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Camille Pissarro, Quai Malaquais, morning sun in autumn (1903)

The first of this type, a diary, sort of, in more than a month — they become harder to write as the pandemic proceeds without let — and now climate break with climate caused horrifying fires and orange unbreathable air (California, Oregon) — and nothing is done (only militia sent to turn peaceful protests into murder & then mayhem), as there is no EPA any more for real, no leadership on the people’s behalf. Trapped in a pandemic cycle

Dear friends and readers,

I begin with a happy story or temporarily good ending (most stories can be given a happy ending by shutting down the curtain at a given moment where there is contentment) and I trust this to continually to turn out well (well hope very hard): about my young African-American friend, Monica, just Izzy’s age, whom I’ve spoken of here has quit her job at the Safeway. I congratulated her two weeks ago now — and rejoiced with and for her.

She told me I was the only person besides her mother to congratulate her. She has been for several years now working 7 days a week: 5 full ones in an office for the DC Corrections Department (or Bureau), and 2 2/3s day in the local Giant. Everyone else seems to have been puzzled: why would anyone give up any job? The idea she might want real time to herself is not found among the people she is surrounded by: she told me she plans to use some of it to add further credits to her degree so she may promoted again (she has a BA) and now that her daughter (in Fairfax country schools) will be learning remotely 4 days a week, coming in for a 5th only every other week, she can now have time and energy to help the daughter on weekends. She won’t be too drained. She did tell me that day she had not yet told her husband, but yesterday in an email (we have now turned to emails to stay in contact), she said he accepted it, and now two weekends have gone by says he likes this very much. She keeps her good weekday job that has not been eliminated at all, and worked in the office at first 5 days and now 2 one week and 3 the other during this whole time of the pandemic thus far — with masks, a shield, washing her hands. Her department registered a complaint and threatened to go to court to get their conditions improved in June. And she bought a house for herself and family this past June too.

It does take considerable courage for her to have done this. Thus far she is relaxing and reading books.

I miss seeing her on weekends. I looked forward to our precious 5-7 minutes each Saturday or Sunday morning. But as when I used not to see her there on a Saturday and would tell myself, good she has the day off (though during this pandemic worried a bit), I know how much better this is. She should be doing something else with her weekend time. So many other things better to do. I have pictures of her but feel uncomfortable sharing them – I have just sent one of Thao on line here (if anyone has noticed or remembers).
But I thought I would tell this one story of a 36 year old African-American young woman. She was a student in two of my classes and used to come to my office to talk over papers. She has the one child by her husband, a girl. Very good in math she tells me. Her mother and brother live together and not far away from her. I talk of her in Fraught Times (scroll down)


Pierre Bonnard — Girl Writing

And a comic: even my old stand-by prune juice has been spoilt. This is not the pandemic, but the stretch of monopolies. Amazon does not truly believe in this product and wants to make more money, to bring more customers, and destroys what was there for the steady customer. It is about preposterous amounts of money allowed to mount in the hands of single individuals; ultimately a product of a failed state that has been brought about, and that has brought us this continuing mass death pandemic. Herd immunity == death. No individual should ever be permitted to control the vast sums Bezos does now.

For some 60 years every morning I could I drank a glass of Sunsweet Prune Juice. Amazon bought the product and now there are three versions. A very thick with pulp, undrinkable; a thin version, much less calories, sickening and doesn’t do the trick; the one I drank is not manufactured to the same consistency throughout. So I have had to switch to a gourmet product, R. W Knudsen, but like the version I once drank, it is inconsistent in texture towards the bottom of the bottle. Yuk.

*******************************

Into the Beautiful —
As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone —
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
— saith Emily Dickinson

But the way in which I experience autumn for some years now has been a change of routines far more than a change in the weather. And this year there was for me very little experience of summer — indoors away from the fierce heat of the suburbs. I regretted not going to Ireland for 14 days (soft weather), not getting to the beach the way we did last autumn, Izzy, Laura and I, at Calais. I noted changes in my garden, changes in my schedules — teaching one place then the other, the Bloomsbury group, courses in one place (White American art in 19th century Italy, contemporaries documentary movies). Mornings are now dark until near 7, evenings are dark by 8, the fierce heat retreats so that only by later morning until later afternoon is the air truly hot, more rain, softer-colored skies, red berries on the bushes in my garden.


One of my two magnolia trees bloomed very late indeed; the other remained bare, withered sort of ….

The felt changes start next week: I’ll have a schedule of teaching two times, and following/taking no less than three other classes during many of the weeks, not to omit virtual conferences, meetings with friends who belong to the same groups I do (not all organized around reading). I’ve got to get at least one of my two reviews written and on the editor’s desktop. It was this way before Jim died — not since I lived in New York City as a girl was it the cool weather, leaves turning colors and hurricanes that announced autumn. The difference: now I’m experiencing all this through zoom technology in cyberspace.

The course I teach: Phineas Redux (Palliser 4); the ones I take at the two OLLIs: Kipling, and post-colonialist writing (Naipaul, Conrad); Sondheim’s music and lyrics; Emily Dickinso and women poets she influenced; the ones at Politics & Prose: New Suns — fantastical and science fiction stories by people of color round the globe; A Literary Tour of France (I’ll mention specifically one of the four books, Final Transgression by Harriet Welty Rochefort (set in occupied France); the early novels of Toni Morrison. Conferences: JASNA (on the juvenilia, no need to exclude anyone, no absurd spending with nothing to do as sessions take less than a quarter of their usual meeting times0, EC/ASECS, NEMLA (very sophisticated MLA modern sessions). Friends on zooms: an Aspergers group; for poetry by women, Washington Area Print Group. Listservs, e.g., on Trollope & his Contemporaries (just now Arnold Bennett’s Old Wives’ Tale and then Trollope’s Three Clerks); the London Trollope Society for reading Trollope’s novels, just now The Macdermots of Ballycloran (an astounding first book for Trollope; I’m to give the first summary-evalation-synopsis the first week

Fitting in nowhere but my work on Anne Finch, I’m half-way through a marvelously interesting well-written book by Claudia Thomas, Alexander Pope and His Eighteenth Century Women Readers; I honestly hope to write a blog. Mary Lou Kohfeldt’s Lady Gregory: The Woman Behind the Irish Renaissance, as an offshoot of reading Trollope’s Anglo-Irish Macdermots. Lamorna Ash’s Dark, Salt, Clear, of life in a Cornish Fishing town. Just wonderful evocation of the place (I’ve not given up entirely on Poldark and historical romance/fiction). Getting towards the end: Nina Auerbach’s Haunted Heiress on DuMaurier. I cannot be reading too many good books by women.

Izzy is also still (pray she continues with her salary) working as a librarian at the Pentagon by remote — via two computers and nowadays zooms too (she has a webcam, mic) and phoning in. The pandemic is by no means going away any time soon by which I mean thousands of people are still sickening and many dying or left maimed from COVID19. Sensible truthful public doctors (Fauci) suggest not until at least 2021 (late in 2021) will these new patterns of behavior come to something of an end. I doubt we’ll change back wholly: theaters, museums and libraries as places to visit, sports events may thrive truly and have the impact meant only in person, but much office work, shopping can be done cheaply and efficiently via interconnected computers.

I now read TLS regularly. This past week an article about fascism in the US by Sarah Churchwell, partly in response to filming of Roth’s Plot Against America. This details our history with large groups of people apparently who want to make or keep the US a fascist white supremacist society. From the way Churchwell describes people as interpreting all these “dog whistles” shows I have no idea how Trump’s lies truly play with the people determined to vote for him and see him win.

See also an article about a new “official” book of UK history that lies, omits and distorts what happened imperialistically, from the standpoint of wars, social and economic injustices: by Frank Trentmann. It is mandatory text to study to become a UK citizen. Alas behind a paywall.

I have been reading Masha Gessen’s Surviving Autocracy, which I strongly recommend. She is teaching me much, tearing away the veil through which I was seeing events, and tellings me many events in literal detail, which I either did not know or had not put together of what has been going on in the Trump administration.

A vote for Trump is a vote for a fascist (corporations in charge, militarist in all its doings, far right in all values) white supremacist dictatorship (Gessen’s term of autocracy in the US context functions as a euphemism), and a vote for Biden is a vote for a representative oligarchy with democratic and pro-social ameliorations. The glue of the first (Trump dictatorship) is money galore for those who join and punishment/elimination of all who are people of color, all women who want any rights, hatred & resentment. The glue of the second (what Biden hopes to head) is an egalitarian ideal social & economic protection & self-interest, peace, order, law, justice and happiness prime goals. His use of language, the barrage of continual lies; the use of utterly absurd ridiculous statements presented as what we must engage in, the hyperbole of hatefulness combined with bullying is what newspapers have not learnt to deal with – nor other politicians. You cannot not engage but there is nothing to engage with that makes sense and is not burlesquing previously seemingly democratic ethical behaviors.

Of course the above all shaped by the reality: thousands of US people continue to die each week the miserable death of COVID19.

As of yesterday, 9/11/2020, over 193,000 people in the US have died of coronavirus since March. It is said this is an under-estimated number. As of yesterday, 9/11/2020 a new book estimates from the wars the US instigated, sustained, keeps going ever since 37 million people have been displaced (are refugees). Millions are now unemployed, on the verge of eviction and the US congress, strangled by the Republicans who do not want to give a cent of taxpayers’ money to them votes no help at all. Trump beginning his termination of social security, medicare and yes the public post office. Every week the police murder more black people egregiously as if to let all US people know this is within their right and they are determined to continue murdering black people. This is where we are at.

Trump is still forcing people to send their children to schools through his tyrant Republican governors. A story in the Washington Post tells of how the governor has forced people to send their children to school, then succeeded in pressuring local authorities to hide the statistics on how many children are getting sick. Is this what people want: a party that is for sickness and death and silencing.

Nonetheless I asserted and put on FB for Labor Day: Emma Lazarus, the whole poem:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightening, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

**********************************


Doran Goodwin as Emma after she has managed to quit Mr Elton in the mortifying scene in the carriage, Christmas time (1972, BBC, scripted Denis Constantduros)

For the now long late evenings I’ve re-embarked on the Austen movie canon, with the aim of watching them all across the next months. I started with the 1972 BBC Emma, which I recalled as so good (if costumes are dated, and some decorums are long gone), because of its rare consistent use of ironic comedy; then the 1971 BBC Sense & Sensibility (also scripted by Denis Constantduros and I’m into the 1971 BBC Persuasion (Julian Michell). I did not start with the 1939/40 MGM Pride and Prejudice (as the unsubtle screwball comedy treatment Austen so often gets in cinema, the next the 1996 Clueless, and then 2002 Bride and Prejudice). I’m surprised how well these three hold up and vow to write blogs on these movies on Austen Reveries. An Autumnal resolution.


Joanna David as Elinor writing her mother from London, they need to return (1971, BBC, scripted Denis Constantduros)

They do have the depth of emotion that are required and also the comedy — in the 1971 S&S, Patricia Rutledge is the most brilliant Mrs Jenkins I’ve ever seen and Fiona Walk the same for Mrs Elton. What unites them is a real faithfulness to the literal as well as the true thematic emphases of Austen’s books — when in the 1971 Persuasion Wentworth (Bryan Marshall (who now I think of it played Rochester in a similarly early and very good Jane Eyre) arrives and the two actors silently interact — they are very strong presence and then the film opens out — so to speak. Out in the landscapes and gardens of some southern parts of England. The script is enough to convey the original tone and feel of the book, and it even gets better when they go perhaps to Lyme itself (they seem to on the cobb), lots of filming of the waters, the sky …


Or Anne Elliot holding on, exhausting herself with the strain of keeping up the old self-control, immersed in beautiful landscape (1971 BBC Persuasion, Roger Michell)

Or maybe I should do it by type: watch all the Persuasions in a row, all the NAS — the problem would be there have been so many P&Ps, S&Ss, and now Emmas (with the last cinema travesty returning to screwball burlesque, with a coda of absurdly sexualized soppy romance). I could, you know.

Very much belatedly, two nights ago now (into older movies and all that) I finally watched Four Weddings and A Funeral (a famous super-popular movie, said to have made Hugh Grant’s career). It is enjoyable, entertaining, enough is told about each character to involve us — though not much. The characters consequently seemed a very privileged set of people — no jobs in sight.

I could see that it anticipates Love Actually, which may nowadays be a Christmas classic (a movie people watch Christmas time). Wikipedia showed it was replicated in Notting Hill – overdone I’d say (I watched another night) with shameless fawning over a celebrity — Julia Roberts. I am reading Anne Enright’s Actress, in part an ironic study of what is meant by celebrity: a non-existent hollow private life (if one at all), and you hold your audience by astute holding slowing down of your letting go (such is acting) at intuitive archetypal moments for the character type the audience takes you to represent. Richard Curtis the author of all of them.

The movie is really just made up of 4 weddings and a funeral. As the new one begins, or just before the interim time is conjured up (only very occasionally a flashback). I felt disappointed at the ending. I expected something more unusual — it was just a love story after all, with all the couples who had not had weddings as yet shown married. The most unusual thing – the most worthwhile moment — was the death of Simon Callow’s character, gay man and his Scottish partner’s relationship to him. The most moving moment that reading of Auden’s poem — the way it was read by the Scots actor made me wish I had known it when Jim died.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
— W H Auden

Jim liked Auden’s poetry and his criticism very much — I have a complete poems, a travel book, the translated Norse (Icelandic) sagas, books of criticism. But this morning looking the poem up on the Internet I find it’s claimed the poem began life as a burlesque, as mockery. So that evening I took down or out from the crowded shelf space where “Auden” resides and looked into this. And found the poem to be an inexplicable passionate outburst.

Callow is said to have come out at the time of the distribution of the film; he has a major role in a number of Merchant-Ivory productions, the first two seasons of Outlander. A versatile man he often also writes for the LRB, wonderful essays.

*********************************


A quilt Laura’s best friend made for her (during pandemic, natch): to commemorate her present large patient brother cat, Drake, with one of the two new kittens, Maxx, and the cats who have passed on (Kira, Mitzi, Andromeda – i.e., Ani)

The pandemic has affected my faithful feline friends — and other people’s pets too, where they are all staying home together: nowadays if Ian has gotten into the habit of crying for me in another room. I am working away in my study/workroom (whatever you want to call my nest of comforts and lair) and I hear: Meow! In a howling like tone, or plaintive. I cannot resist getting up and walking about finding him (of course it’s him) standing there waiting for me. He turns and trots away expecting me to follow. I do, pick him, cuddle and bring him back to said lair while telling him he has nothing whatever to cry about. I have noticed if I go out for a time – am seen to be planning to, the cats begin to look anxious. They are not eager for this. They get out of said room and watch me to the door. They are in short no longer accustomed to long hours of my absence (much less Izzy’s, she has become a fixture)

Well Malcolm Brabant on PBS Reports had a delightful but ambivalent segment on PBS last night where he tells of how the pandemic is affecting British dogs. It seems they are coming (according to one vet) “emotionally disordered.” (See how a medical definition tells us more about the definer than the subject). They are openly experiencing (in large numbers it seems) “separation anxiety” when their “best friends” go out even briefly.

Worse yet they want to sleep in the bed with said friends and they are persistent. People give in. Worser to buy a dog now costs a helluva lot. Even rescue dogs. Then worser and worser: dognappers. In the 19th century kidnapping a dog and holding the wealthy person’s pet for ransom was even common. It happened (famously to those who read) to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Flush. Francis Power Cobbe wrote a dog story told by the dog where he was kidnapped and ransomed. The argument then and was is of course: “don’t pay it, it only spreads the crime.” But what if it is your dog. Brabant showed us only elderly lady with her beloved dog back on her lap.

A cat is not just an autistic dog. I am more loathe to leave my two than I used to be and as to boarding them somewhere, it hurts me to remember I would do that to them — they took that large cage by a strange window as fearful liminality.

A poem by Stevie Smith, a fable with a cat at the center:

The Galloping Cat:

Oh I am a cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good
So
One day when I was
Galloping about doing good, I saw
A Figure in the path; I said
Get off! (Be-
cause
I am a cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good)
But he did not move, instead
He raised his hand as if
To land me a cuff
So I made to dodge so as to
Prevent him bringing it orf,
Un-for-tune-ately I slid
On a banana skin
Some Ass had left instead
Of putting it in the bin. So
His hand caught me on the cheek
I tried
To lay his arm open from wrist to elbow
With my sharp teeth
Because I am
A cat that likes to gallop about doing good.
Would you believe it?
He wasn’t there
My teeth met nothing but air,
But a Voice said: Poor Cat
(Meaning me) and a soft stroke
Came on me head
Since when
I have been bald
I regard myself as
A martyr to doing good.
Also I heard a swoosh,
As of wings, and saw
A halo shining at the height of
Mrs Gubbins’s backyard fence,
So I thought: What’s the good
Of galloping about doing good
When angels stand in the path
And do not do as they should
Such as having an arm to be bitten off
All the same I
Intend to go on being
A cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good
So
Now with my bald head I go,
Chopping the untidy flowers down, to and fro,
An’ scooping up the grass to show
Underneath
The cinder path of wrath
Ha ha ha ha, ho,
Angels aren’t the only ones who do not know
What’s what and that
Galloping about doing good
Is a full-time job
That needs
An experienced eye of earthly
Sharpness, worth I dare say
(if you’ll forgive a personal note)
A good deal more
Than all that skyey stuff
Of angels that make so bold as
To pity a cat like me that
Gallops about doing good.


Clarycat on my lap

************************************************

And I watched another pandemic shaped Metropolitan Opera concert yesterday afternoon: Joyce DiDonato, a mezzo soprano, her reportoire far more older Baroque than I realized, and I admit I did not enjoy the songs the way I did Jonas Kaufmann and Renee Fleming (traditional tenor and soprano), until she moved into more popular songs, but then I woke up (as it were) elevated suddenly by her Shenandoah (“I love to see you), the corny, yet irresistible “When you Walk through a storm.” I like the simple black dress with wide pants, no jewels, no shoes even, the small orchestra with harpsichord and piano. She lives in Barcelona, but the concert came from an industrial center in Germany, as the only safe place just now with an appropriate hall and not a hot spot for this virus. They had had to move the venue three times to find it.

So tonight I end on her is her cabaret song (you must first listen to the end of a German art song). Jim loved to listen to French cabaret — this from Piaf, La Vie en Rose, which I had not realized, taken in somehow is about a kind of experience of absolute love I knew, here her version finding life so beautiful while you are in the arms of your beloved. As I listened I thought of all the years with him, how I would lift my arms to him when he came to bed

This was a second concert that counseled hope and courage (like Renee Fleming’s).

People talk of going to live in another country, in Europe, in Central America (which one would you trust to?), flee somehow, but rare is the person who becomes refugee except when there is no alternative but death and destruction; they will stay and endure and eek out an existence. Or would Jim try to flee, try to de-accession and move the books once more, this time back back to the UK, see if he could get for me (and daughters) a right of residence? I don’t know. He was deterred after retirement when he realized we would have to pay 40% more taxes from our income. But were he here I would not be as frightened. I do believe we need a landslide win for Biden to get rid of Trumpism. I donate money; I tried to join in on a phone bank campaign but no one would show me to do this digitally, which is what is required — to show faces?  I don’t know.  But how can it be that millions will vote for tyranny, continued lies, destitution all around. I wonder if Masha Gessen will tell me. Gentle reader, can you?

Ellen


Ian seven years ago — non-human animals are subject to people


One of my two miniature magnolia trees has unexpectedly bloomed …. as are all plant-life

Friends and readers,

Times being what they are, I have had another “cultural experience” which so stands out and seems to me so important I would rather devote another shorter blog to trying to disseminate it than telling my good friends and kind readers here about my doings and feelings in the last couple of weeks. A previous movie of this type (protest) was 55 Steps: about an autistic young woman who had to fight not to spend her life drugged in an asylum. IN that movie Eleanor had to be rescued from the medical establishment; and in this, it seems planet earth needs to be rescued from many of the apparent environmentalists, not to omit the ruthless industrialists, corporations of all sorts: Moore and Gibbs show that in fact solar and wind energy are not sufficiently reliable or strongly generative sources of power for most contemporary uses, and project after project, concert after concert, institution after institution are in fact relying (in the background) on fossil fuels. When there is a substitute for the fossil fuel, its combustion — like the destruction of vast forests, to turn them into chips to be consumed as energy, the seaweeds of the ocean — so called biomass — leaves a vast wasteland that disrupts and destroys ecosystems. Capitalism had bought out the environmental movement, and is now turning so-called “green” projects into huge profits. So it’s the same billionaire groups devastating the earth with a false front.

Like another movie I wrote about this past week, Come What May, Planet of the Humans has been almost uniformly dismissed, and/or disparaged by professional critics. The most demoralizing parts of the film are where Moore and Gibbs show Bill McKibben, Al Gore, and other gurus, and various institutions (Sierra Club) in collusion with the worst people (supported by companies run by the likes of the Koch brothers, Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg). The critics are writing for the news media which is either funded by the open ruthless capitalists or treated with awed respect as those these environmentalists can rely on to help save the earth.

The argument of this movie is people across the earth have to consume less and have to replace what they consume in the length of time the consumed it; we have to bring out population growth down too

Do watch. The film reminds me of a couple I saw years ago on fracking.

A rare favorable film review by Dennis Harvey of Variety.

But poking past the disillusioning actual results of many such much-ballyhooed ventures, Gibbs finds reason to doubt even the good intentions theoretically at work. He’s unable to find a single corporate entity worldwide whose claims of “100% renewable” energy usage are accurate.

Meanwhile, a greenwashing surface too often hides old-school environmental destruction, polluting and profiteering from the usual billionaires. In “Planet’s” cluttered survey, there ends up being dismayingly few degrees of separation between the actions of the ostensible “good guys” (Al Gore, Sierra Club, Tesla, environmentalist Bill McKibben, etc.) and such familiar baddies as the Koch brothers, Goldman Sachs and Big Oil. Indeed, a little digging often reveals they all appear to have signed on the same dotted line.

There was an attempt to remove the film from YouTube (The Guardian). Those who outline objections to the film as about obsolete conditions, as misleading, or untrue, never answer the charge that “green” companies are fronts for old-fahsined “destruction, polluting, and profiteering,”. The objectors call Moore and Gibbs simplifiers (a no-no); in an article in TLS, the conservative reviewer says you can’t get along without capitalist methods; Moore and Gibbs’s facts are of some years ago, not today. This is not true.  Moore & Gibbs are up-to-date. They include recent controversies: peoples driven off their land or their land destroyed, their waters polluted. To conclude, here is a thoughtful adjudication between the two “sides.”

There is a problem here — asking us all — especially the middle classes in the more fortunate parts of the globe — to consume less. I live in an environment which is super-hot in summer. I could not survive without air-conditioning. The only places food is available is from local super-markets or farmers’ markets. I have to buy water, gas, electricity from the capitalist monopolies in my area — like this internet connection. I have to have my grass mowed or my neighbors can & will have me cited. I don’t over-consume that I can think of except for plane trips — planes use up inordinate amounts of energy (fossil fuels). Or not deliberately. I own a small car because I am most comfortable driving a small car and ther are but two of us. So perhaps that is why the film has not been popular (able to sell itself). We can as political people try to vote for those in power who will ameliorate the increasingly destructive conditions. I would have to reread AOC’s Green New Deal now to see if what she intends is really what she thinks.

Ellen


Her book has made a splash and you can hear it read aloud and find it discussed online


The Run-up to the Civil War: Field of Blood

Dear friends and readers,

I sometimes do give over a whole blog to an important or wonderful movie or play I saw, or a course I took.  The value of this is such blogs are much shorter than my diaries of 2-3 weeks.

I want to convey the content and importance of a lecture and talk I watched and listened to last night, one in conversation form between Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Friedman.  The occasion the recent publication of Richardson’s book. She and Friedman know one another. They are scholars and historians and now public intellectuals.

It was via Zoom from Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington DC, now online, as well as open to the public for buying books, and with the cafe working.

Here are two reviews:


Goldwater in Fredonia, Arizona, November 2, 1964

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/southern-elites-western-libertarians-and-the-conservative-coalition/2020/04/17/f4352c1c-6d4d-11ea-b148-e4ce3fbd85b5_story.html

In a nutshell, Richardson’s shows how Goldwater’s defeat showed the Republicans how to build a new coalition after the Civil Rights act of 1964. Out of that defeat they pulled 40+ years of slow built-up victory to produce the fascism we see around us now

Click on the above title: despite the cover, this is a serious book showing parallels of violence then (1850s) and now (2012)

It seems Field of Blood should be chambers of blood. I have read elsewhere that pro-enslavement people openly said the way to stop abolition was to threaten the lives of any abolitionist, to beat and if necessary kill him or her – Harriet Martineau, the 19th century lecturer, woman political writer and novelist, and memoirist, had death threats on all her tours.

I had a hard time even sleeping after listening to Richardson and Fielding. They talked of how the Postal Service was attacked and censored in the 1840s to 50s. They said the measure of the crisis we are in now — that Trump will not concede even if he loses, and try to stay in power by any means if he is at all backed — is that the Postal Service is openly under attack. From the time there was a postal service it was obvious it was an important means of communication between people. It still is a life blood of a state.

Their way of talking about the crisis is different from what one usually hears. Instead of putting racism to the fore, they put oligarchy. They said the US was conceived as an oligarchy with some ameliorations; the people who wrote the constitution enshrined as an ideal equality, but they owned slaves and limited suffrage.

What is happening is the oligarchy which never went away is back in full force. They said that in the 1950s there was a consensus between liberal Republicans and conservative democrats that ideals for all were strong infrastructure (building highways, bridges, improving public transportation & communications), a strong safety net (social security, good schools) and equal opportunity for all in business; strongly individualistic all the time. But blacks & hispanics kept out except as subordinated workers (caste system).

But a wing of the Republicans (John Birch Society, remember them?) always hated this and fought (remember Buckley) against it, and ceaselessly tried to change the consensus: they won a major battle when equal time for all points of view on TV was made by them and their connections to vanish.

This powerful group (they go to the elite schools, sit on elite boards, fill local gov’ts) have worked to return to oligarchy once again. They believe only a few who are better than everyone else, more deserving, should have good services, food, freedom, live exclusive lives of privilege based on the long hard hours of work of everyone else: “mudsills” was the word in the 19th century. Mudsills now refers to working class whites and as many of the middle class whites as they can subordinate and crush to work for very little (as well of course as people of color of any ethnicity).

This group is replicating what was done in the 1850s: they have taken over the courts. They have gerrymandered the states & US senate egregiously and the courts allow now it — and they have harnessed to them white supremacists (idiot bigots), frantic evangelicals; a 15% portion of the American middle class who think they will be just fine. These people only talk about keeping women subordinate indirectly since they want their upper class white women to identify as powerful by virtue of belonging; so the issue is anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights over their own bodies as that is perceived as not threatening to wealthy or religious white women.

The pandemic has this group worried, but nothing else (they want more police), and not enough as the stock market is kept up by free money from the Fed. They are still using the word communism as a bugaboo because what they truly loathe is anything socialistic They may stop at nothing to stay in power — those in office are those obviously are not prepared to go against Trump publicly — or crooks sycophants themselves. They have oodles of money to send their children to private schools, to charter planes to their summer homes. The accumulation of preposterous amounts of money for themselves and their adherents, near zero taxes are their goals (pay only for military and protecting private property).

Richardson and Friedman suggested we are seeing a replay of the 1850s in 2012 terms. Below is a 1911 US political cartoon.

I conclude with a significant and timely essay online — by Frances Fox Piven:  how will Trump attempt to stay in power and what can we as a people do legally to prevent his taking over:  What if Trump Won’t Leave: Tump is prepared to do all he can to stay in power.  Can he be stopped?

Ellen (aka Miss Sylvia Drake)


Last Sunday at Trader’s Joe, two clerks gifted me with two bouquets of flowers


Clarycat in the morning sunshine that day

I have discovered why we all love cats: they are autistic dogs.

Dear friends and readers,

I’m not sure why but I know I experienced the last two weeks as very rough. What stands out in my memory is how late Sunday suddenly the TVs would not work, and when I called Comcast there was no real explanation and an hour after getting up on Monday (Aug 3rd) the internet was cut off. Even the phone worked feeble as the modem was gone. People say “all’s well that ends well, and after getting on the phone 8:02 am (I was told I could get someone on the phone by 8:00 am) and paying immediately the usual monthly mammoth amount (though I had sent it off in a check Friday) I got the service of four very courteous young tech men, one of them on the phone with me the entire time (he called it conferencing), and one very courteous accountant female. By 8:50 am or so all was back, working right, Izzy had started her usual job, and I had been told that all my checks had arrived:  I not only didn’t owe money but I should not (said courteous female) start automatic payment until the Friday check arrived. She advised early September.

I’m not naive. I was promised a tech visiting on Tuesday and he never came — because they knew there was no need. I didn’t expect anyone to come for real. It would have helped if someone had apologized, but I expect that’s too much candor for any company to offer nowadays. . The explanation in full is on my political blog: Trump has (as all in the US by this time know) successfully sabotaged and undermined the post office (our only hope is not permanently). What probably happened was the previous check was a tad late (it takes only a day for the machine to click that in). So I am going to change the habits of a lifetime and starting next week gradually pay all my bills online, automatically giving out my routing number to each company.

While it took all day for me to calm down some, and another day before I could sleep without a sleeping pill, I must admit that this is probably in time and experience little suffering in comparison to millions of Americans during this pandemic. I cannot pinpoint another traumatic incident over these past weeks. Indeed good things happened. I was much praised for my teaching and two proposals I put in were accepted.

For Winter 2021, OLLI at Mason, as long as it is online — 4 weeks


The 2017 Howards End

Two Novels of Longing in an Age of Wild Imperialism

The class will read as a diptych of contrast & comparison, EM Forster’s Howards End (1910) and Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We were Orphans (2000). The first examines class, race, colonialism, family, sex & property relationships from an “empire’s center” (London, the home counties), the second, these same elements from its periphery (Shanghai). The core center of both is the human needs of their characters: friendship, love, stability, beauty, meaning. We can ask how a novel of manners, (love & marriage & class stories), then a detective, picaro violent adventure (thrills abroad&c) bring to us comparable ideas about how to live, survive in the “post-colonial worlds” we live in today. There are two marvelous movies for Howard’s End (Merchant-Ivory 1990s and Lonergan 2017) and (it’s not often realized) The White Countess (Merchant-Ivory 2002) is a free brilliant adaptation (script by Ishiguro) of When We Were Orphans.  (An alternative selection if I should do this in summer:  Ruth Prawer  Jhabvala’s A Backward Place (1965), set in Delhi it delineates lives of ex-patriates and Indian friends (where periphery is center and narrator female  & British originally).


Early book cover

For Spring 2021, both OLLI at Mason and OLLI at AU, online probably 8/10 weeks

20th Century Women’s Political Novels

In this course we will travel across 20th century wars, politics, and social life through the lens of four masterpieces of fiction & memoir: Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September (1929), a story of an Anglo-Irish family during the 1920s civil wars; Olivia Manning’s The Great Fortune (1960), a story of the fascist take-over of Rumania in 1939; Lillian Hellman’s Scoundrel Time (1975), Hellman’s experience of the McCarthy era, 1950s USA, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970), which dramatizes African-American experiences of life in early to mid-century America. We will learn about the authors, times & places; ask what is particularly the woman’s perspective; and how what we learn relates to earlier and our own era. There are excellent film adaptations of Bowen’s novel (with Fiona Shaw, and Michael Gambon in major roles) and the whole of Manning’s Balkan trilogy (The Great Fortune is Novel 1). We may also discuss the WW2 film, The Watch on the Rhine, whose origin is Hellman’s play (movie scripted by Dashiell Hammet)


Laurie Simmons, Woman in Bathroom practicing home maintenance (photographic artist, probably later 1970s).

I successfully colored my hair by myself for the first time in nearly half a century (I was 24 last time): using a kit I bought online with Laura’s advice, I made it a very pretty soft blonde-brown. It’s real improvement. I don’t mind the hair longer as mine won’t grow past my shoulders (the ends keep breaking off).


Later 18th century illustration of the picturesque from Batey’s book

You may remember how I failed to get to a conference on Jane Austen and the Arts a few years ago now (wow, say three years) after I had worked hard on a paper I was calling “Ekphrasis in Austen’s Novels” (a bad sign that title). I had not realized quite how far the town it was held in was on the edge of Canada. I had to learn I would have to take two planes, two cabs, or drive 11 hours, or accept some hellish train ride & 2 cabs for nearly 2 days. It was a disaster to have to admit to the conference organizer I couldn’t do it. Well now I have been given the book that emerged from that conference to review, Art and Artefacts in Jane Austen, ed. Anna Battigelli. I am certainly all prepared to evaluate. I found my two excellent blogs on these matters (far better than the paper I was laboring on) as a first step: one on Mavis Batey’s JA and Landscape (from which one of the pictures is taken) and Ekphrastic patterns in Austen. So I will be “with them” after all if only in print and communing through writing and reading (not bad).

But I almost feel like Francis Poldark who, having failed to kill himself by shooting himself in the head, is asked by Dwight Enys (Richard Morant), how he could have thought of such a thing when he has so much to feel good about, says, with sardonic irony (Clive Francis was pitch perfect), “oh don’t break my heart with joy …. ” — for the subliminal worry, upset, sense of the world on edge for very good reasons, has been very bad — and justifiably.

I’d have to be obtuse, heartless, and believe I cannot get directly hit again, not to be aware of how rough these three weeks have been and felt it too: over 155,000 deaths in the US since February, millions about to run out of unemployment checks, to get eviction notices, and Trump’s solution is to try to cut the payroll taxes on working people’s checks so 10 years (or less) from now someone can say social security is out of money, and the only security left from FDR’s era will vanish. I feel sick if I think on these things too much.

I ask myself, are there are other countries without a decent functioning post-office. Perhaps. Which ones? some miserable dictatorship? this is what Trump & the Republicans have brought the whole of the US to. What next? social security of course.


From 1975 BBC Jeremy Poldark: scene at Truro

I don’t sleep well either and am very grateful for Izzy’s continued presence and sane sensible scheduling of herself; I told onto my sanity by keeping to my routines — I know have for projects I work on – now two reviews (the other for the new standard edition of Anne Finch, and I do some wonderfully interesting reading as far as I am concerned, no matter that ony a very few in the world would understand my deep interest in translation in the 18th century, how women read Pope, what plays they put on when they were rich aristocrats in their great halls …), reading Trollope’s La Vendee and about the counter-revolution in France with others on the Trollope&Peers list, I carry on with lifelong singlewomen and the historical romance.

The grimmest essay I’ve read in a long time doesn’t bear too much thinking on: the writer, Susan Moser Stuard calls it “Single by Law and Custom: what it’s about the hundreds of years where enslaved singlewomen were everywhere and badly exploited in all sorts of ways, and how they hardly ever speak in the records and are mostly erased. You see they were not permitted to marry; any children they were impregnated with were automatically enslaved. The content of what people who were free and by law said about owning these women, and what they forced these women to do all the waking hours of their lives is so repugnant. I wondered when did this form of enslavement end — Stuard keeps saying how convenient enslaved women are, how their children by law were in their condition (automatically enslaved – this is come across in Morrison’s Beloved).

We might say it has not ended because of trafficking with women as victims as real and in some parts of the globe even common – but they are not chattel slaves, it’s illegal and they are not regarded as subhuman by law.

Today I returned (so to speak) to Cornwall, Winston Graham and Daphne DuMaurier: Nina Auerbach brings Graham’s misogynistic modern suspense books into a perspective that makes them understandable through reading of DuMaurier’s embodiment of men murdering women. Evenings very slowly now through A French Village, with the companion books, I am seeing how much I missed or failed to understand (one poignant moment, a disabled man who cleans the schools is wrongly “thrown” to the Nazis as a thief), the witty stimulating Andrew Marr on sleuths, spies, sorceries. I visited a friend of mine yesterday, she lives alone, divorced, 74 (to my 73) and we watched the whole of Amanda Vickery’s At Home: in Georgian England. I wrote about her, her books on 18th century women, and this one documentary here:


The rich three hours are based on extensive reading in contemporary letters and biographies in library and private archives

Since writing this I’ve come to think I am being unfair — or not praising her work and documentary as strongly as I should. She is signalling more than strong feminism: she is deeply humane but is making a mainstream “sensible” appeal to. One important theme in the last third of the hours is how important our space is to us, control of it, how we make our homes reflections of ourselves, self-respect and the meaning we want to give life embodied all around us. How women were often very deprived of this if they were spinsters or left alone without an income as a widow — or spent their lives as a servant. Both genders if they become very poor — or old and ailing and without funds. So the problem we face today when we grow old, alone and not well off, is the same the 18th century person did — she is talking to us about us as much as the era. She does not omit a visit to Chawton cottage and look at Jane Austen’s tiny frail writing desk.

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One last flowering bush for August

So what can I share with you to go off and enjoy next thing? I recommend (if there’s still time) watching the second Met Saturday afternoon concert: Renee Fleming was just spectacularly beautiful in voice, exquisitely perfect in emotional performance; she provided her own humane sensible talk inbetween.  I even loved her clothes — a gilded kind of pelisse coat over her an elegant  varied blue-color dress. She has a voice with a distinct appealing timbre — as, had Pavarotti, but as a woman no one emphasizes or even brings it up.

Song after song well chosen; some favorites from operas, but others not that well-known songs that fit her voice – and the occasion. She kept in mind this terrible pandemic and all that has been happening outside her sphere. Perhaps fault maybe found with two brief films about her life, but they were not over the top-hagiographic and it was interesting seeing what she looked like in her twenties and began her career. She had dark hair.

I am torn whether to share her singing Il mio babbino (Gianni Schicchi) or Somewhere over the rainbow by Harold Arlen, who, if you didn’t know, wrote hundreds of songs you are familiar with, and was blacklisted and hounded in the 1950s for his socialist beliefs. I cried several times and the re-arranged Arlen song was one of the moments, but it’s not a problem as I can’t find a YouTube for either from this particular performance. This is four years ago in Berlin:

And for International Cat day (today! — or maybe it was yesterday): “The Cat Came Back” from a old Muppet show: very funny, adorable cat, but determination of “owner” to get rid of the cat (a bomb) makes last fantasy much less comfortable:

The Cat (Le chat) by Maurice Rollinat (1846-1903) as translated by Norman Shapiro. It seems to be very difficult to post a pdf to wordpress or face-book either in the new style postings or the old. So, thanks to Michelle Cusack, I hope I am sharing this wonderful poem this way; click on the URL below and when you see “next” click again, and you will come to The Cat. https://tinyurl.com/y3k5sj6v

Here are the first few stanzas Englished so you know you are in the right place:

I know why Baudelaire fancied the cat,
Struck by the sphinx-like magic of his being;
Thanks to the wheedling charm, the luster, that
Darts in long jets from his lynx-like eyes, all seeing.
I know why Baudelaire fancied the cat.

Women’s, dove’s, serpent’s, monkey’s lissome stance
Back arched, he sprawls, and shuns heavy caress,
And when the fur cloaks his fleshly elegance,
Plastic his beauty’s velvet loveliness:
Women’s, dove’s serpent’s, monkey’s lissome stance …

In the half-light’s muted oblivion —
Rumbling ennui like spell-cast pall — he brings
Gently, to the alone and lonely one,
The soothing balm of mystic utterings,
In the half-light’s muted oblivion.

By turns doleful and gay, sleepy and spry,
This soul of my secluded digs will loll–
Table to highboy, chair to hearth, low, high–
Sparing the objects of his folderol,
By turns doleful and gay, sleepy and spry …

On the desk, ink-stained, as he whisks, a-strut,
Light as a breath, his tail flails left and right,
Over the papers strewn, books open, shut
Grazing my beacon-thoughts, casting their light
On the desk, ink-stained, as he whisks, a strut …

[Read the two more pages below; it’s as felicitous in the original French which is in the book too, only you must click away to come to the the back of the book. I don’t know if there is a name for this specific kind of stanza: first line repeats in fifth of each stanza and lines rhyme ababa. Also in the French.


Judith Moore Cheney’s Cat in the Round

And for this with a heart for a poor loving dog, Paul Auster’s Mr Bones, from his inimitable story of a dog’s life (scroll down), Timbuktu

I finished this book wishing I could have been there (which is what you are supposed to feel with a novel) to love him with the final kind good heroine, Polly, trapped herself and yet insofar as her coerced thwarted life permitted caring for the the compassionate dog in need himself.

Tonight Mr Bones stands for a world of human beings who deserve so much better from and for everyone.

Ellen


Seascapes — Sara Sitting (I am not sure about this title or artist but very much like the image)

On morning early this week (Sunday) I remembered when in the mid-1970s Jim and I lived on Seaman Avenue in Manhattan (200th street, below the Cloisters hill) we would summer time on Tuesday and Thursday take our dog, Llyr, and drive to Jones Beach in the morning. There was a beach where dogs were allowed. We’d bring coffee & croissants for ourselves, water and biscuits for Llyr. We’d go in the water, stay close to shore (no life guards). Those were happy mornings long ago … I thought of this as I saw my neighbors, two married gay guys taking their dog to a nearby private pool …. the difference between now and then — includes then it was public beach, now it’s an expensive private pool. I did long to get out of the house, go to where the horizon stretches out and stand by the world’s waters — thus the above image by Sitting

On another I woke remembering a dream Laura outlined at the end of our time with Izzy in Calais last summer: upon retirement, she’d buy a second house for her and Izzy in Florida or some warm place, & they’d live there winters; and the present house I occupy summers — though now I’m thinking it’d be a bit hot here. They could sell my library and go to Vermont. I ahd found the idea of them together when I am gone comforting. I would not worry so about Izzy and feel better about Laura having a good companion

My image for this was Beatrice Potter’s Two Rabbits because Jim as a boy read the Potter books and even into his old age would suddenly quote from a scene or refer to Jemima Puddleduck or wry Potter characters

Last The comet. I am told there is a comet in the sky just now. One night around 10 pm Izzy and I took our binoculars and went for a walk around — that’s when the sky is dark where I live. We didn’t spot the comet — I don’t know what to look for. But we did see a sky filled with stars. Not strong as light pollution is too pervasive but we did see a sky just twinkling with many little lights. And a couple of stronger ones too. A comet apparently looks like a moving star ….

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been almost three weeks now and I’ve made no entry because during mid-day I’ve been busy (driving myself to work on my Anne Finch review, immersed in the true wonders, good values and texts by and about the Bloomsbury group), and at night so tired, watching A French Village (up to season 6 now — what an education about real life politics during war), and as usual often melancholy, depressed, so worried about this endlessly spinning out calamity (COVID19, the devastation of unemployment deliberately spread by Republican-Trump policies) and how it might affect Izzy and I. But I do have a topic to share and performers to recommend: my education in the context of the US educational system generally speaking, and (among others) the comedienne Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette and Douglas.

Last week was the time OLLI at AU runs its “July Shorts:” these are courses which last just one week, and take place anywhere from 3 to all 5 days, about 90+ minutes each meeting. (They do the same kind of thing in February each year.) I could not myself teach such a course, and even going to them when it means driving there can be too much of a burden. Last week it was just sitting in front of my computer three times to participate in a four time course on the American education system (or some such title) so I registered and zoomed in. The two men leading the discussions, lecturing presented excellent material: good information, thoughtful commentary, genuine explanations for phenomena. I had to miss the fourth, because it took place in precisely the same time as each week I once a week give a course at OLLI at Mason on the Bloomsbury group: 90 minutes on the status of teachers K-12 (low, 80% female and white still) and the history and developments in chartered schools. While I trust my every instinct to distrust privately funded (you must pay as a parent to some extent) this is a means to destroy public education, to turn desperately needed good education into profit-making ventures (like medicine), and to pull in taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to support turning schools into places with a false appeal of supposed choice and exclusionary policies — while I am distrustful I would have liked to hear an unbiased account.


A Community high school

Their over-riding theme was the need to make the system far more equal for everyone; as presently conducted the way US education works, its effect, is to increase the inequalities or (to be more frank) set up inequalities among children from day one, reinforce class, money and other social disadvantages. To produce badly or uneducated children whose whole outlook is shaped by narrow ill-informed prejudices. This is achieved (it’s wanted) by a mechanism or reality which lies at the core of all US inequality and social ignorance: residential localism. All education in the US is controlled locally, by localities; the schools are funded locally (by a town or at most city), with some controls placed on what they can and should teach and how they must behave by state laws. The state provides funds too, as does the federal gov’t (8 to 15% depending on how poor the district is, so the poorer get 15% or close to that, and the richer 8% or close to that). Any change in this is fiercely fought. As with the delivery of medical services in the US, the whole thing is endlessly fragmented, done differently in different states, with endless pockets of people in effect isolated from others — even nearby. This is exacerbated by he complete divorce between K-12 and post-secondary or higher education. The two groups run on different tracks, and both are (as a result) somewhat hostile to one another due to caricatures.

The public picture of schools in the US is distorted and falsifying — especially in the post-secondary area where education is suddenly expected (by many Americans) to directly lead to or produce jobs. It does not. Parents and students are paying for a certificate in an area of knowledge; nothing more is (literally) contracted for. The picture the public has as de rigueur or common is a four year college aspiring to at least look like Harvard, small private campus college, or state-supported be-prized institution measured by the US News and World Report. Only 17-18% of young US adults go to a four year college. 80% of young adults are enrolled in some form of publicly-funded post-secondary education, many of which are community colleges, which are weak on needed vocational training and apprenticeships. The fancy internships for upper middle professions are found in the 4 year institutions (and pay nothing). The average student is 27 and the majority are female, perhaps married, with one child. She is looking to “better herself” in the commercial marketplace. As to elite schools that are written about so much (this is the public media pretending that the small middle class is pervasive) less than 2% go to colleges like Harvard, Stanford — and where my younger daughter went, Sweet Briar (she had what was called a complete scholarship so it cost each term about what George Mason did for my younger daughter six years before).


This is a private and charter school — all white

K-12: 11% of children to teenagers are in private schools, of which 9-10% are religious schools, aka schools run by overtly religious groups (or in the south where there is more than a pretense a Christian academy for whites — these sprung up after Brown v Board of Education). The children of upper class and middling parents are taught self-esteem, self-assertiveness, how to cope with others and negotiate your way through life, to be pro-active for individual initiative at home; they have books at home to read; by keeping them away from the rest of the population, you leave that rest to become unexamined obedient instruments of capitalist enterprises — with the emphasis on obedience to group norms and acceptance of punitive measures to keep them that way. They are not to expect “perks” like art classes, music, shop, Advanced Placement (with better paid teachers) where they might learn what are their particular gifts.

The way the game is kept this way is fragmentation — the same thing is done in the area of US medicine (and now we see how US medicine is delivered is horrifyingly inadequate if there is any question of truly serious illness in the population). Those in the richer districts do not want to share their money with others. Most married Americans with children chose where they live in accordance with the schools available in the area. There is a tremendous gap between governance (those who govern, school boards) and anything to transform achievement gaps. No comprehensive school services across many districts (like social workers, nurses)

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Duncan Grant, The Stove, Fitzroy Street

All this for four days and watching what the 40 or so people in the class looked like as they listen, what they said made me remember my own experience. In fact my education enabled me to escape a stultifying working class background, and today still (even after Jim’s death 8 years now) live a life of the mind immersed in high culture in a comfortable house with books and nowadays computers. I am not altogether an anomaly because between the years 1946 and 1970 other trends and left-overs from the FDR era mitigated some inequalities, plus the way to be promoted and thought well of is through academic style tests where your ability to cope with language and math (symbols) are tested, your ability to memorize and what you have read and studied made the groundwork of the tests. On all these I did spectacularly well — as did Jim. Jim got 800 on both GREs to enter graduate school; I got 800 on the English and 798 on the math, at which he quipped: “Ellen was always weak in math.”

I know one of my prides is this education of mine: that I have a Ph.D. is central to my ability to hold up my head. I know how I was relieved to go to grade school to escape my parents’ house with their continual fierce fighting and the tensions and miseries of poverty and anger and frustration. It was a mecca. I know that once I got into my senior year in high school and throughout high school, college, even graduate school, I loved going to classes. In talking on FB of what colleges cannot do to set themselves up to teach students kept socially distant I remembered how for a year at Leeds University (for which I won a scholarship, my year of study abroad where I met Jim) I was given a tutor one-on-one. We met once a week to talk and together study Chaucer and medieval English and French romance. How scared I was at first of the professor; how young she was with a silver urn. I read so carefully each week. I also had wider tutorials with 4 students to a lecturer. Then Izzy at Sweet Briar had similar experiences.

But I also know what I didn’t learn. As I sat in a public school in the southeast Bronx where the majority of students were African-American or hispanic, I was put into a tiny group with “real books” to read – sometimes I was a group of one. The others were reading workbooks, Dick and Jane; I was reading books like Mary Poppins. I spent some of the day making posters. But I learned no manners, my accent stayed thoroughly southeast Bronx, I never took in groups of attitudes I encountered for the first time at age 10/11 when my parents moved to Kew Gardens. Ever after I was something of an outsider. There I was in groups of children with abilities like myself only I was behind in math and science — and no one took the time to teach me fractions, long division, how to do percentages. I still stumble and only my test taking ability, memorization, and ability to work out what a paragraph wanted got me though the Regents. We did have Regents in NY state so the high schools were forced to have teachers who did spend each year covering the curriculum for say chemistry or European (called World) history.


Another Duncan Grant — this time of Vanessa Bell painting, David (Bunny) Garnett reading, studying

Jim went to a “public school” in the UK — these are private schools for the elite — as a day boy in a different colored shirt (to show he was there without paying) because he did so well on the 11 plus, it was called. But he was merged with upper class boys from age 11 to 18 and that enabled him to know how to negotiate and cope in a managerial position, at conferences, he understood expectations. He had a silvery pure prose — from years of learning Latin and translating back and forth from Latin to English. He hated his school at times – he was caned five times and still had the welts on his hands when he was in his 50s. Like me in a different way an outsider, his politics he said were philosophical anarchy. He was deeply sceptical of all professions of ideology.

College came to me because I was living in NYC where it was basically for free. I had to come up with $25 a term. I got in through the night school. Never took an SAT exam, but within the first term, got all As and so switched to daytime college. Jim’s fees were paid for by the state — the Clement Atlee reforms were still in place. I know now how odd it is for me to be proud since I never went to a name school, cannot tell of knowing this or that person, but my expectations were so low to start with, and it’s what your expectations are as you start out that you measure yourself.

I did hold out. I refused to sell myself – I would not spend my life in a 8 hour a day 5 day a week job to make a higher salary. I was able to do that by being married to Jim and accepting that we would live on less, have less things people admire in our house, or clothes, prestige house. And it is chancy but then had I spent my life working at what bored or irritated or embarrassed or was trouble for me I would not be any safer as to money. To be truly safe you must be very rich in ways Jim and I (he with his gov’t job where he was promoted based on his intellectual abilities) never came near. And we spent what we had, I still do what is coming in, to enjoy life as we went along. We did do traveling as I have done since without him. I shall miss going to the UK if this pandemic makes it impossible for me to return to Europe safely. I was comfortable in the Scottish culture and norms; each time I returned to England I felt such cheer to think this is where he was born, where he became what he was. He valued me for what my education had made of me or what I had done with it to make myself what I was and am when we met at Leeds and throughout our lives together.

I did grow irritated at the course because when I would speak I could see that what I had to say was not wanted. Many of the people wanted to pretend they were for equality more than they were and they wanted to remain upbeat and talk of hopeful changes. One of the two leaders twice told a story of a teacher making a home visit and how the hispanic family all came out dressed just for her. I had a home visit when I was putting Izzy in the pre-school: the two women I learned later wrote up a very hostile description of me and my house (all the books offended). It seems Jim and I were at fault for my daughter’s disability. Others kept talking of how important success outside school, in businesses, was — in ways that showed they had no idea this is the kind of thing that cannot be taught. It is social cunning imbibed from your family habitat. I told a little of my experience in a southeast Bronx public school – it was not appreciated because it was downbeat. One was to be constructive. Large abstract pessimism is good, not local true-to-life anedote which exemplifies stubborn real obstacles.

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So this piece of genuine autobiography in the context of a course I just took has taken me time to write and space to do it in. So I shall save for next time some of the wonderful books I’ve read these past 3 weeks, movies, art works looked at, music listened to, Laura’s kittens, and end on music and comedy. Now just onto experiences I’ve had I would not ever have been able to without so much coming online — ingenious people determined to reach everyone at home, to socialize, to make money in their professions.

This past Saturday I took a chance and paid $20 to listen to Jonas Kauffman in concert from the Met. At first I shuddered at the hype introduction, over-dressed woman, and began to fear this would be glittering commercial phony-ness, but bear with the opening 8 minutes, and they leave you alone to listen and watch. An hour and 20 minutes of moving magnificient songs from this handsome and extraordinarily talented actor-singer. Sometimes he was in an old (Baroque?) Bavarian church, and sometimes it was clips from him in costume in a opera. I just love his “Pourquoi me reveiller?” I learned to like and to appreciate and love opera through my 45 years with Jim. The songs sung made me remember our relationship

And then Hannah Gadsby. I have joined online an aspergers group I could never have reached, am attending regularly and making a few acquaintance friends I look forward to seeing again. We talk about things I have trouble with and am given good advice. How to stop interrupting people at the wrong time when I am just trying to join in. What I’m doing wrong? — I am not recognizing their flow of talk and its origins and understanding where it will subside. They meet once a month to discuss a book or movie or person who is known to be autistic or writes about the condition.

It was 10 at night and I had been thinking somehow that I had not laughed in a long time. This is probably untrue. Only I couldn’t remember any true exhilaration either — well only inward exhilaration. I had promised for a coming Zoom session to watch Hannah Gadsby, an Australian comedienne “out”as autistic and lesbian. I did laugh and she made me feel better. On Netflix: I’d say I laughed more during Nanette because she did startle me, but the second,Douglas, with her dog as its center, was brilliant. I gathered from both “autism is seeing what no one else has noticed” and autistic people because we are different and vulnerable are more patient, tolerant, accepting of other people in all their variety Here is a clip from Douglas:

What awoke me to a certain cheer was my thought a way to understand her is: :if I can stand life on these terms, amid these cruel and inane absurdities, so can you.” Douglas contains one of the most brilliant exposures of quite what we are looking out in some of these fossilized religious devotional pictures. Hardly anyone really looks at them.

Then I read into a new humane Guide to Aspergers Syndrome by Tony Attwood arguing strongly the label should not be dropped. It is a different quality of disability but nonetheless disability. Nanette closes with her re-telling how she was attacked at a bus station.


Izzy’s new chair

While we are on this subject: this past Sunday Izzy and I managed to find a store Jim used to take me to to buy decent well made furniture — wood mostly. Izzy badly needs a new chair and I could use a small table in the kitchen. What a time we had! Very nervous trying to remember the name of the place and then the street. All I could think was chair store and Edsall Avenue. Well google and mapquest finally turned up a photo of the place that I recognized. I find things out by pictures. So, armed with 2 printed out mapquests, and Izzy programming Waze (then plugged into i-something or other, after which we turn off Godsford Park music and voila there is that lady’s voice), we made it. We have figured out how to put Waze to sleep (not to quit it, that’s not possible apparently)

I did get confused coming back and was nervous the whole time. My mind continually slightly flustered. I had not been out in the car to a new place in quite a while — I cannot find the category for this in Attwood’s book — it is probably under movement in space but there is nothing specific. I have hunted in the book. But Izzy bought a pretty ivory colored wood chair. She looks so comfortable in it. Here is her latest song:

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I never was able to find the place near us where there is testing for COVID19. I did discover that in the Alexandria there are places where you can be tested nearly for free, several cost starting $50, and many many more $150 – $300. Nuts. Why do some cost $300 — luxurious surroundings? But why try for anything labelled $150-$300? I have to find the place too. Of course Kaiser will test us but we must have symptoms to be eligible. She is to go into to work at the library this coming Thursday and may start going in once a week. She has fashion masks, santizer, and I have ordered a face shield for her.

Have I mentioned this time yet that I believe unqualified uncontrolled predatory capitalism everywhere in our lives in the US is at the core of the failed society of the US we are now experiencing — one result of this is thousands and thousands of deaths because we have no central govt that wants to do anything but exploit and abuse us. So another result of the miserable state of education across the US today and I end where I began this diary entry blog.

Ellen


A cat face-mask made for me by a person in one of my classes

Friends and readers,

Before telling you of a small achievement I managed week ago, and about our lives over the last half-month, I had a question for all who come to this blog — it was not rhetorical. I wanted an answer:

In the US we are now into well over a hundred thousands deaths in the US from COVID19 and each day the numbers of infected, very sick, and dying or maimed people increase. We don’t have to live with this — sickening & dying by the thousands? Going in and out of lock-down, so people lose their jobs once again, with far less savings to carry them through. There is a way to contain and to suppress the coronavirus. Everyone across the US who is willing be, can be tested and then if positive, all contacts traced, and everyone testing positive put in quarantine. Keep doing that for 2-3 months and the virus is contained and suppressed. The US has the billions to spend. Even if some people refused, or some communities refused to test and trace and quarantine, enough would and could be argued into this, to make a big difference. It would be enough to start to contain even if not suppress the virus. Why does no one propose this? why do reporters not ask any of the people they interview this, including Trump — and repeatedly.

Gentle reader, this was answered for me on FB, look on my timeline for the conversation: in brief, too many people & whole groups of delusional ignorant people in the US would refuse; these are joined by large enough groups of people who will not pay any iota of tax for anyone that they don’t have to, and finally an insufficient identification of many groups of people in the US with differently ethnic and racial groups as a community. The leadership we have reflects and exploits this dire situation. So, having let the first lock-down go by with doing nothing, and now this open up and acceleration, we would have to lock-down first and then begin the testing, tracing &c. It is possible that Biden could get a majority of people in some areas of the country to cooperate and we could try to control and suppress the virus in those areas of the US. 39% of US people voted for McGovern, for Mondale, it’s a stable size body of people but scattered and rendered powerless in comparison to their numbers when it comes to any general scheme. Greed, hatred & fear, ignorance encouraged, gentle reader, at the heart of it all: the exploiters and exploited may outnumber and certainly outvote and nullify the 39% I speak of.

I have told you the main news and the response of many local, state, and federal gov’t — inertia because even if some places are closing down bars, restaurants and other large gathering places, the rest of the public world remains open. And testing is not general and continual. Here in Virgina Izzy & I looked into testing, & we discovered Kaiser will not do unless we are having symptoms, and that even if they did (or other public places offering this), they are not tracing our contacts and not attempting to quarantine. So it’s useless except that we know we are not infected and can with more confidence see other people who might have been tested and know they are not infected.

This is so important that (as in my last diary entry) I must lead with it, and make it the context, the framework, the insistent atmosphere of all we do in life — wherever we go (few places) and whoever we see (hardly anyone and from far away). We do make contact online – I through email, FB, twitter, lists, zoom session; Izzy has had two phone conversations, one with a young man she met online and the other with Thao


Statue of Samuel Johnson’s cat, Hodge, in Gough Square in London

Another insistent context is the exposure of the constant killing of black people by whites and by police in the US, and one specific reaction as a way of making visible that black people are demanding that they be treated as equal human beings the taking down of racist symbols, of statues put there to intimidate, and the removal of names meant to insult them. Statues are emotional sites and we do pay attention to them; they have an importance as do names. They are asking at a minimum, that the police be reined in so they can live, and also hoping to gain more traction to live better with more progressive policies that include or are aimed at their well being. So Johnson’s cat is a symbol of kindness and loving companionship between a man and his pet cat From Boswell’s Life of Johnson:

Nor would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature … I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, “Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;” and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, “but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed [admittedly selective quotation.

So I want here to say how I see we are doing & why we are doing it when we take down statues, for as I was with all the people who demonstrated, protested, and yes those who were violent and screamed and raged, so I am with them in taking down these statues of military men especially everywhere: we are doing this as I understand this by taking into consider what specifically the statue is of (who depicted), how it is functioning in the communities it is set among, and of course if it is intended to cause or to threaten harm to people around them, which includes an understanding of who put the statue up, when, for what purpose, what it is supposed to signify. Is it intended as an insult, racial trolling (as when in Alexandria, Va, where I live once segregated wretched looking schools where only African-Americans went were named after ferocious killing Confederate generals), to intimidate. Lee in Virginia. To celebrate enslaving, killing, turning a people into suppliants. Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Museum of Natural History, NYC.

We need to notice to how many statues are militarist, pro-war, “great” men on horses with guns high up on pedestals. I’m for taking all such statues down wherever they have occurred and stopping all manufacture of any more.

I looked to see if I could find a good depiction (clear, accurate, appealing) of a cat by Hogarth (Johnson’s friend, also 18th century) but alas I could find none: he did draw, engrave, print, & sell a 4 part narrative series called The Four Stages of Cruelty where he showed tormenting, torturing being cruel to animals functions as a prelude, replacement or as part of cruelty by those people who are cruel to other people. I cannot bear to look.

I do feel for Hodge as a statue out in all kinds of weathers. I imagine him sometimes holding himself together when he is cold or wet. Nearby him is a bench. Many people do not appear to notice he is sitting on one of Johnson’s books; this one probably intended to be one volume of Johnson’s dictionary. My cat sits on my books, my computer, sits by me in and around my chair, lays all over me when I am in bed. You can see a depiction of the oysters Johnson would go out early in the morning to buy for Hodge.

So there is the world this unhappy fourth of July

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Izzy on Father’s Day

To ourselves (Izzy and I), the London Society Trollope zoom group I was participating in finished Framley Parsonage and started The Last Chronicle of Barset, and I was asked to give a thirty–minute talk on the Last Chronicle out of the blog I had written on the novel when I finished it with my groups.io friends. Well, the talk (a thirty minute paper) I gave seemed to go over very well. Here is what you need to know and here the YouTube video (yes I am too low, but for next time I have bought a bolster cushion and will be seated a bit further off):

Further to this, I started the second round of teaching my course The Bloomsbury novel, and am having a bit of trouble because the etiquette over on the OLLI at Mason online has encouraged an attitude towards the experience which assumes that most people will appear as black boxes with their names, that the way to be together is for all to be muted except the one person who is talking (and when he or she stops, they re-mute themselves. I find this so counterproductive, if the goal really is to have a classroom experience online. I today wrote the class the first of the two weekly letters I usually write my classes, and in it urged them to behave otherwise.

I’d like to ask all the people in the class who are able to (have some form of webcam), to make yourself visible. I think one thing that gets in the way of discussion in a zoom setting, are black boxes with people’s names (or some other label) in the middle on them. I can’t get to know or remember people this way. If I am differing from what you’ve heard or been told, well I think and feel differently about this. I asked for a meeting style, and kept the numbers down so that we could have a version of a class meeting online and people participate actively. I admit I probably let too many people in as there are two screens of people, but I’ll struggle to look at both if in general people are visible and respond by raising hands.

Don’t forget to use the chat, which we have in this meeting version of zoom. I go a bit further and say when we come to discussion parts of the time together, after you’ve unmuted yourself, it’s fine to stay un-muted. I do. If you have a problem with noise, that’s another thing but if you have no such problems, it will enable a flow of conversation instead of long pauses while someone finds or makes their un-mute mechanism work.


ClaryCat on Father’s Day

Some funny experiences: my cats and I have grown very close and we reciprocate now through talk and just realized mutual feelings, gestures, sounds.

So what happens now is when I have to keep Clarycat out for the 80-90 minutes when I’m teacher online. ClaryCat the girl does not like this one little bit. As the 85-90 minutes wear on, she becomes more insistently vocal, and begins to scratch and push at the door. She is unaware of how fragilely the latch is nailed into the door-frame, and if she did thrust, she might pull the latch out. I open my door upon clicking “leave meeting,” and in she rushes. And then she proceeds to scold me. She circles me and comes in front of and squats down and meows very insistently. If I walk around and keep going she follows, circles and squats again. Meow meow meow! Or she stays by me, meowing. She is just not having any of this. After a while, she calms down. And now we are back in my room together, she in her very comfortable (soft round knobby surface) cat-bed near my desk. I am paying the bills so she & I can stay in this space together (most of the time) for (I hope) a long time to come.

Most of the time when I go out I put my cats outside my workroom lest they get entangled in wires or bored and do something untoward. And they know the signs for this. I get up, take my handbag, the phone, sweater on my shoulder, somehow look “getting ready.” Turning off my computer is an especially grievous (to both cats) sign. My violent-purple LLBean suitcase in my room leads to all sorts of behaviors showing their anxiety.
Well today I noticed a new signal alerts them. I put on my face mask. Toute de suite ClaryCat was rising, murmuring against this, but, knowing what was about to happen inevitable, jumping down from my desk and trotting to the door. I find this so sweet. When I return most of the time she comes to the door and turns with me towards the door of my workroom expecting me to open it, which I do. Then in we go.

Izzy is all set up with her new PC, wifi, webcam, mic, speakers, the lot. She carries on teleworking from home, and has been told she need not start coming in because she hasn’t a car, and perhaps someone has a conscience about the Metro as a petri dish. She says she also told them she has a 73 year old mother. She reads and watches all sorts of programs — TV and Internet series (many seem to be on-line conversations between people); she practices singing.

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For Father’s Day — when these commemorations began I don’t know. I hope they are not an invention of holiday card companies. Still my awareness made me remember my father who was born 1921 (July) and died 1989 (December) and my husband born 1948 (October) and died 2013 (October). My father would instantly have recognized the profound danger Trump represents, the evil he is, and predicted he would win. When he died, we were no longer living on the terms of understanding we once had, and that gets in the way of my saying I miss him. I miss what we once had. For Jim it’s not even yesterday. He would have wanted to return to the UK, but Teresa May had put paid to my having any change for permanent residency as his wife.

I took a photo of three of my flowering bushes in commemoration. The dark pink re-flowered, the yellow and white are new ones my mowing-gardening man planted for me (I forgot to tell him to plant perennials so I’m not sure they have any chance of coming up next year). I put them here in remembrance. My father did not at first have sympathy with Jim and I buying this house (“what a shithouse!” — we were at first renters and it was in bad condition, or we could not have afforded it), but he had begun to see why we liked the house, and a couple of years later during the day on a couple-of-days visit with us, he said, “It’s beginning to look like Seaman Avenue [our long-time apartment in NYC up under the Cloisters[, to which Jim replied, “These things take time, Willie.” Jim would not have been surprised to see what I’ve made of my sun-room [the enclosed porch he could never make up his mind to agree to, lest it cost too much — without him there, I was able to hire a man who did not have a license and he built it much less expensively than the building industry’s codes would have allowed]. But he would have liked its comfort, sunshine, and lack of any pretensions.

Jim was born in Hampshire, grew up in Southampton, I met him in Leeds when I was there for a year as a transfer student from Queens College, CUNY, NYC. When he died, I wrote this obituary for him. Clarycat was much attached to him, grieved for him for days, she sat in his chair for over a month …


Jim with our dog Llyr, 1972, in an apartment on 76th Street

I am at the same time reading on, more books, looking at more art, thinking more and just loving the thought, art, world of these circles of people. Just now finally coming to the end of Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting and feeling so sad it’s coming to an end. Since I have so much to read, that is not a common feeling with me. I am, for example, moving at a snail’s pace, in order to be able to critique the new standard edition of Anne Finch, to expose its narrow-minded careerist (morally and aesthetically dumb) agenda. I join in on zooms among small groups of friends, or for a particular topic (Jane Austen). And watch movies, among which the most important and best is the 7 season series, A French Village. I’ve mentioned this one before and will end on it tonight.

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The Parade through Villeneuve November 11th

It is important: here’s why. And I’ve written about the first two seasons. I’m now nearing the end of the fourth.

Season 3: The Gestapo has entered the village, and Jews are being rounded up and they are told they are to be put on a train for Paris. Then rumor has it they will be taken to Poland. They are being treated horribly, cruelly, starved, humiliated, three have now killed themselves.

What is extraordinary is that the film-maker has set up the situation based on the idea that nearly all the Jews and all the French, collaborators and not, have no idea these people are going to be sent to their death. I’m not sure all the Germans know, some do. What is being conveyed is that the idea they are being sent to be killed never enters the minds of most of them – because it is so extraordinary. It is such an outrageous horrific unthinkable thing to do – until we are after it’s done — in 1946 and all see what happened. By showing how such wretched treatment of them still does not evoke in most minds what could be the aim here. they are told they can take only one small suitcase. It’s strange but they don’t think about this beyond that maybe there is no room or the suitcase inconveniences their masters.

Caroline Moorehead’s Village of Secrets. The point of her books (including A Train in Winter) is to vindicate the Resistance from 70 years of denial from the right, trivializing them and turning them into “thugs” or naive simpletons. A French Village party keeps that perspective up, and partly vindicates or explains how decent people came to collaborate. By the end of season 3, Judith de Morhange emerges as a woman collaborator: she just can’t conceive that what is about to happen is extermination. Dr Larcher, on the other hand, is beginning to see that there is no compromising with these people, alas only beginning.

The slow creep still goes on. I was struck by one moment where Marchetti (whose conscience bothers him) asks Servier if he can get a letter to his wife’s mother. Servier looks astonished and puts him off. Marchetti asks for an address. Servier’s face turns to stone. In that moment my guess is we are supposed to see that Servier knows these people have been sent to their death or are dead and had not realized Marchetti didn’t know. Or if he knows Marchetti didn’t know, did not realize how such a question would be “natural.” Marchetti says he doesn’t why a natural letter and address is not available. He seems not to guess – the truth and horror of this is as yet so unthinkable.

It is not unthinkable today. Were trains to come in and take black people, we would all immediately think extermination.OTOH, the US population has not risen against Trump when he broke all laws and intentions of immigration and separated parents from children and began to throw all the people in privately run prisons. Trump’s new rule for hospitals tells all medical people you need not treat LGTBQ people.

I wonder if in 1942-43 there were the same kinds of murders of Jews everywhere — they are profoundly unsafe wherever they are in the world of the series. The point is made that gradually the very worst people are rising to key positions (as with Trump) and now the mayor is someone prepared to slaughter anyone he doesn’t like — anyone called a Resistance person, communist, whatever.

No Jew is safe anywhere from anyone. This reminds me of what black people repeatedly said during the protests, demonstrations & riots: they can’t leave their houses without being afraid some small incident will cost them their lives. Indeed Taylor was murdered in her house – not the first. I keep my eye on how many disabled people police murder with impunity.


A brilliant actor plays the sadistic Nazi officer, Muller

Great ironies at the end. Marie’s photo in the paper and Schwartz runs over it with his latest girlfriend. It is beginning to penetrate though except in the scene where Muller gloats over how he kills groups of Jews and can get individuals about to be killed to dig the mass graves to Hortense Larcher, it is not explicit – -to penetrate individuals the people sent away on the train “will never come back” i.e., are being killed somehow. But that this is a strategy, a plan for all Jews is beyond comprehension

Some very ugly portraits of women. Much to my astonishment Hortense, Dr Larcher’s wife, prefers the sadistic Nazi Muller to her husband — this after he was prepared to torture her and wounded her arm. Schwartz’s wife tells him she loves savagery — I take this to be a slur on all woman’s sexuality and something brutal men want to believe, but the program has Hortense as another prime example. So too Marie with her affection for Schwartz: while he is not altogether devoid of any principle, he is profoundly untrustworthy and un-principled as a principle.


A Jewish young woman, Rita, refuses to accept Marchetti’s deportation of her mother (some might), flees him but is (we learn) re-captured

Women are presented as irrational: Beriot’s wife, Lucienne, loves him now because he has learned some physical technique and we watch her pray; she is against the Resistance. Marie is the most competent of the resisters — and a prostitute whose name I didn’t catch (what an old myth here). The two Larchers are now our emerging our heroes, together with DeKevern and Beriot.

The old lie about the Nazi-Soviet pact is worked tirelessly to condemn communists as if every minute of their conduct is controlled by it. There are superb books about occupied France reviewed in the New York Review of Books: it was the communists and socials who resisted the Nazis and fascists, and who the allies were determined to throw off once their use was over — for they had supported fascism itself as a bulwark against socialism and communism for years. The article does ample justice to twists and turns and details. Who Resisted the Nazis.


Three in the Resistance group

As I come near the end of the fourth season I was moved to compare A French Village to Renoir’s famed Grand Illusion (as I saw that for another course where the sentimental teacher conceded how Renoir idealized and mourned the death of an older aristocratic world — where aristocrats transcend mere local wars …..

Not only is Grand Illusion too kind, and too idealistic (especially about individuals confronting one another), with the women and captors sentimentalized (like when food is offered to prisoners so politely), but Renoir believes in this film that people in general will hold out, be brave against the threat of death, he does not begin to comprehend what people in general will accept, do without thinking of cruel consequences, how communities will dissolve. A French Village is sincere in its depiction of the hardness of people and how they seek first to protect and second to place themselves. He does not come near to understanding or dramatizing how weak bodies are.

I do think the depiction of some of the women in A French Village is unfair: two especially who are shown to be drawn to cruel men they know will turn on them and do. Two of them do push back: one flees her lover once she discovers he deported her mother (and everyone now knows to death), and the other tries to kill herself by hanging. The third is kicked out by her sadistic Nazi officer lover. I did wonder to what extent women collaborated with Nazi men, collaborators and police and military for protection. They are show as active in the Resistance the way the men are (in Grand Illusion they are only sentimental lovers or prostitute-like)

Grand Illusion is itself filled with naive illusion.


Beating, hideous food, torture a matter of course in A French Village (not seen anywhere in Grand Illusion)

This may be too much of a detail for anyone who has seen the series to remember. The fourth season culminates in Antoine pulling off a spectacular stunt, which both unnerves the Nazi-Vichy regime and inspirits the townspeople — & the Resistance fighters who pull it of: Antoine and his training soldiers. The Nazi attempt to force young men into enslaved labor in Germany has backfired for a number of local village young men have fled to the wood to join the Resistance under an emerging new leader, Antoine. They stage a parade across the village bridge (see above still), hold a ritual ceremony for (and on) November 11th for WW1, where the French (let’s recall) were on the winning side, play La Marseillaise, sing & dance. For not very long. To do it at all is astonishing — which to me at first seemed a senseless stunt but which when it succeeded did have meaning and added strength to the Resistance when the Nazi regime was unable to hunt the men out. Perhaps this is improbable, but I suspect some real incident lies behind this story

They had to have trucks, guns to some extent, but most of all cut off communications — cut off phone lines, radios, telegraph and get the occupying force out of the village. They do this – our focus is the two women who disable the radio – Lucienne and the new singing teacher, a Resistance person and it turns out lesbian. But quickly Muller (no fool) realizes a phone call which directed the occupying force to hurry to the next village was a key moment. I cannot remember who made the call. Was it dramatized? Or was this the sort of thing mystery-detective stories often do – I am to infer from what people said who did it? This is so frustrating. I will give this series that I feel I should have been able to infer (or saw ti) because generally speaking they do not go at lightening speed and everything is developed coherently with explanations emerging as we go along. I asked but no one remembered who made the phone call? I suppose I could re-watch the two (or maybe three) episodes to try to catch it … I do have the time ….


At the Window, an early 20th century painting whose title and painter I do not know

Ellen

The Ides of June


Vanessa Bell


Maxx pussycat confiding, trusting

… thou mettst with things dying, I with things newborn — Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale

Friends and readers,

For two weeks now I’ve watched from my computer scenes of protest, demonstration, and high destructive violence, burning, smashing, stealing, the defacing of buildings, walls, and the toppling of statues, across the US, and (it seems) across the world, from France to Hong Kong — and have in spirit been with the enraged, suffering, and immiserated people. The relentless brutality of US police has been before the eyes of the world; they treat the people they are supposed to serve as the enemy, armed for war. The murder of George Floyd has this week been followed up by more murders; people have remembered the murders so shocking that rose above the hubbub of daily news, and tonight there is evidence of literal lynching: two black men found hanging from trees, Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsh, 45 miles apart. Meanwhile Trump’s gov’t with its no plan, no money for anyone in true need, and anti-mask posture is leading the way into a second wave of COVID19 deaths. Tonight the figure of 117,000 dead was cited. Unemployment massive, food-lines everywhere and long.

I can’t begin to outline Trump’s destruction of the US gov’t agencies set up to help people and save our environment; his crony takes over the Post Office in 3 days. My anxiety is over a coming possible coup. People in western social democracies profess surprise that this wealthy country with its extraordinary sites of bio-medical science has worse conditions than most of the world — they forget for decades the US gov’t and its agencies destroyed all new social democracies, set up death squads and periodically does what it can to make the peoples of South and Latin America into serfs and the peoples of the Middle East unemployed & desperate for any job, any place in highly conflicted theocracies. The difference is now the US gov’t has aimed its cruelty at its own citizens in massive numbers. A war on the middling classes like elsewhere.

Against all this there is not much material for hope. Some police reforms are being enacted into law, some de-funding of them, the one in Minneapolis abolished (my own experience is for this), and in some states attempts to open up judiciously, slowly to institute anti-COVID19 social practices. Today the US supreme court affirmed that the Civil Rights amendment includes LGBTQ people.

I led with Laura’s kittens because they are oblivious to all this & appear to have realized they have lucked into a wonderful home, and enable Laura to put photographs of them on FB and twitter looking adorable, heart-melting, close ups almost hourly.

I did come across in TLS a review of a book by the artist Leah Goren, Catlady who in slight sketches captures profound love:

I feel any diary or writing in the US today that does not take into account what is happening here shows a moral indifference and simply sheer stupidity — as if to suggest the bell is not tolling for that person too. We are as yet not gone over the cliff into the fascist dictatorship Trump is taking all to; we are as yet in one of those “intervals” between the rule of crushing cruel force; there is still time and place not just for protest, for good things for the human spirit, “breathing holes”, “snatching [an] opportunity while the going is good.” These words are E.M. Forster in his famous “What I Believe” — and Biden may yet win the presidency, enough of congress go democratic, so we may yet not be overwhelmed, and those left (who can) set the world moving back towards a humane order and (who knows) something better than we had emerge again. I don’t mean we should count on much, but maybe it will not be as bad for so many (it’s been worsening for decades) as it’s been of late. Some new patterns are very worrying: the enforced continued de-personalization of daily business contacts.

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For ourselves, I will be teaching online in the fall, & Izzy will not have to return to going to work until August, and then not all 5 days; I’ll drive her to nearby and pick her up; the library has but five people in it as staff. She has bought herself a new computer. We had much worry over the installation. The guy forgot to bring wifi, speakers, webcam and mic. It’s a PC.  I did discover how we have wifi in this house: it comes from the comcast three boxed in my room; Izzy’s is just behind mine.  But you need software in your computer to access it without a wire.  All okay now.  We have altogether 10 computers in this house if you add in cell phones, ipads, her gov’t laptop (her now partly retired laptop is not broken and now resides in the dining room).


George Inness, The Monk (1890)

I have begun my classes and one is very enjoyable and instructive: American Artists in Italy, 1740-1860: the lecturer presents slides of beautiful paintings by individual artists about whom he knows a good deal. OLLI at AU.  The man is a German scholar who means very well.

I joined on in a wonderful two hours with people who understand how to read and we poured over Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry: because of this I have a much better understanding and appreciation of her work and am starting reading towards a foremother poet blog for her. Here is one which is not very well known — it was published after she died and apparently not in my edition of the Complete Poems:

It is marvellous to wake up together
At the same minute; marvellous to hear
The rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
To feel the air suddenly clear
As if electricity had passed through it
From a black mesh of wires in the sky.
All over the roof the rain hisses,
And below, the light falling of kisses.
An electrical storm is coming or moving away;
It is the prickling air that wakes us up.
If lightning struck the house now, it would run
From the four blue china balls on top
Down the roof and down the rods all around us,
And we imagine dreamily
How the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
Would be quite delightful rather than frightening;
And from the same simplified point of view
Of night and lying flat on one’s back
All things might change equally easily,
Since always to warn us there must be these black
Electrical wires dangling. Without surprise
The world might change to something quite different,
As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
Change as the kisses are changing without our thinking.

The joy of loving companionship. Two more sessions with Aspergers friends and I’ve learned more about myself through Temple Grandin (a movie and her book, Animals in Translation).


Dora Carrington, E. M. Forster

And my 4 week class on The Bloomsbury Novel appears to be going well. A moving moment came today when one woman said she wishes Forster had had the courage to publish his book, Maurice decades ago: it would have helped her to come out of the closet. That is, she opened up before us all. I tried to register this and reciprocate by saying how in the early 1990s when I first read Mary Pipher’s Saving Ophelia, it was an explosive mind-opener and relief for me; I could see I was not alone in those years of abrasive loneliness in a regime of predatory male heterosexuality and complicit female support for it. I did my level best to bring out how one need not be homosexual to enter into the bewilderment, alienation and emotional pain Forster’s hero knows for years, and then with a release and relief join in his joy with his companion, Alec. Here is the syllabus for the 6 week version I begin in a week and one half.


Elizabeth Russell Taylor

A friend gifted me with a exquisitely appropriate (for me, knowing my taste) group of books, all the way from Germany. She seemed to do this for the years of my efforts on the three listservs (now on groups.io); I began them this morning, — Margaret Macaulay’s The Prisoner of St Kilda: The true story of the unfortunate Lady Gange (restraint characterizes this one too, deft concise and suggestiveness) — and resolved that I would keep up from this line of books two of my TBR longed-for piles — one of 18th century women (fine biographies and studies) and the other of Scottish/Irish women (fine novels as well as critical books). Lady Grange crosses both. And I’ve piles with books by and about men in them too: early modern, and just gems left from my Italian Jewish reading: Giorgio Bassani’s The Heron, and Carlo Levi’s Fear of Freedom.

I got such a kick out of a map my friend sent: you open out the folds and it shows you 30 of the locations where the five seasons of Outlander has been filmed, most of them have been in Scotland. I miss the programs and am awaiting a DVD of the 5th season now.

And I read some wonderful writing this week: the two fictionalized biographies in Woolf’s Memoirs of a Novelist (Joan Martyn and Miss Willatt) ironic and persuasive gems of historical fiction, her “Gypsy, a Mongrel,” exquisitely sad and touching, yet so natural about a dog; her “Rambling Round Evelyn” brings him before us; Jacqueline Banerjee’s Literary Surrey, two sections, one on Evelyn and the other Forster. Woolf’s fictionalized biographies  I suddenly realized Vita Sackville-West’s biographical work on Joan of Arc and Anne Lady Clifford was the result of her identifying with them as manly woman, cross-dresser and lesbian.  Well, duh … All this for the Bloomsbury course …

And I was able to join in on an interview online of Francesca Wade (Square Haunting) that would have happened in York, but was instead placed in Zoom webinar online — and she talked of her book in plain simple terms that are not available in book writing and the led me to return to her book and read Eileen Power’s Medieval People and buy her tremendous Medieval Nunneries, c 1275 to 1535. The last time I communed with this book was in the 1980s in the evenings at the Library of Congress. I still have my old notes and xeroxes.  Well now I have the book itself in front of me.


The illustration makes me recall Remedios Varo’s pictures, e.g.,


Embroidering Earth’s Mantle

I think to myself how often in women’s novels do we get this scene of our heroine being encouraged, helped along, loved, bonding with a Mother Superior nun. From Claire Fraser and Mother Hildegard in the Hopital Dragonfly in Amber, to Anna Bouverie and the Mother Superior Ignazia at St Saviour’s in The Rector’s Wife: Claire is encouraged to become a doctor, Anna, a teacher of German and French. The older woman and young one. Frances de la Tour perfect for such parts.


Saving someone with the help of her dog — Outlander, season 2

Some lines from Shakespeare’s Lear as re-worked by Alan Bennet into his Madness of George III, spoken lyrically by Mark Gatiss as the recovering king (National Theater on-line)

These were the high points in the last two weeks for me — when my heart sung.

A more mixed pleasure: I’m following a Future Learn on Penhurst and the Sidney family poets — of the early modern period.  I was chuffed at long last to see Gary Walker whose work on Mary Lady Wroth’s sonnets I used so to admire. He spoke frankly about the real pain her work, and I watched Glasgow students enact parts parts of Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia (out of Euripedes by way of an Italian translation.  I realize Mary Sidney Herbert Countess of Pembroke’s Tragedie of Antony (French classical concoction in English) has a Cleopatra who is fully noble, plangent, as a conception much kinder to woman than Shakespeare. Jim and I visited Penshurst — or was it Wilton House?  There are pictures of Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (coerced marriage, love liaison with cousin, Wm Herbert, and two children by him) – I loved her father, Robert’s , harsh poetry just as much. I dreamt once of writing a paper on her and sending it to a learned journal. I did start a biography ….


Lady Wroth

A virtual Dickens conference instead of the yearly extravaganza in California at the Dickens museum. I was able to listen to and see several remarkable Dickens and Victorian scholars speak.

The OLLI at Mason on American poetry, modern, has as a teacher a published poet, a man who makes big deal out of knowing “scenes” and inner circles, disliking academics, a bad chip on his shoulder, very dogmatic when the class basically emailed him to ask for discussion (to be sure from what a couple of people said, many there might not be capable of understanding what is good poetry, how to talk about it). His choices are mostly white males (three females briefly, all white), but he presented a cogent guarded but convincing history of American poetry, especially de- over politicization since the 1950s.  The socialistic and radical poetry of the 1930s to 40s, social critiques silenced, and US poetry becomes all about self, says he. I’m not so sure or I doubt it.

I had some low points too: when (should I say) a long-time frenemy who has caused me so much grief to the point of last spring provoking a bad case of dermatitis, and scapegoating me off the Janeites list for good did it again (she got under my skin as they say) — though not before scores of eyes: a half-phrase meant descriptively (her reactions to these demonstrations are more white than mine) was excuse enough to vent her contempt for me, withering (because she knows she can get away with it) and vow never to email me again. I should have written, is that your arrogant promise? Alas, I didn’t. I was too stunned.

The OLLI at Mason staff is again pretending to but not helping (just the opposite) the teachers to cope with their zoom stuff. Extraordinary: they try not to give out the codes to the teachers individually.  The woman running it is a bully, with a dense face. Perfect for our era. I had to pull teeth to get the code to get into my class zoom.  I am supposed to have one session today with a site assistant and she didn’t give me the code for that. I’ve not gotten the code this morning. For your class you are told to “click” here and like some child are supposed to stand for not knowing. Hours later: I did have the training session and discovered that the problem was pressure on me to lead a Webinar (a kind of TV show where I see nobody nor does anyone else except for me; it allows for hardly any real class discussion but does allow for a couple of hundred “viewers;” perhaps it looks good on paper and they think will fool people into saying they have had a class. But all know the difference. I resisted and now have to trust again to these people and hope the meetings come over, 6 of them. As someone told me in OLLI at AU, worry not, it’s on them to make it happen.

Perhaps I miss some of the Poldark talk I used to join in with on an FB page devoted to the books (a vindictive FB owner who loathes critical evaluations worked to exclude me — these are fan places — again I was stunned, but again all this occurred where there is nothing to see), I miss reading the comments as they helped keep me at that project through reminders of Graham’s Poldark texts. The historical fiction project as a writing goal, is in retreat just now. Laura used to tell me to stay away from such places, ask me why I went there? I keep away from the Outlander FB on my own now as its material too is turned into open sexual fetish all too often or in this fifth (perhaps wearied material) season, they fall silent. One cannot learn from such places what the material they are talking about is even about. I suppose that is not much different at core from too many academic studies.

I return to my complicated work on Anne Finch’s poetry and life. And there I am fretting: undecided how far I should try to expose the craven career devotion that has led to the new edition omitting so much of her inner life, the actuating emotions and beauty in the poetry that would make her poetry come alive instead of remaining a historical dead-weight. I too have to have a care not to offend. The work goes very slow as I return to the manuscripts once again, combing through to decide, is this her? is it a corrupt text? is it any good?

Adieu until next time, on-screen as they say,


Susan Herbert’s Brief Encounter

Ellen


Statue of Julian of Norwich by David Holgate, west front, Norwich Cathedral

Friends and readers,

When I saw the above photo I felt nothing in visual art came so close to expressing the emotions appropriate to what has happened in those countries where over the past couple of months the coronavirus has been allowed to spread, sicken and kill thousands upon thousands of people. Where 1 in 4 in the US who previously had a job, income, is now unemployed, countless millions not knowing where their next payment for rent is coming from, as another countless line up for bags of food.

She caught my eye because on Trollope&Peers we have been reading Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, and I had just finished the long chapter describing in detail the 15th century cathedral, with all its figures and characteristic elements and ornaments as yet semi-intact. It accompanies a story in the Times Literary Supplement (May 15 2020, pp 24-25) where the essayist, Stephanie Sy-Quia, tells the story of Nana, her grandmother’s life, which included a period as a nun, and another studying for an advanced degree where Nana wrote on Julian of Norwich; Sy-Quia is helping her mother to move the grandmother into a retirement home, and they are conveying a bookcase full of her favorite books to be re-read and re-read (see TLS,Books to End a Life with“). The grandmother is fragile, not far from death is the feel, and there is a meaningful conversation before Sy-Quia must leave her there, the essay ending with these words: “That’s how I like to think of her: on her balcony in the sun, book in hand, intermittently sleeping.”

Hugo finds in the chronicles and figures of stone that make up a centuries-old building meant to be a haven the meaning Nana finds in re-reading (among Nana’s listed favorites) Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger, Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise, C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. This week I turned back to the beauty of Roger Fry’s philosophy of art and found some humor in the divagations of Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights‘ satire on airplane flight: from Godzone:


I prefer the French title

Tokarczuk works at not to write a book that can be labelled woman’s novel (horrors!) but in some of the many interwoven stories (the book is the closest 20th century book I’ve seen to Orlando Furioso), we are back to a female narrator who is a version of the authoress. First some funny vignettes depicting the “safety rituals” in airplane terminals (“they confiscate her nail clippers, and she laments the loss, because she’d liked them and had been using them for years” — I lost a favorite barret that way) as well as the “plastic airplane food,” but soon we are into her email – which she can still reach: “if you are not on the Internet, you don’t exist” (tonight the Burney Society opened a page on FB and a page on twitter and asked us all to click “like” and become followers. And we get a story of a love affair. We learn it was 3 decades ago at the time she was involved in “taking part in a massive program aimed at eliminating pests” (weasels opposums), anything that makes human beings sick. See that. Prophetic. Written before this present pandemic: she goes to the doctor and they do everything they can which appears to be “scanning everything they could” (in her body), diagnosing it all and sending her home.

She has a gift for light lucid prose and her translator, Jennifer Croft conveys how extraordinary it is such a massive machine with so many people can behave like a bird. She does make a mistake: she seems no to be aware of how noisy, crowded, overlit are airplanes; she is in the middle seat of a long row of small seats and all we are told is she is “uncomfortable.” That’s all. How about the skin of the next person near yours? She falls asleep, watches her screen with complacency.

***********************************


Lindsay Duncan as Anna Bouverie

These last two weeks I finished the spring courses I was attending on-line, carried on reading for my review of the new standard edition of the poetry of Anne Finch, and towards the course I hope I get to teach “on-screen” so to speak starting this Monday. I was beginning to feel some courage about it after a group training session two weeks ago and then a one-on-two 101 session with a generous-hearted person who will be co-host with me, until today I was among 5 people who were not sent the promised codes to open the meeting as host. I emailed several times and got no answer by phone either. People in the class told me they got the class invite so the course will go on, and I assume they do mean me to teach it this Monday starting 1:45 pm. As my co-host told me, “It’s on them, their responsibility to ensure that we are up and running no later than 1:40.”

I’ve been reading Framley Parsonage with an on-line Trollope Society book, as well as mesmerized by Joanna Trollope’s The Rector’s Wife, at the core of which is a modern re-write of the Rev Josiah and Mrs Mary Crawley story, and have been asked and delighted to say yes to give a twenty-minute talk on the Crawley pair. I’ll do him as Trollope’s Jean Valjean, and end on Joanna’s updating of the abject woman. does justice to the inner workings, modern style, of a rector humiliated, not promoted &c&c while at the same time showing us the Mrs Crawley figure, an Anna Bouverie (the Madame Bovary allusion is there as contrast) trying to build a life for herself of some liberty and finding out how hard that is.

I realized today that the Lucy Robartes’s journey-ordeal where she risks her life to nurse the ailing unto death Mrs Crawley (from the endemic typhoid is as relevant today as the Crawley one. Lucu’s story is not carried over except perhaps as part of Anna’s perpetual working hard for everyone else, high good-humored intelligence, and wry scepticism towards self-destructive self-immolating choices

I also hope to join in on three courses online at this OLLI at AU, which sound very appealing: four sessions on good or classic American films (last night I watched City Lights, the first, Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, and was absorbed and enjoyed it far more than I thought I would); on American artists in Italy from the mid-18th century to World War One (I’ve long read about this topic and have two sets of marvelous picture and essays books on this English-speaking ambivalent art scene in Naples and Rome); the last on modern American poetry, 1940-2020.

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A new French law requires masks be worn in certain public spaces, but it is still illegal to wear religious attire that covers the face

None of this pushes away from my mind the bleak world not far from my neighborhood, seeping into it in fact. I chose David Holgate’s figure because she is also wearing a scarf. In this now literally sick world I abide in objects take on symbolic value that is as pernicious and counter-productive as the groups of people in this country who support the criminal con-man Trump. I am speaking of course of masks, surgical face masks, which all medical authorities and people who know anything about these coronavirus say, together with washing one’s hands, can go a long way to stopping the spread of this virus. I wear a mask over my face, wrap a scarf around my head. From a young child I have had ear-aches if I go out when it’s at all cold or windy without a hat or scarf around my ears. But I also like to wear a scarf, a head kerchief. Jim used to worry my more Muslim-like ones (two presents from students long ago) would attract hostility.

Well, now Trump has managed to politicize masks as well as scarves so not wearing a mask becomes a political statement showing your strong support of Trump and all his policies and attitudes (among them hatred for all people of color, including people of Asian descent), your disdain of fear of the virus and behavior shaped by concern not to spread it to others or catch it yourself. This intersects with attitudes towards the police, towards law, towards violence, towards women. The result is a witches’ brew ready to explode into mobs of armed thugs (these include military style police) destroying non-white people, democrats (yes), gay people, Jews, women seeking liberty for their bodies. Not to wear a mask, or wear one made to look like a flat cut up and you are marked as Maga — something to be proud of, especially if you don’t get sick; you want to work as opposed to these sniveling non-person immigrants whose deaths don’t matter.

This is in the autobiographical mode so here’s what happened to me this morning as I walked to the post box to return a DVD in order to get a DVD of Temple Grandin (for a zoom meeting this coming month with a serious-minded aspergers group). I went with my mask firmly in place and a kerchief on (have I said I wear a kerchief to protect an inner ear which hurts if I go out without a hat or kerchief until it’s very hot). A woman who lives in one of super expensive houses dotted all over my neighborhood (this one the result of a ridiculous renovation which made it into a one will walls of glass, appropriate to standing on a cliff — seeing its absurd transparency, they put curtains everywhere and filled their yard thick with greenery) was across the street with her daughter, both w/o masks. They are the Greenwich, Connecticut type republicans, part of the wide swathe of seeming reasonable people are callously cynically supporting Trump to keep their taxes low and make an American which serves them (hand and foot). I stopped and looked at them sort of pointedly. The girl went back in the house. I then carried on (of course no talk; we’ve never been introduced that I can remember – this place is filled with snobs), put my DVD in the post box, turned round to walk back and the woman was just putting her mask on as if she had not seen me

Fuck these people. They voted for this man. He has now attacked free speech, what he threatened to do before he became president. Before he won he said he would change the libel laws insofar as he could in an effort to end free speech. So twitter rightly at long last marking his lies and incitements to violence are his excuse, and he has a sycophant lawless Attorney General behind him. Net neutrality went when he took office. Read what is happening in Iowa, Texas, meat-packing factories where workers were forced back into lethal situations. People sickening every where and the death rate goes up. 40% of deaths are still whites

Governor Northam has not sent police out to enforce much of the closing of shops and I’ve discovered many did remain open — especially those run by people who dress like the Trumpite-base types. There was an incident where police were sent to stop a large party in a white neighborhood and it was stopped, the people were indignant and it made the papers. I think the purpose of the masks is twofold: they do stop the virus and if you wash your hands a lot that helps. But it’s that Northam wants to make a point life out there is dangerous and you must do all you can to avoid sickness. He is a physician and democrat. Trump by carrying on not wearing a mask does politicize it and the South Dakota governor can cry all he wants, and plead with his state citizens to wear masks to protect others, but Trump wins. Not wearing a mask says this is silly or it’s courageous or there is nothing else to do (nonsense – we could support all workers and businesses all summer with the money now given in billions to corporations with democratic consent). That woman didn’t want to wear a mask. It’s a bother – and she allows her daughter not to wear one. Like (my guess about her) she couldn’t give a shit what Trump is – she wants all the money and privilege she can have, she banks on being white to make her less likely to get sick because of how and whom she lives with.

A friend (white) told me someone in her community (or on the Net in a group she’s in talked about this) called the police when someone was not wearing a mask. Someone else defended this person for calling the police. The person defending was then subject to loads of abusive emails calling her a Nazi and threatening her. Now it’s been shown by numbers since masks started in this pandemic that far far more black people are stopped by police and their mask demanded. I would myself only call a cop if I felt my life so directly in danger that I was in less danger from the cop — I’ve tried to teach this formula to Izzy who twice has been badly bullied by police since they don’t understand disabled (autistic) people, and once it seems almost came near arrest for jay-walking. I would approve of the person calling the police on principle but in reality myself never call a cop for such a purpose. Once in my neighborhood Izzy was bullied on a bike by two black children; one of the women in one of the houses looking on called the cops: I was told later they visited the black people in the next impoverished neighborhood and those children will never be back her. How peculiar I felt to have had Izzy’s disability turned into a weapon against black people. Look what happened to George Floyd. I grew up in the Southeast Bronx and know police there were utterly involved in the drug trade. Yes as a white woman, especially now I’m older white cops have identified me as “like my grandmother,” and not that long ago I had an encounter with one where he became hysterical because I did not obey his every utterance and got out of my car. I was at risk for my very life. So police in the US are not simply instruments of peace, law and order because they have been given license by Trump to kill and by the society to imprison vulnerable people for a long time with impunity.


Temple Grandin

Here is where the US now is, and I live in this edge toppling us into a fascist (goes without saying I suppose) dictatorship. A calamity of such a magnitude that it has driven people into their houses — it’s a kind of paranoia turned into a way of life. The EC/ASECS group met in a zoom and while we are determined to have some sort of conference, it seems that in October the wisest and most possible thing is to do it virtually. I enjoy my Aspergers group which meets more frequently; in two weeks we will discuss the excellent movie, Temple Grandin, and whatever of her books and essays we have read. For me it’s Animals in Translation and one on how women experience autism.

More of the way the virus affects just me and Izzy:

In this conversation Fauci talked about reasonably efficient and continual testing before letting students back on campus this coming fall, with intervals of 2 weeks and then tracing and when someone falls sick, isolating them.

We had heard that over this week Alexandria and other Northern Va places would be testing for coronavirus for everyone. We were told places to go but they were all only for one day at a given place and for a limited number of hours (start at 10; I forget when ending. We were unable even to get in. The one nearest to us was disorganized, far too many people, far too few officers and people doing the work.
The fuller story (for those into details): I tried to drive Izzy and I to a testing place, worried lest we catch the virus going for testing (we washed our hands, wore masks), worried about waiting for hours and so on (I brought 2 books, she had her cell phone), but none of this happened because I failed completely in finding the entrance that the police wanted cars to come in from. In all the years I’ve lived in Alexandria, Va I always came in from the front entrance or a back street near the front entrance (Duke Street), never came to the Landmark Shopping through a Van Dorn entrance. I could not picture it; Van Dorn as far as I can picture it is a very busy 3 lanes on either side highway type street. I had no idea how to find this entrance. They just shooed us on and there was no sign anywhere for how to get to the Van Dorn entrance. I discovered I had forgotten my cell phone, could only picture and mass transit junction where the other entrance was said to be (and a different shopping plaza right off it). Well I drove home, located cell phone (whew) but then found that for Landmark Mall (where the testing on my side of Alexandria was said to be) there is only one address. The one I tried to come in at. When I tried to google other entrance, the name Van Dor landed me with instructions to to the plaza. So we had to give up. There was no way someone like me could find it. Izzy was disappointed.

Not near enough money, thought, organization put into this testing. Then what about tracing? Of course what is needed in time appointed encounters and this is available only through your doctor. We are told soon state-wide testing will be offered to people past 60 and people beneath a certain income (to try to reach hispanic and African-Americans). Tomorrow we will see our friend, Monica, who works 7 days a week, 2 in a supermarket, but now gets off every other day during the week.

We spent the rest of our Memorial day our usual way. She wrote, drew (she has taken courses in drawing and art now), practiced and sang her latest musical composition, watched TV, participated on the Internet. I read, studied, posted, wrote. Both of us our usual routs on just about all the days of the years (except when she goes out to work, I out to teaching, courses, museums, together to plays &c). Also we exercised, & separately walked in the neighborhood. At night I watched half way through the excellent 1990s BBC series, The Rector’s Wife (featuring a favorite actress of mine, Lindsay Duncan, when young) and all of Carrington (Jonathan Pryce, Emma Thompson). Our cats did their things too. Had Jim been with us, our day would have been similar — only with his witty presence to inject gaiety into our hearts.

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Matisse, A Young Girl Reading (1905)

The news is not all bad as some large percentage of the US population — a majority in fact, though their votes are nullified, they are disenfranchised, gerrymandered out of counting, are against this kind of fierce overt capitalist militarist state. I am not alone in calling for a boycott of all airlines. Now! I don’t understand why people are getting on these airplanes where, far from social distancing, people are packed in as closely as ever. If all Americans refused to get onto these planes until the seating arrangements were changed to at least allow some separation, the airplane people would change their planes. Boycott these bastards who got billions from the gov’t to tide them over ….

Some are still leading decent lives in their solitude attached to the world through zooms. My older daughter, Laura, and her husband, Rob, have adopted (bought) two kittens. This past year they lost two beloved cats to death and the cat that is left to them (they began with five) has been as lonely as they. Here they are, sweet tiny baby cats: at first very frightened upon coming into their new home:


The vanilla ginger tabby, Max, the greyish tortie, Charlotte, clinging to one another

Here they are the next day in Laura’s workroom, her office mates. It didn’t take them that long to decide that they belong where Laura is.

My grandchildren have four paws.  And in their honor, last Caturday (a couple of days before Laura and Rob went to pick them up) I wrote this on face-book:

From ‘Penguin Handbook of Cats. The care and training of kittens:’

“Talking is, I think, particularly important. Talking from the very beginning of your acquaintance helps throughout the cat’s life … I have always made a great point of talking to my cats from kittenhood onward, and very soon they have come to know the different tones of my voice. All my cats have talked back to me, and most of them have started to do so almost at once. This initial conversation does make a great different in a cat’s life … ” Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald.

See you on-screen, the new salutation …

Ellen


Still of Ackerley and his dog, Tulip, from the cartoon movie by Saul & Sandra Fierlinger, with Christopher Plummer voicing Ackerley, & Lynn Redgrave, his sister, Nancy (2009, from Ackerley’s 1956 book)

Neighbor

Build me a bridge over the stream
to my neighbour’s house
where he is standing in dungarees
in the fresh morning.
O ring of snowdrops
spread wherever you want
and you also blackbird
sing across the fences.
My neighbour, if the rain falls on you,
let it fall on me also
from the same black cloud
that does not recognise gates.
— Iain Crichton Smith

Friends and readers,

If I’ve not written for over three weeks, it’s because I’ve not much new to say. I am prompted tonight because I have learned that sixteen (16!) years ago, Izzy wrote new lyrics for the Twelve Days of Christmas out of the Harry Potter world, and put it on our website. Now recently her song inspired someone calling herself Semperfiona to record it as a song, someone else, yue_ix, to provide a cover album for the song as if it were a record for sale, with the whole thing edited by a third person, pseudonym, flowersforgraves. Alas, I cannot transfer the podcast or picture over here, but you must click on this URL to reach this composition, an art work by 5 people (if you count in J.K. Rowling as inspiration, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Harry Potter Style, by Miss Izzy.


A Harry Potter Christmas moment …. a little out of season, but WTF, we are in need of cheer wherever we can find it

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I have been escaping myself into my past, bringing it up to the present. This morning as I lay in bed, facing another day at home, sheltering in place, I thought to myself, why does it bother me not to go out and circulate “in the world,” drive places to teach or take a course, see people regularly. After all at home I am among one of the lucky ones to be able to reach friends through the Internet by email, social media platforms, zooms, even the phone, and as I thought about the day ahead I told myself I or my life is not useless, empty and meaningless — for I am doing what I value and sharing my doings insofar as others want this – an authentic existence (as philosophers would say). So today I posted to my listservs, exchanged letters with friends, participated in a zoom session (a class on existentialism seen historically), then worked on Anne Finch, read more of Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent, watched Part 3 of the three part movie: otherwise exercised, walked, talked with Izzy, was on the phone with a friend, ate and now am blogging here. Other days I have other schedules, but this is my main one for now. I’ll talk of these two projects (for they represent two sets of books) here.


Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661-1720), from a miniature, artist unknown

Today I worked on 25 years worth of materials gathered from libraries (manuscripts, printed books) in an effort to supplement Myra Reynolds’s sadly inadequate 1903 edition of the poetry of Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilesea: I ended up writing a biography, preparing or annotating nearly 300 texts, ordering them, writing about them, and putting them on my website. I have been asked to write an evaluative review of the new standard edition of this poetry published by Cambridge UP, from which there is a small archival site online now.

This is an ambiguous experience slowing going over my mountains of copies of original manuscripts, the letters I wrote, my hundreds of pages of notes, on sources too, rereading my biography: the first phase of being in a position to evaluate this new standard edition of Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea’s poetry. They renamed the manuscripts in accordance with who owns them or where they were deposited: I named them after the places in which Anne and Heneage wrote them out.

Egoistically I was chuffed to see in my view the two editors have not (as I see this) truly gone beyond Reynolds because they have left out many poems that are by Finch — lest they be accused of false attribution. They have not (in Volume I — I won’t get Volume II until after the review of Volume I is done and printed) as far as I can tell as yet even included a section with poems of doubtful attribution. Doubtless because there are so many of them — about 30, with about 20 serious contenders. It would cost money, would it not? Mar their edition; they would have to quote me more centrally. Several of these are so strongly hers that they have been quoted elsewhere by scholars and written about (from my site); one is autobiographical but not sufficiently detailed to nail down an attribution. One cannot get rid of self. I ought to be so pleased that this edition exists for it makes of this poet for 18th century scholars an established central voice.

I am chuffed that they argue with me in their notes over my biography: they chose McGovern’s conclusions (she published what passes as a standard biography) over mine, several of which I am persuaded are wrong — so for those who come to my site, there is an alternative story which makes sense here. They do also correct me — apparently Anne’s older brother killed their Haslewood uncle (in a duel) not the uncle’s older son as I had thought: the two had the same names. I learned that one of the scholars who never answered any of my letters put on his dissertation a stop-reading so that no one shall read it for another 50 years!

Ah, me, were it not for Jim, none of this would have gotten out into the world.

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I am also hoping to teach online. It is evident that most Americans who can afford to stay home and avoid this dreadful COVID19 disease and the risk of death will do so until such time as it’s safe to come out, & that will not come soon for Trump is still refusing to allow “his” federal gov’t to do wide-spread testing and tracing across the US, and he squashed the CDC plan/strategy for opening the US in stages so as to minimize the risk. He thinks to force people out who need the money (by not sending them any more, by depriving the of unemployment insurance) and others will follow suit, unable to resist temptation to say make money on their businesses; universities he thinks will open up lest they lose the egregious fees they demand. He is counting on greed, fear, despair. But more than 81,000 Americans have now died — and early signs are that some or many universities at least, and more to the point the two OLLIs I work at, will carry on delivering their content remotely until well into the fall.


Mecklenberg Square by Margaret Joliffe (1935): one of the squares where the four Bloomsbury women Francesca Wade writes about in Square Haunting, one of the marvelous books I’m reading

So I’m reading towards what I hope will be a wonderful course called The Bloomsbury Novel. I changed my books slightly from what I had intended:

This course will examine novels & art included in the term Bloomsbury through three texts: E.M. Forster’s Maurice, Virginia Woolf’s Memoirs of a Novelist, J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip, and Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent. Bloomsbury novels, books of all sorts really, are written by people who belonged to an amorphous early 20th century creative group, associated with a specific area in London, who were friends, or whose works were printed at the Hogarth Press. This (semi-invented) sub-genre is splendidly interesting, many thoughtful highly original texts of powerful art. There are good movies for Maurice, My Dog Tulip, & All Passion Spent. I ask everyone before class to read E.M. Forster’s “What I Believe” (from Two Cheers for Democracy); we may read a couple of other on-line shorter texts for context.

And also watching movies, and reading more than one excellent book on the Bloomsbury crowd, some on art. I know I don’t half-talk enough about the love and companionship dogs provide for human beings and (it is to be hoped) vice versa. (I’m ever on about cats.) JR Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip is about a deeply companionable interspecies love relationship; rated as a “classic” book and is certainly complex and beautifully written: he has his obsessions, some of which are clearly intended to shock the reader, wake us up to what an animal is(that includes us) , the book is at times hilarious and at others so moving: he also indites the way human beings regularly treat animals (dogs specifically); the brilliant cartoon (or should I say graphic novel, see way above, the picture from the film)rather indites British society vis-a-vis its treatment of animals; it too is a curious delightful experience. I am not sure you can get it streamed online — the creators intended this but other people may have gotten in the way since then. If you buy the DVD it comes with a marvelous feature about the making of the film. Here is Ebert interrupted by commercial ads (these are getting worse by the day, the hour). Ackerley was gay, a good friend to EM Forster, an important person at the BBC, editor for years for The Listener, wrote another “classic,” My Father and Myself, which I’ve sent away for.

As her final segment on PBS reports last night, Judy Woodruff did a number on pets; the pets of the staff and everyone working on the program, now all remotely. It was called the Newshour’s Furry Friends, and just delightful; she was so touching in her final words; she almost broke down saying how much they loved their companion-animals.

What had happened was people noticed cats in the background of William Brangham’s room — on the couch to the side of his wall of books; and also one cat in Lisa Desjardin’s space; sometimes on the couch but once the cat came up to look at the camera. This started mail which suggested viewers were not listening dutifully to the content but watching out for the cats.
So now we know Wm Brangham has 3 rescue cats and their names, and one dog (not permitted in TV room as he barks); and we have seen an array of pets. It seemed to me more dogs than cats; first with the person — very quickly shown — I spotted Amna Nawaz has a cat; then a shot of the animal alone posed properly as if for the cover of a book or other work he or she had achieved.

The title of the segment put in mind of a Sesame Street alphabet song, “4 furry friends, faithful together. Fun-filled, and forever free …” Jim used to say if he had to listen to that once more, he would do such things …. !! Aargh!!

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It is for me also an ongoing struggle just to carry on living sanely. Yesterday I was feeling parts of my body ache, and think that I am not getting enough exercise. As mild as it was, getting in and out of my car, walking to classes, to shop, to different places every day mostly was good for my body. I am exercising on the bike 20 minutes, walking outside 20 minutes but it’s not enough.

Nowadays social obligations shape my reading patterns. I’ve stopped getting on with my reading of Hilary Mantel’s Mirror and the Light pile: each book just about belongs to a project or a group of books I love and am reading with it: in this case, a wonderful book on the man and poet, Thomas Wyatt, another on Cromwell (a biography), a French biography of another woman (beyond Anne Boleyn and the English) taken by Protestanism: Jeanne d’Albret by Francoise Kermina. I have put these aside for now.


Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in the 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame film (as powerful and relevant as ever)


Sanctuary! for Esmeralda (Maureen O’Hara) up high in the cathedral, he cries!

A set of books for the Bloomsbury novel course, a set of books for now this review I’m doing of the standard edition of Anne Finch’s poetry, yes, I am participating in the listserv for Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, with Victor Brombert’s book on Hugo as visionary, and four movies to watch! My ongoing commitment to Winston Graham and the historical novel: I just finished Graham’s powerful and good The Black Moon, and am going to being The Four Swans; I’m well into Jenny Uglow’s In These Times, a detailed wonderfully readable description and evocation, utterly convincing of the worlds of the 1790s, Nina Auerbach on DuMaurier, The Haunted Heiress, and her fiction; with a biography of William Hamilton (for Volcano Lover). Piles of Italian-Jewish writing (Natalia Ginzburg books) left over and inspired by Judith Plotz’s course (an OLLI at AU, the one true good one I had this term); and still on that supposed anomaly, single women authors & women’s writing. I give little time to the courses I attend by zoom but I do give some. And they help during the day connect me to people. I know others look at my workroom, my files, and are alert to see my cats. Where are they today, someone asked?


They are in their cat-bed to the side of me, said I


My new backdrop in zooms — only I am in the way so some of this obscured, and at a slightly different angle

At night I work my way through serials, documentaries, and Un Village Francais — 7 seasons, 13 episodes each. I just finished My Brilliant Friend (book 2 of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet). On these I will write separately. I also keep up friendships by letter, am on FB, nowadays a little on twitter, and blog to readers and friends here — all of which keep me “grounded” — and give me preciously needed company if at a distance. I saw, thought and wrote about a film about autistic women made in Iceland; see the comments for a review, which links the book to violence against women: Seeing the Unseen.  Annie Finch revived Wom-po, a listserv for women who write, translate, write about love, women’s poetry. It is lucky and meaningful to me that this old project of a quarter of a century’s work, my love of women’s poetry suddenly is structuring my days, and if I can pull off online teaching, delving the ethically comforting and strengthening Bloomsbury group.

All this keeps me grounded. I read JK Johnstone’s superb study of The Bloomsbury Group, an old fashioned 1950s style oh so readable study, with a long section on the philosophy of GE Moore as well as Forster, Woolf, and Lytton Strachey, the art lectures of Fry and criticism of Andre Maurois.

I connect the seen with the unseen and imagined and remembered and learned from — and not only because we must not forget the tremendous misery that is being inflicted on thousands of Americans by the present stranglehold fascist regime. I try not to let convention, fear of others’ conventionality/disapproval, authority and power come between “me” and what? a life my instincts have led me to make and share with others who recognize what I recognize. I no longer have Jim, his life was taken from him by a dread disease, and I am honoring him and the dog he and I had, Llyr, by some of what I am doing this spring and summer.


Jim and Llyr in our apartment on 76th Street off Central Park, 1972

We did “own” a dog for 12 years, Llyr was her name, partly a German shepherd. I was too young to appreciate her, and wish I could bring her back and make up to her now what I couldn’t give when I was younger because I let my depressions and nervous breakdowns get in the way. I feel such remorse. I did not know how to cope, to control them, to what’s called comparmentalize.  We had $125 a week to live on, and so I starved us all, including the dog (but not the child).  The atmosphere in the last 2 years on Seaman Avenue was bad. She died of cancer; my father paid for a couple of treatments, but then the vet said it had spread throughout her body.  Now I would treat her with extra-consideration, the kind of respect I would an adult companion-friend, as I try to my cats. If the non-traveling continues I will think of a way to persuade Izzy to accept another animal in the house, a dog I shall call Llyr.

Ellen


Our miniature maple last week

Fountain

Let it disturb no more at first
Than the hint of a pool predicted far in a forest,
Or a sea so far away that you have to open
Your window to hear it.
Think of it then as elemental, as being
Necessity,
Not for a cup to be taken to it and not
For lips to linger or eye to receive itself
Back in reflection, simply
As water the patient moon persuades and stirs.

And then step closer,
Imagine rivers you might indeed embark on,
Waterfalls where you could
Silence an afternoon by staring but never
See the same tumult twice.
Yes come out of the narrow street and enter
The full piazza. Come where the noise compels.
Statues are bowing down to the breaking air.

Observe it there — the fountain, too fast for shadows,
Too wild for the lights which illuminate it to hold,
Even a monument, an ounce of water back;
Stare at such prodigality and consider
It is the elegance here, it is the taming,
The keeping fast in a thousand flowering sprays,
That builds this energy up but lets the watchers
See in that stress an image of utter calm,
A stillness there. It is how we must have felt
Once at the edge of some perpetual stream,
Fearful of touching, bringing no thirst at all,
Panicked by no perception of ourselves
But drawing the water down to the deepest wonder.

— by Elizabeth Jennings, in Ann Stanford’s anthology, Holding Our Own

Friends and readers,

This is the freshest and prettiest time of year, and were I to detail Izzy and my daily routine, many might say this is privilege. We are early risers, she watches a favorite conversation show (people around her age just talking often about contemporary issues that concern her), I answer my personal mail, respond to FB, twitter, listserv friends, both exercise, eat, shower, dress casually (as if ready to take a walk)


Clarycat in sunpuddle nearby

She is teleworking from home to the Pentagon library and really sits down to it at 8:30 and works more or less (with some breaks) to 5.


To my eyes how beautiful she looks — at home she can use her heating pad for her back and she listens to music as she catalogues

On dressing (complete with necklace, earrings sometimes). After living most of my life partially at home (working part time) and many years in NYC where I was in an apartment on the third floor so didn’t get out all the time — from quite a young age I determined that each day I would dress myself as if I were going out. I am not dressing quite the way I do when I go out to teach: then I try to spruce up. Now I’m in jeans and tops mostly by about 9;30 am, though once in a while a dress, a sweater. Ballet slippers. My cleaning bill is near zero.  This pandemic has shut the hairdresser’s shop and so my hair is now going grey/silver/white and I brush and put it firmly at the nap of my neck in a clip. For me dressing myself for the day is a matter of staying cheerful, I keep to a routine too — of posting, reading, blogging. When I was young and talked NYC talk, I’d say I was “being a person:” that’s very crude or blunt. But I do need to dress myself as if I were going out, and I am going out most days — a walk, to the post box, 3 days to supermarkets, drug store. Some sense in myself a need for in order to be peaceful. I hate to use the phrase self-respect but I can’t think of a less loaded one. I need to go sleep at night and be up during the day with most other people. To eat at regular hours ….. This keeps me sane and anxiety- and depression at bay. I feed my cats at specific times too and they know when the time “has arrived” for breakfast, snack, dinner and to go to bed too. I’m usually back in nightgown by 9 to 10 pm. We are all following a schedule to try for some sense of meaning in life. As in Camus’s Sisyphus: each day one pushes the rock up and in the night it rolls back down again

It’s an attitude towards the self, how each of us lives with our self. To me this does not relate to any outward standards of accomplishment or even whether we look on life favorably — as a good thing — or other people. It’s about our relationship with our self. I’m very much a home-body, happiest at home where all is set up for me to do what I like to do. I have observed for a long time now Izzy behaves the way I do and now in this pandemic she is dressed (not as for her office but as she does on Saturday/Sunday or the evenings) and sits down to work at 8:30 am (she is supposed to clock in virtually, and clocks out at 5 pm). She makes plans for herself and follows through on them. I’m taking a course in existentialism this term; it’s historical in approach; still we are talking of how we make and find meaning in existence. I behave this way were there no pandemic.

Izzy did not pattern herself on me at all. That’s just her way. We do have to accept what life offers — the hand of cards we are given — and I’ve made of mine what was in my character to make.

I settle down after tidying up chores, to post, read, write. I have agreed to teach on-line (if I manage it) so am preparing for The Bloomsbury Novel, read for the one serious reading course I have (not a heavy schedule), for my list communities, my projects. I’ll begin a new review May 1st. I thread stuff in — I returned to the Winston Graham with my energy renewed (“A matter of genre”) and three different historical fictions. The Mirror and the Light and books on early modern people. 18th century studies. Trollope. Some wonderful books, and new authors, especially Italian, e.g., today for four hours, Giorgio Bassani, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.


A wonderfully humane book which gets down the level of how people live and what they do — shocking how readily human beings learned to and did make horrific weapons — for money too; she tells it all prosaically, the political movements and daily lives from letters & diaries, newspapers

I am now making myself a small pot of coffee in the later morning. Both lunch by noon, and the afternoon is a repeat performance. Both of us walk from 20 minutes to half an hour in the later afternoon. Snacks, supper together.


Ian up from his afternoon nap coming to play with me and a colorful string I have while waiting for supper, watching TV

At this point I watch PBS reports steadily for the hour because Woodruff and Co make me feel better while informing me of what’s happening, true news as therapy.

Evenings I find I am too tired to read most of the time, so it’s movies (A French Village, My Brilliant Friend aka The Story of a New Name, Inspector Morse, documentaries, Civilisations, Lucy Worsley on Suffragettes) and blogging. I’m up to five zoom sessions a week: these do divide up the day and provide a sense of social life’s satisfactions. There are fine movies on-line, and I’ve started to plan joining virtual conferences (one on Jane Austen — at Chawton House in June, something I could never have encompassed). One does not have to drive anywhere but to shop locally.

She writes fiction, works on her music, sometimes draws, watches movies, reads books and online. Then to bed … without the cats. They come into my room with me.

I have gone out regularly however briefly — three days this weekend to shop, one day to the post office (doing what I can to support them), another the cleaners, drug store and so it goes. Izzy comes with me on weekends. Thus far my annuity, social security, Izzy her salary, all paid.

Just back from immense shopping for free range farm chicken, basmatic rice, a carton of Robert Shaw shiraf wine ($3.99 a bottle), unadulterated cheese (very plain) & other things I can’t get anywhere but Trader Joe’s — which was this morning very impressive. Not everyone is cooperating. So the line for seniors also included just regular customers — clearly not disabled. But the employees don’t want to be police; I saw them try on a couple of obvious people. In the store the way the lines are managed shows thought. They are protecting their employees. But it was an oddly fraught experience. I was offered free flowers on the way out and I took the chance (might they carry the virus?). Because they are yellow. Too many years to count and shortly after Jim and I met he bought me a bouquet of 22 yellow flowers (it was out of money he was getting as his “dole” — he was homeless just then, I had taken him into my room) about 10 months too late. But I had said something about not having any gifts or wanting any thing done for some years. I was so touched. All this tires me out …

You are seeing the top of a credenza (I’ve been calling it all these years) bought at some thrift shop; Laura (maybe age 10 or so) and I carried it out of the store and managed to get it into whatever car we had. Izzy in stroller watching. Now it’s in front of a window where I keep snack food, bread, cheese, various condiments, book called Natural Cat, and a photo of JIm… I can no longer remember where my flower vase is.

So what’s wrong: profound distress provided every day by the news from Trump (unspeakable inhumane behavior — just some monster) and his cruel regime edging us ever more into fascism, so many suffering from economic disaster, a painful illness and thousands (thousands) dying — in detention facilities, prisons. In Europe, gov’ts are simply sending people under order to stay at home 80% of their salary, supporting all small businesses, nationalizing health care, testing away; here a one shot of $1200 to everyone, 37% of people eligible for unemployment (but it does not come right away), long lines across the country of people waiting for free food. Congress sending billions to corporations, chain stores, it was a hard fight to get them to agree to fund hospitals better.

One night I went to sleep in a stunned state having read that Trump refused to sign any bill that would enable the post office to stay in business. The post-office. All my life this is the organization that I receive and send bills through, reach people, a life-line for the public — the man would carelessly smash it – wreck to prevent people voting in the next election. I was shaken

It all just preys on my mind. I made a joke of this:

Trump suggested that we could perhaps get rid of, cure, COVID-19 disease if we would “inject disinfectant through the skin.” Or drink some harsh commercial disinfectant (the kind you are supposed to handle with gloves, keep out of the reach of children or animals).

I remembered Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, where (as I recall) In an island of Lagado (or an academy?), there is a man who has been working at extracting sunbeams from cucumbers for some 8 years. It seems it was his idea to supply somebody’s garden with perpetual sunlight. Alas though, the year Gulliver arrived the cucumber crop was poor and so they were just then expensive. So plan had to wait and I seem to remember Gulliver gave him some money …. which man was glad to take

If it was a sardonic joke, it was a nasty sarcasm mocking all the people who have died and gotten very sick. He was irritated by all this talk of disinfectants, was he? But here is full description in French showing it was not meant as a joke:

N’essayez pas ça à la maison. Réagissant à une étude – très préliminaire – selon laquelle la chaleur, l’humidité et les rayons du soleil affaibliraient le coronavirus, Donald Trump a réfléchi à voix haute, jeudi, sur de possibles traitements à bases d’UV et de désinfectants. Des médecins ont aussitôt alerté sur les risques d’empoisonnement, comme cela s’est déjà produit avec de l’automédication à la chloroquine

Un peu de contexte. Lors du briefing quotidien à la Maison Blanche, un responsable du département à la Sécurité intérieure a présenté des résultats –très préliminaires– d’une étude. Selon cette dernière, la « demi-vie » du Covid-19 (la durée nécessaire pour diviser par deux sa puissance) sur les surfaces et dans l’air est fortement réduite par la chaleur, l’humidité et les UV du soleil. Du côté des désinfectants, l’étude conclut que l’eau de Javel tue le virus en cinq minutes et l’alcool à 90° en trente secondes.

Dans la foulée, Donald Trump s’interroge au micro : « Supposons qu’on frappe le corps avec une grande (quantité) d’ultraviolets ou juste une lumière très forte. Et ensuite j’ai dit, supposons qu’on amène la lumière à l’intérieur du corps, ce qu’on peut faire à travers la peau ou d’une autre façon… » Le président demande des précisions au responsable et continue : « Et puis je vois le désinfectant qui le neutralise en une minute. Est-ce qu’on pourrait faire quelque chose comme ça, avec une injection à l’intérieur ou… presque comme un nettoyage. Car vous voyez, ça (le virus) va dans les poumons… Ça serait intéressant de tester ça. Je voudrais que vous demandiez à des docteurs en médecine s’il y a moyen d’appliquer de la lumière ou de la chaleur pour neutraliser le virus. »

Un docteur, il y en a une assise à quelques mètres, Deborah Birx, qui fait partie de la task-force de la Maison Blanche contre le coronavirus avec Anthony Fauci. Face à la tirade du président américain, elle semble perdue dans ses pensées.

It is a strain being without human voices and the commonalty of acquaintances, friends, familiar and unfamiliar faces and bodies over the course of the day naturally

COVID19 Notes: “You don’t necessarily develop a vaccine that is safe and effective against every virus. Some viruses are very, very difficult when it comes to vaccine development – so for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find ways to go about our lives with this virus as a constant threat,” said David Nabarro, professor of global health at Imperial College, London, and an envoy for the World Health Organization on Covid-19″ (The Guardian).

On DemocracyNow.org Juan Gonzalez said that in his part of New Jersey, New Brunswick, a few middle class people set up a crowd-source fund online, collected $17,000 within a week and a half and have now begun to distribute it. Direct cash payments to people who are out of food and need money for rent or a mortgage payment. The 2nd trillion dollar bill from the feds has no money directly for people; Trump assures us (lest we worry) that he has his own fund set aside for fossil fuel industry. Trump at last sends tests to NY when Cuomo visits him – or promises to. My two daughters need got a penny back from the airlines for the money they paid for their Montreal planned trip to ice-skating contest; a friend and her husband paid twice each way going and coming back from Mexico, never got a penny back; I never got a penny back from my attempt to go to St Louis — but the airlines get another bunch of money — there’s black humor here. Too bad I can’t laugh.

Gonzalez also told how his 92 year old mother contracted COVID-19; he and his wife took her to the hospital when she seemed unable to breathe; the hospital would not test her unless they took her in; when they tested her, they were about to give her that dangerous malaria drug until Gonzalez realized what they were doing, and stopped them. She did survive, without intubation and is now in a rehabilitation unit. Meanwhile his wife contracted the disease; Thursday night last week she could’t breathe, had a fever, he called 911, Emergency ambulance came but the people said she’d be better off at home, safer as she was not yet near death, gave him some advice about positioning her, anyway she lived through the night and this week is recovering.

A friend told me that her psychologist friend seriously thinks millions of US people are going through trauma every day – -as they worry lest their money be worthless with such a malevolent fool having picked the man who runs the federal agency which controls the money supply. Another sent me and a group of friends this to help cheer us up: perhaps the name of the city is repeated too often, but I found this brought tears to my eyes. People here might enjoy it. I recognize many of the streets and places filmed:

I make diary entries on face-book and even tweet quips, sudden utterances, and re-tweet similar language and pictures (increasingly videos) from others

I now think that the OLLIs won’t be back as meetings in classrooms and other kinds of social interactions for quite a long time – maybe next spring. The people are mostly people with more money than me — that means they are really set up — I am vulnerable to losing my social security and widow’s annuity and with these I need the rent Izzy gives me. That means they have no reason not to quarantine themselves. They are also the population that travels. Some of them take several trips a year to expensive places. The Politics and Prose store had an older population for their classes – -some younger people but they were the minority. So if the owner of the store wants to keep the classes up he shall have to use zoom. He is doing that for the nightly lectures — actually some other more impressive platform. He is selling online rigorously.

Some of the more expert commentators on BBC are saying that early lifting of the lockdowns – they instance other, more regional, virus outbreaks as examples – will produce a second wave of infection, perhaps more serious; perhaps that and their ignoring social distancing will sweep through the USA demonstrators. Munich Oktoberfest is cancelled.

Gradually becoming obvious in (informed) commentary in UK is the realisation that this is going to continue in some form for a year or more. Financial Times (UK) says that UK government are talking about continuation, not emerging (not exact words – paywalled).

I am spending less; I got Izzy to start cleaning regularly with me. We started this weekend. I will take all clothes that need dry cleaning to a store where you put the stuff in a machine yourself I can put what we have (very little now as Izzy not going to work and I didn’t dress up that much) in and then sit in my car for an hour to wait. There’s a lady laundromat owner who has a hard life: she used to be there 7 days a week, 5:30 am to 10:00 pm, and she does laundry for you. When my house was being renovated Izzy and I took our laundry to her. Now she’s there 6 days a week, 8 am to 9 pm.

I made myself unhappy yesterday because it totally slipped my mind to join in on the Framley Parsonage read being done by zoom by the British Trollope society. One might say unconsciously I was not eager, but if so it was not conscious. I meant to skim the first ten chapters of Framley Parsonage yesterday so that was my first lapse. It is true that it would add yet another book to my budget just now. Now I’m feeling next week I’ll be too far behind, but probably they won’t care so I shall try to remember next week. Had I been this zoom I would have heard more human voices and voices directed at me as part of a group and myself spoken back.

My hair is looking pretty bad. When I was a young teenager, maybe age 13 or so, I began to use a hair style that however I have tried to find something else I’ve never much strayed from. I brush my hair, part it in the middle sort of, then take a clip that is plain and widish and clip my hair at the nape of my neck. When my hair was thicker, it held. Over the years my hair has thinned and thinned. Now the clip (a narrower one than ever) keeps coming out and sometimes as the zoom starts and I get a look at myself I pull the clip out and just brush the air back. It’s a style you see on Jane Goodall. Tp be honest, I don’t really mind how it looks and like the severe look. I’ve given on make-up too — more or less since I was 19, and now altogether.

Jim always had a beard. I never saw him without one. When he first got cancer, I thought to myself he’ll lose his hair and probably his beard and I will see his face for the first time. He had a round face. Well he didn’t live long enough for chemotherapy to be started because we were so stupid as to agree to that horrific operation first so I never saw him without his beard. He’d go to a male hairdresser (never a barber shop) to have it trimmed.

Other widows have told me how they miss human voices. Penelope Fitzgerald calls her book on BBC radio: Human voices. Izzy does not _seem_ to miss this so much – though one of her favorite programs now is a one hour chat between people in their 20s — I think really set up in response to this quarantine. She can imagine herself as with them

Watch the family of ducks escorted to safety in Ballsbridge: These ducks are being escorted from a park in which they hatched to the river at left of where the video terminates.

https://www.independent.ie/videos/gardai-escort-family-of-ducks-to-safety-in-ballsbridge-39144432.html

Tomorrow I will see my young woman friend Monica — last week she told me that two had died among the offices she works in, many in the DC Correction Department now sick with COVID-19. They were not allowed to stay at home — would not be paid. Her hair no longer looks so shiny as it did. We go to the Giant around 10 am. From last week my forays in the early to make senior lines for Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods:

This morning I arrived at the queue to get into Whole Foods at Senior hour at 7:19 am. Again as with Trader Joe’s I could see people on line (in both cases it has been women) who were clearly much younger. Now inside this store (as with the Giant) there are arrows drawn to show you in which directions to proceed, lines to stand behind, you must have your face mask on at all times (the Giant more like Trader Joe’s — one does not feel constrained nor are there signs requiring a mask).

This time the queue was strictly managed (again as opposed to Trader Joe’s — at the Giant the line is wholly voluntary, thus fictional). And when you got up to the front to go in, you were supposed to produce documentation. So yours truly is digging in her suitcase of a handbag, and looks up and says “you know” I’m 73, but I’ll find it, and he smiles and says, “you’re fine.” Got in w/o documentation. I felt a certain glee.

I do think the culture of Whole Foods reflected a Bezos frame of mind …

How to end?


Mark Rylance as Olivia

Tuesday night of this past week I saw one of the most extraordinary performances of a Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night; or, What You Will, I ever have — and I’ve seen many many. I can’t find a solid review of it, only commentary on Mark Rylance as Olivia, where he performs a miracle of comedy that touches you: he seems to walk like a bell that is sweeping across the floor without ever touching it. Or maybe a chess piece.

It was done during a year when Rylance was the Globe director; a year notable for an equally astonishing (it’s said) Richard III (he played the part) and an embarrassingly bad Macbeth.

The problem is that the production is throughout inhabited by equally brilliant in their roles other actors: Fry as Malvolio, Liam Brennan as Orsino, I can’t find a cast list in words, so just single out the actor playing Aguecheek, Mary the housekeeper, John Hamilton Dyer as Feste (his singing was matchlessly in feel Elizabethan); here is an excellent review of movie version as it played at the Angelica movie-house not far from me.

I never quite realized everyone on stage was a man, only when I realized Mary was acted by a man did I began to understand this. Last week I watched a Globe Shakespeare with a lot of gender switching but they never fooled me for moment, so I did not suspend my disbelief, This production managed to engage me thoroughly with the characters and yet throughout their acting, the costumes, style never let me forget I was watching actors playing this play. A kind of legerdemain miracle.

When I was 13 I saw Play of the Week Twelfth Night which was utterly bitter and melancholy, and I’ve never forgotten it — alas at the time I didn’t note actors or directors — so I know how important it is to convey the bitterness with the comedy; this production had it but not enough — you can’t have everything. They did convey the extraordinary artifice of the language and yet I understood what they were saying (I did use subtitles).

For 3 hours I forgot all about this pandemic, my new worries (Trump is now beginning to pressure the Pentagon to open — not that they are not working from home and Izzy works there so today I must phone my 4 representatives — gov, 2 senators, congressman).


Stephen Fry as Malvolio

I mean to re-watch until I can find language to describe what makes it so good. So it’s worth buying or paying the fee for a watch if you cannot find it another way. I did buy the DVD which means I couldn’t find it another way — that does not mean it’s not there.

After a play featuring all men, it’s worth noting those countries and places where women are in charge there have been far less deaths, less illness, less profound uncertainty, destruction of ways of life (in the US millions of small businesses will never come back, livelihoods gone forever).


Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir listens during a joint press conference with her counterparts from Lichtenstein and Norway on February 3, 2020 in Oslo

So, daily life for us “sheltering in place” in our small but comfortable house has its compensations, is a simacrulum of usual daily life (as long as the checks keep coming). Two women and our two cats, our books, our inner resources using electronic equipment. Izzy is working on a new song ever writing short fictions and putting them on the Net. Laura (I should mention) has more paid work (reviews of life on the Net) than she has time for, and Rob cooks away. Both never leave the house, Laura assures me. (Whether he’ll get his electrician job back again is another question.) They pay no rent as they live in one of his parents’ houses, which they hope to inherit.


David Hockney, Hawthornes in Bloom (1937) — sent by an FB friend

Ellen