Archive for November, 2019

Wooded Path in Autumn, attributed to A.H. Brendekilde, dated 1902 (click to enlarge).

In the middle to late afternoons in fall and winter when Jim was alive, I’d sit by a window reading (or writing) as I still regularly do now, and think to myself with regret, how sad that Jim cannot get out of work (as a prison) for another couple of hours. By the time he’s home, that soft twilight light will be gone from the sky. Now of course he won’t come home at all, won’t see any light at all.

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been more than two weeks since I last wrote. I have taught (Trollope’s Phineas Finn at both OLLIs) and gone to classes — on Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White at Politics and Prose, Films from the perspective of a few popular genres – last week I did see Spike Lee’s moving Malcolm X (yes he emerged from a destroyed family and enduring his self shattered to create the identity finallyi of a prince, and then he was murdered). At home I have returned to my projects and have been reading, studying, thinking about Winston Graham’s Marnie in the context of the films made from, which his book alludes to, which others have connected to the book (Hitchcock’s sensational voyeurism, called Marnie; Tony Richardson’s adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s touching, A Taste of Honey (another deprived working class heroine at the center, not angry, just confused, deprived, lonely, finds a partner in a kind gentle homosexual young man); and Sundays and Cybele by Serge Bourguignon:

A deeply poignant film about the destruction of a young man and adolescent girl because they are different, don’t fit in, and spends Sundays openly together — the world around them is post WW2 France, a disaster arena. The young man is suffering from PTSD after he killed a young girl by dropping a bomb on her from his plane. She is, like Marnie, like Delaney’s Jo, is deprived of warm family life, of love.

I’m now half-way through Oliphant’s Agnes: I find her acid and disillusioned tones so deeply congenial to my way of feeling, her penetrating candour about psychologies, her outlook. I transpose the story of Agnes and her father to see how it’s so analogous to me and my father’s. Soon our heroine will be widowed and then she will grow up.

I am reviewing an immense and seemingly learned biography of Catherine Clive, and back to reading plays, farces, about the theater of the 18th century. Alas, somewhat of a disappointment:  agenda filled, the author omits half Clive’s career (the acting part), the long years of retirement (important, she was alive still and why is an important question). She ceaselessly attacks Fielding (so he is a whipping boy) for his obsessions over sex.  She does not distinguish satire from face-value misogyny (admitted the popular plays of this era are dismal). But her research also overcomes these attitudes and the book is rich with theater history and the general life of the era.

Family life: one of my older daughter’s cats has died — she has lost three in the last year and one half, and this death, so rapid (cancer), so unexpected, the cat with her since a kitten, was a hard blow. I’ve offered to go with her to buy for her two kittens. She said “we are not there yet,” a hopeful utterance (as I see it, a sign of recovery). For one Caturday, Izzy took this photo of her room. I call it “All but the cat:”

This is a pile of Izzy’s clothes we had to pull out of her bureau when we discovered that Ian was stuck behind one of the drawers. For a short while we thought we’d have to find some way to take the back off the bureau, but he did find a way to wiggle out as we pulled stuff out of the drawers and begin to push and pull at them up and down in an effort to help him without breaking the drawer. Freed he sprinted away to hide somewhere else to calm down again …

Halloween: for the first time in a few years several crowds of children, some pairs, some trios, far too many for my small (bought that morning) stock of chocolate chip cookies, lovely creme-filled sandwich cookies, chocolate kisses, kit-kats, and cashews and I ran out, so I emptied out cupboards of Lorna Doone cookies, and handfuls of potato chips from forgotten bags as what I had on hand.


So, November began, an evening of bill-doing: from my Gorey calendar: it is cold here now

A new experience: I went to a City Council meeting of one of the boards (transportation, roads) because they are threatening to eliminate the one bus that goes by our neighborhood, a bus crucial for Izzy to get to the Metro to get to work (and back). My whole neighborhood is “up in arms,” with many people showing up to complain and to protest. I didn’t get to say my little speech (25 had signed up before me and I worried the parking garage where I left my car would close) but I did hand it in, and it was duly recorded and part of the record the board is supposed to take into consideration. It is looking like they might relent, but I wouldn’t count on it. At the same time, they have redrawn the lines on the nearby roads, engineering traffic jams so as to discourage people from using their cars. I kid you not.

An old experience: suffice to put it I looked into possibly teaching at Politics and Prose, and a friend told me my tones in my letters were just right.I am now waiting to see (more in the next entry). It’s best to be thus brief because all the old justified bitterness has been aroused. I met a woman at OLLI at AU the next day who was there while I was, only she was promoted to full-time contingent. Now I know she has no scholarly credentials, in fact has no urge to teach, yet she was lifted from the “cattle room” as she tactlessly put it. When she saw the look on my face as she uttered that one, she awoke for a minute. How could it be we never met? I was invisible said I.  I smiled and said “see you next week.”

My top paper on academia.edu this past week was “Disquieting patterns in Jane Austen” (mostly reading the novels through the letters). Eleven new readers.

Less happily, my right shoulder and arm ache very badly, a dull pain when I try to lift my arm, stretch it out. I’m told this is arthritis. I am fortunate to be able to afford a cleaning team (four hard-working women for an hour and about 20 minutes) every two weeks.

Memories: A PBS hour long documentary about the deliberate burning down of a vast area in the south Bronx. I grew up between the ages of 4 and 10, 1950 or so to 1957/8. I describe the program and then correct and critique and evaluate: in brief, the landlords abandoned the buildings, set them on fire for the insurance, rotting and un-cared for buildings are susceptible to fire; the city cut down on the number of firehouses and fire engines available …. No one responded when I told about how I lived there. A formative experience.


Keeley Hawes as Louisa Durrell — far too much romance ends too many episodes

Barbara Flynn as Aunt Hermione looking about her, expectant … I first loved her as Mary Bold in Barchester Chronicles

I cheer myself nightly by watching episode by episode, the recently ended Durrells of Corfu, touching if too broad in approach, not subtle at all. I’m into the second season of four. Keeley Hawes is another favorite actress for me. Its atmosphere is perfect for Barbara Flynn, whose personas I never cease to enjoy — just that right amount of grudging hurt amid the comic acceptance. I did find the hour-long documentary about what happened to the Durrells in later life very interesting. I read 3/4s of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet in the 1980s. Josh O’Connor as Larry in the series is given some of the wittiest lines: one on Jane Austen about how she did participate in scuffles. Not altogether cut off from reality then — delivered by O’Connor in throw-away dry ironic utterances.

Izzy and I will be going to see the Met Porgy and Bess in February (HD screening live), and I was reminded of some George Gershwin songs in Hawes’s dramatization of the unconventional mother’s behavior: she watches over her children and they love her back. All the characters so kind to one another, so forgiving, even unpretentious the Greek good man, Spiro. Perhaps better for me than my other expedients ….

Midnight reading includes a few select pages from Outlander, from Gerard Durrell’s trilogy, and the revealing Inventing Herself by Elaine Showalter. Nothing could be more different from the idealizations I’ve just mentioned and that Clive book I’m reviewing: intelligent, clear, I will give it a blog of its own. I’m startled to understand the real lives of so many recent feminist authors whose books have made a difference in my thinking: I seem to have read the same authors Elaine did, so many whom when I mention to supposed like-minded friends they’ve never gone near or don’t seem to register (as Nancy Miller … )

Illustration for The Yellow Wallpaper: Charlotte Perkins Gilmore one of the many many feminist women whose real life Showalter tells

And so time slips by.

Probably not Georgia O’Keefe, I would it were by her


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Trick ‘r treat #1 (a recent Halloween picture)

Dear friends and readers,

I am just delighted to have Judith Cheney here as a guest blogger to tell of her week in New York City two weeks ago now. Judith is a North Carolina artist, a painter whose work you can view from her FB page, her website Judith Cheney Artist on FB, and her business website.

I have written a blog for you all & for myself about my refreshing & delightful week in New York.

Looking down on Madison Avenue (Ralph Loren’s place, & a roof top garden on Ralph’s annex where early risers can get a latté)

I walked in Central Park every morning (& saw Pale Male, the famous hawk (perhaps) circling the Reservoir with a swooping flock of pigeons on his flank) after wonderful breakfasts alone with the Times in P.’s beautiful dining room, cooked to order by my friend’s House Man-Treasure, R. And three mornings afterward, I savored the glories in The Frick Collection until about noon, when my friend was up & done with all her morning ministrations & we set off for lovely lunches & art museum going every day. Including the new MOMA, which P. declared was very confusing in layout & signage. Our lunch there in The Modern by the pool was divine & beautiful modern art itself. I saw the things I was looking for at the Guggenheim & the Neue (where we had a lovely pastry & coffee in the Sabarksy Cafe after seeing the Kirchner exhibit & the German Expressionists & of course THE Klimt & others of his beauties. I saw the Bonnards & others I was longing to see at MOMA (the new), & The Met. We saw the great American paintings, especially the De Kooning on my desktop at the Whitney & walked on the High Line, which P. declared is being smothered by construction of new high rises built against it, because they failed to get restrictions against that.

Breakfast with the Times (fruit, yogurt, muffin, or spinach omelette or bagel with lox & cream cheese, etc., & coffee & fresh-squeezed orange juice (every morning!)

Wednesday we went to an interview /talk at the Colony Club, a historic woman’s club where my friend swims, for an interview-talk & ladies’ luncheon (with a friend of P.’s who had been on our tour of Sicily & Naples with the Met 4 yrs. ago, where again I was P.’s guest). The author interviewed was Anne de Courcy, whose book was Husband Hunters about the American Heiresses who married the British titles as did Cora in Downton Abbey & Jenny Jerome, Churchill’s mother, & who were written about by Edith Wharton in The Buccaneers. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/books/review/husband-hunters-anne-de-courcy.html She was a delightful story teller with so many interesting tales of that Gilded Age & the European scene, about the social climbing of the Rich beyond Croesus in NYC & the not-so-rich Southern girls at the turn of the 20th c. & the English peerage they met, sought & were sought by. I felt myself a bit among the descendant movers & shakers or The old girls from The Group as I sat among the attendees in the gilded ball room/lecture hall. Lunch after in a sunny garden room was delicious too. I seemed to have been on a crab cake/octopus tour of NYC restaurants. Then P. had a dr.’s app’t. & I walked back along Madison Ave. to The Frick to look some more at the beauties there, trying to keep pace with the many long-legged, swift-striding elegant (still) young women of the city today.

A steeple where I saw pigeon flocks landing sometimes

P. suggested a play & we decided against The Height of the Storm after reading the reviews, even though we both would have enjoyed seeing Jonathan Pryce & especially Eileen Atkins on stage & went instead to a play at the Helen Hayes, Linda Vista, which we deemed not entirely successful, though we did have several big laughs. The explicit & extended sex scenes may (or maybe not) have Helen tossing in her grave, & I was a bit twitchy myself, not having seen that on stage before (in my provincial theatres). The play was by Tracy Letts who won a Pulitzer for his first play, August in Osage County. I saw the movie with Meryl Streep about family of miserable characters with ghastly profane vocabularies. The characters in Linda Vista are also miserable & “vex-tremely” profane, but one is strong & finally sees reality. Good for her (after all that vigorous sex & tears before her next bed.)

Beautiful corner with French 18th-19thc. plein air landscape paintings by Alexandre-Hyacinthe Denouy & Pierre-Henri Valenciennes which my friend collects.

We spent a happier evening at Carnegie Hall listening to Tchaikovky’s First Piano Concerto & Bruckner’s 7th Symphony with its 2 familiar movements. Beforehand we ate another terrific Italian supper at Tarattoria Dell’Arte across from Carnegie Hall before the performances by the Munich Philharmonic & Behzod Abduraimov, piano. Every other night, but 2, when R. worked his kitchen brilliance for us, we ate in the intimate French & Italian restaurants & cafes of her neighborhood. At Majorelle, that colorful fashion fixture, Iris Apfel, sat at the next table with her Barney Google glasses & a dark & handsome young hunk in attendance. In a taxi on the way there, my small bag slipped off my shoulder & into a crevice between the cab door & seat. My foot was on the curb when I missed it as I watched in horror the cab speed away into the night. But by the most wonderful of New York City miracles it was found by a young hero construction worker, probably several fares later, for he was picked up far downtown. He managed to track me not through my driver’s license & googling me! & my ex-husband in Asheville called us about 11 am the next morning that he had an email from that young man saying the bag was found & he given our phone # & he called & R met him on Fifth Ave. where he brought it by subway from his construction job at union Square. I have a selfie R took of the hero & himself (who had brought it back to us by subway -holding up my tiny bag. I had called my son who was staying at my house to care for Charlie Cat to mail my passport to me express so I could get on the plane home & I had it the very next morning as well, super-id’ed now & my $60 bucks still inside. We gave the young man a reward & I invited for some our great hand-crafted beers & lunch if he was ever in Asheville. As the waiter assured me at super-deluxe?

Rooftops at Sunrise

Another night at Come Prima, seven big men, some in suits & 2 in NYC Fire Dept. jackets dined at the next table with Rudi Giuliani after his court session that morning. We tried not to let his no-neck toothy mug spoil dinner. P. had invited a lovely friend from her building who is originally from Kentucky to come with us, & we did chat a bit about the old native land far, far away.

Saturday, we planned on the Museum of Natural History but found it closed to anyone w/o a child for the huge museum city-wide free Hallowe’en Party for little ones. P. suggested we grab one of the many little goblins milling about, but then suggested we go across the street to The NYC Historical Society Museum, where we saw several wonderful exhibits & 2 films of the history of the city & the history of the Women of the city from the beginning. There was an exhibit of Paul Revere, his Revolutionary feats, his silver & engravings & his times. And we saw a fascinating exhibit of Mark Twain’s journey & experiences in Jerusalem & Palestine. He was as we all know a vehement atheist, but never blasphemed the Bible, whose language he revered. He even had a Bible created with wood said to be form the cross for his dear old devout mother whom he also revered. And we saw Audubon watercolors & pastel & graphite originals, so stunningly beautiful. I recommend this museum jewel, where I had not thought to go but enjoyed so much.

I haven’t mentioned that P. flies using private jets because she doesn’t want to deal with regular jets or airports anymore in this life. It certainly is as blissful as flying could ever be with chauffeur service on both ends & I feared I would be “ruint” as they say in Ky. forever more, as I don’t like flying anyway, but I did make it back on a commercial flight from Laguardia in a horrendous storm (with wheelchair service & a reassuring stewardess) to a sunny beautiful fall day in the Blue Ridge, with my dear son at the curb. Oh & I did ask P. if she ever thought of her carbon footprints & she said Of course! but that she gave constantly to the organizations fighting for the planet & seemed satisfied with that for herself & her privileged guests. I hope the rest of the indulgent wealthy are giving large sums too to environmental groups working so hard to save us all.

Judith’s stuff on the sofa

And I did read Forster’s The Longest Journey a bit in rest times & on the plane & have been trying to catch up in the reading & with your helpful comments too. I continue to find it interesting, tough not as absorbing as the others & have starred his frequent delightful humor. There is a homosexual play, The Inheritance, on Broadway now at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, based on the playwright Matthew Lopez’s devotion to Forster’s Howards End, the Merchant-Ivory movie & later the book which he read five or six times & realized some gay overtones or under notes, leading him out of the closet to write himself about life as he knows it.

Judith Moore Cheney

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