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Beatrice Potter — Mice at work threading the needle

This morning I was thinking I find it much harder to be alone during the summer or hot months than the cold. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe the hot weather signals to one you are supposed to be outside with others having a good time?

Then Robert Reich whose warm compassionate deeply humane and political newsletters I get each day wrote about how a third grade teacher named Alice Camp made a big difference in his life

So I wrote in reply:

I was never lucky enough to have a teacher truly helping me at a young age. But twice when a bit older, a teacher took an interest and made a difference in my life. At age 15 I was intensely miserable and alone, and an English teacher quietly took pity on me: she got me a school job in the library (something you were told you were supposed to get and I had no idea how), and as one of the students monitoring people late to school so I sat with a group of other students every morning for a year. Both helped against the crying jags. She never openly admitted this. I don’t know why I know this but she was said to be a spinster.

Then age 18 the first English class I had in college a Black man who was very elegant, upper class (from one of the West Indian islands) openly was friendly to me in class, and once asked me to come to his office where he encouraged me to be an English major and told me I was very talented in writing and reading. Because of this meeting I did that — so it was not just reading a passage in Wordsworth that gave me the courage. I remember ever after how he was Black and was probably the only Black teacher I ever had in school — I went to all NYC public schools, Queens College, CUNY and a year at Leeds University (UK). One day someone bought in lollipops and gave to one to everyone but me.  I did look different: I was anorexic and very thin, dressed differently, sat apart.  Prof Oliver went over to the guy and asked for 2 lollipops and then came over to me and gave me one and went to the front of the class and unwrapped and sucked on his.

Oh I don’t remember the woman’s name but I can see her kind face even now. She had soft silvery blonde hair. The man’s name was Clinton F. Oliver, and his scholarly specialty was Henry James.

A very long time friend on the Internet who lives in Iran, Farideh Hassanzadeh, wrote this poem the other day and sent it to me:

They are the only ones
who are free.

They stay
on that dark side of the cities
where the most remote stones
rest on their bodies,
covered with dust.

When news is broadcast at regular time
by beautiful international women,
wearing colorful clothing and gaudy smiles,
the dead hear nothing but deep silence
as if all the international languages
are without sound.

Even when the bombs start to rain
on far and near cities
they are safe in their eternal shelters
while their souls are suffering
from the long-lost dreams.

The only voice that reaches them
to shake their bones
is the torture screams
from the solitary confinement
just like the graves
where the freedom is condemned to survival.

Ellen

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Sunning cat

Disappointments, heartaches, things cannot do; things done, things doing, things to look forward to

Dear friends and readers,

Summer unofficially began last weekend, Memorial Day, and it was not exactly a rousing start. We (Izzy and I) failed to get aboard a boat ride, which we were told was planned for our (my) Aspergers nowadays online group, meeting every other Thursday (an hour starting 7 pm) and once a month Saturday (7-9).

The ad lied and said you could buy tickets as boarded the boat, but in fact you were supposed to book on-line — in the sense of reserving a seat. (We did not book online partly because until 10 in the morning it was not clear it would not rain.) So all the people with pre-bought tickets got on and then the guy would not let those willing to buy there until on the dot of 3 pm lest any pre-bought tickets came along. His mean face and tone and words assured us they were “really” full up, as probably was the 6 pm boat.

Izzy said she was not playing this game. In other words, she refused to be humiliated. I’m with her. It does seem to me a great deal of US life nowadays demands versions of humiliation.

So, my friends, avoid Capitol Tours. The boats look awful.

We then found a cab to take us home, using lyft. We had a wait because traffic was so heavy. We had paid a red cab (booking it after 10) to get us there as the Washington Harbor area (like all Georgetown) has no Metro stop nearby: you want to know why Biden couldn’t pass his BBB bill: huge numbers of middle class whites don’t want public transportation in their area. Many areas in DC have no Metro stop. Should I repeat this?
As to Washington Harbor, it is hard to buy the simplest bottle of water or non-alcoholic drink; just about all the places require you to sit down and spend a lot for a meal too.

If this sounds ultra-disappointed, it’s not. I went in order to show all the people I’ve enjoyed zooms with for so long how I want to meet in person and for the 40 minutes or so waiting together I met all who came. They met Izzy who I’ve mentioned on and off for so long Myself I’m relieved to be home early, back to comfort (I have the air-conditioning on), my loving cats, my books and movies

We did walk along the water and Izzy took a photo of a sensible water bird family who do not carry guns and do not live in an unmitigated racist capitalist world.

Izzy and I did take a lovely walk in Old Town around 5 in the evening the next day. The whole park front on the Potomac was re-vamped to leave a good portion a people’s park; on one side and in one portion capitalism reigns supreme but even there the number of restaurants are kept more reasonable and people can still walk along the edge of the water without incessant noise. There are areas to sit, to play games, one dance area, much grass and trees. Again ducks along the edge of the shore …

It’s a good walk up and down, for we start not far from the King Street station and go down to the water and back. There’s a new nice used bookstore! we stopped in it and it’s good place with books organized by type. I used to do this walk almost daily with Jim in the afternoons or evenings when he was working and after he retired; when Vivian was alive (that friend I made who died of cancer) I’d walk sometimes with her. I don’t like to walk it alone because it brings memories of Jim and the kind of life I led with him. Izzy won’t come with me regularly but for special occasions and yesterday we did. No cab, no $50. There are two boats you can buy a ride on up and down the Potomac — they are not popular in the way of the DC rides. You don’t “see” as much — no tourist sites to look at, and be told bogus history about, but we have gone on them a couple of times. Jim would never go (he thought it silly) but when he was away in summer Laura, I, and Izzy did the ride a couple of times just the 3 of us.

That night I enjoyed my books very much (among them The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins), and at night was fully absorbed by Indian Summers Season 2 again. Today it’s supposed to be super-hot — 100F with heat index, so we’ll stay in Izzy watches the French open (tennis), and I’ll do my syllabus for the June mini at OLLI at AU.

To conclude the thwarted and ambiguous and heartaches: This past Saturday I met at the hairdresser’s a woman I’ve thinking of as an old friend. Lately her husband of man years died. From the conversation I realize she is actually fine (doing better than I did after Jim died). I had interpreted her non-response to an email as her being still too grief-stricken to be active this way But her words and then a polite email that she doesn’t want to continue the friendship. This is always so hard when I’m rejected especially when I can’t figure out why. It happens repeatedly in my life — I can see she has nothing against me personally. This is the sort of thing Aspergers people have to live with — many years ago my younger daughter, also Aspergers, asked me why do not others reciprocate (after she had gone to a girl scouts meeting several times, tried hard and no one would even be her partner in dancing), and I answered I don’t know, I wish I did.

I’ve exchanged emails with this woman the next day again and have a better idea why she wants to — or has — broken the beginning friendship off, for it was just beginning again. After all she did this 20+ years ago. It’s too particular for me to tell but I do think this has to do with her husband’s death. Partly she is in a fragile state and doesn’t want to be disturbed by any ideas outside her usual ones – not that I would disturb her. But she knows I’m an atheist; indeed why should I hide it. She does not hide her intense religious (Catholic) faith. She said she was doing fine because she “firmly believes” she “will see Roger again.” Maybe just my presence would get in the way.

These things hurt Aspergers people like us because it’s so hard to start a relationship or begin to sustain one and when we lose it, we don’t have a substitute. We don’t just move on to another relationship. It’s like a child with one train as opposed to a child with many.

I learned a new word — or understood a word for the first time. In a previous zoom I said I didn’t understand the new and various ways the verb to gaslight someone is nowadays used. I know the original film and original use but all the recent extrapolations were confusing. So I’d heard the gerund “ghosting” — or, as a verb, someone ghosts you. I thought it was the equivalent of snub, they make you vanish, ignore you, but no, it means the person makes him or herself vanish. It comes from internet experience where the person does not answer an email as if they are not there. I had had people do that to me, yes.

Not traveling anywhere this summer. Cannot drive at night so no Wolf Trap. You must test negative for Covid going and coming on airplanes internationally. Told airports are again these scenes of wretched crowding, cancelled trips. Nothing nothing is worth such experiences. So Ireland put off for another year. Still sorry not to escape this heat but for three days visiting Thao — see below. The beach is too far for day trip. That is the worst of this area in summer. No nearby beaches.


Where I might go if I could: Monet’s Beach at Trouville

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So now positive developments. Events and experiences to look forward to this summer.

My young friend, Daughter No 3, Thao, had her baby! He and mother doing very well. Auntie Izzy and Grandma Ellen had face-time with Thao and Jeff and this tiny baby last night.  Auntie Izzy there too. They said it is now just about procedure to induce a young woman after 39 weeks. The medical establishment has decided why wait? She has endured massive intervention during most of this pregnancy and it was a good deal of it overdone, unnecessary and made her anxious again and again. So this refusal to let her carry the baby to term is part of that — the people were at her since this past Thursday to come in — like she had a ticket for a seat (in this case bed) and was not showing up.

A boy, weighing a about over 5 pounds. It’s clear he can’t see. He was quiet while we talked. They were exhausted and very happy I could see. Izzy and I shall try to come for a 4 day visit in August. They had planned to name him William and call him Will but they seem not to be sure now and have not yet signed the papers. I wish I had a photo. I don’t. The first one I do receive from Thao I’ll put here (until then all I’ve got is this one of Sam loving baby Catherine).


Honeysuckle Weekes as Sam cherishing, joyous over baby Catherine for her father Gabe Kelly (Killing Time, Foyle’s War)

Would you believe Barsetshire in Pictures? I gave this talk, which turned out to be difficult work, and I was stressed about but managed to pull off. The first time since 22 years ago I used (went over) that original research reading and staring in the Library of Congress at the original illustrations for Trollope’s novels over much of his career. I believe at the time I viewed and described some 450 images.

I’ve had the idea for my timeline I’d put my reading aloud copy of Barsetshire in Pictures on academia.edu. The talk went over very well (I trust – people seemed to be laughing in the right places), and I do this in the interim before the talk itself with the pictures comes online on the Trollope Society (London) page — if anyone wants simply to read it. When the video appears, I’ll make a blog and then distribute this in different places.


Lily and Grace sewing together by candlelight — George Housman Thomas’s 32 full page and 32 vignette/letter illustrations for the Last Chronicle of Barset

Today, this afternoon I returned to teaching in person for the first time in 2 years and 5 months. A tiny class as so many at the OLLIs are so wary (rightly), but it went so well. So much better than these zooms after all. People really talking to one another in the class. Everyone seen. No one a black box with white letters. It’s the rejuvenation I felt this afternoon to which you owe this diary entry, gentle reader.

And my schedule for the summer and fall all worked out.

I will be teaching this “Alternative POVs on Traditional History and Myth”; also in person for 6 weeks, once a week “Sensation and Gothic Novels, then and now:” Wilkie Collins, Woman in White and Valerie Martin, Mary Reilly, books and movies.

Online at OLLI at AU: a wonderful class, genuinely learned professor from University of Pennsylvania on SouthAsia, once a week — I learned a lot this past week about the Indian subcontinent, geographically, historically, ethnically, religiously; a course, Beyond Musical Standards, on the music of people like Harold Arlen, also once a week for 4 weeks online, but in person (!), 5 days in a row one week, on “Women’s Suffrage.” OLLI at Mason: again 4 weeks of a movie a week, well chosen, with Russell (from Pennsylvania now) and Stephanie; 6 sessions on a history of basic civil rights in the US, online, and then 2 sessions on W.E.B. Dubois’ Black Reconstruction (that’s a Library of American book).

Online at Politics and Prose: end of July, early August, online with Elaine Showalter, “Difficult Women Take Two,” Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights (how I loved this decades ago when I read it riveted), Jean Rhys, Leaving Mr Mackenzie, Angela Carter, Bloody Chamber, Nora Ephron, Heartburn; August, online with Helen Hooper, “The Other Elizabeth Taylor,” Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (very good novel), Angel (one of those by her I’ve not read), and New Yorker short stories; September online with Michelle Stimms-Burton, James Baldwin, his later years, from 2 Library of America books)

I vow in August to write that review of the Anne Finch Cambridge volumes, and the short paper on the manuscripts of Finch and Jane Austen for EC/ASECs in October. I will study Italian and return to Anglo-Indian novels and memoirs.

August you see empty. Lots of horror stories about plane delays, weeks spent not being able to get out of a country because of testing positive for COVID, planes cancelled. Oonce again the airplane industry shows itself not concerned in the least about passengers. They follow the “just in time” theory. No preparation whatsoever for sudden surge of people. No re-hiring. What do they care? As long as their CEOs rake in millions in bonuses they give themselves.

So I will sustain my soul by my Anglo-Indian studies, Italian studies — for a future course at the two OLLIs. As when I started my studies of film, I feel like a child with a whole new candy store waiting for me.

Then carrying on for the rest of the year: London Trollope Society online: The Eustace Diamonds and Can You Forgive Her?. I’ll “do” in person in the fall at both OLLIs, “The Two Trollopes:” Last Chronicle of Barset, and Joanna’s Rector’s Wife and The Choir (books & films), once a week, September through November.

So there we are. Too busy to think about how lonely I am, and how hot it is outside. As for movies just now: Indian Summers, Foyle’s War, three Woman in White movies, two Moonstone. I’m finding the biography of Mazzini by Denis Mack Smith very good, so too near the end of Catherine Peter’s biography of Wilkie Collins (probably cannot be bettered), Maria Tatar’s Heroine with 1001 Faces — to say nothing of listening to Davina Porter read aloud Outlander once again in my car (sexually very stimulating for me).

Managing to keep Internet friendships on FB, TWWRN, my one alive listserv, Trollope & Peers, my online Zoom Aspergers group (every other Thursday and Saturday evening once a month). Here is my beautiful boy who does love me and Izzy

Have I accounted for myself enough? The ninth summer without Jim — carrying on our way of life insofar as I can without him, here, by myself.

Ellen

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Robbie Williams’s Eternity

Dear friends,

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


A mother and child


A noisy sea-lion


Two pandas


and a lion (among others)

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


A beautiful poster-like picture of a deer

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


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

How did I manage this?

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

The Heroines’ Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


A beautiful depiction of a cozy bed — seen on twitter

Ellen

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

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

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

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


John Douglas Thompson staggered under the onslaught of punitive law …

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Beloved Clarycat in a sun-puddle

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

Any Soul to Any Body

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellen

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Gentle reader,

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

Here are the lyrics.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will this do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Maxx in a new blanket

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


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

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

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


Charlotte in a bright red blanket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ellen

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Roubaix, Northern France (2008)

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

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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


Classical pastoral in Fantasia (1940s)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ellen

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

“A Poem for winter Solstice”

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

— by me, written in 2017

Dear friends and readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A cat bewildered by snow

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

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


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

Ellen

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The new DC Trollope group, Sunday around 1 pm, Rockcreek Park –that’s me in the blue knitted hat

I am a person who reads books with a pen in my hand

Dear friends and readers,

However slowly, transitioning is happening: I’ve noticed a number of events that would have been online last year at this time are either in person or not occurring, sometimes with the reassurance that come spring we will do it, meet, in person, or without but implied understanding that things are not so desperate or frightening as they were last year so we don’t need the zoom support we gave one another last year. I am sorry for this, though I find myself also skipping zoom meetings, lectures as I once would not have done. I also have chosen not to teach online but in person in the spring 2022 my coming Anglo-Indian Novels: the Raj, Aftermath, & Diaspora.

I am very sorry to lose the couple of people in each of my classes this time who stayed the course until the end and were coming in from way outside MDV (like NYC, somewhere in Florida [poor woman], Philly), and have vowed to myself to try to take a hybrid and watch how it’s done to see if I could dare do it by the fall (2022), but intensely relieved not to have to put up with people in the class as black boxes with their names in white letters or a frozen photo at the center of said box. Relieved not to be so dependent on the computer, the technology, the electricity working. I believe I come across better in person, we are all truly in contact with one another that way.

It’s been suggested to me in the spring after this one I “do” Jewish-Italian writing: out of Italy I could do that very well, say one six week OLLI at Mason session: I took a wonderful course in just this area at OLLI at AU (online) and from my own years of teaching myself to read Italian and then translating Italian poetry, I know I’ve read a good deal of such books. Elsa Morante was half-Jewish, I’ve loved Primo and Carlo Levi’s books, for a start. It would get me reading Giorgio Bassani’s The Heron at long last (he’s the one who wrote The Garden of the Finzi-Continis).  There’s Grazia Deledda’s novels which I’ve never read  I own one Englished (I admit she was not Jewish). Note what I look forward to most is reading the books.


Izzy went for a walk along the Tidal Basin in the DC park on November 11th and took this photo

Yet I met a friend at the Phillips Collection this past Saturday to see a dual exhibit of African-American art, Alma Thomas and David Driskell, and found myself slightly reveling in the train ride (Metro working just fine), the walk, glad to eat out together, delighted calling a red cab ahead confirmed to be the best way. Seeing an exhibit online just does not come near, even if the lecturer is superb (though that compensates for a lot).

And a highpoint result of 18 months of almost every-other-week zoom meetings with a group of people who love Trollope, organized by the chair of the London Trollope society I and a woman with real organizing capabilities and experience got together 13 people (from the regulation 100+ or so online), who live in and about DC, southern Maryland, and northern Virginia. Touchingly, they got themselves to Rock Creek park this past Sunday to meet at last. As you can see from the photo above, very much in person in the bracing air. We had a sort of picnic, met and talked (about how we first read Trollope, first joined the society).

On the whole, it went very well: we were jolly and glad to meet — people came from as far away as Baltimore, the Eastern Shore, Loudon county. We promised we’d meet regularly, say once a season, and next time indoors The thought was libraries have become community centers who host different groups and we could find a room in such a library (the Library of Congress does, here in Alexandra, the Beasley, and in Fairfax, the one which has a center in spring for AARP to help people with their taxes). And yet I had a much better time the next day, Monday, online with that larger group, discussing for one last time, Trollope’s The American Senator. One reason the zooms are taxing is they are necessarily intellectual, but me I love that focus.


And the imagined world — this illustration comes from the old Oxford sets of Trollope Barsetshire novels

And many things from before the pandemic and since will carry on. I truly rejoice one of them is this every-other-week London Trollope group. It is rare for me to have been able to fit in enough and sustain my place, my welcome there — as have so many others, and I think it is due to the congenial abilities of Dominic Edwards. The new reading group on face book from The Way We Read Now page, a spin-off of the FB Trollope Society page, now reading Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. Other new ones, which are suited for me (which I can enjoy) coming out of an institution or organization realizing here is a place they can gather a larger audience, and make more money, who seem to be determined to keep zooms going (as well as in person) include the Elizabeth Gaskell House, the Hay festival from England, the Virginia Woolf society.

If I’m guessing right, the Smithsonian seems to be inclining to stay online for a lot of their programs. It is not the kind of experience where you make friends by seeing the same people outside the class over and over — and honestly all that I take in is taken in online. Since so much there is at night, cross your fingers for me, it will most to mostly or at least half online for the lectures and musical concerts, art history talks. For six weeks ending today Saul Lilienstein has played and explained (discussed) Choral music by geniuses across the ages in Europe. When his spirit soars, so does mine.  (I attended an all day series of four lectures with clips by him long ago, in person, on the Beatles.) Some of it has been so stirring — it is a group activity which calls to the heart to listen as they sing together to the music, all listening. I especially enjoyed the Verdi requiem because Jim so loved Verdi, would listen to it and this was the first time anyone ever explained it to me.

My two listservs, Trollope and his Contemporaries, still going fine with about 10+ active over say a few weeks, and WomenWriters, with more like 4 or 5 at groups.io.


Christa Wolf when young — or my Retelling Traditional History & Legend from an Alternative Standpoint online this winter — I could not have begun to get so far this month w/o the help of a friend on WomenWriters

Still I feel much sorrow as I see that my Aspergers group leaders are tiring of the every-other-week weeknight chat, and long to return to meeting in a restaurant once a month in the evening. What has kept them from moving is the restaurant they had found an ideal room in, which was also centrally located in DC, and near a Metro stop, is not willing to have them come back as yet. This is a group which provides me with much comfort. I recognize the problems I have in the problems they do, get decent advice for real, just can be myself and not worry I’m off that unwritten script the fairy godmothers of neurotypicals left in their cradles, but not mine. Each time I have had to go out in this last phase of (this?) pandemic has been something of an ordeal. The people in this group understand and several of them have said now and again how the quarantine of the pandemic has been a relief in the peaceful existence they’ve enjoyed.

A silver lining: there is now a subgroup meeting the third later Saturday afternoon of each month, just for women. We’ve had some very good talk, of a different type, not just different subjects (having to do with women) but more intimate somehow in the angle we talk at.

So this is what I have wanted to tell my friends who read this blog tonight. How ambivalent I am about “going back” to true face-to-face, body-to-body, physical travel contact.  You should see how carefully I am driving my newly fixed car.  I wonder how some of you have felt during this seeming transition. One man at the DC Trollope group ventured to admit he found the pandemic had gifted him with the zooms from the London Trollope groups and called them “a silver lining” too.

I usually like to end with a new love or an old love renewed: well I’ve returned to Outlander (yes there was a hiatus of a few months) but not just the films, I am reading the books however slowly at midnight, a half hour or so. I have admitted to myself that my love for the Poldark books was an is a love for this genre of historical fiction & romance. Maybe I’ve overdone as a reason for liking Winston Graham’s historical fiction set in the later 18th century the strong left social message of his romances and under-estimated the similar if much less economical-political message of Gabaldon — she is far far more liberated (so to speak) for women and LBGTQ people than Graham gets anywhere near.

I’m now studying Mira Nair’s joy-in-grief-stricken Indian films — have bought the screenplay for Salaam Bombay (a little novel in effect), as I try to obtain a DVD with the original features by her and her cinematographer.

And while I often don’t care for Mary Oliver’s poems (too determinedly upbeat), this one, with the accompanying picture

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Mary Oliver

How Jim delighted my heart. Sometimes I break out of the conventional and express (while teacher) how much my books in my house mean to me because of their connection to Jim — it seems that 1876 by Gore Vidal will tell me of the horrors of that first year of the era of racial terrorism inaugurated by the Congress giving to Rutherford B. Hayes, the US presidency and in return him withdrawing all Federal troops, with the implicit okay on the white supremacy of the south using whatever barbaric techniques they pleased. Someone said that in the Trollope class I teach at OLLI at AU.

I expressed surprise and then delight at the thought the book was in my house, and told them how Jim had read it and so enjoyed Burr too, and that one was here too. One woman in the class suddenly said in a bossy voice she has used before, “you shouldn’t talk like that.” I don’t remember what I replied but I hope it was near “to tell me not to talk like this is to tell me to stop breathing.”


Fall flowers — the dining room credenza which I keep cheerful also with food I like, drinks, & one of several photos of Jim scattered about the house

Ellen

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I still buy books faster than I can read them. But again, this feels completely normal: how weird it would be to have around you only as many books as you have time to read in the rest of your life … And I remain deeply attached to the physical book and the physical bookstore [not so much that latter as the days of vast caverns of books, floors of them, you were left to explore on your own, i.e., the Argosy in NYC, 2nd Hand Bookstor in Alexandria, Va are gone forever, or so it seems mostly …] — Julian Barnes, A Life with Books

Friends,

I thought I’d begin with an autumnal poem, W.B. Yeats’s “When You are Old” as read by Tobias Menzies:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Equally moving for me is Izzy’s latest song, “All I want” by Toad the Wet Sprocket:

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Last night was Halloween, and from my hour-long zoom chat with Aspergers friends, to the few people I talk and email with, I was wished a happy Halloween. We did try: Izzy thought she was invited to go to a party on Saturday night by a man in her Wednesday in-person Dungeons and Dragons group, but when the time came close it seemed the party was to be an hour long or so, after which it would break up into people doing different things together, among these, bar-hopping. This is not for her, especially as getting there was an Uber (and back). So she thought the better of it – she is now getting older than many of the late 20s people who would show up, several gay (as the man was gay), what she had to wear was the regency dress she wore for JASNA (not appropriate for this, too naive). Instead she recorded her song.

I had hoped to join in on giving out candy for the first time in years as I still have the battery-operated candles I had found for Biden’s night-before-inauguration so I could light up my pottery pumpkin, put the stoop light on and be all welcoming. Well I got three groups and one lone girl in a clown’s outfit. Next door and across the street from me are older women too, who also had welcoming light and symbolic objects — they seem to have gotten the same groups. And then it was over.

As has happened to me before, I discovered that there is little to join in on if you are trying simply to be part of a neighborhood community. Halloween you must go to a party, some 15 years ago, for two years running at the Torpedo Factory museum in old town, a Halloween dance was held, for the public & Jim and I went; one year we traveled to NYC to go to a Halloween dance at the Princeton club (as members of the Williams — old-fashioned rock for people mostly in their 50s too).  Thirty-five, say 1980s when we still had a (what I called) Welfare project down the hill, endless children and adolescents came, many Black. Thirty years ago in this neighborhood (all private houses, as we say in NYC) there were several floods of children coming through this neighborhood, and I’d give out candy, chocolates, cookies, pretzels with Izzy.  Twenty I went myself with Laura and Izzy (age 15 say and 9) with them in costume trick-or-treating. I’d stay back on the sidewalk and there were really lots of people. But this neighborhood changes every 7 years, and about twenty years ago, the welfare project was knocked down, super-expensive houses and condos with what’s called a few row of “scatter-site housing” for people getting subsidized rents, built in its place. Ten years ago or more a scheme in my neighborhood not to let most of their children trick-or-treat but make a party. Immediately it’s exclusionary of course. Excuses like strangers put razors in children’s candy. Tonight I wondered if the upper class mostly whites here did not like the children from elsewhere


A photo Izzy took that lovely afternoon as she stood by the Potomac in Old Town

I was advised to watch movies, told by others that’s what they did — horror ones — so I told myself I’d watch movies too and my choice was Shades of Darkness, a 1980s series of hour long adaptations of ghost stories, all but one by women, done with great delicacy, insight, mood creation. I bought it sometime after 2000 as a DVD — I watched one I’d seen before and one I probably hadn’t. Elizabeth Bowen’s “Demon Lover,” very well done, as much about WW2 in England, the Blitz as about this ghost that seems a distilled eruption of senseless indifferent harm I’d seen it before but have forgotten how well done. Dorothy Tutin, the central figure. This is a traditional ghost tale where the ghost is malign and we are made nervous because the whole experience is regarded as fearful, hostile — popular Kafka stuff in a way.


Dorothy Tutin as our Every ordinary women profoundly disquieted as she sees him across the room …

The other May Sinclair’s “The Intercessor” (first time seen), to me a strange ghost stories to me because the ghost is simply accepted as part of universe and the theme is we are supposed to understand the revenants, accept them — not pitiless mischief, but the ghost a redemptive pitiful ghost. The human story is dreadful — people can be dreadful and have very bad luck, but the ghost, unprepossessing as she is, brings renewal. John Duttine, the hero, often played deeply sensitive men in the 1970s-80s BBC dramas. I’ve read other Sinclairs of this type. This set includes two superb hard gothic Whartons, “Lady’s Maid’s Bell” and “Afterward” (stunning). This was an era of fine dramas from the BBC — and there are other series of this type — all June Wyndham Davis produced.

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Lucy Worsley getting to sit behind Austen’s writing desk with some paraphernalia Austen would have used

So my teaching and scholarly life went on. Some successes: my two classes on The Prime Minister are going very well. My paper, “A Woman and her Boxes: Space and Personal Identity in Jane Austen,” went over very well and I much enjoyed the virtual EC/ASECS. I’ve not yet returned to Anne Finch, though the term is winding down, because I changed one of my books for my coming 4 week winter course teaching at OLLI at Mason, and am very much engaged by the books:

Retelling Traditional Tales from an Alternative Point of View

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

I’d get a crowd if I were doing Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, but no one needs me to teach these. I’ve learnt that Florence Nightingale wrote a novella turned into polemic essay, Cassandra, only published recently: beyond protesting the restrictive life of an upper class Victorian young woman, exploring her own depression, it’s an exposure of the Crimean war. Finally an excuse to read away books on and by these two brilliant serious women.


A modern Cassandra: Wolf has Aeschylus’s proud victim in mind

I got involved in a wonderful thread on Victoria when I told of my coming Anglo-Indian Novels: Raj, Aftermath and Diaspora (I’ve told you of this one before), this spring at both OLLIs and in person. I told of books and they told of books, and we all dreamed in imagined company. My thanking people included this:

I did send away for the Metcalfs’ Concise History of India, and Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India (2016 in the UK). I have the Dalrymple volume on the East India Company and am grateful to the pointed to the specific chapters. There’s nothing I like better than articles when I’m looking for concision and I have access to the George Mason University database and their interlibrary loan.

My course itself is not on the Victorian period as all three books were written in the 20th century: the first is Forster’s Passage to India, and I have got hold of his Hills of Devi, and a book of essays published in India about the relationship of his time there and books to India. One book I have read and is about 19th century colonialism through 19th into 20th century books (novels and memoirs) is Nancy Paxton’s superb Writing Under the Raj: Gender, Race and Rape in the British Colonial Imagination, 1830-1947

Not for this course but about the 19th century and colonialism through another and classic 19th century novel is the Dutch Max Havelaar; or The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Eduard Douwes Dekker (1859), using the pseudonym he often used Multatuli . Now this is a superb book where you will learn that not only the British were stunningly brutal to native populations when they took over, but also how the colonialists did it. It’s a novel that is heavily true history (disguised only somewhat) – a peculiar imitation of Scott as if through a lens like that of Sterne in Tristram Shandy. Dekker risked his life while a resident manager in Indonesia (and other places) and came home to write this novel.

I strongly recommend it – and it’s available in a beautiful new edition by New York Review of Books, paperback, good translation. I just so happen to have written a blog last night half of which is on this novel – the other half a film adaptation which descends (in a way) from it, Peter Weir’s The Year of Living Dangerously (by way of an intermediary 1964 novel). Arguably MH is most important one volume 19th historical novel about the Dutch in Indonesia. The volume includes an interesting introduction by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, an important writer and political activist (spent too much time in prisons).

The other two for my course are Paul Scott’s Jewel in the Crown, the 1st volume of his Raj Quartet (a historical novel, familiar to many people through the superb BBC TV serial in the later 1980s); and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake (a book showing the diaspora). The movie I’ll assign is Merchant-Ivory’s Shakespeare Wallah, which I also cannot praise too highly


Outlander begins in Scotland, Inverness, at Samhain or Halloween — it is also a ghost story

I’ve splurged on two beautifully made copies of the first two books of Outlander (Outlander & DragonFly in Amber) for my birthday and am back reading these books at midnight after realizing I’d been dreaming for sometime of myself in an Outlander adventure. By the time I was fully awake, I had forgotten the particulars and wonder what was the prompting: it’s been weeks and weeks since I last watched an Outlander TV episode and months since I read in one of the books. Maybe it bothers me that I don’t have Starz so will have to wait to see Season 6 until the season comes out as a DVD.

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The cat meowed — the first voice of the series

I do most days need some cheering up, so often so sad that right now my movie-watching includes this year’s All Creatures Great and Small, the set of DVDs sent me by my friend Rory. They still my heart with the strong projection of love, understanding, kindness between one another. I am especially fond of the direct emphasis on the animals the Vets and everyone else too are caring so tenderly for. The first episode opened with an temporarily ill cat being taken care of by James (Herriot, Nicholas Ralph). As my daughter Laura (Anibundel) wrote: “Snuggling down in the Yorkshire Dales to save a few cows turned out to be just what the doctor ordered last winter.”. I regret only that there are only six for this year, so I’m re-watching last year’s seven. Re-watching beloved series is what I do a lot.

Izzy and I did vote early, this past Saturday at our local library. We got there early and found a reasonably long line. We were told turnout is high. Everything was done peacefully and democratically. No one there to intimidate anyone. My neighborhood is showing signs for Youngren and I’ve encountered the seething racism in many of these rich whites — they will vote GOP because they are most of all about their status (and feel it’s threatened by not having whites in charge), see Black people as dangerous and inferior, and yes the campaign against Toni Morrison’s Beloved has traction. The GOP even has a mother-type inveighing against the book in a campaign commercial.

One reason for this is it’s not a good choice for a high school class. It’s too hard (not linear at all); its content is problematic: the use of the ghost is part of a skein of irrationality and violence justified in ways that most high school students will not understand. But she won the Nobel, and this is the most famous one: much better, more appropriate are Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other (varied, sane, also about economic structuring to keep people poor), Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, Lorraine Hansbury’s A Raisin in the Sun, August Wilson’s Piano (Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is rightly assigned in junior (3rd year high) years. But this is an argument for people teaching literature to think about. Youngren is insinuating profound resentment, implying this book teaches white children to hate themselves and their parents. The reality is it’s a book too hard for students to take in, with some of the same problems of vindicating violence you see in popular US movies. I never assigned Twain’s Huckleberry Finn after seeing a Black young man get up and do a talk about how painful it was for him to read such a book and hearing white boys in the class snicker at him. The choice of Beloved tells about the conformity and non-thinking of US high school curricula than anything else.  And now it’s weaponized against Democrats and liberal gov’t.

If I could bring Jim back, I’d give up all I do — for I wouldn’t be doing much of this probably, wouldn’t have known of the OLLIs, of the Smithsonians, become part of these zooms, but I admit it does make me feel good that I prove to myself and do cope with so much nowadays. Today I resolved two bill problems from goofs I made in using websites to pay my bills — I now get e-bills for seven of my bills (post office becomes worse each week). I’m not as afraid as I used to be — though still frightened some (terrified at what could be done if the GOP cabal does take over), at least I know so much more about all that I need and do related directly to my life, who to go to (AARP, EJO-solutions for my computer, Schwabb guys for money). It is good to feel capable and useful and appreciated – though I began with the Yeats poem because Jim was and will be the one person in the world who loved the pilgrim soul in me. And every day, every night I feel his lack. So much I could do were he here, so much I miss out on (the new Met Meistersinger 6 hours!) how he would have reveled in it.

Ellen

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Sophie Thomson as Miss Bates: in the 1996 Emma: I dislike most of the movie, but her performance as Miss Bates and the way she is filmed is the best Miss Bates of all I’ve seen

My day’s journey has been pleasanter in every respect than I expected. I have been very little crowded and by no means unhappy. — Jane Austen, Letters (24 Oct 1798)

Friends,

On October 9th of this year, Jim will have been dead 8 years. I have learned many things since he died (because I had to or die myself), and much has seemed to change or alter in the world over these years (not fundamentally but surface changes make a lot of difference to individual ordinary relatively powerless lives). I wish sometimes I had behaved differently when Jim was alive but I do not believe that anything I refused to do or was lacking in fundamentally hurt or deprived him of anything he wanted.

For myself I am again not not sleeping well. I have periods where I sleep fine (5 hours and a bit more on average) and periods where I don’t (waking in the night, up after 3-4 hours). Just now it is the stress of returning to these classes via zoom, worry the two classes I teach won’t go well, the new relationships, and seeing out in the world that the present peaceful seeming settlement in the US is at risk.

The lack of a close relationship such as I had with Jim is, though, what is very wearing to me. I am not made to be alone I need someone to confide in, to turn to for advice, support. I’ve now tried several friendships and friendship is not a substitute for a partner/loving spouse. I have had a hard time even sustaining these, most have broken up, attenuated, the person moved away or died. No man I’ve met or briefly gone out with (3?) or known more at a distance comes near him for compatibility, intelligent understanding and of course love for me. Nor will there ever be.

I’ll mention this:

For the last few days I’ve had a persistent pain in my chest; for a few days before that side (right) arm has been too painful to lift
sometimes. I did take a weaker pill, one I’m told to take twice a day at 12 hour intervals, and while it helped, the pain did not go away. I don’t feel the pain when I’m standing or sitting up most of the time, some movement brings it out. So I couldn’t do my full set of exercises yesterday. And do them but one a day, trying to walk (earlier) in later afternoon or evening. I should phone the doctor and go. I have said I’m told I have a aneuryism in my aorta.

I suppose you (those who read this frankly autobiographical blog) know that writing itself cheers me up. Writing helps buoy my spirits after I wake and as the day begins. I don’t need the helps visualized in this film adaptation of Mansfield Park (1983), with Sylvestre Le Touzel as Fanny but I know why the picture of her beloved’s ship as drawn by him, the transparencies, and other meaningful objects are set around her on her desk near a window

I am feeling slightly overwhelmed just now. Take this past Monday:

I had 4 zooms. I was dizzy by the end but I will stay with all 4. One, mine (I taught, The Prime Minister at OLLI at AU online), went well, but too many men. I don’t do that well with men. And my anthology is all women and my desire for truer representation on behalf of women, so I may have a small class eventually. 3 people were already not there. They emailed to say they had a conflict and they would watch the recording later in the day. 3 people for the repeat tomorrow later afternoon at OLLI at Mason online have already sent messages to this effect. So recording has a down side in a sense — the classroom experience must be redefined.

I had suspected the teacher for the Theban Plays would be very good — that she is very intelligent and, alone (not with the usual partner) a good teacher whatever she does – and she was — though she did not handle the zoom aspects of calling on people or any of it at all, which did make her presence less felt, less effective (she seems to erect barriers between herself and others). There was the London Trollope Society Zoom at 3 (BST 8 pm) on The American Senator (with two talkers) and then at 6:30 pm EDT another fine teacher (from Politics & Prose) on Wilkie Collins’s No Name. I was probably too tired by that time to take it all in coherently.

No London Trollope Society zoom next Monday and the No Name class is only 4 more. So it will be only 3 more Mondays this 4 zoom line-up will happen.

Meanwhile last night I was reading the book by Fagles (translator, editor, introducer) the Theban Plays teacher had suggested. Wonderfully naturalistically translated. I thought of Philoctetes and how Sophocles made marginalized powerless people his central figures: a woman (all 15,000 spectators men, all actors men) and a cripple. I loved it and wrote my one paper on an ancient classical work on it (with a little bit of help from my father): the teache, a long=timed tenured person hated it and gave me a B. “How could you talk about heroes in this vein?” I am fascinated by Collins’s power of description of the 19th century cityscapes (walking on a wall) and charged feminism of No Name (two heroines completely cut off from any money because their parents married after the father made out his will), and am reading a new edition of Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall, early feminist masterpiece, by Stevie Davies (Unbridled Spirits, effective half fictionalized accounting of 17th century women involved in the civil war; Impassioned Clay, with its insight into how historical fiction is ghostly, about the now dead and vanished bought back (one feels that in Gabaldon’s Outlander serials).

I napped twice to do it that day. Just fell asleep around 4:20 (I did lay down on the bed telling myself I was just laying down) and then woke at 5. Again around 8:30 and woke at 9 pm — watching PBS, Judy Woodruff had put me to sleep.

I also “visited” the National Book Festival and for a while listened to & watched Ishiguro manage to make intelligent talk. On a JASNA channel of some sort for about a third of a session, listened to Janet Todd, some of whose books as a scholar I admire, who has written a new novel on Jane Austen (and Shelley I thought but not quite) and whose fantasy I thought might be like Christa Wolf’s No Place on Earth, where early 19th century Germany romantic figures who never met meet. Alas, not so; it’s a re-hash of a biography she did of the Shelley women (Fanny Godwin who killed herself, Mary Shelley).

Tuesday so much easier. I re-make lecture notes for tomorrow’s class at OLLI at Mason on PM, and I’ve a later afternoon class at OLLI at Mason on Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall (I’ll be writing a blog on this book & the Brontes, Gaskell & Scott later next week).


Egon Schiele, Four Trees (1917)

So Anne Finch has been put to the side again, and I’m struggling to do the reading for a paper centered on Austen I’ve promised for October 16th: A Woman and her Box: space and personal identity. Luckily the book I agreed to review for Peter Lang was on Jane Austen, Non-Portable Property and Possessions (not the exact title). (They have not acknowledged receipt of my report nor paid me in the books they said they would. I love getting back to Austen (as you can see from the stills I’m using for this blog), and the books I’ve read for it (Barbara Harding, A Reading of JA; Amanda Vickery on what Katherine Shackleton bought, lived in, made a life out of; Lucy Worseley on JA’s life through her houses once again. I’ve learned about traveling libraries: books put in boxes that are bookcases! A sudden spurt:

Which of us is not familiar with the much-attested to story of Jane Austen hard at work on one of her novels, toiling over tiny squares of paper held together by pins, crossing out, putting carrots and arrows into the lines, second thoughts or words over the lines, on one of her novels in draft. Where?  on that tiny round table, sometimes referred to as her desk, a relic now found in the Jane Austen House museum. We are told that she did not want a creak in the door to the room fixed because it functioned as a warning. Upon hearing the door open she would of course stash these papers away – perhaps in that writing desk, which, another famous story tells us, was filled with many such manuscripts and was almost lost forever on a trip where it landed in the wrong coach? The writing desk is another relic to be found in the Chawton Jane Austen House museum.

The inferences I take from these are that Jane Austen was a woman who had no control over her space and no control over her portable seeming property. She had not been able to place the writing desk on her lap in the coach.  Remember Fanny Price seated in her unheated attic room amid her nest of comforts, not one of which she actually owned, not even the row of workboxes abandoned by the Mansfield Park heir when someone was trying to instuct him using them as a device for organization and storage.

Still it won’t do to say I don’t believe in the first story because I cannot conceive how anyone could produce the artful and controlled four novels.  The first two, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, to some extant flawed, when studied carefully, now and then revealing curious gaps which can be explained by too many revisions, but on the whole extraordinary.  Much less all six famous books, including the posthumous, to some extent, not finished or truncated, named by Austen’s brother and sister, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. For these she must have had far more consistent hours of time free of anxious worry lest someone coming with the right to interrupt create an embarrassed moment to find this woman writing. Is not Emma virtuoso perfection in its use of ironic perspective and voice? Despite what some today might feel to be a narrow rigidity of moral judgment actuating aspects of Mansfield Park, it is arguably as strong a protest and radically questioning as well as aesthetically exquisite book as any of the 19th century novel masterpieces produced in Victorian England.

But there is the table, there the desk and document describing the second incident refuting me.

Such a warm comfortable scene by Joe Wright from P&P — filled with food and things for the table, in a relaxed comfortable aging home:


Brenda Blethyn, Rosamund Pike, Keira Knightley and Jena Malone as Mrs Bennet, Jane, Elizabeth and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice (2006, Joe Wright)

I am pushing myself every minute I have extra around my other commitments to get this done. I don’t know if I’ll make it as I feel I must go through her letters once more — skimming but taking them in. E. M. Forster wrote one problem he had in reading Austen was he tended to be like someone in a beloved church; I’m like someone scrambling in a coach with her by my side, me holding onto to that writing desk and those papers.

So now I’ll subside into a movie:

I’ve understood that Simon Raven in his 1975 26 part serial of The Pallisers tried to turn the secondary story of The Prime Minister (Lopez, Sexty Parker, Emily Wharton, her foolish brother and strong wise father) into a sort of Washington Square, Lopez into a sort of lion-feline gay and violent macho male cad, Emily a Catherine Sloper who is loved by her father, and was sexually entranced and excited by Lopez, but does not succeed in understanding him, or growing up so at the end she does not set her face to the wall (a la Catherine Sloper) but turned from the world to her father’s arms. Olivia de Haviland would have done justice to this as she could not to the 1940s Washington Square movie (The Heiress) she was inserted into. So you see I’ve been keeping up with watching The Pallisers for this course I’m teaching too — for insights into the novels. For lovely pictures go to: syllabus for reading The Prime Minister together. Here we see both the Duke and the Duchess miserable from the social life they have kept up: it’s from the political story:


Her hands are shaking with tiredness (Susan Hampshire as the Duchess, Philip Latham as the Duke)

All this is the usual screen to what I let you see in my opening paragraphs today as I approach the 8th anniversary of my widowhood. Deep loneliness with a wish I could do the sort of things I could with him. I like the teaching and classes very much  but they are no substitute for the fulfilled reality I had with him, and the sense of security and peace and understanding his presence provided.

Izzy has been without him too. Tonight we watched on her ipad as we ate together a soothing episode of Critical Choice as lovely cartoon, Mighty Vibes: two siblings sitting close, she reading, he working on the computer, keeping us and themselves company. She’s got a new bed coming in early November, and Mr Christbel will take apart her present one (Jim and mine from 1983 to 2000) and put it in the attic with the beautiful crib (first Laura’s and then Izzy’s) no one will ever use again …


Laura’s Charlotte, in a chair, making a mighty mew — one of my grandchildren with 4 paws


Maxx as snugglicious — another

Saturday night our monthly Aspergers meeting online. The topic “personal safety and emergency preparedness.”

Ellen

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