Dear friends and readers,
March came in with wet snow coming down, raw high winds, misty-rain. The federal gov’t shut down as have most schools. A snow day it’s called (click and you’ll hear a lively song). So a Wednesday felt like Sunday since Yvette was home all day, very cheerful too, with the pussycats going in and out of her room all day.
A specially pleasant happening. A week ago today Jane Smiley (yes the novelist) contacted me by email to tell me she had very much enjoyed my Trollope on the ‘Net! It seems she’s a lover of Trollope and after reading Tyler’s review of my book as including ordinary readers whose views count and reading the books in revolutionary personal way, she bought it. I have read her 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, and know when she writes criticism, it is also meant to be read and enjoyed by ordinary readers. She offered to send me her Private Life, which arrived today – with her signature! I did like her Thousand Acres. I told her I had also read her book on Dickens, but perhaps she thought I said I admired it. At any rate, she sent a copy of that too. All this made me feel good. So often the social interactions that go along with literary life are hollow, no one cares if your work is good, only if it fits an agenda they are following to promote their work, venal behavior so common. An act of generosity even if small is precious. And by someone whose writing shows her good opinion is worth having.
Here’s a copy of her signature:
I’m fast becoming a fan: she does not practice the indecipherable signature as an index of her importance. She’s too smart and decent for that. Instead she cultivates the beautifully shaped penmanship hand.
We are still house-fixing, today’s prompted by the Admiral. He actually sorted his shoes out at the bottom of our closet, threw out all the old ones, swept his side of the area, and brought down from the attic some of these stacked basket like things and now his shoes are in neat orderly rows! Not to be outdone, I imitated: sorted, threw out old, broken shoes, shoes that hurt my feet (too many of them now), brought down from attic more of stacked baskets, swept my side and put everything back in order. He’s asleep right now and I doubt the photo would impress. I felt we were imitating Caroline who did a major closet fixing a couple of weeks ago. Ours is a modest effort.
[Gentle reader, if you are not properly impressed you are not imagining what this area of our closet was like “before”.]
We put some finishing touches in our attic. I hired an electrician to fix the light bulb socket in the closet where we keep our shoes and put a new socket up in the attic. Come to think of it the Admiral may have been impelled to fix his shoes because he saw them for the first time in quite a while. Well the man was very courteous and in a genial way installed a new socket in our attic. I’ve seen electricians look very sour when I ask them to go up that ladder and fix something up there. As bad as some cleaning ladies when I’ve shown them where to vaccuum or clean. It seems their amour propre is bothered by my lack of high status furniture and magazine-like rooms. I only worried when I looked at him that he was so big. But the ladder held him up too.
So now we have light on both sides of the attic. He put in a three-prong socket so I can put on the Italian electric radiator (only one switch at a time he said) or the fan as the season demands. It is now genuinely usable space. My microform reader needs to be plugged in and now can. I’ve several chairs, a table and desk too.
I also replaced my old laptop with a new one. It’s on one of my library tables in my room, close enough for me to swing round and face it.
A Macpro the Admiral calls it. While we were away, I discovered how obsolete my old laptop had become: I couldn’t reach many things, lacked plugins and so on. This is a pretty light-weight silver one, and we’ve already used it to download 2 clips and 50 stills for me to show as I read the paper I’ve now almost finished for the coming ASECS in Cleveland: “Diasporic Jane: images of displacement, exile and homelessness in the Austen film” (see Diasporic Indian Jane). One clip is from one of the journeys of the Dashwoods in Lee/Thompson’s S&S, for the sake of the haunting music and melancholy dark blues; the other also for the sake of haunting music, “Amazing Grace, how sweet it is …,”; sung by Kate Beckinsale in a hospital bed after a miscarriage as a 20th century Emma apologizing to her much-abused friend, Alice (=Harriet and Jane Fairfax combined), from Whit Stillman’s Last Days of Disco.
I did have a bad hour of nervousness and stress as I tried to get used to this new laptop. My feet began to seize up so I had to give up, but will try again each day a little bit. I have been worried what would happen if this computer’s DVD failed or the vlc viewer. Now I have another newer one as back-up. The new laptop actually holds more and can do many more things. Now if only I could work them ….
We don’t know if we will go through with this, but we have asked Patty, our project manager from the 2 bathrooms to draw us up a plan, options for renovating our kitchen, not to the extent of rebuilding the room the way we did the bathrooms, but still genuinely replacing older and now becoming worn (or corroded) linoleum, dish-washer. I’ve hated the cabinets for a long time — they are ivory white (and so discolor easily) and the doors far too heavy for the box they are attached to. We need a new paint job, the pipes fixed or brought up to code, and maybe we’ll replace a couple of other machines. We’ll see. We await what she comes up with. She made me laugh or feel uncomfortable with her assumption that I would want to hide my clothes washer and dryer. She did not realize I don’t feel uncomfortable because they are not in a basement. In NYC to have a clothes-washer and dryer in your kitchen was wonderful — no having to haul clothes elsewhere, feed machines coins (or tickets), and watch the clothes get cleaned (wasting time), fold and haul them back. She wants to replace mine with smaller ones that stack or go in a cabinet. We did have these small ones in Seaman Avenue, a side-by-side set that we last saw in the Hamlets where we kept them (against the rules) in our kitchen. We had to leave them behind as there was no room in this house for a second set.
I’ve some hopes for new projects, mostly on Trollope. Can’t get away but today reading his He Knew He Was Right and yesterday The Way We Live Now, I was struck anew by his greatness, complexity, perception, strength of style, daring. Sharp accepted my proposal so I shall have to do a paper on Mapping Trollope, I may get to write a paper for a collection on film adaptations (so back to Andrew Davies for these two books), and lo and behold, the man I met in NYC, Prof Birns, is the same man who encouraged me so long ago to write on Trollope’s travel books (he liked my Trollope on the Net too); well, he has a panel for a Trollope conference in Belgium and it seems he is willing to have me on his panel. Now that I’ve read and understand post-colonialism I’ve figured out ways to write about Australia and New Zealand without going there. Working title: “On Living in a New Country” [a play on Patrick Wright’s book): Inventing an Australian Identity.
We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting. (Samuel Johnson)
The Admiral has bought tickets for us to take 4 days (one day driving there, two days there, and one day drive home) in August in mid-New York to go to Glimmerglass for 2 operas and 2 concerts.
Yvette is planning for she and I to go the Ice-Skating Nationals (pre-olympics) in Boston in January 2014. I said I’d go long ago and here the time is coming.
And I’ve improved my cyberspace too: I’ve got a new gravatar across my blogs, found while looking for images of Austen’s heroines for my Austen Reveries blog. Still Hattie Morahan as Elinor but instead of looking out from the Cobb in a wind, hatted, enduring, she’s all gaiety as she looks down at her book and thinks of Edward:
Now if only the Republicans do not get their way and utterly crush the economic well-being of the average person (and make Yvette lose her good job) so as to make the elite intensely strong (I read today the the super-rich and stock market are doing well because of unemployment — they can hire people at very low wages to do long hours), the future as well as the present looks good.