Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘music’ Category


A duck on the Potomac — photo taken by Izzy

Then Emma Mayhew dies, and everything that she thought or felt vanishes and is gone forever — how else shall David Nicholl’s One Day end?

Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, the movie does not manage the depth of truth or more occasional fun of the book

Dear friends and readers,

I would not have believed I could ever say of a day where it was 97F at 5 pm, the air literally hot on my skin, that I was at long last recognizing autumn on its way, but after 33 years in this southern city, I can: it’s dark by 8:15 at night, and dawn does not come until well after 6 am. Some late summer events I’ve had and to come:

I have had three very enjoyable lunch dates, with two more to come. With an ex-student, grown older man. We had been meeting once a year; well we renewed our date three weeks ago — an wonderful two hours of talk at Copperwood Tavern. I experienced intense distress getting there but once there all was well. Shirlington where parking is a nightmare. Then twice to a lovely local cafe, Fontaine here in Alexandria, first with my old friend, Mary Lee, whose idea this place was; second with a new friend, Betty, from OLLI at AU, whom I took there. Yummy quiche, lovely light salad vinegar dressing both times, camomile tea. I will meet her at Pain Quotidian this Friday across the street from OLLI at AU. Would you believe I had to look up the instructions to get there to re-visualize. This is a place I’ve gone to for years on end. Maria Frawley, the teacher of Middlemarch I believe I’ve not spoken about an inspiriting inspiring 8 sessions at Politics & Prose with her as teacher; how they lit up my June and July each Thursday evening for an hour and a half. I have signed up for an in-person meeting with 29 other OLLI at AU people, a pizza and Italian food place, also across the street from OLLI at AU. For this I’ll wear one of my two cloth masks with drawings of cats all over them.


Copperwood Tavern with Lloyd


La Fontaine in Old Towne

And one precious evening out at Wolf Trap, where with a friend I saw and heard Renee Fleming singing inimitably with the National Symphony Orchestra. Alas all too short — just one hour and about 10 minutes. Mozart, Haydyn, Gershwin, a perfect Carousel Overture, and her songs were exquisitely beautiful — from Puccini, favorites and also lesser known, then popular, one about never leaving

About 50% of the audience in masks (which were optional).  It was marred by a tiresome, ridiculous and dangerous trip there: the person I was with was determined to avoid the toll ($3!), and drove round and round (her GPS actually programmed not to make the correct turn) and coming back in the dark streets unknown with no lights, and then speeding crazily on the highway. I do have to give up Wolf Trap if I can’t drive myself safely so this may have been my farewell time.

I grieved at another profounder loss: Nanci Griffith has died at the relatively young age of 68; so did Izzy find herself crying. We replayed our favorite songs that night we learned of her death as we prepared supper and ate together.

Otherwise the days and nights go by. I do manage most days 20 minutes of exercise on bike and cathesthenics around 9:00 am, then 5:00 pm, then 20 minutes walk by myself around the neighborhood at dusk


Unexpected flowers: I water my outside plants (in garden in ground) twice a day, and some have bloomed twice

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

It’s not as fiercely breathlessly hot as it was few weeks ago, and of course I’m now engaged in reading towards my course for this fall, have signed up for various fall classes and events, all online for me still – and how grateful and relieved I am that much of what I enjoyed these 17 months online will still be so. Beyond the London Society every-other-week zooms, I’ve found there is nowadays a once-a-month-and-more schedule for talks from Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Manchester. Would you believe I’m just about reading three Trollope novels at once, and truly enjoying them all?: The Prime Minister, The Vicar of Bullhampton and soon The American Senator. I am seeing so much more than I ever did in PM (the exploitative colonialism Ferdinand Lopez is trying to leap upon I had not noticed) and the darkness of V of B: the strong critique of the Vicar and his friends over their class as well as prejudiced blind injustice.

At this week’s Trollope zoom we were asked when, how, did you discover Trollope and come to read him avidly? why do you enjoy his books so much? This was the question — or something like it — posed and about 14 or so people volunteered to answer for about 3-5 minutes each. I was one of them. I typed out the first paragraph below and read it so as to be concise and keep it to under 3 minutes. The second paragraph was not written out, just spoken. So although that is the quotation I used (Dominic Edwards, the chair, had asked in a letter could we quote from Trollope), the last couple of sentences I said were not so clear. I saw that most of the people wanted to say why they loved Trollope as much as how they came to him and also uttered various truths that they liked best, told stories they liked so much from the novels — many also liked how Trollope seems to break the novel conventions suddenly and talk directly to the reader — like tell the reader some secret of the novel well ahead of time (so, do they in fact love spoilers?) So I added the second paragraph. I admit I did leave out a couple of intermediary reads between the cited dates & books For example, In 1994 I went to Rome with my family and it was The Last Chronicle of Barset that got me through that partly ordeal of an experience. I found an old copy in a marketplace which I still cherish.


Cover of 1970s edition of Penguin English library paperbacks


From Pallisers Episode 1: the young Lady Glen, with Burgo, her infatuation, encounters the young Mr Palliser, with Lady Griselda, his

I’ve told how as an undergraduate in a class on the Victorian novel I read Dr Thorne for the first time and fell in love with it (say 1965). But I didn’t go on to read more. The Professor had discouraged me from doing a paper on the novel. Then about 10 years later (1975) I watched the Pallisers on PBS TV (in black-and-white) and fell in love with that, and with my husband we read all six novels. But we were busy doing Ph.Ds on something else and I didn’t go any further than The Duke’s Children. Then 1989 I was in a fearful car accident in NYC and landed in Metropolitan Hospital on the upper East Side. I spent a week in that place: it has one man to do all x-rays; Jim promptly labelled him the bottleneck of the hospital. My father brought me a Dover copy of The Vicar of Bullhampton saying Trollope was very wise. It helped me get through that week. Finally in 1993 Jim and I got onto the Net through a phone line and he said he would find something called a listserv for me: he found one on Trollope, and I started leading groups reading Trollope. First up was Macdermots of Ballycloran. I loved it and have not stopped reading Trollope since. Partly I was invited to write a book, then an essay. Note, each and every time there was an outside prompt. Immersion in Trollope did not come from within in any of these cases.

Dominic asked us for a quotation, an utterance: mine is “Great and terrible is the power of money” from An Eye for an Eye. What I love about Trollope is the accuracy with which he sees the world and people, how people interact with one another and in themselves – truly – and he remains calm! What’s more he offers advice, explains things well. I love the characters too, but I keep in mind they are not him and it’s from his narrator/implied author these startling truths come.

I can add here that Trollope’s utterance seems to me to provide a central explanation for what happened in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Trollope is also an astoundingly perceptive political novelist. How much meaning he can pour into a few words if you listening hard or for real

Have I told you about the talk I gave on Malachi’s Cove?

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

My header refers to continuities deep and longer than the continuation of a zoom group. I find after all I don’t or can’t change my taste. I like best earlier serious literature — for example,for a fourth time, Eliot’s Middlemarch (thus the above coming lunch with Maria Frawley — see above), which I also re-saw — the 1994 Andrew Davies’s film adaptation. I just love the BBC dramatic serials of the 1970s (which begin, illogically, with the 1967-68 Forsyte Saga (I read 6 of the 9 novels years ago), which I’m watching avidly, an hour each night just now), to early 2000s, and those few nowadays which keep up the tradition of long thoughtful scenes, complicated dialogues, true novelization on film; I prefer Anglo literature and European art, realism, melodic classical music, modern only until say pre-rap, mid-20th century country. And my way of interacting with people, however inadequate, is grounded in polite manners.


Kenneth Moore, inimitable as narrator and Jolyon Forsyte (he’d never get the part today as too old and ugly)


Eric Porter as the aging softened affectionate Soames with his beloved daughter, Fleur aka Susan Hampshire once again

A zoom on Walter Scott:

Who produced more fine and influential work than Walter Scott? think of so many English, French, German, Italian, Russian historical novelists for a start.

I attended a 2 and 1/2 hour session on Scott: it’s part of the Scottish celebration of Scott’s 250 year anniversary (though I’m not sure of what — he was born August 15, 1771)
It was not as good as it could have been — three remarkable Scotts scholars and people involved in the U of Aberdeen exhibition and all sorts of events around Scotland and elsewhere — for example, in Italy, because of the number of operas (93) that have been adapted from Scott’s novels. I think to enjoy it, you have to have been a reader of Scott at some point, read a number of his novels and about him. I have so like the Gaskell session from Gaskell House, Manchester, last week I very much enjoyed what they presented. They had first editions and illustrations and talked of how prolific he was — how much he wrote, and how his position wealth prestige enabled him to do important things still not unimportant — like saving the ability of Scotland to print its own currency. One scholar outlined what are central to Scott’s novels: processes of historical change, political arrangements, people on the edges of society for different reasons (very high up and thrown out, marginalized, disabled, lawless rogues). She brought out Scott’s interest in his characters’ mental health (as we’d call it). Then a lovely film from Italy about two productions; one from the Lady of the Lake, by Rossetti, Donna del Lago, and the other by Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor — one must keep an open mind. I’ve seen good movies — one scholar said her love for Scott began as a girl watching the BBC serial Ivanhoe with Anthony Andrews. They insisted Scott’s work is politically very involved, aware, that underneath “it all” souls of people drive economic and political arrangements.

They did recommend the Future Learn 3 week lecture course: Scott, the man behind the Monument. I saw that and it included wonderful clips. I don’t know if you can find it there any more as the site has gone distressingly commercialized. Andrew Marr’s 3 episode series on Scots writers devotes one hour to an exhilarating somehow ironic hour on Scott. I regret to say the videos I linked in to a blog on Marr which includes good descriptions of the hours on Scots literature have been removed — I shall have to delete the URLs and substitute pictures — but the content by me is still there and what is central to the blog

They omitted what a reactionary Tory he was; how he was vindictive to any family members who didn’t marry for aggrandizement; was behind the worst political attacks of literary journalism.


John Brett — Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily (1870), another edge place; in lieu of Northern Scotland, the south, the Mediterranean — put on twitter

This new material but now aware of colonialism:  Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River (with two accompanying movies).  About her too.

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

I have had a renewal of a worry: my cat, Ian, again has a heavy discharge from his right eye. Last time I took him to the local Vet I’ve been going to since we adopted the cats, I was charged $350+, told how serious this was and that he needed a series of heart tests (a couple of thousand dollars), and then if the tests warranted this, give him a pill every day of his life ever after. It is impossible for me to force pills down either of my cats.

To say I don’t trust these (or any) vets is an understatement: previously I was told to clean his teeth, we needed to anesthetize him (a $500 bill and dangerous), did I want to install a sort of tag in his neck which will help if he gets lost (surgical insertion of course). When I tried to buy a local gel recommended online and in a book I have on cats, I found local pharmacies refused to sell it except with a prescription from a Vet. I was told it’s “against the law” for pharmacists in drug stories as well as vets working for the ASPCA to give a pet owner advice on an eye discharge: that sort of thing forbidden.

I call round today to three different vet places, and was greeted with indifference, appts a long time away and oh yes this is an emergency, so clinics I could go and wait at. Petsmart a store seemed more sensible but no appts until later September. Vets are kept to small numbers but vet lobbyists seem to be very busy. And we hear about the corruption of the Afghanistan govt. What are lobbyists but allowed bribers? We have whole organizations dedicating to bribing politicians in office. As for today’s Vets as a group far more important is the money they can wrench from pet owners than safe harmless care which reaches all pets.

It’s how they frighten me that angers me. It makes me angry to be told I have to do this to Ian’s heart and give him this preparation every day for the rest of his life; or to clean his teeth risk his life (he must sedated by an anesthesiologist — the vet said she had lost only one cat – i.e., she killed a cat). They could tell me Ian could go blind or something — and I no longer trust them. Only if the condition really seems threatening do I want to go. I will try Petsmart next month.

In the US the climate is money-driven medicine. Just imagine outlawing, forbidding by law a pharmacist to advise a customer on which prescription to use. Jim said to me as he lay dying, protect me from these people. It was by then too late because he had agreed to that godawful operation which removed his esophagus (I didn’t understand that that would not stop the metatasis), but I kept clear of all in-hospital, in clinic and anything else that seemed to me we could avoid. So I’ll wait for this ointment and if it helps, spare the cat and myself any visits to Vets I don’t trust. But meanwhile I feel bad for the cat and wish I had someone I could turn to — that there was a Kaiser Permanente type organization for animals.


Ian close-up, sleeping peacefully on cat blanket given me by another friend

I wonder why people are so naive not to see how these Vets take advantage of social norms for human beings to push painful procedures (and sometimes an early death) on pets.

I’ve semi-adopted another third cat, also grey like the first who has now vanished. This one also comes from the very rich mansion across the road from me where they are deep reactionaries (snide comments on neighborhood listserv); also semi-abused. I am also calling this new one Fiona, and she also behaves in ways that show a craving for affection but when you respond she quickly spits at you, hisses — I think they mean-tease her and she does not know how to carry on a relationship with a person. She is very thin. Poignant when she is crying out there – not kept in during rain; sometimes I daresay the owners of that collar go away for weeks or days. I can do so little for her — I inquired into this last time. I feed her whenever I feed my two and talk to and pet her when I pass her by — she stays in a near hedge or my porch — as you see her peeping out.

How to close? My own naivetes of course. An important story in the New Yorker. Sam Knight hints at the hideous things, heinous crimes owners and builders of these idyllic country estate houses which so dominate these costume dramas I’ve loved — did for decades, nay full centuries in the subject colonies to support these “wondrous” places, where some of the art was stolen from too. Famines inflicted on people forced to grow crops to sell elsewhere so they have nothing themselves to eat; forced to pay taxes they cannot afford. Removed outright. Enslaved. This does not include the conditions under which the servants in such houses worked, their pittance wage. What is happening is the National Trust has been at long last trying to tell the truth, and the UK gov’t and present descendants of the owners of such places, and those who just want to carry on these delusions (as patriotism) are being successful in stopping them or getting them to mute or qualify their knowledge. I will be sure to assign this story to my class in Anglo-Indian novels in the spring. Where did the money for Dryham Park where The Remains of the Day was filmed come from: what were the politics of its owner. How about the dream houses of Howards End in reality?

At Dryham Park:

On the second floor is the Balcony Room, which affords fine views of the gardens. … Facing into the room, with their backs to the wall, are two statues of kneeling Black men with rings around their necks. …

The slave figures hold scallop shells over their heads. These were probably filled with rosewater, so guests could wash their hands. …

They were probably made in London, inspired by Venetian “blackamoor” art, but they are unquestionably depictions of enslaved men, in idealized page’s costumes, with gilt chains tumbling from their right ankles. … They have knelt in the same place for more than three hundred years. …

When Sobers [a Black professor] and his group entered the Balcony Room, they came face to face with the slave stands and stood there, listening politely. “I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t believe it was happening,” Sobers told me. “And the tour guide talked about every single thing in that room, you know, talked about everything for a good ten, fifteen minutes and not once mentioned it.” A rope cordons off most of the Balcony Room, so visitors stand on a narrow walkway, facing the stands. There is nowhere else to look. “There wasn’t even a kind of a, you know, ‘Yeah, we don’t know what those are. . . .’ There wasn’t even an explaining it away,” Sobers said. “They just acted as if they just weren’t there at all.”


The strained tragic existences of the butler (Hopkins) and housekeeper (Thompson) at Darlington Hall (Dyrham Park)

Ellen

Read Full Post »

Friends,

Izzy has re-arranged and produced a new song, this one originally song by David Bowie, Labyrinth, or As the World Falls Down

The lyrics:

There’s such a sad love
Deep in your eyes a kind of pale jewel
Open and closed
Within your eyes
I’ll place the sky
Within your eyes

There’s such a fooled heart
Beatin’ so fast
In search of new dreams
A love that will last
Within your heart
I’ll place the moon
Within your heart

As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense for you
Every thrill is gone
Wasn’t too much fun at all
But I’ll be there for you-ou-ou
As the world falls down

Falling
As the world falls down
Falling
Falling in love

I’ll paint you mornings of gold
I’ll spin you Valentine evenings though we’re strangers ’til now
We’re choosing the path
Between the stars
I’ll leave my love
Between the stars

As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense for you
Every thrill is gone
Wasn’t too much fun at all
But I’ll be there for you-ou-ou
As the world falls down
Falling
As the world falls down
Falling
Falling
As the world falls down
Falling
Falling
Falling
Falling in love
As the world falls down
Falling
Falling
Falling
Falling in love
As the world falls down
Makes no sense at all
Makes no sense to fall
Falling
As the world falls down
Falling
Falling
Falling in love
As the world falls down
Falling
Falling
Falling in love
Falling in love
Falling in love
Falling in love
Falling in love

The image on YouTube which accompanies this song as sung by David Bowie, is that of a nightmare kind of masquerade ball, people dressed up in very glittery fabulousl soft, much woven, silken clothes, wearing bizarre masks, loaded down with sparkling jewelry. This 18th century print (ca 1724) is not adequate but it will have to do. The original is ascribed to Giuseppi Grisoni and said to present a masquerade at the Kings Theater in Haymarket.

Posted by Ellen

Read Full Post »


This year’s daffodils

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ Age of Phillis: Jeffers has written what we wish Phillis [Wheatley] had, a book length verse autobiography. The opening sequence very moving: imagined to be by Phillis’s mother when she realizes her baby has been stolen from her. Remembering the birth. Then the narrator on behalf of Phillis remembering the terror the child must have felt, the filth, vermin, disease,chains — unimaginable except by just citing facts that are known — of the middle passage. How she survived our narrator cannot say — she was purchased in the US not in Africa … [I read this a couple of poems at a time each night]

Dear friends,

It’s been a month since I last wrote. I haven’t had much to report about myself new or striking, anything different from what you might read elsewhere; I’ve been writing about the movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, online activities with others (discussing books mostly) on my other two wordpress blogs; politics I’ve been circulating Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletters and occasional insightful essays that might be overlooked on my livejournal blog or facebook/twitter. We passed the anniversary of the day we consciously began to self-isolate (March 13th). It was that week that the class I was to teach that spring, “The Novels of E.M. Forster” was cancelled. I had no idea if I could manage a zoom class and it was not until the end of the spring or that summer after I had attended a couple of classes regularly, that I agreed to teach remotely. It was that week Izzy began to work from home remotely as a Pentagon librarian. The gov’t laptop arrived around then.

I’ve now taught five and soon to begin my 6th zoom class, taken many and joined in countless zoom social experiences, conferences, lectures. I enjoy them — when not too many a day. This week the teachers at OLLI at AU gathered to discuss the possibility of hybrid teaching in the fall. Many did admit how lovely it is not to spend such time in traffic, not to have to find parking, to beat time and distance. Izzy has joined a dungeon and dragons group, has her identity and spent her first two and one half jours in this fantasy with others Saturday night.

Very unhappily, though, Izzy has not yet been vaccinated. It appears that Kaiser will not start up again as a vaccination center. There is no reasonable excuse for this: supplies are in. I truly suppose that medical groups who loathe HMOS and have since their start-up done everything to bad-mouth and hurt them succeeded in stopping their fair, orderly efficient vaccinating. This is similar to what happened to another similar group in Philadelphia. Kaiser is shamelessly cheerful in sending out messages about workshops. I have complained bitterly in some encrypted area, asking a representative what is the point of Kaiser’s existence if the organization is not going to operate as a bunch of doctors offering preventive health care.

This, along with the continuing sabotage of the post office, is probably my worst news, & I am still hopeful, believing in Biden’s promises and seeing more and more people getting vaccinated. She has pre-registered where she can. Hope for us we will not have to behave in debased ways chasing anyone by phone or email for an appointment. That she is not yet vaccinated is one of the reasons our lives have not changed much. We did get an appointment at the AARP for the people to make out our taxes; I gather we will bring the forms we have that we have made out as best we can and sit on one of a door, and the tax forms be done on the other.

Two weeks after Izzy is vaccinated, I will go to a hairdresser and have my hair cut and dyed. Then perhaps she and I can have some plan to go out, have a lunch outside with Laura. We will exercise care, still wear masks, socially distance, no museums as yet, and I will be cancelling my trip to Ireland once more, hoping for late summer 2022. But we will be a little freer — she to go look at the Cherry Blossom trees, me to visit a couple of friends more often (Mary Lee, Panorea)


Tom Hollander as Doctor Thorne in Julian Fellowes’s adaptation (I am growing quite fond of a number of the scenes)

My happy satisfying news is all from my participation in reading groups connected back to my love of Trollope and from my teaching at the two OLLIs. First, I did another online live talk, this one on Doctor Thorne. The Chairman of the Society, Dominic Edwardes graciously put the video on the Trollope website, and as well as the text of my talk. He does this so beautifully, especially the video with a photo of me, blurb about me and chosen quote, I urge those who come here regularly to go over and see what I look like and the bit of autobiography that is placed there.

I put the video her too, to have it on my blog, and if a reader would prefer to read it more conveniently here.

I did tell about my upcoming summer courses at both OLLIs: I’ll repeat Two Novels of Longing, which I did very successfully at the Mason OLLI in the winter, at the AU OLLI June 4 week summer study group; I’ll do Post-Colonialism and the Novel at the Mason OLLI 6 week summer course June/July (scroll down for description). This second is a new one, I’ll be teaching books and authors I’ve never taught before. And my proposal for fall at OLLI at AU has also been accepted:

Anthony Trollope’s The Prime Minister (Palliser 5)

The 5th Palliser refocuses us on Plantagenet & Lady Glen, now Duke & Duchess of Omnium, Phineas & Marie (Madame Max) Finn are characters in the story of the Duke & Duchess’s political education as he takes office and she becomes a political hostess. We delve practical politics & philosophies asking what is political power, patronage, elections, how can you use these realities/events. A new group of characters provide a story of corrupt stockbroking, familial, marital and sexual conflicts & violence. And what power have women? We’ll also read Trollope’s short colonialist Orwellian The Fixed Period, & short online writing by Victorian women (Caroline Norton, Harriet Martineau, Francis Power Cobb, Margaret Oliphant).

I just hope I will enjoy all three as much as I’ve been enjoying reading and teaching the four women writers I’m doing in this 20th Century Women’s Political Novels. I have not enjoyed reading books so much in a long time, I just am loving Bowen, Manning, Hellman, and all the books about them and other 20th century women writers, mostly of the left, living through both world wars, traveling about — not just the novels and memoirs for the course but their essays, life-writing, and the movies adapted from these and about their lives. If you read what might seem a dry-as-dust supplementary reading list, you are grazing over profound treasures of thought, feeling, eloquence, activity. I think this is what spurred me on to write again.

How marvelous are women writers writing about politics in novels of the 20th century. I honestly can’t say which of the texts I’ve been reading I love more: Manning’s Balkan trilogy, Bowen’s Collected Impressions, Lillian Hellman‘s Unfinished Memoir and Pentimento, Victoria Glendinning’s biography of Bowen or Hermione Lee’s several books on the women I’m reading (Lee is a brilliant literary critic, no one close reads the way she does so entertainingly and profoundly), Eve Patten and Phyllis Lassner on these British and American women. I’ve read more of the poets of Alexandria at the time, including a few Greek women. I never tire of Fortunes of War. I hope to write a wondrous blog on Bowen, her prose is weighty with a world of feeling and precise intelligent thought, her style just brilliant, Shakespearean to me. I’ve bought myself several volumes of biographies of these women too — when I can make time for these I don’t know: I have to hope to live a long time after I can no longer teach.


I very much profited from and enjoyed watching the 2015 Suffragettes this week too (script writer, director, producers all women, my favorite actresses, including Carey Mulligan, Ann-Marie Duffy, Sally Hawkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai &c)

On twitter the question was asked, which actor resonates in your heart and body the most: for me it’s still Ralph Fiennes (a non-sequitor)


From the Dig, see my blog on Luxor, Oliver Sacks his life, and Dig: Et in Arcadia Ego

I was relieved that I could not give the paper I tried to write a year ago on historical romance (I would have had to do it this coming week), sometimes called “Trespassers in Time,” sometimes “Wheelchairs, Vases, and Neolithic Stones” because unless I could record myselfgiving it, the ASECS group would not have it, so I find my CFP for last year’s cancelled EC/ASECS is good again:

The function of material and still extant objects & places in historical fiction

Martha Bowden in her Descendents of Waverley argues that really there, or still extant recognizable and famous objects in a historical romance function to provide both authenticity and familiarity. I suggest such objects also function inspirationally for authors as well as enabling readers also to become trespassers in time, a phrase DuMaurier uses for her time- and place-traveling in her fiction. I call for papers which focus on material objects and places in historical fiction set in the 18th century and novels which time-travel to and from the 18th century. I also welcome treatments of books written in the 18th century where the focus is on past history as well as any encounters any of us have had with material objects (it’s fine to use manuscripts, paintings, and movies which set us off on our journeys into the 18th century or particular projects we’ve written essays or books or set up exhibits about).

I can use the paper now put aside,  and for the first time ever I’ve thought of people to ask to join the panel (myself! asking others): I shall email the guy who ran this panel this and last and the year before (each time with me giving a paper on it, once a very good one on the Poldark books) and ask him if he would give a paper. It will be virtual conference so it doesn’t matter if he lives and teaches in Montana, which he does. And I’ll ask him for names of the other people. Now he may say no. I even expect it, but that I have someone to ask is a sort of progress for someone like me. I am keeping up my reading on women’s historical romance and Outlander every word each night. I’ve finished the first volume and begun the second, Dragonfly in Amber.


There’s strength in this Cressid as there is strength in Harriet Pringle (who was originally to get the part), with Clarence Dawson’s selfish languid self perfect for Troilus

Anything else happen of note: I told the whole of the Trojan matter story from its opening in the Iliad, through material added in the Aeneid, to Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, to Shakespeare’s — I told it in a half-mocking way when I discovered over half the class didn’t know this story matter well enough or at all to get the meaning of Oliva Manning having her British characters put this astonishingly disillusioned, bitter anti-war play on in The Great Fortune: and watching the 1981 BBC version directed by Jonathan Miller I decided here too Loraine Fletcher is right: Shakespeare shows us how Cressida never had a chance to remain inviolate or once “had” by Troilus faithful to him. Some extraordinary performances: a young Benjamin Whitlow as Ulysses, Charles Gray as Pandarus (many in the class did not know the origin of the term), Suzanne Burden as Cressida, Anton Lesser as Troilus – and many others.


Shcherbakova wins the “short” women’s dance — as in opera in Gorey the performers are known by last names ….

Izzy is home this week watching World’s — a championship ice-skating tournament in Sweden — and seems content. The zoom chat she had with a young man her age has not gone anywhere. I did tell you about the proposal of marriage I received, a half-serious one (?), well he was relieved that we would not be going literally to the EC/ASECS together after all. A little there of the feeling explored in Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, which I’ve come to some very different conclusions about in reading slowly with a group: like Trollope’s Miss Dunstable’s way of coping with her foolish self-involved suitors (Doctor Thorne), Brookner in Hotel du Lac has taught me something about older mistaken potentially harmful conventional goals using the allurement of marriage (companionship) too. I read to discover myself and take heed like my heroines. I hope Izzy has wisdom to feel good about what life has brought her this year too. She does yearn to go back to the office; she misses the casual continual contact and felt relationships. Old lady that I am I am so grateful to Jim and chance — and my own hard work for years (though I made so little money, I helped us a lot during harder times) for my comfortable home. I am happy among my books and with my computers working and my daughter and my cats ….

But we are not yet out of the pandemic nor had Biden truly been able to rescue us from the GOP fascist dictatorship threats (for example, stopping huge numbers of people from voting through the use of this filibuster). But we must trust as yet to keeping hope alive.


Clarycat appreciating spring too – what a noisy cat Ian has become! obstreperous, demanding, intensely affectionate bodily ….

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Laura and I around 1980 — she is two and I am 33/34


Isabel and I around 1985/6 — she is two and I am 37/38


Laura, around nine, Izzy three or so, and I am 39 — that’s very old-fashioned wooden rocking horse I picked up used in NYC

Dear friends and readers,

Since the day Biden won and was established in the White House, the general atmosphere I feel all around me has changed. The world goes on much as it did, but the daily news of what the federal gov’t — under Biden’s authority and the man keeps busy — is doing is good: transparency as far as this is possible, truth (ditto), and genuine well-meaning effectiveness is what I view daily on social media on the Internet and what TV (PBS reports) I watch, and what I read in my two basic newspapers (NYTimes, Washington Post). I am more at peace, sleep better than I have in 4 years.  It was a close call, but the threat of a fascist white supremacist dictatorship is checked for now.   And there are four years in which to do things that could prevent it for even a long time to come. My main personal worries have been the erratic post office causing both bills and checks not to arrive on time; I’ve now opened several accounts on-line, agreed to e-bills, so there is only one place where I’m dependent on the Post office: when I mail my check. I do this immediately (drive it to the post office itself nearby), and when there has been a delay, I pay by credit card. I am not-so-patiently waiting for Biden to fire Louis DeJoy.


Illustration by Tom Bachtell

Around 9 am, on January 29th, Kaiser came through for me: I received an email saying I could make an appointment to receive my first of two vaccine doses at the Falls Church facility. Do it if possible today. It’s as I surmised: I am in Category 2 (74), with (2) co-morbidities (I’ve written about these on my Sylvia II blog). Or so it seems — Dr Wiltz (my long time doctor) had signed off for me. This is the sort of thing that Kaiser should be able to do well: they are set up for, their whole philosophy is based on maintaining general good public health for all. A whole floor (the first) of the Falls Church facility (a little farther than my usual site) was dedicated to the process. I waited twice for 15 minutes. Not bad at all. Cars coming in and out so enough parking too.

I wish everyone should get this — but those under 16 — having dutifully read about the Pfizer vaccine I just had jabbed into my arm, I realize that this vaccine is not recommended for anyone 16 and under. The 6 page print-out I was given is cautious: the FDA never approved this vaccine as for sure preventing COVID19; they approved it as probably preventative; if you do get COVID19 after all, you may have weakened symptoms. I am told to carry on masking, social distancing, & washing my hands to protect others too. A brochure included a bunch of plain simple information, including how MRNA vaccines work, where to go if you get some bad symptoms (I’ll call Kaiser). I may still catch the disease and then be asymptomatic, so I must stay isolated still until Izzy is similarly vaccinated; indeed until more than 70% of the population around me is. But it is a relief. I would have bled to death from intubation.

So much safer. I hear of other friends being vaccinated; it is happening around the US slowly but steadily. Biden’s federal gov’t is really buying, organizing, distributing, sharing plans with all the states; we will start to manufacture our own PPE; his gov’t is going to produce and send to every American who wants it, hometest kits for COVID so you can know if you can go out and what is the state of your and your family and friends’ health.

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

I’m taking now and in the weeks to come a number of courses (too many but they are so tempting, viz., one included Ann Radcliffe’s Udolpho, one on Edith Wharton’s earlier novels, one on Simone Weil, one on movies), teaching one (Forster’s Howards End & Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day) and preparing for another (4 20th century women’s political books). I am enjoying them all and the work I’ve been doing interests me — even a lot, especially anything Hermione Lee writes, Lillian Hellman (a major American writer of the 20th century) and Elizabeth Bowen (one of the geniuses of the 20th century British novel.

I’m also reading Dr Thorne and have gotten to the extraordinary good and long chapter, The Election — maybe this is the first chapter Trollope ever wrote of an election. After reading Hermione Lee’s description of Anglo-Irish novels, especially Last September and some more comic ones I decided that Dr Thorne is an Anglo-Irish novel in disguise. The Macdermots is pure Irish with Dr Thorne (and Kellys & Okellys) Anglo-Irish comedy. It’s all there, the big house in debt, the marrying for money the desperations, the alcoholism, the bastard at the center – I believe Bowen wrote an introduction to this novel in which she almost said that.

I’ve been engrossed by a number of superlatively good movies, and enjoying some of the serials my kind Irish friend sends me copies of from British TV. So I live with how I’ve had to put my projects aside for now.

In Claiming Early America, the professor (at George Mason), for my OLLI at Mason class (retired adults taking and teaching academic courses for fun) ,Claiming America (I watched and recommended last week on FB the brilliant and still important, Even the Rain) has as a topic Women on Trial and suggested last week that Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter may be read as part of a remembrance of a reality not long gone then (or maybe now): the tendency of US culture to put women in trial, as witches to burn them, as transgressors to humiliate them. I read a book a while back about Liberty’s Women, arguing 18th and 19th century women in the US were freer than in UK and western Europe — liminal places, need for them — but according to Tamara Harvey, there was immediate ferocious push-back in more settled areas. Is not that revealing?

I can’t reread SL (haven’t time or inclination) — I’ve read it twice, once in high school (required) and again as an English major required to take two courses in American literature, one has SL. I have read and taught in colleges a hilarious parody: Wm Styron’s The Clap Shack, a very funny play about a bunch of marines quarantined with venereal disease where every one is required to wear a yellow letter C hanging across their chest. They have all had the Clap.

Snatches of Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer and others are sent by attachment and she recommended as superb Susan Howe’s The Birth Mark

in which Emily Dickinson’s retreat suddenly is not an anomaly to the way women were treated in the US — especially religious communities

This perspective is really about how today people are reading older American classics, i.e., Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter very differently from once the way they did. I hope people here will find this interesting. It’s also about American literature of the 17th through long 18th century, women’s position in book and US culture

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

We are in full winter — cold snow and ice days, freezing rain for hours on end.


From Laura’s window


Ian and ClaryCat all cuddled up

You owe this blog to Izzy having finished another of her songs and one of my friends putting on Facebook photos of herself and her son from long ago (like 50 and more years when she is 20 to say 22, and he is 2 to 4) and recently (now she is 75 and he is 56). So I scanned in a few photos of Laura, Izzy and I from long ago too. Here are two more of them; in the first Izzy seems to me not much more than two and Laura not much more than seven. In the second Izzy is probably five or six, with Laura around eleven

To fulfill the aim of comparison, I have a photo of Izzy and Laura, a close-up of them on a short weekend together in New York City in August 2018, one each the spring before of Izzy and Me and Laura and me in front of the famous Milan Cathedral


At Coney Island

And two in-between: one spring, 1991, in our front lawn, Laura and Izzy:

and a last of me, 2003, one Christmas


I’m watching Laura and Izzy wrap presents, and Jim is about to play the piano, 2003 (so I am 57)

I do have some photos of them in their teenage-hood and myself in my later forties and, gentle reader, if you can bear another such blog and I can find and scan more suitable images from two more older albums, I’ll add those to this public diary.

For now I’ll close with Izzy’s latest song: All I want by Toad the Wet Sprocket:

Nothing’s so loud
As hearing when we lie
The truth is not kind
And you’ve said neither am I
And the air outside so soft
Is saying everything, everything
All I want is to feel this way
To be this close, to feel the same
All I want is to feel this way
The evening speaks, I feel it say
Nothing’s so cold
As closing the heart when all we need
Is to free the soul
But we wouldn’t be that brave I know
And the air outside so soft
Confessing everything, everything
All I want is to feel this way
To be this close, to feel the same
All I want is to feel this way
The evening speaks, I feel it say
And it won’t matter now
Whatever happens will be
Though the air speaks of all we’ll never be
It won’t trouble me
All I want is to feel this way
To be this close, to feel the same
All I …

A reproduction of a painting of an Italian sloop — it was a favorite picture of Jim’s; he had it in his office when he was the Branch chief of a division; it’s now on one of the walls in my front (living) room near what was his and is now Izzy’s piano

Ellen

Read Full Post »


My daughter, Laura, and her friend, Marnie, around age 14-15, waiting at the airport to go on a high school trip to France


Isobel, age 14

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.” — Winnie-the-Pooh — I came across this this week. It made me remember Jim I rarely dream of him, but once in a long while I do. I have two copies of Winnie-the-Pooh, one in English, and one in Latin – the latter he bought for fun.

Dear friends and readers,

When Laura was 15, Izzy was 9, but I can find no photo of Izzy online at age 9, so I chose one of her at 14 to match the one of Laura and her friend. . I am impressed this week by how when we age, we must needs turn to our children. Marnie’s mother, less than 10 years younger than me is now living with Marnie as she is no longer able to live on her own.

I have not been able to get any truth or help out of Comcast about what I’m billed each month, or even a regular paper bill (what they want is for me to sign up for automatic payments!), nor can I figure out how to get into my online account (the people on the phone are apparently told they must not help the customer do this).  So Tuesday before or after Laura drives me to the Kaiser facility again, she’ll help Izzy and I get into that account, and set up electronic billing and then Izzy and I will be able to look at our account regularly.  You see Laura drove me to see a neurologist at Kaiser’s Tysons Corner facility this past week around 5 o’clock (when the sky was darkening) while Izzy stayed home, finishing her day’s work as a librarian.

Her driving me connects to this wretched election process in the US. I have in the last couple of weeks been sleeping much less; leading up to and until last night I was not able to sleep more than 3-4 hours a night, and that often only with sleeping pills. I was headachy, nauseous. So what happened is on the way home from the post office (I now drive my bills to the post office in the hope they will get to their destination in a more timely fashion, and have one step less to get lost) my mind slipped. For a couple of moments I was not there consciously, and then suddenly I was and disoriented. It took me a few seconds or more to realize I was driving on my own block, passing my house; I was going very slow (as I was 8 years ago when this happened for a slightly longer time) and so was able to make a U-turn into my car park.

I’ve now also talked with my regular doctor three times on the phone, and have decided for now I will drive much less, only small distances and try rarely to go alone (Izzy comes with me for shopping). I eliminated driving at night about two years ago now. He diagnosed this as another amnesia moment due to stress: he said I did not pass out but instead “lost time.” I’m still going to be tested for brief seizure (lapse in charges crossing my neurons) but he doubts that is what happened. I have a history of these in the 1980s when Jim would go away sometimes for 3 weeks for his job and there was no way we could phone, there was no internet, no mailing from these “top secret security” places. Laura was with me when these happened but she was around age 7-9 or so. Once I could not find our car in a car park, and my pragmatic daughter said “It is in this parking place, mom;” another time I amazed her by breaking into my own car using a hangar from a nearby cleaning establishment after during the lost time locking us out.

All this week to keep myself steady I have not watched the news at night. Last night for the first time I watched DemocracyNow.org (and the result may be seen in my Sylvia I blog; the results of watching PBS for the first time, Shields and Brooke may be seen in my comments to this blog). I find I cannot bear the thought of Trump seizing power because to him this would be a signal all he’s done is fine (and apparently for over 48 million people it is), so he would go further to terminate social security, fire civil service employees at will, go ahead to destroy the ACA, public school system, restrict liberty of movement and all information flow in the interests of making a fascist male white supremacist state. There has at least not yet been a violent coup, though Trump’s supporters have been violent in trying to stop counting in democratic areas.

I think I am accustoming myself to the idea that Trump could somehow still steal the election through the courts: voter suppression has helped him enormously (barriers of all kinds, gerrymandering, post office debacles). 40% of Americans are willing to have a dictatorship with a lying malicious criminal at the head of it. This is not the first time in the world an election has brought into power an profoundly harmful man known to be so (the four years in power include concentration camps at our borders, children separated from parents, put in cages, and even set adrift in countries where they have no relatives). It is hard to live with the knowledge that if not in the majority where I live, if in a minority, there are people all around me with such vile norms. I find myself guessing who they are — for they do not identify themselves in my urban centrist democratic open-society world.

It may sound unlikely when I say I am sleeping much better and much less tired today, all headache gone. But last night I slept 6 hours and have been calmer today. I admit I am cheered by the thought Biden may win and take the position of POTUS. I still worry lest Trump seize power: after all he has and uses illegally the space, place, and authority of the White House. That’s a terrific advantage:  he must be ejected

What I’ve written thus far is the event of this week that most mattered to use economically and in terms of what the atmosphere we live in will be like in the near (and if Trump wins) far future.  During the week I of course also read, wrote on the Net and notes, letters, postings, taught, attended classes, reading groups (all through zooms), and watched movies, wrote other blogs. The two classes I teach are going well.

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

Does anything stand out as worth remembering in a diary? I saw the whole of Sondheim’s Passion online. Jim loved Sondheim’s work, and the man running the course I have been taking has sent us several URLs leading to whole performances of Sondheim online: I’ve seen Company, A Little Night Music, and now Passion. I felt the depiction of the disabled young woman compassionate and understanding (the opera is ultimately based on Tarchetti’s Fosca, a 19th century subjective novel told by a young woman crippled in some way and said to be ugly); I stayed awake for the whole production, mesmerized by the acting and scenes, and share here the song I most identify with:

In the course what was brought out was the importance of retrospection in Sondheim’s work: that a central theme for him is looking back at where we’ve been, and remembering how we got to where we are now. Another is the idea we are not alone (as in the to me wildly moving lyric from Into the Woods — available on Amazon prime), as in

No one is alone.
Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood.
Others may deceive you.
You decide what’s good.
You decide alone.
But no one is alone.

To the other books I’ve talked of and read recently and keeping my remarks brief, I add (and am almost through) Bernadine Evaristo’s remarkable Girl, Woman, Other: the most moving stories about Carole, gang-raped at 13, who for safety listens to her teacher, Mrs King, makes it to Oxford and marries a kind rich young man; and that teacher herself, as Shirley and her rival teacher, Penelope.

Another new author for me: Katharine Fullerton Gerould’s Vain Oblations — a hostage-slave taking narrative almost unendurably painful when the male narrator finally reaches the white woman captured by Africans turned into a abject creature impregnated, tattooed all over, wearing what must be to her a mortifying dress, she manages to kill herself when found because to go back after such excruciating searing humiliation, beatings, the rapes …. I have read other such texts by women: 17th century captive narratives, Fanny Kemble’s diary of 2 years on a rich plantation worked by enslaved people in South Carolina. I went on to read a couple other stories in the volume (a ghost story, “On the Staircase”) and found she has a gift for abstract language done with wry allusive wit.

A new book I’m eager to open and read: Anne Stevenson’s Five Looks at Elizabeth Bishop: too late for my blog on Bishop and her poetry, each of the topics so well taken (Living with Animals, Time’s Andromeda, Geography) and lucidly written. Stevenson a favorite 20th century poet for me, she died recently. Her sensitive poem on Austen the best verse I’ve ever read on Austen

Re-reading Jane

To women in contemporary voice and dislocation
she is closely invisible, almost an annoyance.
Why do we turn to her sampler squares for solace?
Nothing she saw was free of snobbery or class.
Yet the needlework of those needle eyes . . .
We are pricked to tears by the justice of her violence:
Emma on Box Hill, rude to poor Miss Bates,
by Mr Knightley’s were she your equal in situation —
but consider how far this is from being the case

shamed into compassion, and in shame, a grace.

Or wicked Wickham and selfish pretty Willoughby,
their vice, pure avarice which, displacing love,
defiled the honour marriages should be made of.
She punished them with very silly wives.
Novels of manners! Hymeneal theology!
Six little circles of hell, with attendant humours.
For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbours
And laugh at them in our turn?
The philosophy
paused at the door of Mr Bennet’s century;
The Garden of Eden’s still there in the grounds of Pemberley.

The amazing epitaph’s ‘benevolence of heart’
precedes ‘the extraordinary endowments of her mind’
and would have pleased her, who was not unkind.
Dear votary of order, sense, clear art
and irresistible fun, please pitch our lives
outside self-pity we have wrapped them in,
and show us how absurd we’d look to you.
You knew the mischief poetry could do.
Yet when Anne Elliot spoke of its misfortune
to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who
enjoyed it completely
, she spoke for you.


Emilia Fox and Joanna David, real life mother and daughter, playing the 2nd Mrs de Winter, 18 years apart

Serious costume drama movie-watching these two weeks: I just finished the third of four movie adaptations of DuMaurier’s Rebecca. First, the 2020 just made, with, memorably, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas, but much changed from the book — to the film’s detriment. Then the superb 1997, with Charles Dance, Emilia Fox and Diana Rigg, written by the subtle scriptwriter Arthur Hopcroft. Last, the mesmerizing 1979, with Joanna David, Jeremy Brett, Anna Massey [the best of all the Mrs Danvers], directed by Simon Langton.  I’m waiting for the 1940 Hitchcock to arrive. I am even thinking of re-reading the book as I’ve become convinced my original reading where I saw the 2nd Mrs de Winter as heroine, the deeply kind and strong-within one, with the ending as basically a relieved escape from the world and a place gone evil from its inhabitant, Manderley — is the right one. Writing: my series of blogs on Outlander the fifth season.

A sad event: a recent friend, A (I’ll call her), just decided she doesn’t want to be friends any more — poof, like that — it’s another case of Liz Pryor’s What Did I Do Wrong: when Women Don’t Tell Each Other the Friendship is Over. Pryor seems to feel most of the time the person who is ending the friendship refuses to tell and won’t explain is it’s easier — they don’t want to face up to the hurt they are causing. A became defensive when I tried to discover why. One element is all have been women who have no trouble making friends, getting into new circles. OTOH, I visited my old friend, Mary Lee, sat on her lovely porch, in her house where she’s lived as long as I have in mine (over 35 years) and the two hours flew by as we caught up. For once I was not exhausted as I went home, just spent on good feeling.

I’ll end here as I don’t want to go to sleep too late, and have Simon Schama’s relevant Romantic and Us (is there no better name for these lectures in landscapes, with remarkable historical props than documentary?) to re-watch again.


Home from Trader Joe’s on Sunday


Ian in the sun

Ellen

Read Full Post »

Izzy singing It’s the End of the World as We Know It — by R.E.M.

Dear friends and readers,

Izzy’s latest song puts before us the idea this pandemic has heralded the end of the world as we know it. It is said to be the result of transmission of a virus from non-human animals to us, the event the result of climate change (break-up), which may well be bringing many of us on earth to the end of our worlds as we have known them. Seemingly silly fleeting experiences will change: many a conference will from here on in be held via zoom, or partly via zoom (or some improvement thereof – I hope not), so too work jobs, universities, schools. These too will occasion deeper changes.

My yearly endurance trial across early October is over, and I’m into my 8th year of widowhood. I have changed a lot since Jim was alive, or had many new kinds of thoughts and experiences. Unexpectedly (yes) I had a lot to learn, mostly about social life, but also myself. I have enjoyed some of these new experiences, wish in fact Jim could have had them with me, especially some of the activities that go on in the Oscher Institutes of Lifelong Learning, come with me to Scotland, to the Lake District, Northern England; with our daughters to Milan, Calais. The experience of widowhood is so various: some women don’t want to be called a widow (they feel the term as a stigma), but that is part of what defines who I am.

It depends on whether you loved your husband (partner) or he (she) loved you; whether you are left with money enough to retire in comfort, of course your age; do you have children, are you parts of circles of friends, have relatives who are close to you; where you are; what you like to do, and what you can do without him (her). I was shielded, still am (by enough money through my widow’s annuity, social security, and my parents’ savings — which they could not pull off today), but for now mostly physically alone with Izzy and our two beloved cats.

I know, banal.

And Laura not far away. Ten minutes by car when she flies low. Here is her delightful imagining of Biden’s Field Office in her Animal Crossing series:

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

With such thoughts embodied in particulars I have been feeling and thinking what do I want to do in the near and further off future. I will not be publishing that review on the Austen, Art and Artifacts book, for a while. I find I cannot bear what Austen studies and Austen fandom has turned into. I’ve decided to wait until the 2nd volume of the new standard edition of Anne Finch’s poetry has been published; to write an evaluation of the first, I need the second, which explains the first and exemplifies more of what principles and attitudes are actuating the first.


Marie de France, found in an early medieval manuscript

The question then — for when I have time left over from teaching or taking courses (or blogging, posting &c) — is, What do I want to study now? These past days I’ve been rationalizing and downsizing my TBR and TBW piles, ordering and labelling and have discovered all my piles of books and individual endeavors (like reading and blogging on Harriet Walter since I found and am reading her book on acting Shakespeare’s heroines) devolves into two areas: women’s literature, which devolves into historical romance (Diana Wallace’s Women’s Historical Novel, 1900-2000) and poetry (Alice Ostriker’s Stealing Our Language — history of 20th century American women’s poetry); the lives and work experience of lifelong single women (which may include widows, spinsters, divorced, separated women, not just Virginia Nicolson’s Singled Out).

Not everything I do fits into these two trajectories; Trollope, for a start, E. M. Forster, some novels, memoirs (travel and other) by men that I do enjoy so, most recently David Downie’s Paris to the Pyrenees (see Colleen’s Paris, I demur on the smirk, I never smirked), studying Italian, reading French, watching good movie series.

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


Frederick Morris (1889-1982), Vase with flowers, dried plants, berries …

The COVID perspective. Jim’s death now impersonally considered. It’s known, understood that the calamitous death rate in the US (still rising) now past 217,000 is the result of a lack of a decent public health system, stubborn ignorance, brought on (in schools too) by a greed so gargantuan it will chose openly choose profits over thousands of fellow citizens lives and wreck the lives of those surviving. I read of experiences daily that remind me of Jim and my own when he was dying of cancer:

I am convinced his early death, the miserable way he died (the gross mistakes, excruciating suffering from a brutal useless, as it turned out probably cutting out of his esophagus and forcing his other organs to be reconfigured, the one he almost bled to death because three different “providers” had to give permission for medicine and had to be paid separately or he was threatened with the horrors of the US emergency room) are in analogous terms just what’s killing thousands of people in the US (needlessly) today. All the respect and grief Judy Woodruff(every Friday night on PBS) pays to the dead cover up what was the experience each person had of US medical capitalism unchecked.

From Louise Gluck’s Landscape:

1. The sun is setting behind the mountains,
the earth is cooling.
A stranger has tied his horse to a bare chestnut tree.
The horse is quiet — he turns his head suddenly,
hearing, in the distance, the sound of the sea.

I make my bed for the night here,
spreading my heaviest quilt over the damp earth.

The sound of the sea —
when the horse turns its head, I can hear it.

On a path through the bare chestnut trees,
a little dog trails its master.

The little dog — didn’t he used to rush ahead,
straining the leash, as though to show his master
what he sees there, there in the future —

the future, the path, call it what you will.

Behind the trees, at sunset, it is as though a great fire
is burning between two mountains
so that the snow on the highest precipice
seems, for a moment, to be burning also.

Listen: at the path’s end the man is calling out.
His voice has become very strange now,
the voice of a person calling to what he can’t see.

Over and over he calls out among the dark chestnut trees.
Until the animal responds
faintly, from a great distance,
as though this thing we fear
were not so terrible.

From Averno

Gentle reader, you need to know the concrete reality such a poem refers to. Amy Coney Barrett is a fanatical heartless monster, read her view on a 19 year old female prisoner continually raped by a guardsman, after she gave birth forced to suck his penis; she lied continually during those hearings. How did Trump find her — and the thug-rapist pseudo-virgin Kavanaugh? why the Federalist Society. Listen to Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Ellen

Read Full Post »


1999, Jim, me, and Izzy on a visit with Trollope Society friends to Salisbury Cathedral, we stopped off in a pub


Laura around the same time (so 21 years ago)

And it looks like you’ll stay …. from Sondheim, Merrily We Roll Along

Claire tells Frank several years after she has returned to the 20th century there is not enough time in her lifetime to forget Jamie, from Gabaldon, Voyager

Dear friends and readers,

Once upon a time October was my favorite time of year. Usually the weather is so pretty, and it was in October, the 6th, of 1968 to be exact, that Jim and I met, and again a year later October 6th, 1969, that Jim and I married; October 3rd was his birthday — he was born October 3, 1948. When Laura was married for the first time and planning an autumn wedding and settled on September 30th, I said wait a day and it’ll be in October. But now it is the hardest time of year: Jim died on October 9th, 2013. He was just 65. He stopped talking to us the 7th, that morning he had said “goodbye” to Izzy, the day before to Laura.

He died of esophageal cancer, one of the many cancers that are now not uncommon (once far rarer) because we live and breath and eat polluted air and food. I wrote about the whole course of this dreadful experience here, as well as an obituary for him. He was my prince, he was everything to me. Today I listened on and off to Stephen Sondheim songs — he loved Sondheim’s music, lyrics, the musicals themselves. So many capture my love for him, how I miss him, but I must choose just one for a blog, and it’s “Not a Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along (which Jim used to say was his favorite Sondheim musical) — I am so lonely for his company.

I am not in as much pain as I was the first few years; I am no longer reading memoirs of grief, but the staying home in this pandemic strains me badly. Perhaps all the driving about to courses, to entertainments, very occasionally with a friend, or Izzy and once in a long while Laura, was distraction but it helped. Christmas is going to be very hard this year since the way Izzy and I got through was to go out to Kennedy Center with Laura, then dinner out with her and Rob, Christmas day a movie out for Izzy and I, and again dinner out. We go to see some Christmas play or concert, on Boxing Day, a museum, and until I could no longer drive at night, the Kennedy Center again for some gay entertainment. I’ll buy a tree, Izzy and I will decorate it, but beyond that, with a hope of Laura coming over once or a daring visit to a museum, it’ll be Christmas movies, friends on the Net.


Jim, Izzy as a baby, Laura a young child (perhaps 1985 or so)

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


Phineas returns to London (1974 BBC Pallisers, Donal McCann as Phineas)

My teaching has begun and I feel my course in Phineas Redux is thus far going very well. Talk about how Jim remains part of my life every day, I’m taking a course in “Kipling and Colonial literature,” because Jim liked Kipling: he read aloud the Just So stories to both daughters and me, he read to me two short stories that were comedies of manners (not these god-awful misogynistic, racist, patriarchal soldier stories I can barely get myself to skim. The teacher is an intelligent woman and I hope the latter part of the course we’re we’ll read at least one woman writer from the period I’ve never read before and V.S. Naipaul’s Bend in the River will be more enjoyable. I’m also taking a course in Sondheim — six sessions, and tomorrow the topic is the musical Company: I watched it online just now and here it is if you would like to watch a splendid TV version:

Everything all around me that makes my life pleasant was and is part of him: the house, the books, my solvency, my daughters.

I did say my courses for the coming winter (online at OLLI at Mason), Two Novels of Longing in an Imperial Age (Forster’s Howards End and Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans) has been accepted and for the spring (online at both OLLIs, Mason and AU), 20th Century Women’s Political Novels (Bowen’s Last September, Manning’s Balkan Trilogy, Hellman’s Scoundrel Time, and Morrison’s Bluest Eye) also accepted (see two rough weeks for descriptions, scroll down). To these I’ve now added the coming summer, 2021, when there is a good chance the teaching and courses will still be through zoom:

Post-Colonialism and the Novel

In this class we will explore some realities covered by terms like colonialism & imperialism, nationalism & tribalism or identity politics as dramatized in three novels, viz., E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s A Backward Place, V.S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival; and a couple of short stories from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreters of Maladies. Beyond the seeing obvious inflictions of capitalism & industrialization, displacement of peoples & forms of enslavement, we will ask why people develop passionate identifications with a place (countrysides, cities), nostalgia for some imagined past (enjoy historical novels, romances & films), turn cultures into religions (& vice versa), how gender & art movements inflect all this

I am very much looking forward to re-reading all these books and discussing and talking and teaching (if that’s what it is) them to these classes of older intelligent people. Naipaul’s Enigma of Arrival has personal meaning for me: I had begun to arrive, be embedded in England, when we had to leave for a better income and opportunity to go to graduate school, but periodically we did return. And the reason I’ve taken trips with Road Scholar is to return to the UK where I met and married Jim and gave myself a happy peaceful life with him for so many years. I wrote on Austen Reveries of my other reading and writing projects: I too dwell in possibility. I finished reading Anne Enright’s Actress, it is finally a searching sceptical and pessimistic take on the life of an actress; I will use it as context and critique for the blog on Harriet Walter (and her book on playing male parts in all female-cast Shakespeare plays) on Austen Reveries soon.

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


Claire (Caitriona Balfe) teaching Marsali (Lauren Lyle), making her an apprentice doctor (Outlander Season 5)

I have been just loving the 5th season of Outlander; it can hardly be more perfect: they have rewritten the 5th Outlander novel, Diana Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross, which just is without a story, blended it with episodes from the 6th, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, to provide a slender action-adventure plot-pattern across the series, plucked out several of the moving episodes (anecdotes) and rewritten these to reveal characters movingly, interestingly, relevantly to us today. I am watching the series for a second time and will make one or two blogs — wordpress has renovated itself so now it’s harder to get to and use the “classic” template (which I know how to use) so I cannot write as many blogs I might have wanted to. I would, though, like to admit, that the intense joy of these books to me is the relationship between Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire: absurdly but irresistibly I find in their relationship elements of what I knew with Jim, with Balfe all along, from Season 1 on I have bonded, even deeply. I am back to dreaming of this series at night. I wrote as follows on face-book early one morning:


From the episode, the night of Brianna and Roger’s wedding in North Carolina

When long ago I wrote a book on Richardson’s Clarissa (an 18th century novel) I dreamed of the characters (these were often distraught, deeply upset dreams); when I wrote a book (about 20 years ago) on Anthony Trollope and his novels, I dreamed of him and those characters I was writing about; I used to dream of the Poldark characters (in the early 2000s from the books and actors of the first series, much less so during the era of the 2015 series — I never quite warmed to or credited the feel of the series) and now I find I dream again each time a new season comes of the Outlander characters. I cannot remember particulars once I am fully awake but I know this time as I awaken I am glad I was dreaming.

Until now (writing blogs) I never dreamed of characters until I was writing a book or something quite long. I have not dreamed of the Austen characters much that I am aware of, or in the same way, because although I’ve written about Austen’s novels and the movies, it was not consistent total immersion with a single set of actors or big text or texts over a long period of time. I received very interesting replies: I was especially struck by how the readers of Trollope shied away from admitting to dreaming about these characters, but not the readers of the Outlander books, and were I still in contact with the readers of the Poldarks, I’ll bet they dream too (a vindictive woman who runs one of these pages, not understanding my Aspergers ways blackballed me off these places).


A moment of upset for Becky as old Lady Crawley laughs at some make-shift that Becky has invented — not a characteristic moment but showing Hampshire’s talents; the series aired in black-and-white as did the original Forsyte Saga

I’ve carried on my project of watching 1970s BBC and British series adapting remarkable books, and have finished the 1967 BBC Vanity Fair, and would like to recommend it to you, gentle reader. The film-makers (David Giles, the director) manage to pluck out the central emotional and thematic elements of Thackeray’s extraordinary book, as well as its comedy, and with the strong performances of Susan Hampshire as Becky Sharp (one can see why she became Fleur in Forsyte Saga, Lady Glencora in the Pallisers) and Bryan Marshall as Dobbin (even better than Hampshire for he is given depths of plangency she is not), and a mostly good supporting cast, good scripts, well done scenes, you end up with a reading of the book that concentrates on Becky’s position in the world, and gifts as actuating her choices in life.

They condensed the novel by making Becky the central linchpin, then having key episodes or turning points of her story as climaxes in each of the episodes. It works, for Amelia’s occur alongside Becky’s and turn into a parallel. Their early adventures together, and then apart, Becky landing among the Crawleys, their marriages ending part 2, the calamity of Waterloo Part 3 (which Becky turns to her advantage and is superlatively anti-war), Part 4 with the jailing of Rawdon. Susan Hampshire began to resemble Sarah Badel as Lizzie Eustace in the Pallisers in the fourth part. My only complaint is the ending. The film makers did not have the guts to end on Becky living off Sedley and poisoning him slowly so we ended on her good deed, awakening Amelia, Amelia folded in Dobbin’s arms so no time to see Dobbin disillusioned. The lines about the puppets and ever all dissatisfied are uttered. As the budgets were as small as those for the Austen films (and a 1971 Jane Eyre), nothing outdoors, all sets, it’s remarkable how effective they were in using symbols.

Gentle reader, I prefer watching these British series of 50 years ago to contemporary films online. I mean to go on to watch the 1987 BBC Vanity Fair (which I’ve never seen but have had for a long time on a TBW pile) and Andrew Davies’ brilliant 1998 six part-er with Natasha Little and Philip Glenister in the two roles I just singled out

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


Sunday morning, home from Trader Joe’s


Ian among books, an active, vocal part of my life today

So how shall I end this diary entry? I have spoken less of politics here than usual — this is not a political blog but usually what is happening in the public political world presses in on me. I shall confine myself to the dire possibilities that the Trump Junta will attempt to steal the election, undermine so totally the vote, suppress, throw out, start violence: read Barton Gellman in the Atlantic. I feel I have enough to communicate without it. I met an old old friend the other day, in front of the local bakery. Mary Lee Charles, a highly intelligent devoutly Catholic woman with whom I formed a deep feeling relationship for a time as our older daughter, Katie (hers) and Laura were friends. I would not have recognized her in her mask, she has grown so thin. She stopped me and attempted to convey a warmth of the old feeling when I told her Jim had died. I believe she stopped me because she wanted to tell me Katie has a Ph.d in English literature and is now going for tenure in a Maryland college. She looked at me significantly; she wanted to tell me this, remembering my vocation. We have now exchanged emails and I’ve told her that after all she was right so many years ago, and I do love the Poldark series — we knew one another in the early 1980s you see.

Last night I re-watched a TV series someone gave me a copy of shortly after Jim died: Coogan and Brydon in The Trip: to me a comforting movie because the film-makers and actors manage to convince you somewhat this trip to sample fine food for a magazine column (whose we are not told) on a drive through the north of England is really happening non-fictionally. Their conversation because of its edge is convincing, their lives suggested persuasive, and the filming of the countryside to me so appealing: I lived up north with Jim. I saw the second series too, the tour through Italy which conveyed genuine feeling about the past in the landscape, playing in individual memory. I shall never capture again the happiness and even innocence I once knew when Jim was in the world with me, but I can re-visit the landscapes in England we loved together. This is his (as Julian Barnes strikingly put it) death-time which I keep in my continuing existence.


Coogan goes out for a quick cellphone photo in Derbyshire


Lake District — the photography imitates ordinary people taking camera shots ….

Ellen

Read Full Post »


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

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

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

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

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

Dear friends and readers,

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

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


A Community high school

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

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


This is a private and charter school — all white

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

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

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


Duncan Grant, The Stove, Fitzroy Street

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Izzy’s new chair

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

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

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

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

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

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Izzy and I at the National Gallery on Boxing Day

From the Christmas Revels, which when Jim was alive, he, I, and both daughters at first, and then just with Izzy, would regularly find a performance of somewhere in our area. Izzy now listens to it at least twice on CDs she has every year. It ends with Amazing Grace.

THE SHORTEST DAY

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen,
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us — listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight
This shortest day
As promise wakens in the sleeping land.
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year, and every year.
Welcome Yule!

During this time Izzy finished a rendition of another of her expressive songs; she has been working on this for a couple of months now; she is basically a light soprano; somewhat outside her range she is singing her heart out.

The song is by Irene Cara

Sometimes I wonder where I’ve been,
Who I am,
Do I fit in.
Make believein’ is hard alone,
Out here on my own.

We’re always provin’ who we are,
Always reachin’
For that risin’ star
To guide me far
And shine me home,
Out here on my own.

When I’m down and feelin’ blue,
I close my eyes so I can be with you.
Oh, baby be strong for me;
Baby belong to me.
Help me through.
Help me need you.

Until the morning sun appears
Making light
Of all my fears,
I dry the tears
I’ve never shown,
Out here on my own.

But when I’m down and feelin’ blue,
I close my eyes so…

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

We managed three Christmas events for this year’s Winter Solstice.


From Come From Away: a scene where the local inhabitants welcome the US passengers

December 21st, a Saturday, Izzy, Laura and I went to see the extraordinary (in the depths of feeling it occasionally reached) for an group concept, Canadian musical; and astonishing (in sudden individual moments, separate soliloquies, character sketches), Come from Away. It is the upbeat story of how a large group of American planes were landed in Newfoundland, Canada, because the area had a large unused airport, and how the people living in the towns all about welcomed the people on the planes, took care of them.

It’s a story we are much in need of since the spread of hatred and fear these past few years by Trump and his regime, and others like itaround the world. I’ll content myself with a review in the New York Times. Ben Brantley explains this show and its context better than I could.


The 12 players as puzzled passengers

I had not thought it possible to write and embody an meaningful humane tribute to the senseless slaughter of what happened on 9/11/2001; a reaction to decades of cruel repression around the part of the world called “the Middle East.” If it comes near you, try to go see it. It cannot be a film; it must be done live on stage.

Afterwards we ate in an unpretentious Asian restaurant (food yummy, wine good), joined by Rob, near where Izzy & I live, all four exchanged gifts. I got two velvet-like blankets, soft and warm, one for my bed, and one for my desk chair. The book Izzy bought for Laura a time-traveling tale: The Future Of Another Timeline — Annalee Newitz. I bought for Laura Charlie Ann Anders, The City in the Middle of the Night and for Izzy, Adam Rippon’s Beautiful on the Outside: A Memoir. Rob got a cooking book: Midnight Chicken & Other Recipes Worth Living for by Ella Risbridger. You see one piece of evidence that the two cats are of the opinion my presents were for them.

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

Central to getting through Christmas Day: around 1 o’clock Izzy and I went to see Greta Gertwig’s splendid Little Women. It’s so good I haven’t got the time or vocabulary to list all the elements that are so effective and right. Gertwig has updated the material and yet kept the core content of the book intact, with the old moods, charity, and deep sentimental feeling. By the astute use of flashbacks for the first third or so of Little Women (Volume 1 of the two, the childhood years and most straight didacticism of the books), and making the last part of Little Women and most of Good Wives, the present, a reverse in emphasis without loss was achieved.


Jo, Meg (Emma Watson) and Amy Florence Pugh) walking about Plumfield Academy, the new school run by Jo and Prof Bhaer (Louis Garret)

It is thus an open scandal, disgrace, that nothing is going to be done about that fact that this movie — superior in just about everyway to all those now playing, all of them, this movie garnered but one award — for Ronan for acting. Even that is wrong as the film features all four girls and the role of Amy has been transformed from villainess to a heroine as worthy imitation as Jo herself. Thus do we today honor ambition, materialism, selfishness, and the burning of Jo’s manuscript is somehow regarded as not the heinous cruelty it is in the book. After all Jo writes endlessly, she’ll write on and she does. We have a confrontational Jo and Laurie


A confrontational Jo ((Saoirse Ronan) and Laurie (Timothée Chalamet)

And then Amy is made unselfish at key moments, and suddenly it is she who urges Jo to run after Prof Bhaer. Until now Jo needed no help from Amy to retrieve her love. It is very hard to find a good photo of Louis Garret as Prof Bhaer online with Jo, though the movie (rightly in my view) makes this relationship the partnership Jo chooses in life.

The movie auditorium for Little Women was far more crowded than those showing other junks — Cats, action-adventure, moronic Marvels and the deeply reactionary The Irishmen (a re-make of On the Waterfront in effect). I did see two men falling asleep. Is the gender fault-line that big? if so, well then we need to stop making the moronic violent curse-ridden movies and return to 19th and 20th century stories by women. I’m just now watching the 1970s Fortunes of War adaptation of Oliva Manning’s Balkan Trilogy: magnificent, beautiful, intriguing, and the material frighteningly relevant — fascism taking over, gradually killing destroying wreaking unretrievable damage …

Just 3 of the countless favorable reviews (if you include non-professional or unpaid ones like mine):

Some reviews:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/movies/part-alcott-part-gerwig-little-women-is-a-very-nearly-perfect-film/2019/12/17/ce2ae21e-1eb0-11ea-87f7-f2e91143c60d_story.html?arc404=true

https://www.empireonline.com/movies/reviews/little-women-2019/

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-reviews/little-women-review-saoirse-ronan-and-florence-pugh-excel-in-greta-gerwigs-irresistible-adaptation-38809685.html

Ronan is now a “celebrity” — she was Mary Queen of Scots (she began with playing a very unlikable young woman in Atonement). Florence Pugh was Cordelia in the powerful (good) Lear movie with Anthony Hopkins in the lead ….


So many LW movies:   Trom Robin Swicord and Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 Little Women: a rare appreciation of the role of Mr Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne) in New York going over Jo’s (Winona Ryder) stories (see my “Christmas in Little Women,” book and films …. )

I am sorry to admit the meal at our usual Asian restaurant was not enjoyable. We finally faced up to the reality this restaurant is going down: this time the service was nothing short of terrible. Half a Peking Duck is no longer possible; you must buy a whole one, but they don’t bring it out hot in front of you and carve; it is pre-carved (yet it took ever so long for them to bring it out), and they had run out of the usual side dishes. We had ordered other dishes but as they seemed not to be coming, we canceled it all and left. We will find another Peking Duck Asian restaurant next year.

Come from Away and Gertwig’s Little Women are filled with progressive social values; semi-didactic scenes of charity, people loving one another, giving, forgiving accepting: works we are much in need of since the spread of hatred and fear these past few years by the lies and control over social media Trump and his regime have achieved, and others like it around this cold commercialized world. Journalists who once would have been continually helping are today regularly killed, imprisoned, cannot find paying jobs where they can learn to do investigative reporting.

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


Mill in Winter, Edward Willis Redfield

Then there was Boxing Day (the 26th). We have been doing boxing day for about 20 years now; the last 8 without Jim but remembering him. How do we do boxing day? we go to a museum, of which there are many choices in DC. This year, like most, we went to the National Gallery. The advertised exhibits were neither that interesting (though I admit one was filled with precious historicals) or large; one small one not mentioned much, that we just happened upon (the best way) of the work of a 15th century Spanish sculptor was fascinating: remarkable moving statues and bas relief; the film brought the figures close up and was a good travelogue through Spain in its own right. For me best of all were old friends — paintings I like especially to look at and return to. The pizza wasn’t bad either (in the cafe) and people ice-skating just outside to look at. Above are a photo a kind African-American young man (with a friendly family, wife, three children) took of Izzy and me in the central atrium (high up is a giant Christmas tree ball — there were two of them above the flowers this year) and a reproduction (it does not convey the quality of the impasto white paint and just glorious sense of space and sky) Mill in Winter by Edward Willis Redfield (one of my favorite pictures in this museum, an “old friend”).

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

I did have some good conversation at a Christmas luncheon with the other teachers and volunteer board members at OLLI at AU early in December, and there was a party on another later afternoon in mid-December — not as good because however well meant the noisy band got in the way of what most of the people were there for — to talk to those you don’t see all term.  Izzy skipped her Christmas dinner with her Aspergers Adults club this year (sometimes her outings with them are a trial, as in a recent dance), but she appeared to enjoy her party at work (the Pentagon Library). Apart from my own Christmas movie watching at home, and reading about and around Christmas (about which see, What do we mean by a Christmasy story & C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed), this exhausts our going out. I socialize on the Net and she does too –in her case this year through exchanging and reading aloud original stories with other people on a website.  We fall back on and support one another & our cats love us too, and we have our tree.


I am irrationally fond of the tree each year — somehow it is a cheering sight (if not over-decorated and a real tree)

In my view the way some practice Winter Solstice can be very stressful for people, for a good deal of unreality is expected and imposed. Family get-togethers are potentially fraught times. For older people they are often facing increasing deterioration (I can’t drive at night so that’s why Izzy and I are not going out New Year’s Eve for the first time in 4 or so years; I’ve now got a case of eczema because of the stress I’ve had to deal with on the Net), relatives and friends have died in the previous year. Do you know what I’ve liked? I think its rituals can make many people lonelier, especially if you are someone who doesn’t have other people to do these rituals with or feel yourself not comfortable or wanted among those you can go to. I sent out 20 paper cards and about the same number of electronic Jacqui Lawson cards, and in return I had letters from old friends I hadn’t “talked” to in quite a while, and a renewal of feeling. Perhaps the best way to endure and enjoy what you can is think of it as time off, a time to remember, time (if you can) to gain some perspective.

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Surviving plant (coleus, said to be tough) on a day when the deadly heat measures 113F at 12:49 pm

Friends and readers,

Izzy, I and Laura will be away starting Thursday: we are going to Northern France, a beach at Calais, to be specific, and we hope to “stretch” the time to visit Paris once or twice, London once (or twice). The bnb looks lovely: air-conditioned, wifi, each of us with a room of our own.

As we go off, here is Izzy’s latest personal rendition of a song: The Corrs’ Give Me a Reason

Here are the lyrics:

It’s not romantic here in blue
Swimming, swimming in blue
You left me lonely and confused
Question, questioning you
So soon goodbye you stole my heart
Believe, believing you
Was it a lie right from the start
Answer, answer me do
Well now my body’s weak so just give me a reason
And my make-up’s off so just give me a reason
And my defense’s down so just give me a reason
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
You’ll never know the love I felt
Wanting, waiting for you
It takes a weak heart to forget
Follow, follow it through
Well now my body’s weak so just give me a reason
And my make-up’s off so just give me a reason
And my defense’s down so just give me a reason
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
So what’s a girl like me to do
Drowning, drowning in you
And who’s to save me from the blue
Carry, carry me through
Cause now my body’s weak so just give me a reason
And my make-up’s off so just give me a reason
And my defense’s down so just give me a reason
I am strong enough so just give me a reason
Now my body’s weak so just give me a reason
And my make-up’s off so just give me a reason
My defense’s down so just give me a reason
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
Give me a reason
What did I do wrong

They are an Irish musical group

Miss Drake

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »