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Robbie Williams’s Eternity

Dear friends,

Izzy took a week off work this past week, and seems to have enjoyed herself relaxing, reading (a book on the Louvre, a book on feminist films), going out to a movie (Dr Strange), once to the National Gallery where she saw the same Afro-Atlantic Histories exhibit I saw about a month ago, and once, this Friday, to the Washington D.C. zoo. She photographed a number of the animals


A mother and child


A noisy sea-lion


Two pandas


and a lion (among others)

She also wrote and posted one of her fictions: these are novellas which often take the form of sequels (fan-fiction), but some are original. I know she watched Eurovision, some ice-skating contests, and stayed in contact with people through groups she’s joined on discord. She drew too, and put a lovely picture of a bird on her wall. You will see it behind her in the above video.


A beautiful poster-like picture of a deer

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For myself, I conquered (wrote) that paper I’ve been reading for on and off for about three weeks: “Barsetshire in Pictures.” I covered the original illustrations for Framley Parsonage, The Small House at Allington and The Last Chronicle of Barset, as well as the film adaptations of The Warden and Barchester Towers in the 1983 Barchester Chronicles and the 2015 (ITV type production) Doctor Thorne (scripted by Jerome Fellowes). I tried to show through these pictures what makes the unity of Barsetshire. I am much relieved tonight for I was worrying I had taken on too much, and no more than anyone else do I like to be endlessly working, much less to deadlines. It has been very enjoyable and after I’ve given the talk, I’ll put the text online and write a blog about all I did for it.


Here is a still from Doctor Thorne: Stefanie Martini as Mary Thorne, doing good deeds in the village even as she is ostracized, humiliated — I found watching the film through the lens of how far did it convey the spirit of Trollope’s Barsetshire enabled me to enjoy it far more.

How did I manage this?

In my sudden nervous anxiety (for I have yet to write that Anne Finch review, and I’ve now promised a paper on the manuscript books of Finch and Jane Austen for the October ED/ASECS meeting), I this morning realized that I kept thinking today was 5/23, the day for registering for OLLI at Mason and a day I told myself I’d send in the proposal for the 4 week next (!) winter OLLI at Mason (The Heroine’s Journey, which I described here already but here it is again), but I find it’s only 5/16. Maybe I fooled myself to get myself to do this more than a week ahead of time.

The Heroines’ Journey

Many courses in myth take as Bible, Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces (pop movies use an 11 page abridgement) so for this one we’ll take Maureen Murdoch’s The Heroine’s Journey (distillation of many books on “Archetypal Patterns in women’s fiction“) and read two mythic short novels from an alternative POV, Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad (no she did not sit for 20 years knitting and unknitting the same shawl), and Christa Wolf’s Medea (no she did not hack her brother’s skeleton to piece, nor kill those children); then two ordinary realistic ironic short novels, Elena Ferrante’s Lost Daughter (Leda is the lost daughter) and Austen’s Northanger Abbey (Catherine had it right). We’ll see Outlander, S1E1 (Claire transported) & Prime Suspect S1E1 (Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison).

So at 4 this morning then I read the openings of three books which just rejuvenated me: literary feminism, wonderful warm hearts (I loved the tone of all three): Heroine with 1001 Faces by Maria Tartar, The Heroine’s Journey by Maurren Murdock, Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction by Annis Pratt — filled with wonderful poetry too. They are the background for the course I mean to do next winter: The Heroine’s Journey. They are not just about books but about the cruelty and suppression of women in our society which as we know has stepped up in the US recently. I am rejuvenated and re-galvanized, refreshed.

1970s feminism is not dead, but, as you know there is a large body of people in the US out to re-bondage women, to renew and enforce more subjection of women.

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On 18-l someone told of her struggles to reach J. Cameron’s great unpublished dissertation on Anne Finch (Australian university sometimes willing to share and then not again), and O’Neil’s banned to all eyes for huge numbers of years Oxford dissertation. She called this a copyright problem. She is an obnoxious woman who approves of the establishment, but her email (as well as my proposal for a paper on her and Finch’s manuscripts) reminded me of what research was like before the Internet, especially for someone like me: a nobody, with no professional title from an institution beyond my doctorate, having no connections, and finding travel such an ordeal. So I told of myself on this listserv:

I have a complicated xerox of Cameron’s great book on Anne Finch. I got it years ago when I was teaching at American University. The research and inter-loan librarian got it for me — all the way from Australia in a big box. I know about O’Neile’s Oxford University dissertation. I tried to get hold of it many years ago, and found that it was made totally unavailable — in no way could I reach it or any part. Then several years ago because of the presence of the Internet and having far more sources available, and librarians to consult I was told the man had banned use of it, and even looking at it for a long number of years — probably beyond my lifetime. This seemed very strange to me: why write a book and then ban anyone from seeing any part. But I have come across this in other studies (a similar case, funnily enough), in my Vittoria Colonna researches, where also, a coincidental parallel I was able to get a copy of the important 1840 edition of her poems, the first nearly complete ones as a xerox which also came to AU in a big box.

I still have both xeroxes and I still use both — having made them much more usable for myself (using stapler, scissors, folders &c&c)

There’s a kick to my story – -a true one. The same librarian got me both books. In some spate of firing during the 1990s she was let go as useless, unimportant, not needed. What a waste of money you see.

Thinking about Austen too and the pattern of Tuesdays across her novels (except in the cases of Northanger Abbey and Sanditon, early and very late novels) and drawing of the timelines from of her novel:

Every single Tuesday I’ve found – and I’ve found them in all but one of the 6 famous ones, in The Watsons (the first sentence), and (more vaguely) in Lady Susan are connected to a disappointment, humiliation or mortification. She is exorcising (or was the first time she did it) some hurtful grief; after a while, it became a code known to her family probably. I’ve never tried to publish a paper when I was trying because I didn’t want to be laughed at. I think it’s not a known truth because those who have seen it dismiss it. Janeites and many mainstream people don’t want to know of trauma dealt with in this way in Austen.

The way to figure out what year a novel is set in — or what possible/probable years is to work out where Easter is in the novel. Novels which don’t let you work this out — well for those looking up Easter won’t work. But Austen does notice Easter in her books. Another way is two dates where you are given day, date, month — there are nowadays calendars on the Net to use. One used to have to buy them. Fanny Price’s stay in Portsmouth is at first prolonged because (we are told) Easter came late that year. And then Austen mentions days of the week and also how many days go by for a trip say. She had an almanac on her desk — to her I think it was a way of establishing probability through having events take place in probable amounts of time. We do not in her 6 books and older fragments suddenly leap many years or even months. A couple of or few weeks, yes.

Where there is no mortifying Tuesday: the juvenilia, scraps, and Northanger Abbey and Sanditon. NA too early, first draft before the event that gave rise to these occurred; Sanditon a tremendously rushed draft, she is very sick, dying, and has no time for working out such (haunted) in-jokes.

I don’t try to publish this because I don’t want it to be rejected and I don’t want to be laughed it if it were to published in some toned down form.

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My two classes on Anglo-Indian novels went so well this term. The OLLI at AU people even loved Shakespeare Wallah! I shall do the topic again in two years with a different set of books – and having read more on the history, more memoirs and novels in the meantime. I’m still reading the Raj Quartet, into the fourth volume and last night was so moved by the last episode of 1984 Jewel in the Crown.


Geoffrey Kendall, the great disillusioned actor — like the poor monkeys on the road no longer wanted as once he was (from Shakespeare Wallah)

The Rosemont Garden people came up with a new plan for my garden, for re-planting and weekly care: $800 less than I paid the couple I was not comfortable about. I’m signing and look forward to a normative business relationship.

A gratified evening’s note — I feel so good for Izzy that she had a good week and that I am wanted too — as long as I come for free– I am glad to fit in.  Relieved I was able to do what I promised.


A beautiful depiction of a cozy bed — seen on twitter

Ellen


Me and Ian, photo taken by Izzy this past month

Dear friends and readers,

I thought I was looking forward to much less to do, but find after all I made new commitments on top of my old ones and am struggling to catch up. This month too I felt again worried about my health (signs of aging); I had some good moments — mostly honestly when I was teaching, or reading a good book; and some bad — I got lost twice trying to get to the Tysons Corner clinic center, and when by myself simply returned home without getting the scheduled second booster shoot; when with Izzy, she saved the day by whipping out her cell phone and using the app called apple. Though she said the apple app (a mapping software) was inferior (as it did not tell us which direction to go in, only showed the road itself), the apple app as used by Izzy got us to the Tysons site, where I had a heart stress test. The nurse practitioner pronounced “you have a healthy heart” after I had sustained quick walking on a ever faster treadmill for over 20 minutes.

In some of this there was a lesson to be learnt — or reminded of. I rescheduled the trip to Ireland for August 2023; yes to go and come back on the plane I’d have to be tested for Covid, and if the test were positive have to stay for 2 weeks in self-quarantine in a hotel room. I would truly become half-crazy were I to be so stranded (and charged for it). Tonight I made an agreement with a male friend with whom I once before went to ES/ASECS in October with to go again this year: he flies here and stays with me one night; drives me to the place (a inn in Wilmington, Delaware, near the Winterthur museum where the conference will be held); we stay there together for 2 nights, 3 days; he drives us back, and then takes an airplane back home (Arkansas of all places — poor man). When I looked at the address, I knew I couldn’t find it myself and on top of that can not drive at night even the shortest of distances.

My friend has made two panels up, and will himself chair a festschrift meeting in honor of a long-time member of EC/ASECS, head of the Bucknell Press. For me this means I will automatically be part of 3 sessions, active, and due to the way he wrote up the panels, I’ve thought of a new paper: “From Either End of the Long Eighteenth Century: Anne Finch’s ‘Folger’ Book and Jane Austen’s Unpublished Fiction.” I’ve now for months (on and off) been studying how the new Cambridge complete edition of Finch’s poetry is a book which attempts to give the reader the closest experience one can have of the original 3 manuscripts they are found in, and a number of years ago I wrote a review of the Cambridge edition of the later manuscripts of Jane Austen where I studied how these works are shaped and project meaning through their manuscript state. It’s is almost a matter of reading quite a number of blogs and sitting down and writing it out, and then turning to the review of the Finch book at last, and writing it. My friend’s financial needs and academic outlook are fitting mine. A positive development, no?

Another lesson came out of my PC computer acting up in the later afternoon. The fan kept coming on. I emailed the IT guys and one came on quickly and did a bunch of updates for about half an hour and the problem seemed to cease. Alas, the next day it came back in a milder form. I had the idea to google and ask what I should do and read there that fans can come on if one has too many applications open. So I put a huge number of files and pictures on my desktop away in windows explorer, and voila, the fan ceased. My desktop is also clear. The IT guy had claimed to fix my landscape mechanism so that it would once again change every once in a while the first picture that comes up after turning the machine on, but he had not succeeded. In a way I prefer it — changes make me nervous.

Below is a favorite image — one I would not mind as my wall paper. You have seen it on this blog before, gentle reader. I am imagining I am by the sea (by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea … ), a beach — something that does not happen to me much (at all?) any more. Staring out into the sky, at the birds.


Sara Sittig — By the sea (by the sea, by the beautiful sea ….) — knowing Jim not out there any more

Much solaced and compelled absorbed this month by Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet (I’m in the third volume, Barbie Batchelor’s mind pure visual poetryI’m teaching only Jewel in the Crown), Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland (where she lets loose at long last the tragedy of diasporic disconnection and search for individual fulfillment through a woman character who ends up alienated from all who would have loved her), and have learned of and enjoy her rich Italian identity and beautiful language In Altre Parole and Trovo Mi Dove.

To speak in, think in, read and (the highest attainment) write in another language is to become part of another world — and I too love the Italian one. On Trollope&Peers our book for this month of June-July is Tarchetti’s Fosca as translated by Lawrence Venuti as Passion(the name from a 1980s movie and then Sondheim’s musical). Lahiri’s In altre parole is actually a perceptive study on what one gains by reading a translation consciously — not pretending it is the actual original text but a translation into another language and (often) place.

As to movies I was truly absorbed once again in all four Mansfield Park (Metropolitan one of them) movies as I reread that strange book by Austen — and it is strange the perceptive heroine, full of a depth of emotion, imprisoned in taboos. I’ve also been reading through the startling depths and intricacies of everyday life and emotional attachment and cool calculation in Trollope’s masterwork, The Small House at Allington (modeled on and meant to surpass I’m sure Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, with Lily a fully sexualized Marianne, and Bell a yet more careful of her heart, Elinor Dashwood). I promised a talk to be called Barsetshire in Pictures.  I admit the sex is pretty good in the first Outlander book, and I’ve bought the DVD for the sixth season and await it impatiently.

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Barkley L. Hendricks, George Jules Taylor (1972)

The above is but one image of many works of art of all sorts that make up some seven rooms of an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in DC, called Afro-Atlantic Histories. I had made a date to go the National Gallery and have lunch there too with a friend, and see any new exhibits and old favorites. I did not realize was one of these blockbuster shows which offers unexpectedly extraordinary experiences, but individually and within the context the show creates. Powerful art depicting and showing frighteningly inhuman remnants (e.g., irons to put around enslaved people’s necks to continually hurt and cow and control their every movement) and recreating the experiences of slavery in the Afro-Atlantic world from the 17th century to the 19th, and then a recurring reformulation (direct choices by powerful people in gov’t and business in cahoots) of impoverishment and immiseration for black people by making situations where they stay in the lowest and poorest classes of people. Not all was despair, for the art tended to be modern, 20th century and after because only in the 20th century are the realities of the experience for enslaved people and then impoverished people acknowledged. Some striking photography in the 20th of admirable looking or celebratory people (mostly black) in the US, or Latin or South America. Portraits of individuals. Some of the older pictures were beautiful too — done by abolitionists in the 18th and 19th century following picturesque and other eye-pleasing costume and arrt conventions.


Theodore Gericault’s 1811 Portrait of a Mestizia

I came home to buy at ebay the companion book which includes 2/3s as many art works as are in the exhibit. It came very quickly and I’ve been finding it very much worth immersing yourself in. Sometimes going to a country does not help learn its history since those who were in power erased everything they could about the means they took inflicted on other people. Art brings these things to light and re-imagines and re-creates them here. I’ve been taking two superb courses at OLLI at AU: one on the achievements of Thurgood Marshall, and the other on Lincoln which focuses on his evolution towards complete emancipation for all enslaved people, and his thinking about political and civil rights for African Americans which they as all people innately must have to live a good human life. Lincoln not only opposed the expansion of slavery but also condemned slavery as evil and wrong. I bought and am reading Eric Foner’s Lincoln and American Slavery and Juan Williams’s Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. There is a coterminous area between the two men: no one anywhere has a right to anyone as property. Marshall saw the way to achieve equality of life and fulfillment for black people was full integration.

One striking if not unique I hope rare desperate-helpless kind of experience this month was when face-book a few days suddenly would not download on my Macbook pro laptop and on this PC Computer none of the postings I wrote or anyone wrote to me or any postings at all were visible. My groups pages were all awry. Extremely trying since on google I was told face-book was not down, and therefore something was wrong particular to my computers or settings. But then I found where it seemed many people were having all sorts of odd barriers and problems, and a few the same as mine. So every three hours or so I sent messages to places on face-book where it says “report a problem.” You were told you would not get a reply and it would be used “to improve the general service.” But who knows? Here is what I found two mornings later on google: an explanation of sorts:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/10158791436142200/

And then last night around 1 am I went to face-book once again and all I need had returned. All messages are visible. My laptop uploading normally again. FB has changed again. All the groups have been reconfigured so the banner is smaller. What I can do, or the software and links on my timeline are slightly changed, so I can do less. I know an algorithm began to do to FB what it does to my gmail; in a pattern not all messages show all the time. I conclude they made it less expensive to run. It was not all bad. Numerous kind and generous people emailed me off FB, replied for me on FB — and I felt indeed I have FB friends with genuine concern for me. Pace all the pundits and political savvy types can say, I come to FB for companionship and they validated my raison d’etre for being there.

Here is my experience of the internet as of 1995 and then when these social media emerged from 1998 or so (blogs) and 2003 or so (social media, from livejournal to wordpress to FB, twitter &c): for the first time in my whole life I made a number of friends at once. Real friends then — some people I’ve never lost contact with — Michael Powe, still co-owner of Trollope&Peers; Diana Birchall, plus others. I found myself talking about books to others for the first time. I could read others’ opinions and yes tell my own more bravely for the first time. I was in an ongoing social life for the first time. Hitherto I was mostly alone. I loved it. I have omitted all the bad stuff — the bad stuff is a cyberspace version of the bad stuff in life. On FB over the past 9 nine years I’ve found forms of companionship I needed since Jim’s death — and the near death of listservs — surely you see how few of us there are here. Mine died because I gave up volunteer schedules, elections of books (where people vote books they don’t read) and because my approach is intellectual and often radical in some way or other or just doesn’t please – but also much competition. I now regard it as a small group of friends who read slowly together sorts. Social life through writing used to be the sole center — now I contact people by zoom, face-time, google hang-out and hear and see them and they me — am part of worlds and these worlds lead to worlds in physical space with others.

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The Stanhopes arrive at Mrs Proudie’s Converzatione (at the center Susan Hampshire as la Signora Nerone)

So what lies ahead? why so busy? In a few weeks I shall give another talk to the London Trollope Society group: Barsetshire in Pictures. This necessitates (see above) having read all The Small House in Allington (for Millais’s illustrations), going over all the many pictures by George Housman Thomas for Last Chronicle of Barsetshire, and watching once again the delightful (work of comic-grave genius) 1983 Barchester Chronicles – to get up and present and make interesting the pictures and sets of stills.

June I re-give my 4 week course (this time OLLI at AU) Retelling Traditional Histories and Tales from an Alternative POV. June into July a six week course on Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White and Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly) with two superb film adaptations for the Sensational and Gothic Novel Then and Now. Fall in both places: Anthony Trollope’s Last Chronicle (yet again!) with Joanna Trollope’s The Rector’s Wife and The Choir (and their film adaptations): Barsetshire Then and Now. I am really wondering if I should take off next winter, but now without Jim all alone here for weeks I would lose perspective (so to speak) so The Heroine’s Journey it is for 4 weeks a OLLI at Mason online next winter (Atwood’s Penelopiad, Wolf’s Medea, Ferrante’s Lost Daughter & Austen’s Northanger Abbey).

A surprise for me is the persistence of online classes: for OLLI at AU in June out of 29 classes, 18 are online, 2 hybrid, and only 9 in person; for OLLI at Mason in June-July, the greater number of online and hybrid to in person is even more striking. Do people fear Covid? Is it not worth the time and trouble to drive in and they feel they “get what they want” out of zooms: but 2/3s of a class may stay in black boxes (as if they had bags over their heads). Do you have any understanding of this?  I’ll be there in person with no hybrid alternative.


Olivia Coleman as a lost daughter (La Figlia Oscura)

August Izzy and I will travel to Toronto, Canada! to visit Thao who will have had her baby (William) in June: her first, and my first sort of grandchild, with Izzy as Auntie. We will book in later June. We are face-timing with Thao now once a month on Sunday evening.


Izzy this morning, as yet unlost

And I thought I had nothing to tell you. All this to fill my mind so that I can be at peace alone for reality, and with Jim in my mind and memory in the house and world he and I made together

Away, Melancholy

Away, melancholy,
Away with it, let it go.

Are not the trees green,
The earth as green?
Does not the wind blow,
Fire leap and the rivers flow?
Away melancholy.

The ant is busy
He carrieth his meat,
All things hurry
To be eaten or eat.
Away, melancholy.

Man, too, hurries,
Eats, couples, buries,
He is an animal also
With a hey ho melancholy,
Away with it, let it go.

Man of all creatures
Is superlative
(Away melancholy)
He of all creatures alone
Raiseth a stone
(Away melancholy)
Into the stone, the god
Pours what he knows of good
Calling, good, God.
Away melancholy, let it go.

Speak not to me of tears,
Tyranny, pox, wars,
Saying, Can God
Stone of man’s thoughts, be good?
Say rather it is enough
That the stuffed
Stone of man’s good, growing,
By man’s called God.
Away, melancholy, let it go.
Man aspires
To good,
To love
Sighs;
Beaten, corrupted, dying
In his own blood lying
Yet heaves up an eye above
Cries, Love, love.
It is his virtue needs explaining,
Not his failing.
Away, melancholy,
Away with it, let it go.

Stevie Smith (1902-1971)

See Cats in Colour,

Ellen


My sixth flower bed — they are not doing so well as at first — late March and early April showers have been bitter chill … — so:

Truth to tell I’m having trouble writing these diary blogs even once a month — I’ve gone over to a fifth week. I’ve managed again by talking of an unspoken topic explicitly — my difficulties in socializing you might say, and linking these to topics in papers I’ve given and books and movies I particularly have loved. I didn’t quite ask if I’m one of these difficult women (writers) I spent a month reading and talking about online at Politics and Prose this March.

When that Aprill with his shoures soote … When in April the sweet showers fall … Chaucer, Canterbury Tales,
Prologue …

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
— T.S. Eliot — tonight this describes some of my garden — I shall
in 3 weeks spend yet more money to have new plants that do well in the shade put in

Dear friends,

Here I am over a month later. I waited until the night after I gave my talk, Trollope, Millais and Orley Farm, so as to be able to report to you how it went: it seems splendidly. There were a sizable number of people; they listened, and I got good questions. They were friendly and generous, and the Chairman of the society asked me if I would like to do another. So I said yes :):

“Barchester in Pictures”. If he would like to put it in between the end of The Small House (upcoming in two weeks) and before the group begins The Eustace Diamonds (next up after that), it would fit very well. I would talk on Millais’s and George Housman Thomas’s pictures and any other 19th century ones for the Barsetshire books I can find, and combine it with commentary on the 1983 BBC Barchester Chronicles. I have a number of stills from that. He would have to alter the calendar.

Fast forward to Christmas, I could try the pictures for Can You Forgive Her? and the first five episodes of the 1974 BBC Pallisers. It’d be interesting because it would combine the Phiz style for half the pictures, the other half by Miss E Taylor (memo to self I have to find where I saw the new information on her) – a few of which are good, and this Simon Raven 20th century film adaptation. What to call it? “On Seeing Divergent Pallisers.”

A month has passed and I’m now deeply immersed in my Anglo-Indian books, and the course too seems to be going well in both places. I’m finding Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland a compulsive page turned, as I did this past month Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays (in the Politics and Prose online class held by Elaine Showalter on “Difficult Women,” a bit of a disappointment — I will talk of this in my next Austen Reveries blog_. I’m watching a fascinatingly intricate and intelligent Anglo-Indian serials I missed several summers ago: Indian Summers. It is good: at long last Indian people are equally heroines and heroines, well nearly equally, in this psychologically complex portrait of the Raj in its last years.


Julie Walters as the tough memsahib with a gorgeous hat — the club was central to the culture, and today it goes on still for upper class Indians

These topics are not especially cheerful. I seem to see books and movies on Anglo-India and India everywhere and came across in The New York Review of Books, a grim report on how women are treated: horrifying story Indian girls kill themselves rather than risk return to family who’ve decided she had relationship with a man of they did not approve of: In the Orchard by Skye Arundati Thomas.

I’ve added to the two summer courses I told about in previous diary entries (Retelling Traditional History and Tales from an Alternative POV; and Sensational and Gothic Novels Then and Now), and one planned for next winter (The Heroine’s Journey): another fall Trollope course:

Two Trollopes: Anthony & Joanna: The Last Chronicle of Barset & The Rector’s Wife

We’ll read Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset, the last 6th Barsetshire novel, seen once seen as his signature book. I’ve read with OLLI classes the first four; there is no need to read these, but we’ll discuss them to start, & I advise, if possible, readers to read the 5th, The Small House of Allington over the summer. His indirect descendent, Joanna Trollope, has recreated the central story of the Last Chronicle in her Rector’s Wife, which we’ll read in the last two weeks, & discuss her The Choir, another Barsetshire post-text, plus two excellent film adaptations of these in the 1990s.

I’m taking a course on Thurgood Marshall (I cannot say how much this US owes this courageous intelligent man — risked his life for many years winning case after case with very hard work), on Lincoln (as I knew from years ago the man loathed slavery), and in May will do that Anne Finch review, which will feed into a paper for the fall EC/ASECS: ) “From Either End of the Long Eighteenth Century: Anne Finch’s ‘Folger’ Book and Jane Austen’s Unpublished Fiction” — the centrality of manuscripts in the experience of these books. Tonight I experienced an hour’s zoom from the American Antiquarian Society where I heard the historian Thavolia Glymph talk about her latest book, The Women’s Fight in the Civil War, especially enslaved black women

Not that it’s all hard work or seriousness. I am just delighting in the new Sanditon, second season (as I did in All Creatures Great and Small): I truly find Rose Williams’s character of Charlotte Heywood as close to Austen’s conceptions of her heroine, somewhat modernized as I have come across since the 2008 Sense and Sensibility (Hattie Morahan) and previous heritage and appropriation Austen films between 1995 and 1998 (four remarkable films, 199-96 P&P, S&S, Emma, and Persuasion). And many of the stories feel like replays in a good feeling, cheerful vein of many of Austen’s paradigms. I just love how Charlotte-Rose sets out for work everyday, bag on her shoulder, no matter how anachronistic it is. I’m writing postings each week towards two new blogs on Sanditon 2 to match the previous two on Sanditon 1.


Sanditon Season 2 – Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) calls to mind for me Cassandra’s drawing of Austen from the back gazing out at the landscape

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What is new is I’ve subscribed to HBO Max, because it has the first two seasons of My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Quartet is the truer name) and is one by one, each week adding one of the new 8 episodes for Season 3 (Those who leave and those who stay).


Lenu (Ingrid Del Genio) and Lila (Elisa Del Genio) reading Little Women together

I just love this serial as I love the books.  It’s a version of the working class neighborhood in the Southeast Bronx that I grew up in.  I understand it — or this is how people behaved so I feel I understand even if I don’t quite get the motives that actuate the characters. I identify with both heroines. It was harder to identify with Lila because she was so angry and seemed so needlessly cruel to others who had not hurt her, but eventually I’ve come to see she’s sort of the Marianne Dashwood of the books, the heroine Christa Wolf was drawn to, the misfit.

This gets me to my unspoken topic: why I am so alone, why in life I’ve had a couple of friends at a time and no more, why I can’t sustain friendships, why I get myself in trouble publicly sometimes because someone has done something that seems to me so outrageously obtuse or
cruel and I’ve not resisted calling her out for it. Not much, just on the tiny point, but I have somehow hit something important — usually their ego somehow. One woman attacking all those who complain or protest during the Trump era when I said that was a form of political protest and justified and she wrong, she produced long screeds of her resume about how important she was and all her achievements. I realized to many I looked bad, and yet to me she looked so arrogant, showing Writ Large just what I was pointing out in small.

You might say this sort of thing on my part explains why I’ve ended up excluded from JASNA, never was included in the inner circle of the Trollope academic groups, never came near getting a full-time job, except in each of these instances I was excluded early on, before such an incident occurred. When I was invited to the Jane Austen summer program, by the end or third day I knew I would not be invited back, though what I had done unacceptable so early on, I don’t know. I would be thanked for coming. Stood up is the frequent story of my life. When I’ve been able to articulate what a person couldn’t bear — somehow I didn’t figure forth what I call showing off — someone has said to me, of course. It’s these instances, enough across my life to decide I am Aspergers and begin going to Aspergers meetings in person and now online. They are a comfort to me. I find I share so many traits with people there: like hating change, loving routine. It does look like the woman’s group may not survive because the woman starting it is beginning to ask for other facilities and cancelled this month’s meeting.

Jim was the one friend I made who supported me in every way and whom I truly got along with, who enabled me — to travel for example — and his dying takes from me my seeming ability to be part of life’s adventures as others understand these. Am I a difficult woman? this was not the meaning of the course because the four women writers we studied all were worldly successes and much admired by those who admired the tremendous resume woman. He shared my sense of values at core. He was alone too, only once in all the years we were married did a friend of his visit us. He never came back — that was my fault for not feeding him enough. I don’t know that my life would have been better had I been able to see myself as Aspergers and thus at least controlled these impulses or tried hide some of them when I recognize I’m getting myself in trouble but I at least would have had some explanation — if not the values others seem to have in uncountable ways I don’t get.

The unspoken topic is why you see me spend my life hard at work for no money, with no prestige but respect from those who have recognized value in what I’ve offered. I am willing to follow along and to support others in intellectual ways, but that is not enough valued, or other things matter much more. I am Lila — deeply angry somewhere in me because of the unjust way the world works which resolves itself into how I’ve fared or not fared.

So you see, gentle reader, or you may understand why I seem to be mad: this is no retirement. It’s me work work working in a sense all the time. Surrounding myself with books. I don’t know how to play except this kind of work: read, write, watch movies, share with others what I’ve found. What in Aspergers groups is the obsessive behavior over some area I can conquer. For Izzy ice-skating, tennis. For me literature and art. I don’t go out much because the pandemic has made the excuse and turned the pattern into not that uncommon — last weekend I did meet a friend in Washington, DC, and we ate out lunch together, afterwards seeing a powerful Merchant of Venice in the 7th Street and F theater. I enjoyed it but was glad to come home, relieved I did nothing wrong. I think this is a friendship faute de mieux. Her friends are dying, moving away to be near grandchildren, she is unmarried, no children, frail now.


John Douglas Thompson staggered under the onslaught of punitive law …

The play was played in a very simple way, plain costumes actors on a stage emoting at us, coming through the audience discreetly to bring home to everyone the difference between film/TV/streaming on your computer and whatever other devices you might use — and going to a theater to see a play done live by people in front of you with people all around.

John Douglas Thompson, the actor play Shylock was its core – as is often the case when this play is done very well. He was just so deeply hurt and poignant as an open source of a wound leading to profound rage, and when cut down the way he is by them all, it’s almost unbearable. I still think the very cent er of the play, the trial, its language deeply anti-semitic, and the forcing of Christianity on this man is part of this. The actress plays Portira was weak, she swallowed the second half of her central speech, and the rest of them were basically non-entities as they often emerge. A darkness was brought in by interpreting Lorenzo as an abusive husband, and Jessica, an outsider. They play down except for one moment the homosexuality or eroticism between Antonio and Bassiano, the audience’s murmur at the one moment suggested to me why they decided not to dare the homosexuality as part of what is happening on stage — why Portia is buying herself a husband.

I recommend it strongly to be seen as a live play. It is for Americans is so resonant as we have just watched the disgracefully racist and misogynistic attack on Ketanji Brown Jackson and all that that implies about the state of US society today. I also loved the outcast person.


Barnaby and his Raven, Grip — by Phiz, from Dickens’s novel, Barnaby Rudge

My paper on Trollope was on another of the solitary radical characters throughout Trollope’s novels who become his central heroes and heroine: this one Mary, Lady Mason, criminal forger, who just about gets away with it. She does not go to prison; she achieved her goal (providing a gentleman’s life for her son, a lady’s life for herself) by living apart. Phiz’s picture was one of my central pictures for transcendent book illustration art. I wrote and said:

This by Phiz again of the mentally disabled Barnaby Rudge and his faithful friend, the raven, to me captures more pity, respect and understanding for the comradeship of this outcast pair than any of Dickens’s words in the novel.

I will write a brief blog here, connect the talk put on the Trollope Society website eventually to my paper on Austen as a woman with traveling boxes but very little space to herself in my central Ellen and Jim blog soon (I hope).

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

Sunday another friend, long time for me, also now alone (two divorces), but several children and grandchildren (whose successes she never tires of boasting of) came here and we ate together and watched three (!) episodes of A Jewel in the Crown and walked. But this is unusual. My life is here online, at my desk, with my books, DVDs and cats … It is form of keeping depression and loneliness at bay.

As I said last time, I find since before Christmas I am feeling less afraid of being alive in the world without Jim. I’ve lasted nine years, and (as long as social security and my widow’s annuity are continued) seem on a path to do this until I’m no more. I’m doing better on a form of acceptance of my lot without Jim. Not seeking distractions which make me nervous and eat up time — like going out so much to courses or lectures.
Traveling to try to make friends. I fought hard the first few years after he died, but now after the 3 year pandemic, I find I’m back where I was with only a world of Internet friends and acquaintances at a distance, a couple of friends nearby at most.

This month too, my long-time friend, Mary Lee, her husband died suddenly. She is (self-described) heart-broken. They were married for 51 years. I’m not seeing her much and like other friends whose partners have gone her life will change, and I doubt there’ll be the room for me there was. I find a deep congeniality with her despite her devout religion and my (as she recalled it in a letter so it irked more than I thought a joke phrase would) “fervent atheism.”

The thing is I have to be occupied – my mind absorbed. One new change or change back this past month is renewed anxiety and worry of the type I felt in the last months of Trump’s “regime,” and especially his concerted attempt to overthrow the US democracy-oligarchy and establish himself as a permanent corrupt dictator (Keptocrat) president pushing the US population into fascism. Not as strong, but Biden’s programs are not getting passed, this evil GOP is working successfully in many states to suppress voting rights, and they have in store for US people immiseration. I’m horrified by the brutally inhumane criminal war inflicted on the Ukrainian people by Putin and his Russians — and there worry about nuclear war as suddenly an actual possible death for us all here in DC.


The poor terrified animal — Ukrainians are modern people and value their pets

So I just can’t read E.M. Forster too many times, cannot lose myself in the intense sexual and affectionate bonding of Jamie and Claire (of Outlander) at midnight reading in bed or watching via DVD too often. I don’t tire of Cavafy’s poetry, which Jim so loved — “The God Abandons Anthony” Jim’s favorite.

And when the time comes and I can’t teach any more (I cannot predict what talent or gift or ability will have to go), I will turn to writing a book once again — something longer, and it will be an outgrowth of all the courses I’ve been teaching myself to give and all the books and movies I’ve been watching, all the blogging I’ve done over these past few years, alone with my beloved cat, ClaryCat (near me just about 24 hours a day) and writing about the next day to friends


Beloved Clarycat in a sun-puddle

I carry on having obscure pains in my chest, my face looks older every day, my body sagging, exhausted from a day of simply going to hairdresser, shopping for food, and practicing a talk 3 times while reading during interstices, this poem speaks to me especially (thanks to Graham Christian for putting the following as a posting on face-book:

Any Soul to Any Body

So we must part, my body, you and I,
Who’ve spent so many pleasant years together.
‘Tis sorry work to lose your company
Who clove to me so close, whate’er the weather,
From winter unto winter, wet or dry;
But you have reached the limit of your tether,
And I must journey on my way alone,
And leave you quietly beneath a stone.

They say that you are altogether bad
(Forgive me, ’tis not my experience),
And think me very wicked to be sad
At leaving you, a clod, a prison, whence
To get quite free I should be very glad.
Perhaps I may be so, some few days hence,
But now, methinks, ’twere graceless not to spend
A tear or two on my departing friend.

Now our long partnership is near completed,
And I look back upon its history;
I greatly fear I have not always treated
You with the honesty you showed to me.
And I must own that you have oft defeated
Unworthy schemes by your sincerity,
And by a blush or stammering tongue have tried
To make me think again before I lied.

‘Tis true you’re not so handsome as you were,
But that’s not your fault and is partly mine.
You might have lasted longer with more care,
And even now, with all your wear and tear,
‘Tis pitiful to think I must resign
You to the friendless grave, the patient prey
Of all the hungry legions of Decay.

But you must stay, dear body, and I go.
And I was once so very proud of you:
You made my mother’s eyes to overflow
When first she saw you, wonderful and new.
And now, with all your faults, ’twere hard to find
A slave more willing or a friend more true.
Ay — even they who say the worst about you
Can scarcely tell what I shall do without you.
–Cosmo Monkhouse (1840-1901)

Monkhouse devoted most of his literary career to sensitive art criticism, including a life of the visionary English artist H.M.W. Turner. This poem, from his 1890 collection, *Corn and Poppies*, exhibits skillful musicality, gentle humor, and hard-won wisdom that compare favorably with the achievements of Monkhouse’s more celebrated contemporaries, Tennyson and Browning. Like the best poems, it resists paraphrase; its wistful wit lingers in the mind. — Graham Christian

Ellen


I’ve been steadily buying chrysanthemums each week they are here

daffodils/that come before the swallow dares/and take the winds of March with beauty … TheWinter’s Tale

Dear readers and friends,

So I begin this blog with e.e. cummings and Shakespeare, and I am cheerful for myself just now. The new spring term at OLLI at AU begins this week, and I have a couple of courses I’m looking forward to at Politics in Prose, just loving the books and movies I’ve been reading and watching for my own (Anglo-Indian Novels). The usual anxieties are appeased: Izzy and I have already gone to the AARP people at Sherwood Library and our taxes are paid (!), I’m not going this year to the ASECS (much relieved), and the course I gave in winter (Retelling Traditional History & Tales from an Alternative POV) went over very well at OLLI at Mason this 4 week winter semester so that I’ll repeat it at OLLI at AU for the 4 week June course. Best of all for this time, I’ve written my first full draft of a talk I promised to do for the London Society Zoom group on Millais and Trollope (centering on Orley Farm) and now need only revise (writing is rewriting).
The easier frame of mind I described in Facing February continues.

The natural world is indeed waking up around me.


Ian sniffing the warmth and breezes


Clarycat alert to the twittering swallows re-building their nests in the awnings above my study window

I saw two daffodils in my garden today, and a row of the little white bell-like tiny flower. Lots of green shoots sprouting in each flower bed. I’ve five now and may ask the man and wife team I pay to garden for me to make a sixth under the windows on the right side of the back part of my house.

Shall I confess I got a Valentine’s present — presents (!): a sturdy book of goods essays on 18th century topics of interest to me, a Nature calendar (lots of flowers, landscapes, animals) and a card from a now longtime male friend. Thoughtful and kind. Without my having to prompt him at all.

I’ve invented a new 4 week course for next winter, OLLI at Mason!

The Heroines’ Journeys

Many courses in myth take as Bible, Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces (a reduction of Frazer’s Golden Bough) so for this one we’ll take Maureen Murdoch’s The Heroine’s Journey (distillation of many books on “Archetypal Patterns in women’s fiction“) and read two mythic short novels from an alternative POV, Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad (no she did not sit for 20 years knitting and unknitting the same shawl), and Christa Wolf’s Medea (no she did not hack her brother’s skeleton to piece, nor kill those children); then two ordinary realistic ironic short novels, Elena Ferrante’s Lost Daughter (Leda is the lost daughter) and Austen’s Northanger Abbey (Catherine had it right). We’ll see Outlander, S1E1 (Claire transported) & Prime Suspect S1E1 (Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison).

Two pairs of short novels. What fun this would be.

I have thought of another one for such a time span (maybe 6 weeks?): Animal Tales for Adults, together with articles on animal rights and present day animal abuse for a 6-8 week course. Begin with Woolf’s Flush and Frances Power Cobbe’s The confessions of a Lost Dog; go on to Paul Austin’s Timbuctoo and A.N. Wilson’s Stray; switch gears slightly to David Garnett’s Lady into Fox and Goodall’s Ten Years with Chimpanzees or end on Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation and Sy Montgomery’s Walking with Great Apes

I could show or advise Frederick Wisemen’s Primates (only a bit of this as it’s horrifying what academics do to animals — or show the film adaptation of J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip.

I now try to take seriously What do We Owe our Fellow Animals (Martha Nussbaum): what are they capable of doing? what do they enjoy that’s healthy? and how can we enable them? All day long nowadays Clarycat is by my side somewhere close. Just now on my lap. Sometimes she truly forgets I’m not a cat and tries to play-bite with me. No, say I. Too far.

End of February on Washington’s birthday, when the weather was very pretty Izzy attended the President’s Day parade in Old Town — there’s a long tradition of fake and erased history. Alexandria was a market for selling enslaved people because of the harbor; it has banks. So the history has been and yesterday still was it was a Scots place. The usual Scots band (all white males) marched with bagpipes and in traditional kilts. Izzy said hardly anyone with a mask anywhere. There was quite a crowd and no masks — I’m not sure I like that. She watched for a bit and then found a place she could cross to get to the Potomac and watch the birds.

In lieu of the violence and celebrity posturing of the annual Superbowl event, I watched 6th episode of 2nd season of All Creatures great and small (Home truths); shamelessly sentimental and ratcheting up lots of angst, yet nothing but good happens. Why? I’ve decided it’s a show with women in charge — for real. Mrs Herriot gives up James to Helen, Mrs Hall and the woman with the perpetually nearly mortal cows. Mrs Pumphrey is the local central goddess, and Tricky woo, her animal. A new woman came in, an aging gypsy who lives with stray dogs. Parallel to Mrs Pumphrey. I love it.

I re-watched The portrait of a Lady on Fire, (with French subtitles). Blogged about it, together with Deux (Two of Us) and Capernaum on my blog tonight. Women’s films. True Valentine. Also Gwendolyn Brooks.

And then 5th episode of 4th season of Outlander (Savages). The men are: the crazed German settler who thinks the Native Americans are stealing “his water” so when his daughter-in-law and grandchild die of measles, he murders the beautiful healer of the tribe — they retaliate by murdering him and his wife and burning down his house. Claire had been there to help bring the baby into the world. The coming problem that most counts is measles. Jamie and Ian discover they can’t get settlers while the Governor and his tax collectors are taking all the profits from settlers and using it to live in luxury, and Murtagh is re-discovered. Very moving reunion with Jamie and Claire — keeping the estates, feeding animals. She is Mrs Hall.  I love how in the next season Marsali is growing up to be a medical apprentice.

Finished Christa Wolf’s Cassandra on how all rules, genres, simple truths of literature and myth, the way science conducted the result of the dense war-like oppression of males. Aristotle especially ridiculous and Goethe’s final stance a version of Voltaire-Candide cultivating his garden. Some know better, like Schiller For Valentine’s Day, this cartoon (I don’t know the name of the illustrator, sorry) is also a day to remember as Against Violence inflicted on Women.

I’ll recommend a charmingly written (full of ordinary details) book by Margaret Macmillan, a Canadian writer called Women of the Raj What was life like for the hundreds and more of English women who traveled to stay, or were born in the Raj, with references to women who left diaries and son. How real is the missionary in The Jewel in the Crown? Were all Raj English women as awful as they seem in some TV adaptations. If some were, we might try to understand why.


Claire and Adewehi


Anne Maddeley as Mrs Hall


Matilde, Heloise, Marianne

Not that all is well with the world. Oh no. Especially with the worst men in charge. Putin invaded Ukraine and is actually threatening nuclear war if anyone directly intervenes to save that country from death and devastation and (upon defeat) tyrannical dictatorship combined with kleptocracy (what the GOP longs to mete out to the majority of liberal Americans insofar as they can pull it off).  Horrifying.  Russian soldiers are simply killing people.  Destroying their houses.  Took over a nuclear power plant.  I’ve sent $160 altogether to different places on the Net. It seems such a helpless act. Biden cannot (it seems) pass a voting rights act, nor a Build Back Better bill. I was made very sad by a email from a friend — her husband died suddenly two weeks ago. She had expected that he would have an heart operation, and be at risk from that but not just go. I found myself crying for her, in a way re-living what I felt when Jim was gone. Part of the funeral was held in the same place we held Jim’s – very differently. I didn’t sleep well for three nights — she is experiencing heartbreak.

I nowadays follow the actor, Samuel West, on twitter. He’s rare for not incessantly promoting himself. He had a photo of himself, a son, and his father, Timothy West (so aging now — wonderfully read so many Trollopes for Books-on-Tape) and mother, Prunella Scales, playing a board game. His response to nationalisms:


No attribution but it might be by him

For myself I am going slower, stiffer in body. It takes me much longer and it is much harder than it used to be to do my calisthenics each morning and I’m even tempted to stop. Thao advised me to keep it up — and I’ve read the only way to prevent atrophy is to steadily keep up what exercise I can. My chest has a soft pain now and again but I discovered (as when I was in my 30s and 40s and had these, two ibuprofens makes the pain go away.  I have stopped adding sugar to my coffee and morning cereal.  I’m walking in the afternoon around 4 for half an hour or so. I still can’t resist coping with swallowing glue all afternoon by a couple of glasses of wine. There are few people who understand the nature of addiction and self-harm practices. I take so much longer to heal. I sometimes end up wasting evening hours recovering, especially when I’ve gone out to be with a friend.

I’m in two minds about how the world is going back to being in person — for myself as problematic as ever even if I long for whatever real companionship once again. It turns out the majority of courses at OLLI at AU this spring are online. I regret not going in and yet I have no desire to go to in person conferences — it was better when I could participate online. Yet I’ve been encountering a congenial Englishman who lives not far from me in my walks – he is out playing with his dog. I know I go out at a time he might be there and he does the same. We share an Anglophilic taste in PBS and BBC — and books too. That I enjoy these brief conversations shows what I’m still doing without.

To end on a better note: Not uncommonly when I go to museums with other people (women friends) I find they are not as interested in the pictures as I am but I do get to see more and one favorite painting in the National Gallery for many years I re-found: Redfield’s Mill in Winter, 1922. Well when I got home I found a relatively inexpensive study of his art, very good, by Constance Kimmerle. Out of fashion but fine and beautiful and accurate ….. and meaningful too. Reveling in it

I do think life is good and want to stay here as long as possible with my daughters. Carve out a small place to have some comfort and pleasure the way Voltaire advises. And vote to help and enable others.


Monet, Ice thawing on Vétheuil (1880)

Ellen

Facing February …


Perhaps Peder Mork Monsted’s Evening Glow, 1920 (Danish painter) captures this

Friends and readers,

Let me begin with how I was struck one later afternoon with the winter light. I think winter light can be beautiful. Today is as yet very cold, 27F feels like 13F, late afternoon, near 4 pm (EST). The snow is now scarce but enough to make the landscape picturesque, ground frozen. It’s the whiteness of the light I like so much. I used to have as a motto on my Sylvia I blog (LiveJournal) Emily Dickinson’s famous lines, “There is a certain slant of light/Winter Afternoons … ,” “oppresses, but I do not find it so. It’s no use taking a photo (with my cell phone as that’s all I have for photo-taking) as the camera will never capture the sharp white intensity or glow in which all is seen so clearly. The sky cloudless, in Virginia (maybe not Denmark) ever so light blue.

Some time after New Years’ Eve, I believe I felt something more of a change than I have in a long time, that sometimes I find myself not as afraid as I was to be alive in this world without Jim. I’ve shown myself I am competent enough to do what I need to, what I enjoy, and find I am not in any danger from anyone — as long as I remain solvent. Nine years ago, August 2013 I had such a panic attack as I’ve never felt before I lost my breathe when I began to realize soon Jim would be gone. I am not over nervousness and worry, but the primal fear has receded. I try not to be distressed by remembering basic failures across my life. Unkind caricatures. The best thing is avoid where these have walled me off. When I come up against obtuseness, aggressive impositions and exclusions (especially this stubborn look or a preference for the contentless in some one’s face inferred or seen), just push back gently and turn away. I can live quietly on myself — I admit it would be harder without Izzy’s daily company.

News from Thao: she told me she was pregnant around then, and this past week it was 20 weeks, and she had an ultra-sound (I think it was) and was told it will be a boy. She wants to call him William.

A month has slipt away since then, as time slips away since nearly two years ago, this life avoiding a serious illness from Covid-19 began. Izzy is again working from home, and I am again teaching remotely, and do not intend to go to classes in person until June. I have been out beyond shopping for food and other necessaries twice, with the same friend, to lunch and then a movie. Laura and Rob were here once, briefly, to help me re-plug in my DVD player (luckily all that was wrong was two loose plugs) and Mr Christbel, the handyman-contractor who renovated my porch into a lovely sunroom, will be here on Monday to replace the two toilet seats. And yes I’ve had my hair dyed and cut by Sheila. Two phone calls with my aunt Barbara. But all other socializing has been on the Net (email, FB, twitter, zooms, here on this or other blogs).

I am sometimes very sad as I waken, and only absorbed reading in deeply felt congenial books, reading and writing an email letter to and from my friend each morning, then communication with others, (not always light) chat on FB, twitter, lists, can slowly pulls me out to cheer. Keeping busy with projects, and now again zoom, chores, one must dress, eat, play with cats. The I turn round and it’s later in the afternoon, weather permitting, I walk, and then back to late at night when I block the loss of Jim with movies. Just now immersion, in Foyle’s War and tonight that beautiful first episode of the fourth season of Outlander (from Drums in Autumn), where Jamie and Claire’s love-making reminds me of what we had.


Camping out (sleeping outside the tent!) in North Carolina (Outlander S3, E1)

I am especially fond of chrysanthemums because Jim’s first present to me were 22 yellow chrysanthemums — as I was 22. The first time in years anyone had remembered my birthday. I was especially touched because I knew he had spent money he should not have. These are violet purple and deep dark red. For me there is as much bitterness as gratitude in this memory of this strange person who I let stay with me on the first night we met and then the whole week as my flat mate had not yet arrived, and who in turn suddenly treated me with respect and affection as anything else. He didn’t despise me for generosity. I became aware he had more genuine feeling for another whom he as yet did not know very well than most of the people I’d ever met who might have been said to have known me for a while.


Dark red and violet purple instead of yellow

I don’t think I could survive without this house, our home with all our memories, as my shelter, and the library we created to occupy me. So here are more of the usual things you hear from me:  the end of last month (December into January) immersed in Anne Finch’s worlds and poetry; January, this month it has been first Jane Austen and women’s lack of control over their personal much less real estate property; then continuously for the rest Iris Origo’s deeply intelligent, restrained depths in her books, Christa Wolf’s complexities in hers, Christine Donougher’s chrystal clear easy-to-read translation-edition of Les Miserables, the astonishingly alive profoundly knowledgeable about life and all it takes to survive masterpiece (including retreat) that is Orley Farm yet once again, and I’m seeing so much more this time than last.


The kindly judge and his daughter

Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer, a moving wonderfully frank and tasteful fictionalized biography of E.M. Forster’s homosexual life, from his time in India (a continuation of a fragment of a novel Forster never got very far with).

When I find myself learning new things (an excellent course in early Black history in the USA – devastating), I think how useless that a 75 year old woman should at long last understand what Black people have gone through and still do (in 1672 a law was passed in Virginia making “casual killing” of a “negro” legal if he or she is enslaved and resists any command; and two days ago several police thugs broke into someone’s flat in Minnesota and murdered a Black man under a blanket who sought to protect himself). What can I do to help but in my teaching do books that teach what life is for real, and compassion.

I don’t remember if I told you that I invented a course for the 6 week summer session of OLLI at Mason, which I am scheduled to do in person, and it was okayed yesterday. I will not forget to dwell on what husbands were allowed to do wives — incarcerate them — until the mid-20th century.

Sensation and Gothic Novels, Then and Now

In this course we will read Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White (4 weeks) and Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly, a post-text gothic novel for RLStevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the novella retells story from a POV of the housemaid (2). We will discuss what is a sensation, what a gothic novel, and how both evolved out of the Victorian era: what are their characteristics? how do these overlap & contrast; how do the genres differ. Many movies and plays have been adapted from Collins’s and Stevenson’s novels; we’ll discuss some of these, and I’ll ask the class to see the latest (I think brilliant) BBC 2018 Woman in White serial, featuring Jessie Buckley, scriptwriter Fiona Seres; and Stephen Frear’s 1996 film of the same title, featuring John Malkovich, Julia Roberts, scriptwriter Christopher Hampton

More abilities are falling from me. I go slower, I can’t exercise as well as I used to — while I do these calisthenics (sit-ups, pull-ups, stretches, bike-ride in place) each morning, I listen to Pandora, the channels are Nancy Griffith, Joan Baez. EmmyLou Harris and Willie Nelson. James Taylor. A new favorite are the songs of John Prine (who died of covid). , I must drive with real care, my chest hurts now and again. I do want to study Virginia Woolf far more — every few weeks or so I join in on a two hour sessions on a novel by Virginia Woolf. There I have to remember not to talk unless I’ve recently read the book that is under discussion — or I make a fool out of myself, just a bit. That book I’ve wanted to write has its piles of books on 20th century women writers and readers waiting for me. I’ll see how many years I have. I’ve no notion of having to publish it. I could be content with blogs too.

Better political news than usual: the Bidens have adopted a cat, lucky creature, a girl, called Willow


Here she is, getting used to the place

She is two and said to be a farm working cat — this makes her more able to adjust to new and changing surroundings. She has been around other kinds of animals for a start. Why she would fit right in with the animals in All Creatures Great and Small. The charming story as told to and reported on Yahoo.

So, having provided just a few links, and offered no particular analysis of book or movie in itself, instead I go full circle from where I began the blog: with two passages of winter’s light and snow’s beauty as it first comes down. First, from Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?, “Among the Fells,” rapt mood capturing his heroines’ walk through Swindale Fell in Westmoreland:

It was a delicious afternoon for a winter’s walk. The air was clear and cold, but not actually frosty. The ground beneath their feet was dry, and the sky, though not bright, had that appearance of enduring weather which gives no foreboding of rain. There is a special winter’s light, which is very clear though devoid of all brilliancy,—through which every object strikes upon the eye with well-marked lines, and under which almost all forms of nature seem graceful to the sight if not actually beautiful. But there is a certain melancholy which ever accompanies it. It is the light of the afternoon, and gives token of the speedy coming of the early twilight. It tells of the shortness of the day, and contains even in its clearness a promise of the gloom of night. It is absolute light, but it seems to contain the darkness which is to follow it. I do not know that it is ever to be seen and felt so plainly as on the wide moorland, where the eye stretches away over miles, and sees at the world’s end the faint low lines of distant clouds settling themselves upon the horizon. Such was the light of this Christmas afternoon

Then, Virginia Woolf, The Years, 1913:

It was January. Snow was falling; snow had fallen all day. The sky spread like a grey goose’s wing from which feathers were falling all over England. The sky was nothing but a flurry of falling flakes. Lanes were levelled; hollows filled; the snow clogged the streams; obscured windows, and lay wedged against doors. There was a faint murmur in the air, a slight crepitation, as if the air itself were turning to snow; otherwise all was silent, save when a sheep coughed, snow flopped from a branch, or slipped in an avalanche down some roof in London. Now and again a shaft of light spread slowly across the sky as a car drove through the muffled roads. But as the night wore on, snow covered the wheel ruts; softened to nothingness the marks of the traffic, and coated monuments, palaces and statues with a thick vestment of snow.


Izzy took this photo of our neighborhood this January during one snow day


Now here’s our house right around Christmas, early one morning, before dawn has broken

Ellen

A PS: movie review of Deux or Two of Us

Gentle reader,

We begin the new year with a new rendition of a song by my daughter, Isobel,

Here are the lyrics.

There are many customs for bringing in the new year. One I’ve followed before is to sum up my best reading or watching experiences, which have turned into an account of what I read all year. The truth is I don’t distinguish last January from the year before, and so much gets mixed up in my mind. I’ve felt, though, that so often these lists become modes of showing off, or people find turning outward to account for the book to others.  One also cites books that one can explain, explicate, or describe in public. I hope to escape that this year, but egoistic as it sounds, just list a few that meant a great deal of me, spoke to me personally as I watched or read, what I learned most from.


Jean Argent, Alice through the Looking Glass, at Guildford castle in Surrey

This year I at last finished Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet; I would become so involved I would get angry at Elena for doing this or that (leaving a fine man for a husband for a selfish liar for a lover, deserting her children for years) or feel so deeply for Lila though I knew she did not want my pity. I realize the four big books may be a partial collaboration of Anita Raja with her husband, Domenico Starnone (not that he wrote it, but contributed as a dialogue with her). She is foolish for refusing to come out since this allows the awful people to besmirch her when she has translated, learned and taken so much from Christa Wolf, whose work also astonished me this year (Patterns of Childhood).

I just loved the depth of feeling in Iris Origo’s Images and Shadows. an autobiography of herself as a product of her central grandparents, parents, background, education, all leading to marriage, the war (WW2).

A new 19th century author and new book for me was superb: one of the friends of Charlotte Bronte who moved to New Zealand for most of her life, lived and worked there and towards the end of her life returned to Yorkshire to live upon her considerable savings. Her family had had money to start her off and keep her going in hard years: Mary Taylor’s Miss Miles: A Tale of Yorkshire Life 60 Years Ago. I also delighted in Us, the book, by David Nicholls; it was the British serial on PBS that brought me to it (favorite actors, Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves), but the book was so much better, I just laughed and laughed. I thought to myself Laura would never believe this. I read it twice in a row.

I learned finally how colonialism works, how the system is put together and how it starves and kills the native people it preys upon in Eduard Douwes Dekker (brave and remarkably selfless) Max Havilaar, or, The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company.

I watched and re-watched the exquisitely or quietly funny and subversive Biederbecke Tapes, 3 seasons, written by Alan Plater, starring my favorite Barbara Flynn. I mean watched and re-watched, bought the novelizations …

I returned to loved topics and authors: I was mesmerized by Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, fell to crying over the movie. I practiced (so to speak) more immersion in E.M. Forster (latest Damon Galgut’s convincing fictionalized biography out of Forster’s fragment, Arctic Summer). I can even now learn and love good books on Jane Austen: Sandie Byrne’s JA: Possessions and Dispossesions

I’m still busy falling in love with Michael Kitchen and Foyle’s War I’m only in the 6th of 8 seasons and must re-watch at least twice more before thinking of writing about it.

I admitted to myself that had I encountered Gabaldon’s Outlander, the first four books, and the first two seasons shaped by Roger Moore at age 13-15 I would have been enchanted, and faithful to texts, and actors for life. Like the Winston Graham Poldarks which I discovered in the 1990s, these books came too late, 2015, so I am not up to quite the same intensity of impressionability. Nonetheless, I don’t do too badly. I love the scenes best when Claire and Jamie are in bed together, or talking, or alone doing things together. As a second narrator, I am very fond of Roger Mackenzie Wakefield.

What teaching did I enjoy most? in the end Trollope’s The Prime Minister; throughout E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End and Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day plus all three movies. What class did I truly enjoy to be in? Maria Frawley’s Middlemarch (I re-read that book for, would you believe, fourth time!) and of course that magically true film adaptation by Andrew Davies. The Cambridge lectures on weekends mid-day on Woolf, one on Forster. I must not forget Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay (her whole oeuvre) and Alan Parker’s Come See the Paradise, seeing both the result of Leonard King’s astonishing movie classes.

Will this do?

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True Grit up North (a winter scene) by Geoff Butterworth, watercolor, 20th century

Then there are New Year’s resolutions. Try to maintain cheerfulness. You will feel better from this and other act better towards you. Practice self-control. Ditto. Not to get angry or resentful over those who do not ask me to lead groups or do talks because I have no titles, no fame, only 2 unimportant books, was for many years an adjunct (one of the dalits of academic life).  Remind yourself continually how much work these things take, and how you don’t need it, are not paid.  And any I just got $290 as honorarium from people at OLLI at AU for class on The Prime Minister. In the US the way you are shown you are approved of is people give you money.

Vowing to stay calm is easier said than done — for today I did panic or the need to resolve what to do in spring became too strong, my worries over getting it, the chest pain near my heart, in my right upper arm.  Or transmitting Covid to someone else. I thought about how badly I drive nowadays, even in daylight I must exercise caution. How much time it takes to drive in, out, park, and how useful the time to do my reviews and projects.

So I switched and now will be teaching online this spring and take only online classes once more. No one in either place seemed to think I made an untoward or inappropriate or unfortunate decision at all. They switched for me immediately. Now there’s another classroom freed and my place in in person classes can be taken by others.  I regret this a little, but I’d never forgive myself if I brought infection to Laura and Rob. I don’t like uncertainty, the waiting was too much. I worry about what happens in hospitals, which places I loathe anyway. (See Hospitals in serious trouble at DemocracyNow.org).

PBS says what a mystery it is so many US people are again dying.  They can only reference (it seems) unvaccinated!  No it’s the miserable lack of a health care system that will not bankrupt you and is there to care for you for real

So it’s done. Maybe I’ll try in June to come in person after seeing what happens in the spring. At OLLI at AU I’ll miss the coffee times together, the chat before and after class. It is harder to make new friends unless you are literally there, zooms are not conducive to making friends — except I made a new one this year, Betty, through zooms including at Politics and Prose.

I do suffer from sad and angry thoughts — especially when I wake in the morning. This is a central way I experience my depressive state. When I go out among people, the experience (somewhat abrasive but cheerful and often people act in a well-meant sensible way) and perspective (what they say, how I do take it most of the time) is enormously helpful. The long hours Jim would sleep meant that mornings were then the worst of these experiences (feeling bad at my life, that I’ve never come never an achievement others truly respect, never made money, that people reject me and I can’t figure out why — my experiences from autism) had no counter; he’d get up, and make comic and ironic comments and set the world in perspective for me again. Most of all he was there, and I was never as afraid of anything when he was here with me. But I worried so about ending up in a hospital, dreadful places in the US in normal times. And causing Rob or Laura to get sick.

****************************************
How did we manage Boxing Day, after all? bring the new year in?


Izzy and I on Boxing Day, in front of the tree at the new City Center in DC, Laura taking the photo …

I have not yet made it to the National Gallery this year. For the second day of Christmas, Laura invited Izzy and I to go with her to see Joel Coen’s Macbeth, then afterwards home to her house to one of Rob’s magnificently yummy meals, opening and exchange of presents. I had the happiest day I’ve had in a very long time. The movie was not exactly subtle; much was cut, a character was added or totally changed, but it was effective film. I thought Brendon Gleeson as Duncan the most human of the characters, and allowed to deliver the best performance.

On Laura’s lawn Rob had gotten some sort of Marvel dragon figure in green hugging a Penguin. Would you believe? I met her cats — I missed their kittenhood. Maxx is smaller and more delicate than I imagined, and Charlotte looks bigger than she is because she’s a long hair (like him). They are healthy happy cats. I had a whiskey and ginger ale with the meal plus wine so was a bit dizzy for the presents ceremony. Driven home, we were back by 9 and I finished out the evening with Shadowlands, and felt good uplift.


Maxx in a new blanket

We tried for a repeat performance on New Year’s Eve night. Before Omicron Covid emerged we had bought tickets to go to a stand-up comic night with John Oliver at 7:00 to about 8:30; then we figured we’d have dinner there, and go to the gala ball. Arrive at the hall and immediately you’re on line for checking vaccination cards and no one is to be without a mask. Each person got a blue paper wrist band who passed through. We did walk about and onto the terrace a bit. Laura had gotten us box tickets so we were four to some extent away from others. It was fun to watch the people. It was not crowded in the garage nor the convention hall but there were people enough to people watch. I’m not sure Laura has ever been to the ball, but we were thwarted. Caution (the Kennedy Center does not want to be known as a bed of disease) closed the restaurants and cancelled the ball. It was a bit of a letdown and sad to have to turn round and come home, but then we couldn’t have been safer the way the thing was done.


John Oliver — not the greatest photo — he told us he has two small children, and the difficulties of filming the show from home with them in the next room …

It is telling the difference between Oliver on TV or the Internet and live at Kennedy Center. First the audience is bigger and not self-selected in the same way. People were there to be at the Kennedy Center, to be out at New Year’s Eve so his humor was not quite as strongly directed, more muted. I think being live also made him more careful. His themes were relevant if you thought about it through the jokes. How US people defy reality while British people swallow it down. He told of how he became an American citizen because he became aware in Trump’s regime how fragile a hold on staying for a non-citizen resident is a green card.

We were dropped off again around nine. Kisses and hugs with promises to see one another again soon. Indeed they were here this Saturday and discovered my DVD multi-region player was not working because two plugs were loose. So I put my new one away for a rainy day. They mascin-taped the plug strip to the wooden furniture right behind the TV instead of letting it lie on the floor behind and taped the plug below too Now I must keep the cats away from behind the TV too. He didn’t need a tool to pull the stand from the Christmas tree, and I have put it on the street now (sad each year) for to be picked up in due course. They were here for less than 20 minutes but for me brightened my day considerably.


Charlotte in a bright red blanket

I admit I recognize in myself at long last material to become an enamored grandparent, but it is better for them to remain childfree — for both their health and their pocketbook. They need not worry when he doesn’t work because of Covid, and just rejoice he is the safer. Some 12 people came down with Covid where he works about 3 weeks ago; he had been off for 2 weeks before that. I have told here he has had cancer so is vulnerable to Covid.

This time I was watching the film adaptation of Joanna Trollope’s The Choir and M.R.James’s Stalls of Barchester Cathedral for the Twelfth Night blog I have since written as a Christmas miscellany of sequels to Anthony.

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

Izzy and I made up for not going out to a movie on Christmas Day the Sunday after, January 2d, by going to see the new West Side Story. A brief review:

The new West Side Story. I retract my comments in my blog, based on what other people said and reviews, — To be sure the New Yorker critic hated it.  Brian Tallerico of Egbert.com is fairer – it is a modern mesmerizing.

This is to take back the dubiety I expressed over this movie, partly the result of reading reviews, which I now find obscured and did not give accurate detail, and memories of the previous movie, which movie I remember thinking poor and miscast in all sorts of ways. People were saying not much had been changed. Don’t trust reviewers (say she smiling).

Izzy’s eyes were shining soon after it started; she was thoroughly engrossed by the time Maria and Tony had met at the dance. The actress playing Maria can sing and looks right – so young, the actor doing Tony not a thrilling tenor but he looks right and plays it poignantly; he is so well meaning – as does the actress playing Anita (she is a genetically Black Puerto Rican woman – they have updated it for our era. They have an equivalent of Romeo and Juliet saying a sonnet in turn.

A lot is different, and especially the last third which is not wholly original as the Spielberg and associates went back to Shakespeare. Instead of a quickly truncated ending after the rumble, we have our Romeo (Tony) making his way back to Juliet (Maria’s) bedroom and a night of love-making after he confesses he murdered Bernard. The murder was his rage at Bernard murdering Riff. All with knives. Anita returns after a hard night identifying Bernard’s body and we get the duet of the two women about how can anyone love such a murderer? This song was hypothetical in the original. “I feel pretty” is replaced to after the rumble and the murders.

Rita Moreno’s (Valentina) role improves and makes more Shakespearean the story. She is Tony’s mentor, owner of a drug store who has given Tony a job after a year in prison. Then he comes to her after murdering Bernard. She comforts him; he believes he and Maria can take a bus far away. If only she will fork out the money. Then she stops a rape of Anita come to deliver a message from Maria, with my favorite lines of this movie: these white men are all shits, they have grown up to be rapists. But Anita enraged, lies and says her message is Maria is dead. Valentina is driven to tell the frantic waiting Toni, he rushes out only to see Maria coming with her suitcase, but Chino behind kills him with the gun.

There is a deep anti-gun visual theme of this movie. Bats, razors, even knives do not do as much immediate quick damage.

Finally both Hispanic (Puerto Rican) and white men lift Tony’s body to take it to the hospital. Then Moreno as an old woman sings “here is a place for us — the last song of this movie. Pitch perfect, not over taxing her voice at this point. The whole thing is more upsetting than the original play or movie. The setting of slum removal to replace with luxury apts and Lincoln Center is meaningful. They have made too pretty, too symmetrical their 1950s sets but I recognize these places — I grew up in the Bronx in the 1950s.

The New York Times liked the modern ambiance. The Washington Post critic loved it. I agree it is a rethink.

What is it that the witches in Macbeth say? the charm is wound up, read for another year of diary entries …


The Guests (Russian, later 19th century/early 20th)

Ellen

Heather Cox Richardson talks of how gov’t will start to fall apart and become poor if you go wholly local. It did snow in my area (Northern Virginia) and hundreds and hundreds of cars were stuck on the highway for 27 hours.
In my tiny local no plowing of my block for a whole day — very treacherous to go out. Snowed again, iced again, but sun came out and there was a use of sand mixture and one plowing. Used as excuse for what has been happening for months: slow death of post office service.

Has she been paying attention to what appears or doesn’t in her US Post office box near her door? This past week 3 out of the 5 days there was no mail from the US post office. No post man came to the neighborhood. This is an astonishing record I thought. I queried that neighborhood list and discovered that several people have had similar or worse things happen. The GOP is partly responsible, having decades ago decided to attack the USPS and demand they provide pension for 20 years ahead to cripple them – they want to private this national service. Constant derision.

The key here is the USPS is heavily minority and people of color, especially Black. One person came on to say we get what we need electronically: nonsense, not even all bills can come that way: insurance packets, tax from gov’ts. I keep being told Biden can do nothing until the board changes and has changed one member and another needs to die or something. What is with him?

All but two of my bills now come electronically but I must pay the two and a third by post office check. I will not put my rout number to my bank on line anywhere. I do it once a year to pay fed and state tax because AARP won’t do it any other way. As a place by the way the UPSP in my area now looks desolate. Again neighborhood listserv another person said how disgusting the PO is (it’s not, just desolate — poorly lit nowadays! nothing added by way of decoration — clearly no group spirit any more) and made slurs against the employees

Until the attacks and underfunding the USPS has been a terrific service performing daily a seemingly impossible task and well. Academic friends of mine who were (or are) GOP types regularly attacked it in slurs. It was “understood” how bad this service was. That’s racism

I used to get my passport through the Post Office. It had a subsection where a federal person was there for applying and renewals. Has that subsection been closed down?

When I once bought stamps online I found that I seemed to be conned into accepting Paypal for _all my purchases_ by the card I used from now on. I discovered this was a false email. but LeJoy lets crooks onto the USPS website. Paypal are crooks; once they get your name if you do buy something through them, they send false bills. I did it once and got false bills for weeks.

I’m not say the feds are by any means perfect: read They really are trying to kill us. Perhaps it should be put that those in power in most states across the world do not care if the citizens in those states die if it means disrupting power relationships and profit-making.


One of hundreds of small local post offices closed down around the US: a small one in the next neighborhood after mine was shut down during the pandemic (an excuse)

Anthony Trollope would be turning over in his grave with real upset if there were some kind of afterlife ….

Ellen


Roubaix, Northern France (2008)

“I enjoyed the hard black Frosts of last week very much, & one day while they lasted walked to Deane by myself.” — Jane Austen, Christmas, 1798 (for other simple accurate perceptions)

For my part, since when I was very young, in my earliest years (before 6 or so) encouraged to believe, or not discouraged from believing in, a magical being who brought presents, and a little later had the reinforcement of the Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and the idea of a special day of good will towards all (until say 11 or so), I have never been able to drive out of my head the sense of something special about this day somehow, a time, desire for, acts and words of good will and hope. Decorate somehow or other, eat together if possible, drink, maybe exchange gifts (?).  Before Covid and my loss of my ability to drive at night, go to the theater.  What else can a fervent atheist do? …

Dear friends,

First, reassurance: we didn’t do too badly … but the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay …

Morning we were very pleasant — what we as a pair always are on Christmas morning. Wished one another happy Christmas, I hugged her thoroughly. Had solemn and older folk celtic Christmas music on radios and/or panora ipad.  Our plan was out to peking duck (for me eggplant dish on side) and then maybe to Cinema art, but already we were weakening, as we agreed the reviews said this iteration of West Side Story was tedious  (see my retraction). I had yet more personal mail from sending cards and my own Christmas letters to others; then I was reading Henry James’s Spoils of Poynton – a work of genius, yes, and about possessions, Possessions, with brilliant depths of varieties of painful feeling circulating in those byzantine sentences, not actually obscure as in a novella.

We finally agreed to set forth by car (PriusC) at 1:15 lest the restaurant be socially distanced and w/o reservations not be able to get in. It’s a small not-glamorous place but does serve peking duck, is real and good Chinese food insofar as you can get it in N.Va. Well, traffic rather light. We get there and place closed, Owner Himself standing in front with a table with white cloth and flowers, a line of people who has ordered fine meals the last 3 days. Hmmn. I had made one worrying mistake driving even though in the light — drove over curb. I did not see it.

So we went back home and look on computer. Most Asian restaurants doing take-out, or delivery, the very few open demand reservations. Our usual take-out locally, Ho’s, declared open and serving early, take-out and delivery.


Classical pastoral in Fantasia (1940s)

We ate usual lunches, and sat down together to watch Fantasia. Very creative and beautifully played, but somehow obsolete a bit. Disney’s conductor worried lest we not be comprehending.  The imagery too innocent, too limited.  Especially little Cupids overdone. Best parts the unicorns and centaurs, flowers, abstractions. Famous: Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Very curious antepenultimate ballet of hypopotamuses, tigers, and elephants: somehow a gay aesthetic running through this queasy comedy.  I understand this film (like It’s a Wonderful Life) a commercial flop at first. Maybe still?

Well, worried lest Ho’s super-busy, we order by 5 — I’d had enough of Spoils and began one of my favorite re-watches, Huston’s The Dead. Seen many times. Read, taught to several classes

But by 6 he’s not here; suddenly a phone call, he’s phoning us, and are we 303? no, 308. We go outside and see man wandering about our block, having knocked on 310 — he was getting close. That’s our gay neighbors. He was hired just for the day.

So we do have a jolly meal, and I opened a wine bottle. We talked and ate for nearly an hour. Then said Merry Christmas and she went to nap.


Huston’s The Dead — one of three dancing sequences; we get poetry, piano, the feast …. & aging & vexation

I turned back to Donal McCann’s great peroration at the close of The Dead.

A few light raps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right. Snow was general over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead — James Joyce


In A Christmas Tale, the two young children put on a play, parents help, grandfather watches ….

Then, what the hell, I put on Arnaud’s Desplechin’s nearly 3 hour A Christmas Tale — it’s a wonderful ever so complicated movie of a large in name and reality of culture contemporary Catholic family. Autobiographical. I still haven’t gotten all that happened — my third time through at least. Cats settle down too. I enjoyed it very much — you are intended to enter into it fully — four or five phases of ritual activity held together by family traumas acted out, get togethers. Several moving and believable stories, including hard estrangement in which you see both siblings are to blame. I was utterly immersed, involved. Characters take time out to go walking in snow, and there are flashbacks. Camera takes us to all sorts of places in the real Roubaix — beautiful photographs of center of Northern French once industrial town with decorated lit tree.

Chief story the mother (Catherine de Neuve) has terrible leukemia, fatal, and needs bone marrow transplants, a grandson (had been put in a child’s special school but will not go back by the end — breakdown) and the wayward son are compatible (the one rejected from the family for 6 years because of the older sister’s dislike of him); and he takes on the dangerous painful position.

End of movie, operation is as far as can be told success. In some form or other all are united variously and separately and all together too. Each person has behaved naturally in and enjoyed what he or she could. (See my blog and wikipedia linked into comments.)


Abel (benign and intellectual paternal presence) and Junon (Mother of all)

Then I watched PBS’s Dec 24th half show, back to bed and books, fell asleep. By that time Izzy up for a number of hours and watching her favorites.

Today Laura comes at 11:30 and we do this again with her. She does have tickets in hand for the Macbeth — Rob will drive us to DC and pick us, we eat chicken at their house and they don’t want to risk inside a restaurant. They are back to being careful; she tells me she now has a stash of tests in her house. Big pile.

12/26, around 9 pm I also watched “In the Bleak Mid-Winter, a Foyle’s War episode taking place over Christmas 1943 — for another blog.  I’m noticing how the sets are marking time and this one is 1943: the kinds of murders that take place are involved in what were the criminal and anguished activities emerging from the phases of the war.

As you can see, gentle reader, this year I have let go and simply done what is available to me to immerse myself.

Ellen


Alistair Sim as Scrooge dancing with his nephew’s wife at the close of the 1951 film of A Christmas Carol

“A Poem for winter Solstice”

The dead are always with us
The dead never cease to be with us
We need not imagine they have consciousness
No they are literally gone
But our minds and memories are strong
And take them with us everywhere
We want to bring back the past
Make it alive again
Let it wash over you, wash into you, become you
But we need not
We may turn to
The sublimity of historical romance
the ghosts of time-traveling

— by me, written in 2017

Dear friends and readers,

I truly meant to lead off my near Christmas diary blog with pictures of this year’s tree, of Colin, my beloved glittering penguin once again, which pictures should include our new presence or Christmas stuffed or pottery animal, Rudolph, but before blogging tonight, I decided I would give in to the time of year and watch the first of a series of Christmas movies I own. Where to begin? my oldest favorite, one that used to terrify me when I was not yet adolescent, the 1951 Scrooge (only recently have I realized it’s not titled A Christmas Carol).  Not totally to my surprise I found that as soon as the ghosts began the going back in the past, I began to cry, and then on and off I just cried, and cried, and cried, and when I was not crying, my face became suffused with tears.

I have so many favorite moments; to echo Amanda Price in Lost in Austen about Pride and Prejudice, this movie contains for me places I know intimately, that I recognize so many now still, the words and pictures are old friends. It’s like, with Scrooge, I’ve walked in, feeling there with Alistair  Sim. I watched other movies on Channel 9, Metromedia, in NYC in the 1950s, over and over (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Public Enemy No 1, with James Cagney, Talk of the Town, with Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman, and Cary Grant, and at least 10 more) but this one has stayed more in my mind, perhaps because it was repeated year after year. It is a refuge movie because Christmas time is for me so hard to get through.

In then looking for a few stills online to share, I discovered the ones I wanted to show were those of Scrooge delirious with joy, suddenly released and half-hysterical from years of self-flagellation turned against others — with his char-woman, with the boy sent to buy a big turkey, most of all with Cratchit and Tiny Tim, who “lived” … I had to many. I also begin to cry when I remember Jim reciting the final lines one Christmas Eve when my parents were here, with a drink in his hand, “God bless us everyone.”

And yet those moments of trembling with fear and joy don’t make any sense unless you’ve seen the embittering ones in the first sequence (the last part of “the past”), the harrowing and scathing ones in the second (this boy is ignorance, this girl want), and the fearful scenes of Death in the last — of which my favorite is Alice grown up and old, oblivious of Scrooge, serving people in a workhouse. What has her life been?  So here is the whole on YouTube, which I urge you to watch if you’ve never seen it, or re-watch if you haven’t watched it in a long time:

The poem serving as epigraph is one that face-book sent me as a memory from 2017. At first I could not recall who wrote it, and it took a bit of time for me to realize it was by me. I don’t recall writing it — and the use of the verb “wash” is not satisfying. I should have a stronger verb there. But the sentiment is mine. I am explaining why I am so addicted to historical romance, historical fiction films, film adaptations of older books or books set in the past, and still at this time, Outlander:

I see Gabaldon’s books and Roger Moore’s serial (I name him as the central guiding presence, the “showrunner”) as at their deepest when they touch upon how Claire is beating death by going back and forth from the 20th to the 18th century. She is living among ghosts become real when she time-travels and then choses to remain among those people and places our daytime reality would look for in graveyards and find out about in old books. I’m told Gabaldon has yet to explain the appearance of the Scotsman Highlander in the first episode of the first season (and early in the first book):

is it Jamie come to claim Claire? in some mix of non-parallel years (the series use the conceit of near precise 200 odd years apart for the two time zones we experience)? for if it’s years after marrying her, it would be say in the mid-1770s in the UK and US while it is 1947 in Scotland.


Jamie (?) (Sam Heughan?) glimpsed in the darkness, a dark shade


Frank (Tobias Menzies) under an umbrella in the rainy night, unnerved

I was much moved today when I came to the end of Iris Origo’s deeply felt autobiography, Images and Shadows, a book vivid with viscerally experienced life, precise as reality gets, but born out of memory, and about herself as a descendent of two families of people, product of several different worlds, groups of friends, the history thrust upon her of the early to later middle 20th century, mostly in England and Italy. She ends also saying that her dead are with her, that

“I have never lost them. They have been to me, at all times, as real as the people I see every day … “

Maybe that’s why she excels at biographies of people who lived in the past. She quotes Edmund Burke to assert that “society” or “life itself” is “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”

So here is this year’s tree decorated: our eighth since Jim died — or entered his deathtime, kept with us in our memories, and as long as this house exists in its present embodiment with me living the rest of my life out in it.

Here is Colin once again waving to passersby (a present bought for me by my neighbor, Michelle, now, sad to say, gone from the neighborhood, having separated herself from her long-time partner):


He stands on a ladder I place in front of a window facing our front yard so he can be level with the window and be seen

And here is a beautiful Christmas card sent me by my long-time friend, Martin, from England, picture by Annie Soudain, called “Winter Glow: in the photo it’s sitting on my woodblock kitchen table whose true color is a dark honey brown (not yellow) in front of the above tree:

Because of this gift, I was in the post office (now, as you will recall, run by a criminal-type businessman determined to destroy it as a public service, and fire most of the workers who are not white) by 9 am this morning and sent it off and bought 5 sheets of ordinary stamps and 10 stamps said to be good for anywhere “overseas” (so Europe if I get any more paper cards from friends there). I had intended to send electronic cards to everyone but those few relatives and friends I have who are not on the Net, but have found that I have more than a few, and some of the Net friends are still sending paper cards. All placed around the piano (first my father’s, then Jim’s, now Izzy’s). I reciprocate Christmas cards.

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So what have I been doing and thinking since my birthday? I have been reading away towards my course on Christa Wolf’s Cassandra and Four Essays and Iris Origo’s War in Val D’Orcia by reading other books by and about them, immersing myself once more in the later 17th and early 18th century worlds of Anne Finch for my review (and myself), and Hugo’s Les Miserables (stunning masterpiece but enormous) in a superb translation by Christine Donougher.

I’m reading towards a revision, a Victorianization so more thoughtful and thought-out and widened version of that paper, A Woman and her Boxes (Jane Austen).  It’ll also be about how much a woman could claim for real she owned personal property, how much personal property meant to women, and space.  These are issues in George Eliot and Henry James.


They are enacting people posing for a picture: Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell

I am mesmerized and in love with Foyle’s War (actors, scripts, programs, everything about them — I bought the 8 sets in a box, with lovely pamphlets as accompaniment beyond the features on the DVDs) – I love it for the ethical POV that shapes it, Michael Kitchen is my new hero, and I am drawn into learning about World War Two yet more. I read as a Trollope sequel, Joanna Trollope’s The Choir, which now I have the DVD set of, and will soon be watching at night.

I’ve gone to two museums with my new OLLI at AU friend, Betty. I attended two fine zooms, one from the Smithsonian on Dylan Thomas’s life and poetry, and one from OLLI at AU on Frederick Law Olmstead, the author, Dennis Drabelle, of a new good book on him, The Power of Scenery: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Origin of National Parks, the kind of book one can buy for a Christmas present. I told in the comments about how Jim and I had been to the Olmsted park in Montreal; they spoke of Olmstead’s fat acccurate book on the cultural realities of life in the south in a slave society (very bad for most people), which I own and know Jim read.

Two wonderful zoom lectures from Cambridge: one on Virginia Woolf’s diaries, and the other on her first novel (one I love), The Voyage Out, as a result of which I bought two more books on Woolf that I hope to read before I die — years before that I hope. And a new image by Beatrix Potter, one I never saw before: a mouse at work threading a needle, which I am told comes from The Tailor of Gloucester. Is it not exquisitely because and full of love for animals and art:

Did I say I got excellent reviews from the people in my class on The Prime Minister for this past spring? well, I did. The best I’ve ever had. The class predominantly men. I got myself to write the blog I knew I should comparing PM to The American Senator.

Some troubles: paying bills online, fake emails from cheats trying to lure me into giving away financial data; now my ipad won’t recharge, and alas it looks like my multi-regional DVD player has died (I shall try to find someone to come and to fix or to replace it). A few zooms with Aspergers friends have helped me endure the aloneness more readily (sharing our experiences, talking and getting some intelligent advice). Worrying about Omicron covid: should I go teach in person in the spring after all? I have two serious co-morbidities.

So what does one write diary entries for? be they on face-book and what came into my mind that morning or I did the day before presented succinctly, or be they this kind of wider survey. A need to testify? A need to make my life more real to myself, to write it down so as to make sense of it, to remember (Jane Austen’s birthday) and record and thus be able to look back?

An interesting talk in London Trollope Society zoom last Monday. Out of a site called Reading Like a Victorian, an American professor, Robyn Warhol, showed how it was possible for 19th century readers (with time & money on their hands) to read synchronically several Victorian masterpieces at a time. I doubt many ever did that, and from experience know it’s hard to get a college student to read in an installment pattern.

For me for today the way she opened her talk was intriguing: what has happened to TV serial watching since people no longer have to watch a series week-by-week but can receive all episodes at once. She suggested something is lost. I know when I taught Phineas Finn (and also Winston Graham’s Poldark) we talked a lot about instalment watching. In watching Foyle’s War for the first time, I make myself wait 4 nights before watching another episode. They are not meant to be watched night after night or back-to-back (shover-dosing it used to be called). Through instalment reading, the diurnal happenings of one’s life get involved with the serial.

Izzy tells me recently DisneyPlus has been putting one episode a week on of its new serials, and then the viewer can see them in a row or however. I think people appreciate the series, remember it better and more by doing it apart in time, in patterns. How many people here when a new series “comes out,” watch the episodes over a couple of nights or stretch it out to feel like instalments? How many when you are reading, find yourself putting the books in dialogue? I am doing that with Christa Wolf and Iris Origo and Elena Ferrante. Ferrante is Anita Raja, the translator of Christa Wolf into Italian, and to read The Quest for Christa T is to read one of the sources of the main transgressive character, angry and hurt, Raffaelle Cercullo, aka Lila, in the Neapolitan Quartet.


A cat bewildered by snow

Also to learn what I am thinking and feeling. To reach out to others? Why do I want to do this? why explore my consciousness insofar as I can bear to tell truths about myself to myself — and others (thus self-censoring or judicious veiled language required). Why did Woolf, Burney, Wolf (One Day a Year, 1960-2000), Origo, and many male writers do this? Henry James and Virginia Woolf were getting up material for their novels. I am getting up material for essays. To invent a life you are not quite living (Burney fictionalizing away) or put it together in what seems an attractive experience ….

Enough. I hope for my readers they will have a cheerful and good winter holiday over the next few days, not too fraught if you are with relatives, don’t ask too much of yourself, stick to routines or a series of habits you’ve invented for yourself over the years, keep to low expectations, and oh yes remember not to blame yourself and that whatever happens is not to be taken as a punishment (however religions have set up & supposedly made sense of reality that way).


Scrooge on Christmas morning, delighted to find he’s in time

Ellen

I have learnt since Jim died, always knew, I would be very lonely were I to have to live alone. Not only do I have Izzy with me but during the day I maintain contact with lots of people on the Net — through the listservs I moderate, on the FB pages I join in on, even twitter I have a few acquaintances now. Then there are nowadays these zooms. People respond to my blogs; sometimes even now to my website. So I’m rarely w/o company.  Hardly ever, if you include Clarycat, ever by my side.

Dear friends and readers,

A sort of milestone. If 3/4s of a century is not a milestone, where are milestones to be found.? I am amazed I’ve reached this age, but here I am. Above you see the silly present I bought for myself. This must be my third doll of this type:  Colin, my penguin; a doll I bought at the Native American museum who I was also charmed by; and a silver Christmas squirrel.

Saturday, November 27th, I bought sweet Rudolph while wandering around the local CVS pharmacy waiting for Izzy to get her third booster: process includes presenting an identity card, her vaccination card, 5 minute wait, and then the vaccination jab, then fifteen minutes more. We decided not to wait until Kaiser called her (they had said soon, but no appts offered) when we read of Omicron Covid. The name is ominous. While there, I counted 7 people arriving, waiting for, getting jabs, waiting 15 minutes again. There was one who had just left. As we left, I saw another person coming up. A steady stream for this pharmacist.

November the 29th was a cold and short day, but pretty. I managed to be happy a good deal of the day — it was a kind of work but I did it. Many wishes for a happy birthday to me on FB and a few on twitter. some with real warmth. I put on FB this poem by Johnson to Mrs Thrale which Jim once wrote out to me:

Oft in danger yet still alive
We are come to seventy-five!

Remembering when Jim copied out Johnson’s poem to Hester Thrale ….

Ladies, stock and tend your hive,
Trifle not at seventy-five;
For, howe’er we boast and strive,
Life declines from seventy-five …

Mrs Thrale had been pregnant by that time 10 times. By age 40 I had had three hemorrhages, two as a result of miscarriage or childbirth. In the evening Laura came and drove us to Il Porto Ristorante. Laura is now mature and she showed us a good evening. We had good talk, my central dish lobster in creamy sauce with pasta (I didn’t eat enough of it), and then a walk by the Potomac. Since I can no longer drive, I go out at night very rarely. Thus it was a treat. I remembered the last time I had been in Old Towne late at night: one summer night with Vivian where I had had to park the car in a difficult space. Vivian is gone now. Here is Izzy’s photo that morning.


Getting ready for work — she is looking more like a traditional librarian every day.

In the mid-afternoon I attended the Barchester Cathedral Trollope Society zoom: John Christopher Briscoe has imagined a history of Barchester Cathedral from Anglo-Saxon era through the Roman into the English gothic and then 19th century. He’s an architect and historian, used picturesque drawings of cathedrals (with cats) from the Anglo-Saxon to the 19th century eras. The charm is also Mr Briscoe is a fan of Trollope’s and has done this out of love for the books.


An original illustration of M.R. James’s story, “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral”


Clive Swift playing the central role of curate

Afterwards much talk of (among other things) other writers who have written up cathedrals. I mentioned Joanna Trollope as someone who might have — under another pseudonym, Caroline Harvey, she has written stories that are take-offs from Trollope — she uses Trollope characters’ names. They are sort of sequels — sequels come in many varieties; she updates, but then also uses the clerical milieu for similar sorts of psychological-social stories and uses names of Trollope’s characters transposed — there’s a Mr Harding and an Eleanor &c&c. One person said there is a cathedral in her The Choir and it’s based on several cathedrals in England (especially Rochester); that’s written under her own name of Joanna Trollope, and is an original fiction.

I also remembered that M.R. James, a writer of uncanny unnerving ghost stories — truly finely written, subtle – has one set in a Barchester Cathedral — “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral” it’s called; it was adapted by the BBC for an hour’s film and starred Clive Swift who played Mr Proudie in the 1983 BBC Barchester Chronicles. Some of M.R. James’s books are beautifully produced — lovely paper, illustrations, introductions, the lot. Jim enjoyed them mightily and bought the beautiful books. He read aloud a couple of the stories to me.

I have Joanna Trollope’s The Choir and will read it next: there is an audiobook still available on CDs, & there was a film adaptation. I started it last night Very readable in her usual way. You can recognize her too. Hers are stories that deal with the social-psychological traumas of the 20th century, which are also political issues too, using the troubles and contradictions of middle class family life in milieus that recall Anthony Trollope’s.

Trollope’s Orley Farm is the next “big read” for the zoom group; it will start mid-January, and I did volunteer to do a talk on Millais’s illustrations — I wrote about the original illustrations to Trollope’s novels in my book, the chapter I’m most proud of, which was praised by Mark Turner (a respected Trollope scholar). Dominic Edwards promised he’s do the necessary for the share screens.

As I described above, evening Laura came and we went out and we did have a good time. She is now grown up at last. She is leading a happy life for her, but she knows she is not developing her talent for real. She says there will be no great book — and no children. So she lives with her choices. She has a full social life with Rob. She tells me some of their friends have died and it is NOT unusual in the US for adults to die in their 40s or 50s — overwork, despair, sickness not treated or badly treated. The US a cruel society to its ordinary people — unqualified uncontrolled capitalism (now in danger of creeping into dictatorship of a religious-based fascism).

Another reminder of Jim that day: Stephen Sondheim died. How Jim loved the music, the lyrics, the books, the full-blown musicals. We went to so many; one summer the Kennedy Center became a temple to Sondheim, and the last night there was spontaneous singing groups around the building. For two Christmases in a row I bought Jim Sondheim’s memoir as edition of his musical scripts, photos, writing all about them. Here’s the blog I wrote about 2 months after Jim died: I begin with Into the Woods.

And then a clever parody:

This is unfair but funny. It is true this is the kind of Sondheim song that gets to be very popular and that people try to belt out or listen to Elaine Stritch belt out (or Bernadette Peters croon), but he is far more varied than that. Still Alan Chapman has caught something; on Sunday Lin Manuel Miranda led a group of singers and actors from Broadway to have a songfest on Times Square.

The Chapman seems to me hostile. “On an Ordinary Sunday” made me choke up because it is about what a New Yorker walking in Central Park might see on an ordinary Sunday. I remember the first time Jim, I & the girls saw the musical — at the Arena, the astonishment at the picture, and the beauty, harmony and hope of it all … the poignancy of not appreciating the little joy we have in life.

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Not done yet. Yesterday I had another rare treat: went out with a friend to lunch, to a restaurant of the day time type which caters to “ladies who lunch,” and the food was a wonderful half sandwich and cream of tomato basil soup. Afterwards we went to see Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. I admit I wanted to see my heroine-actress Caitriona Balfe, and knew Ciarhan Hinds might steal the show. He did, but Judi Dench was given the central moments for her speeches. My review:

Alas, it is not a great film — Branagh just never seems to reach that point of direction, conceptions, work a writer  where the film transcends. And it is also over-produced in the way of most movies that turn up in movie-theaters. The movie must jump out at you viscerally; the audience must feel there’s nothing too subtle for you here, not to worry. It’s being over-rated but it does have power.

The problem is what’s interesting; Branagh pretends to be doing a 1950s movie in part. It’s not only in black-and-white, but done on built sets. This reminds me of Hitchcock, but it’s not to have total control — it’s to convey something about the 1950s. I’m not sure it convinces because of the modern over-producing — despite heroic efforts to make a period film, to recreate  the 1950s visually, by sets. The acting by Balfe, Hinds and Dench (she is given less but what she is given is central) terrific — I almost didn’t recognize Balfe as her voice is so different from Outlander. Maybe she over-does the working class Irish accent.


Caitriona Balfe as Branagh’s mother and Jamie Dornan as his father — enjoying dancing on an old-fashioned rock ‘n roll dance floor

Critics have said it’s too distanced but I am not sure they said why or how. One example, throughout the movie we see famous 1950s kinds of movie (maybe 40s) on the TV set. Several against violence but I suspect they are Branagh’s favorites. He is there as a little boy and we see how smart he is (there are literary allusions) but the how much movies meant to him is kept detached from him. The movies are just part of what is watched. Well at one high point of violence, we hear strains of High Noon (which we’ve already glimpsed on TV); this breaks the suspension of belief, and I think destroys the scene which is not over-the-top in emotion. We needed to be left in the scene to made to care.

It is also somehow upbeat with the opening in color of modern Belfast and the closing. And the fable itself which has the most purchase on our emotions through Balfe’s irrational attachment to Belfast – she should want to get out. The theme is a contrast between those who leave (and all they gain, including the child Branagh who grows up to be an actor, director, movie-producer) and those who stay (the grandparents who must).  Branagh’s father, the husband of the film has a job in London and he’s been offered help to transfer. Only because he is in danger of his life if he doesn’t join the Ulsters and his sons too does his mother agree to go. All her roots are in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  I remembered how I hated coming to Virginia and understood why even if NYC at the time was a terrible existence for us I found myself so isolated alone an outsider here, and still am.

But then cannot have a downer or it won’t sell. So we return to the tourist and rich part of Belfast at the end and Dench’s stoic endurance as she stays,  now a widow. The film is dedicated to those who left, those who stayed and those whose lives were suffering and ruin. A charitable way to see this is Branagh thanking his parents.

It has an archetype:  Cinema Paradiso, where a similarly appealing boy-child finds comfort and meaning in movies and grows up to make it big in the industry ….  Will we never stop focusing on the troubled background of white successful males … ?

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I have been reading away, wonderful deep fulfilling books by Iris Origo, Christa Wolf, and on them: my winter course will be a continuation of last spring: 20th century women’s political writing. Both trace the rise of fascism, and the thwarting of women, the limited roles allowed them – much more. Latest iteration:

Retelling Traditional History from an Alternative Point of View

We will read two books which retell stories and history from perhaps unexpected and often unvoiced points of views. In War in Val D’Orcia, An Italian War Diary, 1943-44, Iris Origo (British-Italian, a biographer, and memoir-writer, a literary OBE) retells the story of World War Two from the point of view of a woman taking coping with war as experienced by civilians as the chatelaine of a large Tuscan estate. Then Cassandra & Four Essays by Christa Wolf (a respected East German author, won numerous German literary-political prizes) the story of Troy from Cassandra’s POV, no longer a nutcase but an insightful prophet written after the war was over, with four essays on a trip the author took to Greece and her thinking behind her book. The immediate context for both books is World War Two: they are anti-war, and tell history from a woman’s standpoint, one mythic, the other granular life-writing. I will also recommend people see an acclaimed film about the GDR’s Stasi, The Lives of Others (available on Amazon prime): the heroine’s story is partly based on the life of Christa Wolf.

The heroine of Quest for Christa T is Christa Wolf, and also the Lila of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, which I have at long last finished reading, but by no means finished writing about or reading her (next The Lying Life of Adults). Ferrante’s rage ignored by the muddled critical Ferrante Letters. Of course it’s all by a woman. Deep alikeness and despair extends to Hannah Arendt, Bachmann’s Malina, Anna Segher’s The Seventh Cross. Norman Lewis’s Naples ’44 the male equivalent of War in Val D’Orcia.

Alas, omnicron-covid is making the spring look more problematic at OLLI at Mason, where I have been surprised to discover the people are not eager to get back in person, so I said if my spring Anglo-Indian novels gets less than 10 registering in person, I’ll switch to wholly online, and learn about hybrids by attending one in the spring. It looks like at OLLI at AU, doing it in person is what’s wanted. The two places differ: unlike OLLI at AU, OLLI at Mason cannot get academics enough to truly teach a literature course for 8 weeks. My zoom chat tonight with kindly Aspergers friends we all talked of the uncertainties to come, worries about omicron …

How did I get here? I never expected to but I do understand more now.  I am 75.

Ellen