoining the herd:

After the vet had left, Shoshanah and I talked over coffee while I admired her horse of a different color:

Finally, no trip to Mount Horeb would be complete without a stop in at The Cat and Crow, where co-owner Melissa styled her fabulous new leggings:

Thanks for the wonderful afternoon, Jojiba!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Reader - Week 20


“Confessions of an unwed teen mother, by yours truly,” said Jennifer, “You would think that by the eighties its stigma would have been gone, but it wasn’t, at least in the small town where I grew up. I had been seeing a guy—he was a misfit—a really good speed-skater in a town of puck-heads. We found ourselves home alone at his house one Saturday; his folks were out of town for a funeral. His lovemaking technique wasn’t very polished, but it was effective. I got pregnant. First try. After a meeting with all of our parents, I was decided that I go to a place in the big city, a place where I could have my child and get a high school diploma without causing to much of a stir. I thought it would be great, not my pregnancy that is, but the fact I could go to Minneapolis. Anything to get out of town. The place I stayed at was run by nuns and not only didn’t I get my diploma, I was held prisoner, the only experiences I had were in religious instruction of a cruel and debasing kind. I had the baby, and then came back to town and graduated a year later than the rest of my classmates. I was shunned, but actually it was a good thing. The skate-boy still wanted me, but I knew there was more to life than making the same mistake over and over. I went to the U, where my life really began, especially after I started taking ‘The Pill.’ My flings were generally fun, excepting the one I told you about, but they got old after a while. I met a nice guy, we moved in together and established some sort of relationship. He was my age, but had graduated a year ahead of me, of course, so when we compared yearbooks he brought it up and I just said that I had some ‘issues’ around that time and that I didn’t want to go into it. He was such a sap that he never asked further questions. I don’t think that he ever realized that I had had a baby. So, that is the story of that picture.”

“Have you ever met her?” asked Andy.

“No, I haven’t,” she answered, “… Someday…”

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Joan, Dan, Joe, Seeburg, Max (obscured), Joi

Another barely remembered slice of my past. Winter of 1978, taken in a diner in Pine City, Minnesota. A mix of friends, a winter road trip, ice fishing and poker playing was involved. This image brings up more questions than answers.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2