Posts Tagged ‘seasonal’

My new profile picture for face-book and twitter — a life apud libros — among books, of reading

I met America at a neighborhood bar last night …. Marcus Amaker

Dear friends and readers,

An “epidemic of loneliness” is the phrase the US Surgeon General leads with when he comes on News shows and other forums to tell us that how bad it is for people to be literally alone (no matter what electronics are around them in their living habitat). but since COVID is over insofar as a control on people’s behavior, all I can see for most of them is endless socializing — except when it comes to asking anyone to travel to a class or place of work when they can do the essential task or have the essential experience (often intangible intellectual) without the waste of time, or taking up of time to get there and back. That’s what’s asserted online — everyone gone out there once again socializing somehow or other, and even I may appear to be that way as I also am guilty of trying to appeal to the norms of my readers.

I do have another explanation for the US Surgeon General’s imbecility: statistically there has been a surge of suicide across the US; it was noticed a few years ago that white women ages 40-55 were killing themselves in greater numbers than ever before, greater than their portion of the population warranted. Why? I think it’s that their partners can now separate from them freely, no social stigma (and find a younger women willing to live with this man of means), and that their jobs pay them so little as well as giving them little respect.

Sometimes watching a popular serial can alert you to trends. So the serial Succession suggests to me a sick society.

Succession S1E1 I started the (in the US) famous serial Succession last night. Laura went to some trouble to transfer Izzy’s HBO Max into my computer and I can now watch it through Izzy’s account (she gets one guest it seems — or two computers somehow or other). Every other word was “fuck”, very foul language to say the simplest kinds of things in a metaphoric kind of way, very unlikeable characters — though with “vulnerability” especially the men. The women in such shows are characteristically harder and meaner than the men — part of the searing misogyny of this new era. There are also a limited group of motivations, ambition, competition to reach “the top” of whatever — and real meanness here and there. Very slick, does no one live an old house — NYC is chock-a-block (literally) with housing built before WW2 and 1 too Helicopter travel for the whole family. So they skip traffic jams. I know helicopters can save people but since Vietnam I loathe them. But I see the serial provides the lead story in the Style section of the Washington Post

Succession S1E2: I watched the second episode. It is apparently a British show! — all the actors doing American accents. It has a to me odd sense of humor — they are making fun of any kind of kind or humane behavior. The characters are literally obnoxious and mean a good deal of the time — endlessly competitive The idea is the old man might die at any moment (they are in an ICU) and they vye for the money left, who will run the firm. One character is there for us to laugh at as he (and also Matthew MacFayden) are ceaselessly sycophantic. I wanted to know what is written a lot about and what people watch (It seems) a lot. The heterosexual relationships are all under terrific strain. No wonder I can’t get along in this culture: watching such a program if there are many like this has to be be bad for your moral character … I ask myself what do viewers think and feel when they watch such a program. Some people will say they don’t take it seriously, but you must do while watching it. It reminds me of how youngish women today may say that the present predatory heterosexual norms are things they can deal with and don’t matter or shrug.. In one of my classes someone said of that (taking of My Brilliant Friend) they are just refusing to think of feel about what happens to them. Really? I may stop now as I think it is too much for me …

I can’t figure out how Succession is escapist when it is so painful. I do have an explanation: to most people it is not painful. They don’t mind the mockery and cruelty — it amuses them.

I am not as lonely as I would be without the Internet, and all my activities with others coming out of books, talks about books, movies, shared daily experiences. The worst time is 4:30, but I admit that during the day I have often had hours of peaceful reading and writing. Zooms make an enormous difference. It is a central form of social life for me nowadays.


Me and Patty at Arlington House

Last weekend was over-full: On Saturday the 13th I went out with two friends, a married couple to Arlington House (mansion built and owned by the Custis family into which both George Washington and Robert E Lee married) and the grounds around it — the whole embedded at the edge of Arlington Cemetery. The most interesting exhibits today are the recreation of enslaved people’s cabins with photographs, family trees insofar as this is possible, whatever letters survived, and modern videos of descendants talking about what they have been told and experienced of US life themselves. My friend’s husband took a photo of her and me in the grounds. After, we enjoyed a long lunch out in good restaurant, Carlyle’s, at Shirlington.

She had made for my cats another beautiful comforter: crocheted it

Keeping each other company once again (since Clarycat’s stroke)

Another small step in improvement: today Clarycat carried another of her toys about, but this time she knew where to put it: right where I sit. She also is moving about with a sense of direction, knows where she’s going Each step in recovery matters and is heartening to see …

This morning I found Clarycat laying down alongside Ian. I hope he has understood that does not mean he can rough play, but it does show she is now willing to lie down with him as long as he is quiet and gentle. But then again he tries to wrestle and play and she has to scream at him, very high decibel to get him to stop. I run over and pick her up and soothe and reassure her. In another part of the house, he is clamoring for comfort.

Clarycat was better yesterday — well a good sign was for the first time in weeks now she was carrying one of her toys in her mouth. She trotted about with it, but she looked as if she was confused. Strangely, too, as if she didn’t know what to do with the toy. Finally she set it down when she sat down. But then today she was not managing getting onto the top of my bed. She tried 3 times, finally I picked her up and held her in my arms as I’ve been doing for weeks now while I read. She can no longer (like Ian) look intently out the window, listening, the way she once did.

But again this morning she kept banging against the wall in our hall. She was trying to trot along in her earlier way, following Ian or he by her side and she could not prevent her body from turning left. Bang bang bang. I hurried to retrieve her and hold her in my arms until her heart beat slower.

But then again or now she has picked up her toy and taken it to the spot she used to — where I sit. She was trotting around with another toy a little later and also knew where to put it — or she set it down where she clearly intended. And now every morning I am eating my cereal she gives me our new signal for her to be taken onto my lap (a kind of soft mew) and she stands against my chest and licks up some of the milk in my cereal bowl.

Then yesterday I met another woman friend at the Kennedy Center. Lunch, lecture before and a moving & ever-so-active (stage filled with vignettes at one point) performance of Puccini’s La Boheme. I relived the anguish I felt when Jim died as they enacted that closing scene. Auditorium was sold out. And audience rapturous. The production was reviewed as boisterous.

Exhaustion also from trip. I now have conquered how to get to Kennedy Center once again by using Arlington Memorial Bridge — 25 minutes at most. Did I say the wicked gremlins of DC reconfigured the route back that way so last time trying it I arrived home shattered after an hour?

This time I took an alternative route using Theodore Roosevelt Bridge (a fancy name for 50 West crossing the Potomac), which I learned during the closing of the Arlington Memorial Bridge: I had trouble getting my cellphone back on, but (before I left) Izzy had programed the Google maps part way, up to “start,” and I had my old print-out of directions from Mapquest (are people aware Mapquest is now destroyed by commercial greed? what is not? you will reply), and my pictorial memory. Then I could not get the voice to work until half-way, but when it kicked in finally, I was able to move over to a better “artery” into Arlington & to Alexandria, so home within 30 minutes. I feel I now know this way home and can begin again to go to Kennedy Center. No pictures beyond the promotional one for La Boheme. The day was lovely.

Recovery from each day’s social experience was collapsing for 3 hour nap in early evening.

Oh yes mother’s day. Izzy wished me well, Laura is coming over with a mug later this afternoon, and I had emails from Thao and a new young woman friend, Bianca.


Among those books being read by me now:

Janice Hadlow’s The Other Bennet Sister. I keep reading this, almost I cannot put it down, and this is unusual for me nowadays and even more so for a sequel — for this is a kind of traditional sequel. We are going through the Pride and Prejudice story, much as one does in Jo Baker’s Longbourne. Daringly Hadlow quotes more than you realize from Austen verbatim, which shows how her artificial language is up to accommodating 18th century style.

What I like — and this will seem odd – is that the angle Mary’s experience projects turns out to be a real critique of Austen herself. You’d think a Janeite would not like that — think again. From Mary’s POV we see how cruel Austen’s favored characters can be — of course her non-favored characters have long been shown to be outrageous (D. W. Harding was showing that too). Hadlow is revealing Austen herself to be skewed — valuing Elizabeth because much of the misery of life Elizabeth simply shoves off as so much water off a duck’s back. We see the hypocrisy of many social pretenses — so Hadlow goes further than Austen. In this version Mary had worked very hard to play well that night at the assembly, and in fact had played well, but not in the mode that was wanted; she also made the mistake to try to sing. Afterwards — the next day, Mr Bennet tried indirectly to apologize and compensate but we can see how little he does there — better than the callous Mrs Bennet.

It’s like D.W. Harding carried further — I can see what is critiqued in line with Charlotte Smith and so the book w/o overt politics is political — set in the later 18th century of course. Jo Baker’s Longbourne too shows up the Bennets but not inwardly the way Hadlow does. I guess I have “catholic” tastes in my reactions to appropriations on film (for I like the Sanditons) and verbal post-texts.

Hadlow was at the BBC for many years, and her other books are all set in the later 18th into 19th century, some sequels, some historical fiction, some biography.

Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet was never a favorite of mine; I prefer the Elizabeth conjured up by Anna Maxwell Martin in the film adaptations of PDJames’s Death Comes to Pemberley. I also decided I like the PBS/BBC serial Sanditon, mostly won over by Rose Williams as Miss Heywood and Turlough Convery as Arthur.

I am now preparing for my summer courses: reading Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters and Jenny Uglow’s marvelous literary biography of her: A Habit of Stories — she is almost better than reading the Cranford stories themselves when she close reads them so beautifully does she explicate and recreate the experience of the stories; I re-watched the deeply moving film adaptation by Andrew Davies: Michael Gambon and Tom Hollander are unforgettable as Osborne and Squire Hamley (a kind of King Lear grieving over his daughter Cordelia is evoked). I was disappointed by Alba de Cespedes’ Forbidden Notebook: after a book long series of gradual rebellions and re-definitions of herself, her husband, her children, she caves in to re-become grandmother to this family, no longer even working outside the home and destroys her notebook, where she had been seeking a new identity.

For my Internet identity: I wrote a short talk for a coming Trollope Society Every-other-week group: it’s on Phineas Finn and I called it “Words for Sale.” Watched all three Tom Jones films (1966, 1997, 2023) in succession, preparing for a comparative blog alongside Fielding’s novel.

Mishandled an offer for me to review an edition of Dusinger’s work on Richardson: the woman said she wanted it yesterday and I worried I couldn’t do it, and then my “pay” was to be allowed to pick a book from their thousands or hundreds of unappetizing titles. I’m now sorry I missed out. I now think I might have had the time. But perhaps it’s better not to be so pressured. I did better at an offer to do a biography of Isabelle de Montolieu, an entry in a Palgrave encyclopedia. I’ll look at what’s wanted tomorrow morning. I think they were more polite in their first letter.

But am doing two reviews, one for the Intelligencer where the editor is my long-time friend and another for a long-time friend. In both cases there is no problem in having to understand what’s wanted, when, or special social skills.


And Izzy finished a second puzzle: Caduceus, cleric, of the Wild Mother. Notice how it’s hard to distinguish a male from a female gender, and look at the lovely purples and reds. An old-fashioned radio to the right at the bottom



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At Stonehenge, Jan 18th: Sunrise 8:01 am; Sunset 4:34 pm

January 18th, Alexandria, Va, area on top of hill not far from Shooter’s Hill:

It’s 20 to 4 and I’m settled back in my chair in my workroom to read. I went out around 3 o’clock (pm) to walk as that would be the “height” of the day. It’s warmest and sunniest. I remembered while walking how I used sit in front of my window when Jim was still working full time and wish he could only come home 2 hours earlier. By 5 the sun and the glory of the day gone. If the weather was not too cold by that time, after supper, we’d walk together, down below, in Old Towne, usually briefly. Now I go out myself and walk alone.

Dear readers and friends,

Perhaps I should explain how I do it, or where some of the rational for my continual reading, writing, watching films, and occasional contact with other people come from:

The OLLIs:

OLLI at Mason has in effect 4 terms:  fall (8 weeks), winter (4), spring (8) and summer (6). I didn’t do winter before they went online because I saw how maddingly frustrating it would be to me to have a class canceled (as it would have to, because it follows the Fairfax County School schedule).  OLLI at Mason has clubs all year round. These clubs can get speakers, often not famous at all and often very poor — you want to know what are popular misconceptions about history, hear anti-communism &c their history club does that.  Clubs are also reading together, playing games together, exercise together, go to the theater together (I joined in here the year before the pandemic), walk together, writing not actually together but you bring what you wrote and share it.

OLLI at Mason allows me complete access to the online database at Mason from home; I’d pay the $400 for membership just for that.

OLLI at AU has 3 terms: fall (10), spring (10), summer (4).  The summer one is new — began say 5 years ago.  Inbetween in winter they have something called shorts: classes that run for 1 week, 3-5 days a week in the last week of January and first of February; nowadays for 2 weeks (it used to be just for one); 5 years ago they began to repeat this in July.  The new summer terms and shorts were the result of moving into the new building where we had so much more room and access than the churches they had been meeting in. OLLI at AU also runs lecture series where semi-famous people come and talk — in January and again in June.  No special library privileges and no online access from home. I go to the shorts and some of the lectures at OLLI at AU. As for teaching that way, I’d rather take a running jump off a cliff.

I can no longer do two different courses at the same time. It is just too much for me. So I do the same course fall and spring at both OLLIs; I repeat the same course for the 4 week winter and summer at both OLLIs. The one where there is no repeat is the 6 week summer course at OLLI at Mason as there is nothing comparable at OLLI at AU.


P&P, Politics and Prose Bookstore: I attend classes, literary, and these run for anywhere from 2 to 3, to 4-5, and sometimes 7-8 sessions, one a week. Most nowadays online. Most classes are attached directly to reading some sort of books together or bringing writing you do to a forum. After all it’s a bookstore. It has returned to trying to be a community center with its evening lecture series (by known people) and its trips, but not book clubs in the store spaces.

I’ve quit the Smithsonian as an attendee or student because most classes are at night, and I’ve discovered that if your online access to a class doesn’t work, they won’t help you. They get more than famous people and once in a while (not often enough) a very good lecturer, but the literature courses (reading) have fallen away. Much mainstream thought without the misconceptions you find at (to be fair) both OLLI at AU and mason. This is a loss for me and if more were in person during the day or they changed their stance towards online helping I would.

Then there’s far away. I do attend Cambridge classes, one at a time, usually Sunday, on themes — 19th century authors, or Woolf and Bloomsbury thus far, but they are a bit expensive. Almost uniformly excellent. I attend the every-other-week London Trollope Society group readings: they are of remarkably high quality for such gatherings. It takes some brains and knowledge to read and understand Trollope. Speakers are sometimes very good I’ve done 5 or 6 talks myself. Everyone friendly and kind.

Online life:

I participate in online reading groups on social platforms. One on-going one is at my “own” Trollope&His Contemporaries, a very few active people at a time. By this time (what a relief) no quarrels. On face-book The Way We Read Now, a break-off group from the Trollope face-book page which has moderators who heavily censure people, even kick them off. This is not uncommon. I was kicked off a Poldark Discussion Page: enough of the leaders didn’t like my approach. It’s a loss; it did hurt. I’ve seen people kicked off the Outlander group I’m in; they have stopped group reads partly because they fought too much, and (semi-miraculously) they too when it’s a new season for the serial, rarely fight. What happens is after a while the disruptive or disliked person is kicked off or leaves or falls silent. Very important to me my 2 hours on Saturday evening once-a-month online Autism Friends group who also meet every other week evenings for a one-hour chat.

Travel since Jim died

I’ve managed apart from Road Scholar (3 trips thus far; two wonderful, one to Inverness and environs for a week; another to the Lake District and Northumberland as far as Hadrian’s Wall and an archeaological dig) I’ve been to a large number of conferences for me: two were once in a lifetime (it seems) types for me: a Trollope and a Charlotte Smith one, the first in Belgium, the second Chawton House. Izzy was generous enough to come with me, enabling me to go in this individual way demanded. I’ve gone with her to 4 JASNAs, probably no more: she quit when for a 3rd time we were excluded. I’ve gone to ASECS (probably no more for me, too much to explai) and to EC/ASECS — I will try to continue as I’ve a few real friends there. For all of these I did papers regularly. I did love the sessions, and nowadays I attend virtual conferences and sometimes I am just so inspirited and inspired: Virginia Woolf ones, Renaissance ones, individual favorite authors …

So this is how I fill my time. I develop new veins of thought and areas to teach; I learn a lot socially and intellectually. Why do I need such things: these provide me with companionship and activity others seem to enjoy with me. I feel useful. I make what closer friends with great difficulty; it’s even harder to sustain them. Why is this: among other things, I’m Aspergers syndrome. I’m also (or it’s that I’m a) depressive, suffer anxiety barriers of all sorts I’ll call them. Of course I’ve a lifetime behind me of not building groups until the mid-1990s when I first came onto the ‘Net and found I could make acquaintances and find people like me (in different ways) for the first time.


The first half of this entry allows me to segue into the second: how rare it is that anyone presents anything to the public in mass media films that shows true understanding of this disability.

In a different Key, a documentary about autism on PBS. The depiction as far as it goes is accurate, fair, balanced. One never knows how a neurotypical audience might react but such a film at least starts means to start with a basis in truth understanding empathy:



There is an excellent book: In a Different Key by John Donvan and Caren Zucker — a full history intended to reach an autistic adult audience as well as the average reader. Very smooth style, very chatty friendly Upbeat insofar as you can be when your material is so often devastating (about the treatment of autistic people, their relatives &c). The thing is to ask yourself is, Who is it written for? It’s written in a very simple soothing kind of style, very much telling a story or stories. The book (unlike the film) while it features the story of Donald Triplett does tell a history of autism, from earliest records of (cruel) institutionalization to the first awareness this is a general disorder, recognition, Leo Kanner — up to today. But it does this through individual story-telling in a very easy to read style in a kindly tone — charitable to all.

It did just resonate with me when Lee Kanner remarked that two elements found across the autistic spectrum, no matter what the individual variants are: a pattern of aloneness and a pattern of sameness.  The words aloneness and sameness leapt out at me.   Irrespective of whether you are lonely or not in your aloneness. I know that the difference for the 44 years I was married to my husband, Jim, basically I was alone with him.

The word sameness for me translates into how much I need routines, how routines help enormously and I follow a routine each day.  The word pattern reminds me of how much of an ordeal it is for me to travel.  How in efforts not to get lost I try hard to picture the place I’m going to our of memory and if I can return to where I know the environs and have been there before I can control anxiety attacks.  That’s comfort in sameness. I don’t like change.

But I have to admit the film is wanting. It fails to convey the full reality of autism because the film-makers instinctively, intuitively (they don’t think this out) feel the way to elicit sympathy is to omit the adult reality and worlds of feeling (which can include anger, resentment, indignation, a sense of alienation), the full burden of adulthood from the portraits of autistic people they show. The result is to make the autistic people child-like, too accepting, vulnerable. So it feels like what we are given is once again a framing by adult-parental neurotypicals. The continual return to the older women in rocking chairs is indicative of this. We are not allowed to come truly close to any autistic person. So in a way they are infantilized or sentimentalized. One of the film-makers has also become intensely involved in autism activism because she is a parent and wants to protect her son.

A while back (pre-pandemic) I saw a film about autistic women, maybe made in Iceland or a Scandinavian country where the film-maker was herself autistic and the focus there was getting jobs and living an adult life as a woman (problems in marrying) and it got a lot closer to showing these women as real people (with all our complexities) and situations shorn of “the guides” we had in these scenes, but it too kept a distance. Protest novels often work by making the central figure a victim of society’s blind and cruel prejudices or systems.

The book tells of the fraud Bettelheim so readily perpetrated on people — because there is no hard and fast definition, no scientifically based cure.  Then the deep painfulness of the blaming of the mother and how this tortured women. I’ve personally experienced this latter too (once described on a form in the most hostile way by one of those who had to pass on allowing Izzy to join in the Alexandria School for disabled children, once a full program with 8 professional people, at least a hundred children, which rescued Izzy at age 3-5. I don’t know why but I never thought that one source beyond misogyny and “blaming the mother” as a pattern is that autism is hereditary at least in part and it’s probable that the origins of the “refrigerator” monster-strange mother is that the mother of the child was herself an undiagnosed autistic person. Of course. There is so little public admission that autism is partly hereditary (like all or most human traits however complicated the way genes and chromosomes work). They did not begin to understand me nor think they should.

They never diagnosed Izzy as autistic – this was 1987. I first myself diagnosed her when I went to a Victorian conference (about Victorian history and literature and science) and heard 3 talks where it was demonstrated that the characters in the novels would today be called autistic. No Joshua Crawley was not one of them (Trollope’s Last Chronicles of Barsetshire) but I felt I saw Izzy in the descriptions, and in some ways more mildly myself. So you might say Izzy has her job today because I was by chance altered and went to the Virginia Department of Rehabilitation to have her diagnosed and worked to get Kaiser to endorse the diagnosis — indeed certify it by a psychiatrist

For a winter coda: one of the pleasures of my daily existence is to to to twitter and look at the images put there by favorite photographers or lovers of visual art. One woman photographer daily puts a photo from the Northern most part of the Peak District in England: this is said to be a winter’s morning several mornings ago:

A fresh snowfall seems to wake the landscape from its grey, muddy winter sleep, a sudden pop of icy light on each tree and lane, so bright that it hurts your eyes after the weeks of darkness. For the young beech trees, finally it’s the perfect backdrop for their moment of colour — Peak Lass


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Me as a young child in training for me in old age — I didn’t realize this at the time [by Margarita Kukhtina who didn’t mean it this way at all probably]

Gentle friends and readers,

I admit my present fate is not altogether unexpected. I have spent an enormous percentage of my hours of waking life reading. Probably the reliable happiness, joy that I’ve known in life comes from reading.

What’s different now is as a widow who has not belonged to any groups over her life, has made few friends of the visiting one another, going places together, confiding in one another kind, who did not achieve any permanent position in a university where I would have naturally been part of a network of professional groups (I was an invisible adjunct); now that the center of my existence, my best friend, my life’s support is gone.  Now I survive on my widow’s annuity, social security, plus rent from my daughter, and parents’ savings and what insurance and retirement money Jim and I gathered together.  Much as I love seeing other cultures or places, travel is an ordeal for an Aspergers person like myself — and my money does not go that far; I must spend savings for trips. So I’ve turned to volunteer teaching of my beloved books (my profession) for social life and structure, and fill my leisure time with quiet reading (and writing, watching movies) otherwise.

As to whether I am in old age?  I’ve been reading Devoney Looser’s Women Writers in Old Age in Great Britain, 1750-1850, and it turns out that 60-75 is youngest old, 76-84, middle-old, and over 85, oldest-old, that the term elderly may be applied to people past 70-75, but that whether you are looked upon as aged depends on your physical and mental health.

I want to quote Anne Elliot here (heroine of Persuasion) who is eager to refute an idea Captain Harville implies that she is boasting, is competitive, presents as an admirable “privilege” woman’s “constancy” of devotional love, “true attachment” (in Anne’s idiom) to a single man, that he need not envy her. So I want to repeat her phrases. This old age of mine is “not a very enviable one.” True I need not do unpleasant work for a living, endure no long anxious and stressed interpersonal hours — I was not trained for any ample money-making professions (my occupation was to be marriage and children in my parents’ eyes), and have been lucky thus far to have been left alone with the enough Jim carved out for me from gov’t policies, laws, customs at the time.

All I claim is a continuing temporal continuity, a link between the precarious intervals I had left alone as a child and now as an aging adult.  I am lucky thus far.

I now even have a cat, two cats — my parents would not allow me to have a pet, but I did know I liked animals, was comfortable around them.  Today I find them good company and did want a pet from the time Jim and I married, and we got Llyr, our dog, shortly after landing in the US in 1970.  She was with us for the first 11 years of Jim and my and all of her life together, and now I’ve had Clarycat and Ian with me for over 13 years. They were 4 months old when we adopted them.

Our bright babies more or less the first days they were with us

A description of Ian last week: this wicked and smart cat today plucked and pulled out of a slender piece of silk-like material with a non-tied string on top my reading glasses (for bedtime). I know that because when I came into the bathroom there was the material, minus the glasses, on the floor! He once stole a denture I never found and had to replace (luckily the below one but $1500). I’ve seen him fish a glove from my handbag and trot off with it in his mouth. He still nightly opens drawers in bureaus, climbs in, and hours later comes out. Other tricks include a double leap from the kitchen floor to the washing machine top to the top of the cupboards. Like a kangaroo.

Now I have 3 pairs of reading glasses (and 3 pairs of distance ones), possible since the Internet where I have found $39glasses (plus shipping, not a lot). They cost more than that when you have some fancy details changed on the frame or custom-made lenses but never above $100 for me. 3 pairs of reading glasses: an older loose one kept on my sunporch, a good pair kept on my desk and this $8 pair I bought in a Canadian Pharmacy and works very well. Indeed I like it best.

All’s well that ends well. I found this pair not far from the silk-like holder on the floor near my bed, a kind of trail Ian might have taken. He tired of carrying them.

The loving spirit of my cats and once my dog

Christmas eve is like most others. Here I am in my room. An old friend, scholar-colleague, I had lunch with and went to the Phillips’ collection with (once again), lost her husband two years ago now. Some dreadful condition/disease that resembled cancer destroyed him. We had our first one-on-one close time together since well before that, and she told me she has found widowhood “horrible” — this being left alone compounded by the pandemic lockdown so most of her work she does from home. Paradoxically she is now in phased retirement, she said in part because if she keeps up her teaching as she practiced it (she is tenured through incessant community service to the college beyond the many hours of teaching and researched and published writing), that will leave no time for making new kinds of circles of friends she finds herself suddenly bereft of and as yet in need of.

For me it has been rather desolatingly without joy, or sympathetic companionship nearby. I have imagined yet real friendships and acquaintances of imagined yet real communities on the Net. I see these are not real enough for her. Nor the worlds of her research which is book history, which is when you come down to what you are reading, about practicalities of networking with physical objects made by machines to be sold.

Dickens’s A Christmas Carol as a child’s puzzle

All this is to introduce my idea or say what a year of reading I’ve had. I’ve found to keep myself viable as a teacher continually teaching term after term I have had to move into wholly or mostly new areas and read and understand in order to convey the meaning of new books in new areas, or books I knew but not that well in areas I previously was a dilettante in – and basically remain so, even with these new layers of secondary reading in Anglo-Indian history and culture, European World War Two history and events, now Italian 20th century authors and culture (which means I must know more about the land and peoples’ history). I’ve been introduced to new women writers through zoom experiences with excellent teachers from the bookstore communities of Politics and Prose. Joan Didion’s fiction, James Baldwin’s fiction.

Opening up too, since his death, like my friend needing others far far more, and so now seeing my past through a prism of disability, and accepting this and the necessity to compromise, to exert self-control, and to do more than seem to accept others’ abilities and corollary different knowledge and ideas.  I find I understand and can enjoy more genres — like the detective story, the spy one; can appreciate comedy, laughter that forgets the hardnesses of life. So I’ve new stacks of books to conquer in the area of the women detective, especially as imagined by the woman writer. This is what has been memorable about this year, the experience I’ve had that’s been valuable.

A favorite still from long ago now revived in my mind: Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison with Stuart Wilson as Dr Patrick Schofield

I have not named any but Persuasion as yet in this blog. I admit sometimes I think these autobiographical blogs are nothing but lists of books and movies, with variously accompanying explications (close readings). Do I dare not specify?

Famous writers are asked in these periodicals I subscribe to: what was the book that meant most to you this year. Why Iris Origo’s Images and Shadows where she wrote about what reading and writing has meant to her sounded in my imaginary ears what I would like to have written — and equally eloquently. Edward Gordon’s literary biography of Angela Carter has displaced Claire Tomalin’s Story of herself last year; which replaced Claire Harman’s biography of Charlotte Bronte a few year ago — how do they get inside a person and experience the very crevices of their existences and with concrete detail too?

Have I learned to love a new writer, yes, Joanna Trollope as a writer. This year’s new best novel:  Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White.  Best movies: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Monsieur Lahzar.  Have I gotten to a new masterpiece, yes Hugo’s Les Miserables (excellently translated). Annis Platt’s Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction has taught me more about l’ecriture-femme and that I have much more to learn. The year’s fun book has been Anthony Horowitz’s brilliantly playful Magpie Murders as last years was David Nicholls’s Us. Two new addictive serials (still watching) Foyle’s War and Prime Suspect.

And I’ve left out so many lesser great and wonderful experiences in books, the best of the finest souls before my eyes. Actors too on the computer screen. Tonight I was reading Gray Cavendiser and Nacy C Jurik’s Justice Provocateur: Jane Tennison and Policing in Prime Suspect.

My picture tonight is from Poldark, Demelza’s first Christmas at Trenwith, meeting Ross’s great aunt … How I loved those first 7 Poldark and then the 11th books … They did alter my life for the time I was reading them, watching the serials, and then writing blogs and working on a book

That’s Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza and Caroline Blakiston as Aunt Agatha (2015 Poldark)

And so another year without Jim has passed. I am in my tenth year of life in the world without him. I miss him so. I wish I could tell him all I’m doing and have done for the past 9 years, wish I could have done for and with him what I did not know enough to do when he existed, but as I’ve told myself on this blog as epigraph, I must not reproach myself for a now dreamt-of unlived life with my beloved.

He would say when I asked, he was satisfied. It’s fine, I like our life together, he’d say.


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Flowers from supermarket and snacks & drink for the week from earlier this autumn

Why we? I counted 5 friends and acquaintances who told me they are become 76 this year too

Dear friends and readers,

I turned 76 on November 29th.  I’m using the occasion to express and reflect on this transitional state which I feel I’m in but don’t understand that well. I’m not sure what’s changing in me and time continues to separate me from what I was when Jim first died. Julian Barnes calls the time after a beloved person has died, their deathtime in one’s memory. It’s being brought on partly or even largely by my (and most other faculty, whether remunerated or volunteer-retired) inability to bring back enough people into the classrooms in person so as not to have to worry, that this day I may arrive at an empty or nearly empty classroom. For older people the partial cause is Covid is still attacking and killing off older people in visible numbers. So I am looking forward to teaching and taking courses online almost wholly until March, and after March (spring term) mostly online, perhaps until next fall (2023) or the following spring (2024). Maybe looking forward is not the phrase I want.

I’m going to try for a routine myself. By 8:30 this morning I’ll be exercising for half an hour, and sometime mid-day I’ll try for a 20-30 minute walk. Again, I’ll be in a great deal, and most of what I’ll do will be online so I must try to keep myself busy, communicate with people online cordially and exercise. Sleep I can’t force: last night I slept but 4 hours, but when I got up I read Magpie Murders, the novel by Anthony Horowitz. Yes I got the book. It’s a delightful parody of your typical Booker Prize books among other things — I’ll write about the book separately (see below for serial). Come near Xmas I’ll watch the Biederbecke TV series and others I can find that cheer me.

I’ve had a repeat of the experience I’ve often described here: another woman I’d become friends with and visited, visited me, or I went out with (though not since summer 2021) was breaking appointments to the point I finally wrote to her about it in such a way that I knew she’d either fall silent altogether or try to mend the relationship. So now she has silently opted for Choice 1 — the internet slang might be she’ll ghost me again (previous times she has pretended she didn’t get the email, or her phone was out of order just at the time I phoned her). She would never tell me openly how she felt; if at some point she wanted to break it, she never told me or why.

Joanna Trollope in Next of Kin has given me second thoughts: “It was simply that he couldn’t go on loving someone who kept sucking him down into the bog of her own personality problems — or at least, he could love her but he couldn’t live with her [I am thinking of myself as this guilty preying person but don’t think I did that this time, but I probably did in previous relationships] … He didn’t want to emphasize the effect of her defeatism on him, or indeed any other of her deficiencies but he wanted to make her think [again it’s me who am defeatist but one would then have to talk to me to bring this out more] ‘I don’t want never to see you again,’ he planned to say, ‘I just can’t see you for a bit. Not until you’ve got something to give me back'” [so what is it that I should be offering other people back?]

I saw this magnificent painting at the National Gallery this past Wednesday with Betty at the National Gallery — an exhibit of John Singer Sargent’s painting while he was in Spain. He copied several famous painter’s paintings and then produced the long-pent-up depictions of ordinary people in all their depths. The good there is inedible and Betty becomes quickly impatient at these exhibitions but I did see some art worth the gazing

It’s not just external things — I find I am not eager to go anywhere — it was Betty’s idea to go and we had made the appt a while back. I admit I was the one to back out of the second I was to go to (the Phillips Collection) with her this Saturday. But she wrote back very quickly, relieved herself. How relieved I was. I do worry so I won’t get back before dark – darkness arrives not far from 5 pm. “Hello darkness my old friend. What are you doing here at 5 pm!”

Now I wrote about this last time so will not repeat again the terms of or feelings I’m having as I struggle to understand this new phase of widowhood, and spend my time enjoyably and productively (for me this means new learning, new books, discovery of new authors, new topics and writing projects), and cheerfully online with others. Since I last wrote, I’ve gone deeper into Joanna Trollope (read two more books, listening to a third), and started both my women’s and Italian studies for winter and next spring. It’s hard to make a plan and follow it. Tomorrow I will disrupt my new pattern to attend a few of the Renaissance Society of America’s sessions for their yearly AGM (going on virtually these few days). A big help is I do love all the books I’m reading and find the topics I follow of intense interest. As usual I like particularly the secondary (critical and biographical) books.

But my body tires so I cannot exercise or walk was much, and I grow sadder as the day moves into night. This was exacerbated this past week by the insistent holiday statements I see everywhere on the Net and hear too among the occasional acquaintances I meet. I’m told to be very happy and loving amid my family and friends. I can see that my quiet relatively alone state is not uncommon because enough people describe what they are doing truthfully on the corners of FB, twitter and listservs I inhabit. Nonetheless, getting through Thanksgiving and my birthday became a sort of work project where I enlisted acquaintances and friends by posting about how I (we, for Izzy was with me) got through.

An Egyptian goose — each morning when I arrive at twitter — sometimes around 8 am or so — someone I follow who follows me has put on photographs of mid-England parks and birds near where she lives

So here’s what I posted onto FB later last Thursday afternoon (a short version appeared on twitter):

Izzy and I walked across Old Town this afternoon — balmy sunny weather. We used to do this each year after Jim died and before the pandemic. The tree is the Alexandria City tree in the Town Square and the lights are on — though you cannot see them. My strength did give out towards the end. That was 4 years ago and I was reminded of how I felt when we “did” Toronto with our two kind but much younger [than me] friends this past August, but home now. Another half hour we’ll put on a roast chicken for two. We could have gone out to a bought dinner, but I’m glad we have chosen this. From Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:

But when the long hours of public are past,
And we meet with champagne and a chicken at last …

We won’t have champagne, orange juice for her and Merlot for me must do us. Now I’ll return to Margaret Atwood’s sardonically funny (funny is not quite the word I want) Penelopiad. I hope all who read this message are having a good day and evening.

Then last this Sunday evening on FB (nutshell on twitter):

Promotional photo of Ada’s on the River looking outward from inside the place at the Potomac

My 76th birthday is in 2 days and so my daughter, Laura, and her husband, Rob, came around 6 to take us out to a new restaurant in a new area of Old Towne, Alexandria: Ada’s on the River. The dinner was delicious and the desert too. I had my first whiskey and ginger ale (two of them) for a very long time. I don’t keep hard liquor in the house lest I drink too much. I liked the walk back afterwards along the Potomac from boardwalk to boardwalk. It’s very rare I am out at night nowadays.

There are still several areas around the Potomac, just near the river, which have been relatively desolate — they were very much so when Jim & I first moved to Alexandria. This is a southern city, originally blighted by slavery for the majority of people, then gross inequality and severe racism and classism structured into all the institutions and gov’t of the area, and while after WW2 and middle 1960s, when conditions began to improve the growth of certain areas has been slow and uncertain — Carter had made a good start with new housing, but Reagan destroyed that. Very expensive housing developments along the edge of this town here and there in the 1990s, some on the river . Recently then — last 20 years all along the river for the first time building up the boardwalks, the places for sailing, areas of recreational fun — so new restaurants and bars.

I shall have to find my own travel plan this summer — next week I’ll call Road Scholar and if the Irish registration is still there, I’ll go with them. I’ll try to do the global retry and pre-TSA stuff at the airport in the spring. There is now a silver line Metro going to Dulles that stops at King Street Station; Izzy has said she will come with me to help me through the machines going out.

In the meantime we four planned for a Christmas time together, a movie (an Agatha Christie type), a dinner at home (cooked by Rob, who’s become quite a cook) and exchange of presents.

What I didn’t tell anyone on FB or twitter was after an hour or so when I’d got home and was watching Magpie Murders (on which see below) I began to cry and cry and cry. I could feel Laura’s reluctance to be there when they first arrived, and know we won’t see them again after Christmas for a long while. It was Rob who walked beside me there and back.

For my birthday itself I took it easy, read favorite books, had yummy soup for lunch, and put this on FB (nutsell on twitter)

I am 76! In my now enclosed porch or sunroom where live my movie (dvds) collection, notebooks, films scripts, companions … all around me my little radio, ipad, pussycat bed by window … I am torn between sending a link to Sondheim’s “I’m still here ….” (as belted out by Elaine Stritch) or Old friends (done by a variety of male singers): favorite line: “What’s to discuss? …”

Izzy took the photo with her cell phone

This is to thank the many people sending me cards, pictures, good wishes, wise sayings … I can’t seem to reach every one to thank each person individually but know that I do thank you and you are helping me to pass a cheerful good day ….

About an hour or so later I listened to and watched Elaine Stritch on YouTube: when I watched I thought of my 27 years as an adjunct lecturer, and remember the line from Elaine Showalter quoted about a heroine in one of Jean Rhys’s novels who stands for all women: Still one man away from welfare ….

Over the long day and evening and next morning I really did get many cheering messages, a lot of them individualized, a few teases, but kindly meant I felt. Two cards, one from my aging aunt, another from a long time old Internet British friend, met three times in Oxford; my cousin, Pat had phoned me too

Then very late in the evening: from Merrily We Roll Along (Jim thought this probably Sondheim’s deepest truest musical) “Old Friends:” now I had to admit I have damn few old friends (or they live far away, a few old acquaintances. This was after the final episode of Magpie Murders

We are coming to the end of the year, its ripe death (as people might say), so I’ll end on citing just one book I feel I drew most joy and learning from across the whole year: Iris Origo’s Images and Shadows, especially when she talked of her writing, art, and the imagination. A new author answering the needs of my heart in a new healthy way, teaching me to see and to help myself, Joanna Trollope (not a comfort read at all after all).

And as with two years ago with David Nicholls’ Us (book and film), I have truly got a great kick out of Magpie Murders, a murder mystery serial in the Agatha Christie tradition, scripted and produced by the inimitable Anthony Horowitz (I am still re-watching Foyle’s War)

Atticus Pund explaining where they are going to Sue Rylands

It’s self-reflexive: it’s Anthony Horowitz meditating the life and work of a mystery writer, a hack out of the Agatha Christie tradition — only Horowitz knows he is no mere hack and has gone beyond the originating subgenre. We have two different levels of story: in one we are with the writer, Alan Conway, his editor, Sue Rylands (Leslie Manville), the head of the publishing company, Conway’s cynical homosexual ex-lover and his embittered sister, Claire; in the other the characters in Conway’s book most of whom correspond to counterpart characters in the series’ real life, often ironically — except for the detective, Atticus Pund (Tim McMullan, originally Timothy Spall was dreamed of) and the editor, Sue Rylands. The same actor will plays at least 2 roles — one person appears in three (if I’m not mistaken). We also see these characters when they are playing characters who existed decades ago and when they are playing contemporary characters (a downright common trope nowadays is a jump in time but rarely this cleverly done and usually with two different look-alike actors).

It’s not too mechanical, too much artifice of this type would cloy. So beyond Atticus Pund and Sue Rylands, Sue’s sister, Katie (Claire Rushbrook) and Sue’s lover, Andreas (Alexandros Logothetis), a teacher of Greek who would like to go live in Crete with Sue, have no counterparts in the 1950s story in the book. The two murderers are played by different actors, they look and are different, though they do the deed in similar fashion. The murderer’s black girlfriend in the 1950s story in the book has no counterpart in the contemporary life story. You might have expected this to be the other way round, but no. In both narratives, the same black actor plays the Anglican vicar.

What’s fascinating is how we move from book (takes place 1950s) back to life (takes place 2022). The camera is following the 1950s characters and car in the book down the road, we reach a bend and turn and now we are with the 2022 characters in life. One moves back and forth starting with the third episode, Atticus Pund; but he is noticed by no one but Sue Rylands, who at first regards him as simply an individual figment of her imagination, but by the end treats him as a person like herself and enters the world of the book to discover how the book ends. The tone throughout is warm and witty

I am now taught how this kind of material — murders growing out of deep bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, sociopathic impulses — a dog is even poisoned — can become absorbing and curiously comforting matter — as in Foyle’s War we have good guys and they win through, with a justice of sorts achieved

So that’s all for tonight as I move into winter. Better to be alive than not (as Elaine Stritch reminds us)

John Singer Sargent: Snow — I wonder if we’ll see any this winter in Alexandria?


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Woods and Streams in Delaware, [early] Winter, 1916 (Edward W. Redfield)

“Alas, with all her reasonings, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing” (Austen, Persuasion Chapter 7)

Dear friends and readers,

I seem to be going through yet another transition in this seeming both long and short widowhood. I’ve stopped going out as much as I once did. Of course part of the cause of this is that I can no longer drive once the sky reaches dusk, but I could go out more during the day, and I could have recourse to Uber/Lyft
and ordering cabs ahead. I don’t. Part of this the effect of self-quarantining taken well past what I understand most or many others have done. It is so peaceful; I am no longer used to enduring the agonies, anxiety as I begin to realize I am lost and panic when I find I am not at all where I meant to be. Waze recently updated itself and now it is of no use to me at all. I can’t get past “save this destination” to “go now.” I’m telling myself I shall be reading more, and I think there’s evidence that I am already.

This is a matter of telling myself what I’m not quite following. I’m telling myself I’m giving over trying to write longer books and volunteering for talks and short projects. I’m not quite following this as I volunteered to give another talk to the Every-other-week online London Trollope Society group on (as I’m calling it) Anthony Trollope’s American Civil War Christmas Stories: “The Widow’s Mite” and “The Two Generals.” As a result of doing a talk on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin for an OLLI at AU class, I’ve thought of a course for spring 2024 that might actually attract enough people to dare to do it in public: I’d call it “Everybody’s Protest Novel” after James Baldwin’s famous scathing essay on Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Richard Wright’s Native Son. And I’d do:

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Louisa May Alcock, “Contraband;” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath; Joan Didion, Play it like it Lays and El Salvador by Joan Didion, and James Baldwin’s short non-fiction story, “Stranger in a Village” and novel, If Beale Street could talk

But this will be the last; after this I will stick with the new terrains I’ve carved out: Italian literature, Anglo-Indian memoirs and novels (British style fiction set in India is the longer phrase) and women writer courses. And 19th century masterpiece courses, mostly by Trollope as central and framing presence.

This means I will be alone more, and am teaching myself to accept being alone and this great loneliness since Jim died. I am tired of trying uselessly for what cannot be and what I am not sure I’d at all like. Go out with friends who ask me, but don’t chase, don’t be the one to suggest unless it is really a museum show, a play, a musical or concert you want to go to.

I do not mean to deny what joy or happiness I can feel when I’ve been out with others, spent good time with others. I knew such exhilaration and contentment when the class I had been teaching these past 9 weeks ended today.

One person had suggested we start at 1:15 to give us ourselves full time to cover all we wanted and watch film clips from the early 1990s BBC The Rector’s Wife, and the 1983 Barchester Chronicles. Eight of the nine people who have been coming steadily agreed and what a splendid class it was. I know they were enjoying it and so was I. It is so much better in person when there is a full enough class.

Yet I will not do it again until Spring 2024 since it is such a difficult thing to build a class of people coming regularly nowadays that I lose perspective, fret over how few may show up (an inappropriate response to an adult education or playful college class).

Can you understand this, gentle reader? Some new phase of calm is what I am feeling come over me, or wanting calm at long last. I discovered I lost weight when I went to Dr Wiltz a couple of weeks ago with a list of pains and complaints that he duly checked over, to tell me I am fine, just getting older yet. I’ve kept to my vow not to add sugar to anything and so I eat less.

18th century lady’s shoes

Every Friday until I run out I’m putting foremother poet blogs on Wompo — the only one. No one can bother post anything which is not about building their career. Last week it was Mary Jones, an 18t century chantress (as Johnson called her) who wrote these beautiful verses upon the death of her beloved friend, Miss Clayton; they are to her memory

Still, but for Thee, regardless might I stray,
Where gentle Charwell rolls her silent tide;
And wear at ease my span of life away,
As I was wont, when thou were at my side.

But now no more the limpid streams delight,
No more at ease unheeding do I stray;
Pleasure and Thou are vanish’d from my sight,
And life, a span! too slowly hastes away.

Yet if thy friendship lives beyond the dust,
Where all things else in peace and silence lie,
I’ll seek Thee there, among the Good and Just.
‘Mong those who living wisely — learnt to die.

And if some friend, when I’m no more, should strive
To future times my mem’ry to extend,
Let this inscription on my tomb survive,
‘Here rest the ashes of a faithful friend.’

A little while and lo! I lay me down,
To land in silence on that peaceful shore,
Where never billows beat, or tyrants frown,
Where we shall meet again, to part no more.”

Change a name and a pronoun and this connects to the way I feel about Jim, though I know I shall never meet him again, since literally he no longer exists, nor will I when I die.

This is what I have to report. This is what I have to come in the next two months. Lunch out with my friend, Alison tomorrow, two museum shows with Betty and one play (MAAN) and one musical (Into the Woods) with Betty in December. Lunch with Eleanor sometime in December: Zorba the Greek restaurant in Dupont Circle. One in person DC Trollope reading group meeting this Sunday — just outside Bethesda (Nina Balatka), and lunch with OLLI at AU SGLs one day in December. Laura and Rob with Izzy will take me out to dinner on Nov 27th as two days before my birthday. Christmas we’ll go with Rob and Laura to a good movie, and then back to their house for dinner at home and exchange of presents. I’ll tell you about these as they happen.

Now I’m evolving a reading plan for myself and I’ve begun with Italian studies (first up Grazia Deledda’s Cosima), Heroine’s books (Charlotte Gilman Perkins’s Women and Economics and Annis Pratt’s Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction), back to, beginning again Valerie Martin’s marvelous The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (a ghost story!). Then as I please beloved individual authors as I feel them (Joanna Trollope a new source of comfort and strenght, Next of Kin) and literary history (Joan Hedrick’s biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe).

Leslie Manville as Sue Ryelands (she’s also in Sherwood, The Crown, was Mrs ‘arris who went to Paris)

Evenings wonderful serials — I am actually enjoying Magpie Murders on PBS, which I’ll blog about with BritBox’s Sherwood and Karen Pirie (Val McDermid’s Distant Echo, set in modern Scotland. The year of Leslie Manville! Last blogs have been on Outlander 6 (1-4 & 5-8), seasons of processing grief, time of trauma; and upon the coming retirement of Judy Woodruff.

How much this house means to me I cannot express strongly enough. My refuge, my memories (Jim all around me), my beloved cats. I vow (like poor Gwendolen Harleth in Daniel Deronda, I’ve just finished) to remain more cheerful, open to others partly by drawing boundaries.

Here is the red berry bush on one side of my house: finally it bloomed and turned out to be the sort of bush I associate with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and beautiful middle English poetry

Late autumn, beginning my tenth year without Jim,


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Margaryta Yermolayeva — Witchy Art

Dear friends and readers,

The hard beginning of October has been long over, and we’ve had a couple of beautiful weeks: fall used to be my favorite time of year. I still love the light cool breezes, the whitish color of blue light in the morning and orangey-beige at dusk, the variegated colors of the leaves and trees and bushes, so that when I look out my window and see a receding block going downwards on both sides and in the far distance criss-crossing the street and sky yet more soft melting variety of intermingled trees. It reminds me why I quite like being alive. And I’ve put up a cheering picture: Witchy Art by Margaryta Yermolayeva.

Late last week we had frightening news: Rob, Laura’s husband, has developed a second form of cancer. From last time we knew he has a gene that makes him susceptible to cancer, and that is why he has tests twice a year; it’s been over 9 years since the last. Then Laura said it was skin (Squamous) cancer. No time was wasted and today he had an all-day operation. The cancer was in his face, and it was cut out; they then follow trails of cancer cells; when these gave out, there was said to be no cancer left, and they proceeded to do skin grafts on his face, then a face-lift, and at the close stitches by his nose and moustache. 8 hours. This is called mohs surgery, and has an excellent cure rate. Laura appears to have been in the hospital near him (with laptop to do her work) throughout and brought him home tonight. It seems no radiation will be necessary, but he goes for tests November 9th to make sure. You will appreciate how worrying this has been.

My osteoporosis is not as bad as the doctor feared, and “all” I have to do is take a prescription pill once a week, early morning, drink lots of water for 2 hours while sitting up. I too will have tests, but in 6 months time.

Two of the courses I’m taking (at Politics and Prose bookshop zoom space, on James Baldwin’s writing, on George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda) have come to an end — I’m still reading the latter with a group of friends on FB, and one day spontaneously wrote a defense of Walter Scott’s art (he is so influential on the depiction of the Jewish characters). I was asked to give a brief or short talk on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s stunning book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a “The Coming of the Civil War” course at OLLI at AU. It went over very well and now I’ve turned the talk into a brief essay blog explaining why it hit such an emotional nerve at the time and why it continues to elicit strong responses from readers, and I put my paper “Jane Austen and Anne Finch’s work in Manuscript and 21st century Manuscript Culture” on academia.edu and then linked it to an explanatory blog after I found I was not able to go to the EC/ASECS gathering after all. I regretted not being able to to the 40th anniversary party of OLLI at AU yesterday: again it was held into the time range when I’d have to be driving home at dusk into the dark. This is a serious disability now, for it cuts down on the small amount of real or physical social life I have. I am enjoying all the zoom classes I go to and one I teach, but know I am at the same time sadly lonely.  On Twitter.

Sometimes it seems I have such a long time ahead of me without him in the world. It’s been such a long time already. I’ve learned I can survive as long as I have my adequate income, and Izzy with me helps enormously, but still so many years perhaps to go without him.

So to tell you what has gone on with me outwardly (and inwardly), I look at what are in effect diary entries on face-book (short form entries on twitter), and can that I enjoyed for the first time two great movies: Tony Richardson’s 1960s Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), a new superb serials (I joined Britbox!), e.g., 2022 Sherwood, an insightful serial dramatization of miners in Britain in 1984 and then 20 years later, how Thatcher succeeded in dividing and crushing them politically and personally and now they are bitter at one another and the larger society which has left them to rot — it’s on the long memories of life

Famous still of Tim Courtney running for life

Loneliness stands out as more than a brilliant film artfully, with cast famously a young Tim Courtney but also James Bolan (of Beiderbecke’s Tapes), Michael Redgrave, someone called Topsy Jane (!). I had an instinct that at the end our hero would not win the long run for the prison warden even though conventional mores would dictate this as a triumph. No, he would not be used, no matter what it cost him – partly because he knew winning would get him nothing despite vague promises. The intense depiction of poverty and class in Britain at the time; the music for Jerusalem, and the interlude of joy in sexual love at a beach — all make it fit into Angry Young Men material but also these British Social Conscience films of the 1960s. I can’t recommend this one too highly. Tony Richardson the famous director, but Alan Sillitoe wrote the story where the male lead is not a young sweet adolescent but a somewhat anti-social criminal type, and screenplay. Like Sherwood, it takes place in Nottingham; like Sherwood an ironic use of the Blake song Jerusalem.  I’ll mention Jim went to a public school where he had to play a sport, and he choose long-distance running — it does allow you solitude — escape for the time running.

The Red Bull Theater has returned to online productions (and in person at the same time: they did a dramatic reading of John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse, a witty, hard but good-natured too intelligent sequel, as it were correcting the prurient hypocritical and sentimental Love’s Last Shift by Colley Cibber, reminding me of how when Jim was 24 and I 26 we played a pair of amoral servants, he the gambling male and me the promiscuous female in just that inferior play (a great hit in the later 1690s). Here we are, 1972-73, at the Graduate Center, and I daresay it was the fall of that year:

Decades ago, when we were children — how wrinkle free is his skin, how unknowing is that smile only I know from memory. I had experienced it all right, but had no idea the complex causes, of what politics really is.  This past Monday night I sat with my copy of Vanbrugh’s play and read along. The video had a running transcript at the bottom, I could pause and re-watch, I was close up to their faces and bodies, could hear every word.

I learned that non-human animals can get very sick and die from Covid-19 too. This essay explains which animals are likeliest to get sick, the statistics on this, and which likeliest to transmit the disease to whom and get it from whom, that the supreme court might just act to protect pigs (at long last) from a short caged life. How angry I felt when the Washington Post had an editorial against allowing pigs a little enjoyable life lest it put the price of pork chops up, and someone somewhere lose a profit.

The pig is intensely relieved, feeling a puzzled gratitude

I have added the New Statesmen to my budget of subscriptions, which I hardly keep up with, but it comes in driblets each morning and so I do read it; Jim and I let our subscription lapse when we moved to Virginia as too expensive for us at that time. I am still buying books, doing things remembering that he would have appreciated this, understood that. I really felt an intense detestation of the thug woman, Liz Truss, a Thatcher without brains, enough to make me want to abjure feminism. Luckily I came across over the day Truss was still not giving in, Amia Srinivasan’s review of Andrea Dworkin’s My Name is Andrea in the LRB where both recognize the core of the subjection of woman, is male determination to control woman’s sexuality (be in charge of at least one if not more women), so felt yes, it has been of some use.

I have probably told you my winter offering, The Heroine’s Journey (a 4 week online course with 4 slender books, Atwood’s Penelopiad, Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and other adult tales, Ferrante’s Lost Daughter, and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey), and my spring one Contemporary Italian Memoirs and Novels (an 8 week onliner, three Levi’s, Natalia’s Family Lexicon, Carlo’s Christ Stopped at Eboli, Primo’s Periodic Table, and Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend) are accepted a OLLI at Mason so I will be useful for the coming year and have much to do and to enjoy. Cross fingers the second will be accepted at for the spring 10 week online course and the first for the summer 4 week online course at OLLI at AU. I am still hoping to travel with Laura and Izzy in the later spring and July — to Leeds for a Eurovision extravaganza where I don’t have to go to this event, and to San Diego comic.con where again I need not go, but stay at a beach-house. Dreams?

OTOH, my greatest fear is I’ll lose this house (and then everything in it I value). That is partly another reason why I am thinking of curtailing all travel — and won’t go unless I truly feel I’ll have a good time and won’t know the ordeal of anguish I often do for a reward not worth it every time. I sometimes think I would kill myself if I lost this peaceful refuge.

So I conclude this diary entry: Wompo has started up Foremother Postings again, and again it is slackening off, but they have made me remember one of my foremother poets, Amy Lowell and two of her poems intense moods that speak to me:

Madonna of the Evening Flowers

All day long I have been working,
Now I am tired.
I call: “Where are you?”
But there is only the oak-tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines in on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you are not there.
Suddenly I am lonely:
Where are you?
I go about searching.

Then I see you,
Standing under a spire of pale blue larkspur,
With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool, like silver,
And you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes.

You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and
You tell me these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud, sweet Te Deums of the
nbsp; Canterbury bells.

[I do work all day and late at night I do feel so desperately tired and look about me for someone, something, a book, feel the silence, long for music — and then I watch The Crown, or Outlander, or Foyle’s war where I find depths of feeling in characters to fill the emptiness of Jim’s having been devoured]

The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

[And why should I ever go away from my memories of him, ravage myself on those knives however hidden]

Ellen about to watch the last episode of the third season of The Crown, where the two sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret confront one another after Margaret’s feeble attempt at suicide, and say they could not live without the other’s support, and must carry on both for the sake of the other …

Izzy, five years ago, at a library conference, with the patron saint of libraries, Benjamin Franklin

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I don’t know who painted the painting this is an image from

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
―George Eliot in a letter (Oct. 1, 1841)

The reality is it poured heavily and intensely last night but not enough to cause floods massive enough to wash away the neighborhood (as a hurricane has just done in Cuba and then in Florida), and today the air was filled with wet moisture and it rained lightly and then a bit heavier on and off all day, and tomorrow we are promised pouring rain once again, but nowhere near hurricane strength …. Oct 1, 2022

Dear friends,

Once again I must live through October 3rd (it would have been Jim’s birthday, now it’s his birthdate, 1948), October 6th (the day we met, 1967, and the day we married precisely a year later, 1968), and October 9th (the day or evening he died, between 9:05 and 9:10, me with my arms around him, 2013). He stopped talking to us on October 8th. Since that last grim October day, some years I have been at a conference, for early October is academic conference time across the US; not this year, but

I will no longer go to any JASNA conferences after the way they rejected us transparently (having registered almost immediately it took the organizers several weeks to drop us to the lowest rung of who might get in) during registration four years ago now, causing Izzy to cancel her membership for good (I wrote about this elsewhere, useless to repeat it); and now this year I’m not having any luck reaching the virtual forms of the sessions (live-streaming) so the money paid is the last dime the AGMs will have from me.

I was going to go to the annual EC/ASECS, where the sessions are to be held at Winterthur museum, the hotel is a drive away (Wilmington, Delaware), and two night time things also a drive — I can no longer drive at night. I remembered that Jim said the one time before the EC/ASECS held the conference there, the drive is hellish and twisting so we took an AMTRAC and then he rented a car. I was foolish enough to try to go with an untrustworthy (I half knew this) friend, a man who turned out also to be cunningly false, and without telling you the uncomfortable several week’s details, I finally told him to go by himself directly there, cancelled the hotel reservation, too embarrassed to be there while he would be (it being a small group you see), and not wanting any scenes, having told him never email, text or phone me again. I will hope to go next year, if they have it in a place where the sessions and hotel are the same building, and in a readily accessible place.

So here I am alone at night remembering. The Facebook software not knowing what was the content I wrote on FB on this day 2015, reminded me (they do this) of what I sent that day, and invited me “to share” this on my timeline. I did; the material contained a link to a blog I wrote that night: this was written before Trump campaigned and then won the election to the US through gerrymandering and the peculiar injustice of the electoral college (he did not win the popular vote) at which I turned the Sylvia I blog over to politics wholly: you will see how Jim and I resolved issues over the years together, with me admitting that most of the time one might say he won, but he got me to accede to what he wanted with terms set up I could endure. You will also see what he looked like the year before his body developed esophageal cancer.

And what he looked like the month we met, October 1967, in front of the Leeds terraced house we were living in together that first week: above is a mature man, below is a boy:


Before I tell my readers here, how & something of why I am for this term and probably the foreseeable future online for all but three classes, and living most of my life online still, when I was hoping to go out regularly to teach in both places, lest you think I am more cheerless than I am. My mood (though near tears somehow) resembles Austen’s when she wrote

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).

Over the past few days I’ve had some lovely letters from real friends, today I was on the phone twice (!) with two girlfriends who live in DC and we made plans to meet soon, a third friend I had happy time with lunching at a Greek restaurant at Dupont Circle has proposed a zoom together, tomorrow at 6 pm Izzy and I will have our monthly face-time with Thao (electricity holding up — fingers crossed). Tonight I enjoyed (not sure that is the correct word) — was fully absorbed watching Ingmar Bergmann’s The Seventh Seal, the first time I’ve seen it in decades, as part of an excellent course in “Movies, political, moral, aesthetic,” where I am one of those attending in person at OLLI at AU.

I’m as thorough going an atheist as anyone is likely to meet, and I do not think I’d find life easier were I to believe in any god or supernatural. It would have to be a hideously malevolent as the burning of that woman in the film — and that did happen and horrible tortures and deaths are happening in many countries. The film shows how much worse religious beliefs and practices make life for many. It’s so allegorical – I was interested to watch how consistent the allegory is with medieval art and texts as the austere noble knight (Chaucer), his earthy squire, the young wife and husband as circus performers (Renaissance theater). For the first time I understood what the famous image of Death and the Knight playing chess is about: it’s the story of the film, a kind of bet. If the knight wins, death takes no one on the spot; the duration of the game gives him time to go on a last journey; if he loses, he dies immediately, and those around him

The next morning the day dawns brightly and we see our young couple and baby hasten off before anything untoward could happen.

This season I’m finally reveling in Outlander, the sixth season, re-watching The Crown (for the sake of the queen’s story, I tell myself). I watch and re-watch Foyle’s War, each time more deeply moved, feel good at the ending as our “friends,” Foyle, Sam, sometimes with Milner or Foyle’s son, drive away … I have all three as DVDs with lots of features (which I sometimes enjoy as much as the episodes).

I am so chuffed my review-essay of the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Poems of Anne Finch has just been published in the Intelligencer. Soon I will write a blog about it, and put it online at academia.edu.

And I read away, these past weeks the profound brilliant James Baldwin (for an excellent and yes online Politics & Prose class) one of the greatest voices in American literature in the 20th century and of the African diaspora itself. I have said the last two years now I feel my outward character has changed to be more able to understand and even feel some ordinary sense of peace, security, and be able to read affirmative books and learn from them (I’m on my fourth Joanna Trollope — I come away having learnt a healthy lesson or outlook from her books), while drawing sustenance from the quietly bleak ambivalent — even in a Jane Austen sequel, Catherine Schine’s The Three Weissmans of Westport, a true updating of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

This enraptured review must be by a friend of Schine’s: The humor is the grimace and witticisms and irony (as in Austen’s book); the daughters are step-daughters who don’t love nor forgive the unforgivable stepfather who utterly betrays his wife (the Mrs Dashwood character) and left them for a character who shares a Lucy Steele personality with another character who pretends to be pregnant to get the Edward character to marry her. Like other sequels, she has in mind actors and actresses from different movies; Gemma Jones for Mrs Weissman-Dashwood, Hattie Morahan for Annie-Elinor, Robert Swann for Brandon (he keeps that name), Gregg Wise (though unlike his usual persona and the Willoughby of Emma Thompson’s S&S, the utterly untrustworthy and cad-like Willoughby (he too keeps the name) of Schine’s novel. Her novel ends with Annie-Elinor and Brandon character forming a quiet supportive friendship. I loved that.

The 2008 version of that journey from Sussex to Devonshire: I never tire it seems of Austen


So what happened with my I’m beginning to think misguided attempts to teach in person. Only 9 registered for the course at OLLI at AU; hitherto all my Trollope courses regularly began with over 30 and ended with about 22. I went online, lost one person that way but added 4, 3 of whom come from further away and had told me they would have taken the course had it been online. I was shooting myself in the foot. 13 registered for the OLLI at Mason Barsetshire Then & Now or the Two Trollopes (Joanna and Tony), but only 6 showed up. I was devastated and saw the summer disaster that occurred in OLLI at AU when I tried Christa Wolf (she is too difficult for most readers I now know — as hard as George Eliot without the reputation to bring people in for self-improvement and self-esteem) this summer — it’s not enough to sustain a class over a number of weeks. I’m told this is the average number who show up in person (6); 4 came from the spectacularly enjoyable good class I did in person on The Woman in White and Mary Reilly for the 6 week summer course at OLLI at Mason. I’m also told that the over-riding factor is convenience.

So I must accept that what compels me to enjoy in person contact so much (truly perceiving what’s happening within students vis-a-vis a book) cannot motivate people in the class. Who among them is widowed in my way? For many what they got in person that they valued they feel they get via zoom. I have again misunderstood the nature of a social experience and the attitude of the people towards it. As I age, I admit also that driving even during the day is not as easy, and I myself as a member of the class find online delightful when the teachers and level of class are wonderful.

It’s not inappropriate to write of this on this first night of the coming week of remembering Jim since I turned to the OLLIs as a way of building an acceptable life for myself without him literally with me. So now I have had to change again: the pandemic itself has transformed the public world. I used to wish more people understood that life can be full and rewarding online; so here’s another instance of that fable, careful what you wish for, for you may get it.

My two cats and I have grown closer still. I find it so touching when as I prepare to go out (I do go out), whatever it be, getting dressed (shoes), putting stuff in my handbag, getting together stuff to take out with me, and especially when I either turn off my computer or put on a face mask, they both get up from wherever they are in my room and start heading for the door. It’s the awareness of me, and the desire to cooperate with me that moves me. Cats are sensitive, affectionate, communicative animals and they and I understand one another in all sorts of ways. At this point too Ian has bonded with Izzy, and stays a lot with her in her room: this is the result of the pandemic and her working from home remotely 2 days a week.

Ian sitting up for Laura

Clarycat on Jim’s lap — both photos taken before Jim died, say 2012 (like the photo of Jim above), the two cats are are about 2-3 years old

I close tonight with the lines Jim wrote for the top of the urn in which his ashes remain, which urn sits on my mantelpiece along side a photo of him, his reading glasses & ancient Anglican Book of Common Prayer; the DVD the funeral company made of photos across his life; a toy sheep Laura bought from the shop at Stonehenge that summer the 4 of us spent 3 weeks together in England, and a small stuffed Penguin Izzy added to the collection from her and my visit one summer to Sussex to go to a Charlotte Smith conference together (I could not have gotten there w/o her).

Jim’s play on Rupert Brooke’s famous lines: If I should die,/think only this of me:/That there’s a corner of a foreign mantelpiece that is for a while England.

Ellen, still his faithful wife

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Emma Haworth — The Last Day of Summer

Friends and readers,

Of course the intense heat is not over: the last 3-4 days here in Virginia were and the next 3-4 promise to be, intensely hot by noon and remain very warm until later in the night. Humid, sticky. But sunlight is barely peeking over the horizon at 6 am and the sky is darkened by 8:20 pm, fall activities will begin within 2 weeks (public schools and colleges have begun the fall semester), and the feel is of summer coming to an end.

Since I last wrote Laura and Rob went on a vacation they apparently enjoyed spectacularly: DisneyWorld in Florida for 8-9 days and nights, where they stayed in a very nearby resort as Disneyfied as the park inside the gates. They seemed to spend the early days in Star War and other science fiction and recent Disney fantasies, only recording the traditional characters (Mickey Mouse, Snow White, the dwarves &c) at my prompting.  Then Laura’s many photographs in a sense telling about their trip day-by-day began to include the traditional matter: every day a parade, every night fireworks, mouse-ears everywhere. A gilt statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.  A church like set of gilded windows telling the story of Snow White and the 7 dwarves.   The magic kingdom castle (an icon).  One shop with a wall of EARS. They ate out beautifully, swam, saw beautiful sunsets and sunrises; photographed themselves having fun (including old-fashioned roller coaster rides from the 1970s, ie., through the Dwarves’ Mines). One of my favorites of her photos she subtitled: Rob doing his impression of relaxing, where he did seem to be working at lounging poolside on a chair. Both looked comfortable and happy. Here are two where you can see them very well:

Rob in a space ship

Here they are furthest left — she’s in a grey outfit; it’s part of a cruise ride

Most important the atmosphere and behavior of everyone who works at Disney is impeccably benign, eager to help you have a good time. The place, experience and environs (hotels and inns and pools just outside the gates) offer a continually seductive highly controlled invitation to return to your childhood.  One example:  the garbage is removed via chutes in the dead of night so customers cannot see it being done or who does this work. And you have paid a great deal for this.

I did a couple more activities I’d been yearning to: I went with MaryLee to Wolf Trap to see EmmyLou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter. She emailed me again to say after all let’s meet for coffee, and when I arrived I could see she is still under the strong grip of bereftness (Roger, her husband died less than 4 months ago now), and thought to myself, maybe she would be willing to do something different than her usual as getting outside of herself: I proposed these two folk singers at Wolf Trap. To my surprise and happiness, she got up and went over to a computer, so excited was she at the idea to look at the show because she knew/liked the singers; what held her back was the fear she couldn’t drive us there (as she didn’t know the way) and worse, how would we get back with the enormous crowd in the parking light and the darkness. Were it not for two daughters, we would not have gone. Her daughter Katy, encouraged her to dare and said ML sure could do the driving — so MaryLee phoned me and as Izzy was walking out the door to go to work, I dragged her back and she helped me buy two lawn seats. Later Ellen, another daughter, was encouraging her to have a good time, and it was Izzy who downloaded the confirmation paper which got us the tickets at Will Call, a booth, when we got there.

On the way there I had a print-out from Map-quest which I kept reading aloud and there were my pictorial memories; on the way back MaryLee programmed her google maps but we couldn’t “her” to talk so I interpreted from the map as ML drove and I had my pictorial memories (even in the dark) of leaving Wolf Trap … I could picture both ways as we went. That’s essential for me in finding my way: I must be able to picture as I go.

EmmyLou Harris recently (she is in her 70s if she’s a day)

Mary Chapin Carpenter

The experience at Wolf Trap itself. We very much enjoyed a picnic supper: she made delicious sandwiches, I brought wine, and macaroni salad (I left behind the paper plates I had bought especially for the picnic!); we were on the upper part of the lawn, in our lawn chairs, between two trees against the fence. A learning expedition we said. Then the musical performance. Harris was working hard, meant well, but somehow did not connect with the audience. Her breathy delivery made her lyrics hard to understand but over the hour and 10 minutes she performed she won me over. This morning I heard her on my ipad and think she would have done better to sing more simply to us. Then a duet with Carpenter (good feeling) and, to conclude, the second half, Carpenter’s hour and one-half were just superlative. Carpenter made contact, her talk was piquant and interesting, she and her band made music, the deeply familiar ones I love and new ones — very often very melodic. She saved the most rousing and satiric famous early ones for last.

Out under the skies later at night amid a good-natured crowd (all cooperative, helping one another) just so rejuvenating. We saw two men helping a third disabled man to settle himself: I spied a woman with a young baby coping. We talked of memories. We watched people — central to the experience is the crowd and it was very crowded, and very few masks. The courageous part was coming home, for we had to get out of the parking lot (30 minute wait) and then be sure and take the right turns, with only google maps (and my memory picturing the roads) to guide us in the dark. Got home at midnight. She too said she had not been out so late for a very long time. But we did it.

Remember Joe to Pip in Great Expectations? Wot larks!

So I’ve been to a beach, saw two live plays, Midsummer Night’s Dream (a summer frolic) and Red Velvet, and now a concert at Wolf Trap under the invisible stars.

By no means am I wrong not to trust to myself to find anything by myself — and try to go to the coming EC/ASECS with a friend (Tony his name). If he does not show up, this time I will bow out too (though I will do the paper on studying Anne Finch and Jane Austen through their manuscripts). I spent one hour and 10 minutes of getting lost trying to find a restaurant, with Waze, with map-quest print-out, with memory, all to no avail. Very bad stress. Finally, phoned Lins, NY patient friend who said I was 3-4 minutes away and on phone gave me directions: the restaurant was buried inside a mall. What happened: the updating of Waze has made it impossible for me to use. It corrects the addresses I put in, so it took me to the wrong address. It gives me more choices and I can no longer figure out how to get to go when the button say “go later (save). My friend was generous, kind, waited all that time and we had a lovely (salmon w/salad for me) lunch & good talk. It’s also a lesson on the risk of trying to fly internationally using a package tour — there will be no Izzy there to help me through the rows of computers. People in my Aspergers group advised paying for Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-check but I wonder if they will enable me to bypass the especially puzzling computers …


My new walkable-in (though with bunion cushions) ECCO sandals from Comfort One shoe shop in Old Towne …

If you had ever told me, I would photograph my feet in shoes and put the photo on the Net, I would have thought you mad.

When I returned from Toronto, my feet were in bad shape, bleeding around the toes, bunions very sore, cracking skin. On the advice of my friend, Betty, I bought from Amazon (I tried Walgreens’ but their website is impossible) Tea Tree Oil (Hot Soak), and have been soaking my feet for 20 minutes each night. But I knew it’s time to get shoes I can walk in also if I’m to teach in person, and go out a bit more. She also told me about ECCO sandals: she was wearing a pair. I found them in Comfort Shoes in Old Towne, unfortunately a long walk from my car to near the Potomac. A very nice clerk who helped me order a second pair from their warehouse, and then, since I was so far down, I walked on to Potomac (two short blocks) and stood by the water at long last. Walked all the way back slowly. I am not doing as well in the heat as I once did, and was glad to get to my car, get home, shower and stay in the air-conditioned house for 3 days afterward.

I’ve not neglected museums this summer — due to my friend, Betty. I went with her to see two much advertised & praised (?) exhibits at the National Gallery. Spare yourself the trip. One is supposed to be about the icon of Woman in White as related to Wilkie Collins’s famous novel and Whistler; what it is actually about is Whistler and a model-mistress he painted in white several times; anything that relates (19th century pictures of women in white) are thrown in. The argument (doesn’t hold) is how important the mistress-model was/is. A blow up of Frederick Walker’s well known illustration for Collins’s novel is in one of the rooms.

No where is there any mention of how wearing white was an upper class luxury; how hard it was to clean white garments; nor is there any frankness on the prostitution involved. The other called Doubles consists of the curator having dragged together lots of things he and/or she have imposed the idea of doubles on (similar objects painted by different painters) and makes little sense even of the term.

The cafeteria continues to be very poor (hardly anything there and what is is wretched). A result of curators thinking they are the artists and plucking works out the curators thought exemplified a theme or idea which was jejeune or not so. I dislike a lot of recent art — it seems flat paintings on walls won’t do. The exhibits had a lot of films, interactive kinds of things.

Curators are becoming bolder. Dropping “controls” like setting the works up chronologically or by author provides some measure of distance and lets the artists’ works belong to a really there schematics. If the curator is smart and the theme is really there (or school of painting say), it can be enlightening but they are no longer content for that. Plus for me I don’t like modern abstract art, I like realism.

I am still reading and thinking about Wilkie Collins! (a superb book on Wilkie Collins, Jenny Taylor Bourne’s In the Secret Theater of Home). and have now watched the 5 part 2016 BBC Moonstone and the 1996 singleton: both very good. It is very hard to film this book whose surface is made up of characters who do very little and are supposed to amuse us as satires of types of people, with a new type in the detective Mr Cuff; but whose underlying story is put off until near the end of the novel, with unexplained suicides, angry crippled people, and silent stereotypical Indians (orientalism) along the way. The hero, Mr Franklin Blake disappears early on and is brought back at the very end. Both productions kept him on stage by the use of flashbacks remembered by him and Betteridge, who in 2016 is a close companion-friend. The part is realized very appealingly by Leo Wringer:

Leo Wringer as Gabriel Betteridge

With Lisa Cole as his effective daughter, Penelope (she steals scenes with her vital presence)

The only performances that came near theirs in the 1996 film were Greg Wise as Franklin Blake and Anthony Sher as Cuff.

So of course I’ve been reading away too, watching serial and other movies at night, blogging some, a few old friends wrote (Jim Dring who has helped me with Poldark) and new (an Iranian woman now on my listserv with information about Jane Austen in Farsi) and I answered.

I’ve had a provisional acceptance for a course I’ll teaching at OLLI at AU (and a modified shorter one at OLLI at Mason). This tells you what I’ve been reading the last several weeks on and off.

There is apparently a film adaptation

Contemporary Italian Novels & memoirs

In this course we’ll read a group of Italian works with a view to understanding the culture, history and politics of Italy over the last hundred years or so. We’ll begin with a novella by Grazia Deledda (one of a few women to have won the Nobel Prize), Cosima (1937) depicting the early pre-World Wars world of Sicily as we watch a young girl mature. Then a historical novel by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Leopard (1957, much respected best seller, filmed to acclaim — Burt Lancaster still remembered for his role), set in Palermo, 1860-1910 depicting the risorgimento from a prince’s POV. Then Natalia Ginzburg’s memoir, The Family Lexicon (1963, also much respected woman writer and book) depicting a Northern family (Turin , Rome) during and after WW2. Primo Levi’s Periodic Table, brilliant memoir drawing on chemistry (1984), autobiography as history too. Last Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (2012), first of 4 volume masterpiece Neapolitan Quartet. We’ll do some poetry (Salvatore Quasimodo, also won Nobel, and Elsa Morante in pdf forms)

I’ve not decided which will be the fifth book — or if I should just have four. In the 8 week OLLI at Mason I will drop Deledda and replace The Leopard with Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi (1947), a memoir of his time in exile during WW2 because I’ve discovered The Leopard is fascist, and what I loved so long ago in the Italian in the English is a Scott-like historical novel. Christ Stopped at Eboli is brilliantly philosophic and about the hard lives of peasants in Italy before, then, since by a radical writer. (I am substituting the Lampeda at AU lest the woman who did an Italian-Jewish writing course there a couple of years ago now think I’m imitating her — I’m not as her talk was wholly conservative and non-interpretative. I hesitated over Cosima, but it is short, easy and the woman won the Nobel Prize and it seems a shame to omit it (the AU people said I could have an 11th week).

Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon: 3X she and her children’s lives were in serious danger, rescued at great personal risk by friends. During her time in exile with Leone, she writes 3 pages where she packs the whole of the feel of Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli

For those who don’t know it, the poetry of Quasimodo is superb (I have a translation by Allan Mandelbaum), e.g., And suddenly it’s evening

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
trafitto da un raggio di sole:
Ed e subito sera.

I watched 3 of the 4 part serial with Lindsay Duncan as Anna Bouverie (a rewriting of Trollope’s much put-upon Mary Crawley) and she was so riveted she wanted to see the fourth — in a row (too much for me)

Reading for my course coming up: the Two Trollopes: his Last Chronicle what a masterpiece, for London Society group: CYFH? — how beautiful the description of Swiss tour, and how true the characters feel. This time I see more emphatic that Kate Vavasour is a lesbian. Yesterday finished Joanna Trollope’s Rector’s Wife: a strong intelligent second phase feminist novel– about independence, living your own life (you are a boat in your right). Even in this sequel form. I can’t recommend it too highly. I’m a third into her The Choir and am seeing how astute it is about church politics (and very Trollopian in Anthony’s way).

I am surprising myself by liking her sequel, Sense and Sensibility very much, and also (not quite as much) Catherine The Three Weissmans of Westport (Connecticut): my mood is more tolerant than I once was and I am more able to bear other people’s cheerfulness so can accept such books better. I’ve thought about sequels:

It’s in the interplay between the originating book and this one that the pleasure, insight and compelling interest forward lies. I spent a couple of hours yesterday quite literally seeing how Trollope’s book parallels Austen’s — from acquaintance with three of the other 6 written during that year (see below). Six known and successful authors were asked to rewrite one of Austen’s books, and one can see the influence in choices of book for each from the kind of book the modern author is known for

It’s common to review such books, but most of the time you get either condemnation, praise (usually contentless, too vague), sometimes a literal retelling of a few contents in the new book, not what are the pleasures of sequels, and why it is so hard to please generally. For JT’s book I think she read Austen’s book from the same angle and in the same light I do (as does Schine) — other sequels I’ve detested I now realize did not. For JT the central event of the book occurs when at the end of volume 1 Lucy forces on Elinor the knowledge of Lucy’s long term engagement to Elinor; I still remember how moved I was reading Volume 2, Chapter 1, Elinor’s agon and vigil . JT has the revelation also as the last chapter of Volume 1, and the vigil as powerful and 1st volume of Volume 2. She takes equally seriously the humiliation of Marianne in a London public assembly — makes it occur in a fashionable church wedding.

There is also more than a whiff of memory of some of the film adaptations and I can see the 2008 actors in a number of the roles (JT’s Willoughby is the same arrogant, self-centered crude male as in that movie), hear their voices, with the 1981 Brandon taken for this book, and lingering memories of the Thompson/Ang movie Again my taste is cohering with Trollope’s. Schrine has Greg Wise as Willoughby in mind (boyish) for her Willoughby character.

Yet I placed my files notes under Joanna Trollope, not Austen because this book comes out of her oeuvre, and I see several attitudes of hers in her non-sequel and other sequel (2 Anthony Trollope) books. So you probably also have to like the new author’s presence, vision and style too — I strongly felt Trollope’s Other People’s Children left me with a healthier attitude towards life the way The Rector’s Wife does.

A ferocious hate-filled attempt on Rushdie’s life almost succeeded this month …

Put together another list for another course for Spring 2024: Anglo-Indian Novels, also Take Two. No one can do such books nowadays without Salmon Rushie, and I’ve discovered I don’t care for his novels. I’ve tried them before: it has something to do with his sense of humor, magic realism (not realistic at all), and that his fiction recalls Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, which never amused me at all. But I do like his essays; so the list would be J Farrell, The Siege of Krisnapur, Markandaya, The Nowhere Man, Rushdie: Imaginary Homelands (a book of essays, columns, life writing) and Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowlands … Had lovely lunch (pizza) with Sugra at Dupont Circle two Saturdays ago: she was the teacher at the history of India course online I took in June.

And I’ll keep reading my non-fiction outside sources and movie watching. I have two 18th century epistolary novels partly set in India and hope to get to them soon: Eliza Fay’s Original Letters from India, ed, introd E. M. Forster (!), and Phebe Gibbes, Hartley House, Calcutta. Both by women. I believe Emily Eden in virago Up Country, about her time in India, early 19th century.

Listening to Eliot’s Daniel Deronda read by Nadia May in my car: I am finding how much I dislike the heroine (!) and that her egoistic traits and coldness remind me of Grandcourt (so marriage to him is a kind of poetic justice), but am so moved by narrator’s continually enlarging commentary. This for 3 different groups, all of them “doing DD” this fall (FB group, OLLI at AU and best of all Maria Frawley’s class at Politics and Prose).


Do you want an image of a picture I’ve liked in the last 24 hours? On twitter: evening in the countryside ~ a young woman muses quietly as she sits modestly in the train, pet dog at her side. She holds a ribboned gift; maybe it’s for a meeting with the person in the car which we can see through the large window (Andrea Kowch, ‘Reunion’). Pensive and melancholy as if she’s remembering something fondly and sadly. The gift is what she is going to give someone. The person may be in the car & car catching up to the train as it comes into the station. I am very touched by details of the sweater, a print dress, her hat, dog, the seat covers, car in glimmering countryside. Early 20th century:

So there you are summer’s end. The last of the flowering bushes finally bloomed


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Izzy, me, Thao, Jeff with baby William in the carrier, just to the side of a man-made beach along a harbour walk by Lake Ontario

So one evening while we walked along the shoreline of Lake Ontario (where the part of Torono is located where our friends live), Thao asked a passerby to take this photo of us: left to right, Izzy, me. Thao, Jeff and baby William. Along this long slender park area, there are many things to do in the evening. A tall ship takes passengers for rides, and other ferries and party kind of boats fill with people. Out & indoor cafes, taverns, British style pubs, concerts, “cottage” chairs to sit on, and at the end a beach called a fake beach because it is wholly man-made, but it has the water, the sand and all the things needed for sitting and playing by a beach. So we were standing between where the shoreline ends and the beach begins.

Be sure and remember your traveling experience and let it direct who you vote for next. Choose progressive people who will vote for gov’t regulation and fund consumer protection agencies and bureaus

Dear friends and readers,

So we are back safely home, and we did have a good time, both when we were with our friends, and when we went off on our alone to explore Toronto a little further afield than central downtown where our friends live in a very tall hotel-like (to my eyes) apartment building (they are on the 59th floor and there are several more floors above them) from which they can see from their front room (three walls of which are very strong glass) much of Toronto nearby, the airport from far, other islands in the blue, closer to (imaginary hand) the iconic CN building — kind of Eiffel Tower exhibit for tourists. A block and a half way is a long harbor street we walked across on two different evenings (see above).

We arrived later Tuesday afternoon and just rested in our two guest rooms (“suites” they were called) in the apartment building and talked and stay with Jeff and Thao and ate with them on the (to me) scary balcony. Here you see us on a couch and to the back some of the glass walls — Thao is holding the present of 6 stretchies for William

Good conversation.

In a hard fought many hour match we watched Coco Gauff beat out a Russian woman who had had an important win recently

Wednesday: The day included 5 hours at tennis tournament. Train ride revealed the suburbs — which looked very suburb-like, complete with expected malls and communities of different income levels. Once there, remarkable and absorbing matches between women athletes – a couple very famous. After we left, Serena Williams herself came to that court. She lost but then she’s about to retire. Evening we walked all around Toronto cultural and sport centers and blocks: theaters, arenas, iconic tower, restaurants, central cultural places, people all about in yellow chairs (a friendly social atmosphere), also versions of London East End, an aquarium, another beautiful park along the lake. Sat on high terrace (our friends’ apartment on 59th floor) had dinner again there, yummy take out, sky a rainbow, just gorgeous view of city and lake spreading hues of blue … My feet quivered and I felt raddled because the fear was so strong but I sat there in order not to interrupt the good time …

Inside the museum, many of the walls reminded me of churches

Thursday: In the morning we took the train to the Royal Ontario Museum, which in the mode of modern museums did not emphasize elite art (paintings on walls or sculptures) but rather mirrored the way people once lived in their houses (furnished rooms of the elite in Europe) and in different wings all the kinds of artefacts and household stuff people have needed and made over the centuries across the globe. Cultures was what we saw. Museum caters to children and families and the second floor was given up mostly to dinosaur exhibits (one video showed how they are factory made; you don’t need a degree to be hired). I thought of Cary Grant as the dinosaur curator in the wonderfully witty comedy with Katherine Hepburn, Bringing up Baby (one of them has adopted a baby tiger as I recall). In the afternoon with Thao and baby William in his carriage, we walked to another part of central Toronto and saw the university (beautiful campus) and hospitals (where Jeff works as a physician and where Thao used to work, also as a physician). I was very tired by this time but we did try to go to the aquarium too (Thao left to return to Ten York), but once there we discovered three different lines, a crowd of families and what seemed a poor excuse for an aquarium (small, commercialized) and so returned home too.

The harbor front

Each of the three nights we bought different take-out (ordered it, walked there and back, had it in cafes). This last night was the one were we got to a man-made beach. Early the following morning we were in a cab before 6 am headed back to Toronto-Pearson airport for a 10:30 flight to Washington, DC.


And now I come to what might be of real interest, our times traveling or in airports. This is what counts, what is important. Most trips people don’t tell much about these experiences as if they are what is to be forgotten. The mere bookends to a trip: but I met an Irish man from Cork while at Toronto Pearson around noon:he had left Dublin on Tuesday morning, expecting/hoping to be in Columbus, Ohio by Wednesday afternoon. He was telling me this on Friday afternoon. Each time a plane was cancelled, he had to find another, or delayed, he didn’t make his connection. A woman and husband deemed “overbook” were told they should contact the airlines if they wanted refunds (everyone knows they will get nothing) when she said she’d drive it but she had spent the money for renting a car on this fare. Another woman also told she is “overbook” looked so miserable and then sat down. She was told if someone doesn’t show up, she can take that seat. Someone did not show up, and I saw her on the plane. This woman was treated as Izzy and I were recently when we tried to go on a boat-ride around DC with an Aspergers group: the boat deliberately overbooked; people encouraged not to buy tickets before, but those with tickets let on first. The aim to fill every space no matter how this inconveniences and exploits the customers.

Toronto-Pearson Airport on a typical day

Let’s take a step back and I invite you my reader to read an essay called “The Boss Will See You Now” in the New York Review of Books by Zephyr Teachout. Airport misery is created by the airlines with a view of making as much profit as possible, at the same time as underfunded, understaffed, underpaid people are coercing everyone through mazes where you must give up vital information about yourself if you are to continue to the next step nearer “your” plane.

It’s not COVID, but that Covid exacerbated the fundamental conditions the airlines set up so as to make as much profit as possible, criss-crossed by a vast surveillance system (you cannot go past either way without, e.g. having your photo taken and revealing information about yourself which can be used to discover other information). What you must keep your eye on is how little the gov’t or these corporations concern themselves with any customers, except the group as a whole (and keeping the plane minimally from falling out of the sky). What got me is all of them took this dreadful treatment silently and politely. I thought of people taken away to concentration camps where they did not know they would be killed. There was an overt bully in charge of customs at Toronto-Pearson, I admit that. Izzy and I got on our (delayed) plane because I kicked up a big fuss when we arrived at the Gate (among the first people to get there, after it was changed twice) and after we paid for economy premium. In true NYC style I wanted to know why we didn’t have assigned seats and I wanted them now; I objected to his explanations, parsed his sentences, and kept hammering on the main point, offered money and he actually went over to the computer, and put us on the plane.

Basically in the areas of surveillance, it’s yet worse: you are treated as if it’s perfectly fine to talk at you as a suspicious person with no civil rights. So don’t kick up any fusses or parse anyone’s sentences.

What a mirror of the public world of powerful groups today. Right in front of our very eyes, and how rare people describe what the ordeal consists of or tell why it actually exists. This is the backdrop to the loss of democracy we are seeing around the world: as private industry, large corporations and gov’ts work to deprive one of ordinary decent civil life, they create the docile desperate population needed to fill autocratic govts.

In all the complaints I’ve read, I have yet to come across anyone saying describing what happens, what causes many crises and why it needs hours to get through registering, and customs. So here it is: the traveler is confronted with rows of computer machines she must navigate. There are no instructions. Often the machine is not working perfectly. . And the airline has a skeleton staff to help hundreds of people. Why? For the same reason you are once again packed into planes in the smallest possible seats, the most people in a plane possible. To make more money. To get to our boarding passes, have have documents passed and then the gate to the plane to Toronto, we had to chase a woman to help us twice. Then we had to get through a second row of machines before security. Once past this part, the situation is in reverse—now you must get out of this space where in US places it’s understood normal civil rights don’t count. And more rows of machines: this time spying on you: you must take a photo; you must supply information on where you are going and why. Surveillance. These are vast surveillance systems collecting information on everyone who goes through, and the authorities can stop anyone they want.  Izzy and I were not among those random checked arriving and it is our understanding there are no random tests leaving. And our plane was not delayed or cancelled—this is when you despair.

I find it so strange that no one recounts why airports are fraught experiences.

Why did I begin with Teachout? It’s crucial to recognize the analogy here with “Just in Time” buying of essential products for health by for-profit medicine. To recognize that the cameras, and fogged out lack of information surrounding truck-drivers, Amazon employees, Uber and Lyft drivers, and endless working and middle class jobs put people in a similar helpless position against “the bosses.” I tried to buy some needed summer clothes two nights ago using a catalogue and discovered that not just a few, but hardly any of the clothing the catalogue claimed it had in a warehouse, it actually had. Once you ordered an item, if they could, they’d have it for you in 6 weeks.

Unions can try to fight for decent conditions, higher wages, other forms of benefits for airport employees, and other kinds of employment with the employees work together in similar jobs, but in the airport all the consumer has is gov’t regulation (according to the GOP horrifying) and consumer protection agencies, bureaus and explicit laws and rules promulgated by agencies. No one should be traveling 5 days and nights to get somewhere where he paid to travel 24 hours.


Thao is just Izzy’s age; she came to George Mason University one summer to complete her BS (from the University of Toronto, one of its colleges). She was mostly alone and lacked a car, and emerged as a good student in my class. She came to my office and I began to drive her places, help her out, and we became friends. And then Izzy began to come with us: we all remember a happy afternoon together, which included seeing The City of Your Final Destination. This must’ve happened more than 15 years ago. We kept the friendship up over the years, and recently we have been face-timing once a month while she waited for her and Jeff’s first baby to arrive. I truly wanted to visit her, and Izzy was so comfortable with them. I saw her so relaxed on the balcony chatting away, and but for her I would not have begun to see all we did in Toronto. She had the spirit and the technical know-how — you need that on their subway. We needed a time away, it was so good to escape the ceaseless intense heat of the northern Virginia, Washington DC, southern Maryland area.

I had two delightful books with me: Anthony Trollope’s Last Chronicle of Barset and Joanna Trollope’s post-text to Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (the Austen book one of my very favorite of all texts). I had nothing else to type to, to watch, and could not fritter away time. I read in peace in our room. I tried to read at the airports but discovered I could not. Izzy had her cell phone (what a remarkable gadget) and her ipad and watched programs to enjoy the solitary and quieter times.

Maud Lewis, Three Black Cats (they are us too).

We did miss our cats, and I know they missed us, and we were glad to come home to them. I missed the fourth of Elaine Showalter’s wonderful series of classes on Difficult Women, Take Two, but was able to watch the recording last night. I miss my home and am eager to return to it as soon as a trip is done.

If you need to do research, if there is some place you so long to go and experience before you die, you might agree to yourself it’s worth it to experience this kind of abusive treatment. (I have said nothing of how crowded the planes are, how small the seats &c&c) — if you cannot get there by automobile, train, bus, or boat. But think many times.

And beyond that vote for people who want gov’t regulation, who want to protect our individual civil and other rights, who don’t want a world of helpless people treated as cogs for the economic exploitation of the few and powerful. Be sure and remember your experience and let it direct who you vote for.


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Beloved Clarycat in a sun puddle  — she stays near me, is with me day & night

Voters in Kansas overwhelmingly voted to reject an amendment to their constitution that would have stripped protections for abortion rights: this despite the wording of the question which made yes into no, & absolute lying texts about which vote was which. This in a state where GOP in charge, a so-called Red state


Dear friends and readers,

We’ve reached August, and it’s ferociously hot outside — 90F and high humidity so it feels like 107F. The heat exhausts me this year; so too my cats. One day they frightened me by not eating for what seemed 24+ hours, but what they wanted was a new brand — and they were hot because I had been gone for hours and put the air-conditioning up so as to save money. It’s also Laura’s 9th anniversary — married 9 years ago, together with him 18.

Laura and Rob — they’ve taken one vacation this summer and are about to take another (the first they went to a beach place for a week)

On my political blog I’ve been keeping track of the news from a general POV, but here as to inflation and the power of uncontrolled monopoly capitalism what is happening is felt directly by all of us now and it hurts. I pay on average every couple of weeks over $300 for food; my cleaning bills are well over $40 when Izzy goes out to work; $200 a month at least for the air-conditioning that makes living endurable. It now costs $25 to fill up my car (small). At the same time I was told by my financial advisor the literal amounts my investments are worth went down 10%; I have to pay Schwab hefty fees for taking care of what in detail I don’t understand. I am wondering if the advisor and consultant are paying as much attention to my portfolio as they once did.

I am among millions of people being squeezed. Corporate profits are soaring because they put prices up; they are doing all they can to stop legislation from helping people and dealing with climate change. Their power goes back to Citizens United where it was decided corporations are people and free speech= money. (The way fetuses are people but women it seems have no rights.)

Izzy and my visit to Thao and Jeff and baby William is next week! we will glimpse something of Toronto for two days. This necessitated filling out forms, and after all there is random testing on top of vaccination required at the airport. Doubtless what should be done but the whole situation — uncertain with virus morphing continually — is again a choice pushed on us by continual inadequate reactions and now cutting funding. If this had been the situation when I broached the idea I would not have gone through with it. And I’m told airports (Toronto-Pearson one of these) are madhouses with long delays. Of course not to worry the airlines are making any less money; the situation is that way because they’ve set it up to make sure they still make large profits while Covid is still scaring people, and others have decided they will not be as exploited as they were before the pandemic and not gone back to work at these terrible airport hangers. I’m always nervous about trips but I do want to go and see this young woman and so does Izzy.

Midsummer — planted hydrangeas doing well — a lovely white and blue flower

More news of this happier sort is my teaching is over and went very well. I had small classes, and it’s becoming obvious that in fact the population of the two OLLIs do not value the social contact as much as I had supposed and prefer online classes for convenience. I could attract a much larger class if I went online or (shudders) did a hybrid. I’ve now watched a hybrid while I was on campus: the teacher sits in front of a desk with a screen behind him or her of him or herself very large; in the room most of the seats were empty and perhaps 5 people literally there; to the side, a whole bunch in the gallery of tiles formation, many of them resolutely in black boxes (unseen). I am told if I’m home in a hybrid class I will no longer see the gallery, but just the teacher across the screen. Yuk. My habit for zooms is always to keep my view gallery view, including when I’ve given a talk.

I admit myself I’m attending two wonderful classes from Politics and Prose online: Elaine Showalter is just so insightful and well-informed on four women writers, and Helen Hooper can conduct a class discussion very well — at Politics and Prose just about everyone turns the camera on (as opposed to OLLI at Mason where just about everyone turns it off — I am an exception to that). I couldn’t come to the one in the evening. And my beloved London Society Trollope group comes from London. I admit my favorite of the novels of the two P&P classes has been Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (not my first time reading it) and I enjoyed mightily the recent movie by Dan Ireland (with Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend and Anna Massey and David Lang, who died during filming — it is a book and film about aging people and dying) even if it sentmentalised the book (which is not over-sad given what it shows about typical old age — loneliness is a central problem)

Anna Massey as Mrs Arbuthnot, what’s left of the usual cruel woman of Taylor’s books is more softened yet to the point we love her …

Nevertheless, as a teacher there is no comparison between teaching online and in person. Going in person is good for my mental health; also I find that when I’m in a zoom I can’t tell if the people are understanding the text; an example of this is I taught Christa Wolf’s Cassandra to a group at OLLI at Mason online and because a few people were talking, and two of them seem to have understood some things better than me I thought as a whole it had gone well. I go in person this summer for the same text, and within minutes I can see over 2/3s (a small class) were lost, so I ignored what I had and began by going over the overall story line of her trip to Greece (part of the book) — which they missed and it made a difference. Eyes lit up. You can get 4 way talk. I don’t use power-point and I show clips from movies only at the end of a course — after we’ve finished a book. Education comes from the talk with one another after reading excellent books. So I’ll hold out another term to remain in person, and only if the Trollope classes truly shrink will I return to online next spring (maybe).

I also finished my review of the Cambridge Complete Works of Anne Finch, and after three revisions, it’s accepted! What a relief. I feel relatively free. As I’ve said I am going to give a paper on the difference of studying an author through manuscripts than in printed books, with my two examples Jane Austen and Anne Finch, but for this I’ve done all the reading and thinking now and can draw on many blogs and reviews of editions of Austen’s manuscripts (also new Cambridge editions).

Elena (Lenu) and Raffaelle (Lila) don’t want to be lost to one another

So pleasing myself without regard for any commitments: tonight I watched the last episode of the second season of the film adaptation of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet (The Story of a New Name). It’s superb. Tomorrow night I’ll go on to the third season (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) and begin summarizing them towards a good blog: here is a fine review talking of why the series is so brilliant — the minute-by-minute intricate intimate kind of tracing of the girls’ experiences over a lifetime. I spent the last week and a half mesmerized by the five extant Persuasion movies and wrote a good blog (it includes a review of the latest 2022 adaptation). I’ve turned to new beloved books: Italian in William Weaver’s excellent translation, Bassanio’s The Heron, with Ferrante in the Italian as I go through the film episodes is a new one I’ve not mentioned. I devoured Joanna Trollope’s Other People’s Children; Angela Carter’s strange The Bloody Chamber and Other Tales (for Showalter’s course I admit).

I subscribed to the online edition of the New Statesman. Jim and I used to love it; it was our first subscription. Then during the 1980s we dropped it as costing us too much then, but here I am going to get it again as a digital edition. It is wonderfully intelligent and genuinely pro-labor.

I will remember Jim this way too

As to online (delightful commitments) my Trollope&Peers list we really talked in detail and openly, usefully about The Small House at Allingham; I am learning why The Eustace Diamonds is so popular (it is vigorous entertainment, very funny in its sardonic uses of dramatic irony over Wilkie Collins kinds of stories except Trollope tells you up front who did what so it’s more fun), and we return to E.M. Forster next week. The FB TWWRN book just now is Bowen’s remarkably evasive The House in Paris, and for once for a little while friendly and revealing talk with one another on Janeites discussing what we learn from Austen’s characters in her books. (Next up for me is Joanna Trollpe’s Sense and Sensibility – her method is the same as her ancestor and Austen, only less ironic).

Shall I confide here that Elaine Showalter said she’d like to take my course this fall at OLLI at AU (the two Trollopes) if she can get transportation — well I was that chuffed …

No summer should go by without at least one strong dose of Shakespeare and happily I saw an absorbing and enjoyable Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by the Folger Shakespeare Company at the National Building Museum (A Summer Frolic and Community Event)

One afternoon I spent with two OLLI girlfriends in a sumptuous (truly beautiful, therapeutic gardens all around) terrace room talking. Twice I’ve gone out with Betty from OLLI at AU to plays and lunch in DC (actually the food pretty bad in the famous place but good in an unknown one in Chinatown); twice out to a movie and lunch and twice home here for a movie I play on my TV with Panorea. So much for social life. Panorea and I have begun to dream of a trip next summer using Road Scholar to go island hopping in the Mediterranean or to Greece (Athens, then Crete — like Christa Wolf did in her Cassandra book).

On the theme of long-term worries, the weather itself — the fires I watched start up spontaneously in London when they had several days of 104F weather made me begin to cry — I am that attached; but also the fires here in the US destroying vast acres of houses, flooding Kentucky where everything one has is lost terrify me. This too could happen to my house and its irreplaceable treasures.

Kentucky flooding — lives lost too

London on fire — you’d think it was California

This is summer too nowadays —

and it is the saddest one I’ve known since the first summer Jim died. I don’t know why but maybe it is settling in he’s never coming back … and all that means. I like my new life insofar as the teaching is concerned, the friends I now have, my sense of self-dependence but all pales besides how bereft I really am

That concludes this evening, gentle reader, all might want to hear (and that decorum in public allows me to tell you), so I end on a summer image from a beautiful painting, early 20th century, Russian woman painter where I didn’t manage to take down her name


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