Archive for August, 2013

August 26, 2013

Love Affair with a Novel, Or, I HEART PRIDE & PREJUDICE

Words like “affable,” “particular,” “handsome,” and “tolerable” have spiked in usage in my internal monologue in the last few days, and in my speech and writing. I guess that’s what happens when I read Pride & Prejudice. Thanks, Jane Austen.

This was my fourth reading, and it was even more delicious this go round, possibly because I took my time. I was absolutely enchanted by Austen’s writing yet again. I paid particular attention to the information we are given about what is going on with Mr. Darcy and in his head; I had not noticed before how carefully but subtly Austen provides us with all the information we need to know that Mr. Darcy is (at least) a much better man than Elizabeth thinks he is. We are rooting for him way before Elizabeth falls in love, so when she finally does, we are terribly relieved. It is quite satisfying. [I might have squealed multiple times in the nail salon reading the last 50 pages. I think my mother would have been embarrassed. Had that happened. Hypothetically, of course.]

This is the book I want to have read the most times when I die.* It’s not that Mr. Darcy is the cat’s pajamas – I actually far prefer Mr. Knightley of the Austen heroes. It’s not that I closely identify with Elizabeth – I like her an awful lot, but I don’t see that much of me in her. It’s the writing. The writing is GLORIOUS. I truly think that Austen is at her best here, which is really saying something, because she was freaking brilliant.  Emma is lovely and witty and fun, but not overly so; Sense & Sensibility is desperately moving; Mansfield Park is like a guitar perfectly-tuned for a certain piece – it plays its song exceedingly well, producing the best of all possible Mansfield Parks; Northanger Abbey is devilishly clever and uproariously funny if you know anything about Gothic literature; Persuasion is quietly profound and has a depth that comes only with maturity. But the narrative style of Pride and Prejudice is peerless. In beauty, wit, and heart, P & P is simply the best.

In celebration of the awesomeness of my favorite novel of all time, I am going to be posting some of my favorite passages from it at random for the next few months. And, if the Bank of England really does put Austen on the 10-pound note 2017, you just know I’m going to England to get one. (Well, that will be my excuse, anyway.)

Also, I must say that I think Austen’s use of the dash has got to be at least as interesting as Emily Dickinson’s, even though that has nothing to do with the rest of this post.

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*Okay, that’s not technically true; I want to have read the entire Bible many more times than Pride and Prejudice. But I feel like the Bible is in a separate category from other books – you know, the whole dual-authorship, and one of those authors being God, of every book kind of sets apart.

And, to be practical,  the book I will probably have read the most is The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Each Peach Pear Plum or The Runaway Bunny or something.

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August 20, 2013

Westley: An Update

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It’s been about six and a half months since I brought Westley home. Despite a few rough patches in the beginning, we have made excellent progress, and are settled into something that decently approximates a schedule. He had a lot of trouble getting used to my dad, but they exist in affable companionship now. He has definitely decided that he likes the whole family, except maybe Brad. Brad is so short compared to the rest of us; I think Westley hasn’t figured out what species he is yet. Lately, when my mother and I are in the same room with him, and one of us gets up to go to another room, he experiences visible distress as he tries to figure out who he should stay with.

Westley’s a bit neurotic and definitely has more than a touch of OCD. His foster mom described him as routine-driven, which is a massive understatement when he’s a solo dog, as it turns out. He’s kind of emotionally needy. (That’s a massive understatement, too.) He is affectionate and demands affection from us, but can decide suddenly that he needs space. He is even more food driven than he was when I got him – he goes and stands in his crate about 30 times a day in hopes of getting a treat. He is silly sometimes, and these days plays at least once a day. (It took him weeks to figure out the whole playing thing.) He is shockingly obedient 90% of the time with commands he knows – “down,” “leave it,” and “sit” he totally owns. “Off” is the one he sometimes has trouble with. He seems to think “stay” is an interjection of indeterminate meaning.

I am most amused these days by Westley’s butter obsession. If you go to the fridge and pull out a box of strawberries, he’ll still be in the den lying on his bed. But the second he hears the butter tray cover move, he is THERE. He has, so far as we know, eaten about a stick and a half of butter since we got him – he once got a whole stick of it off the counter. He’s not nearly as bad a “counter-surfer” as he used to be, but he manages to swipe something or put those big front paws of his on the counter and inspect the “offerings” once a week or so.

Because he is so routine-oriented, it has taken awhile for him to learn some basic things like “Mommy always comes home eventually,” “Mommy always comes home eventually,” and “Mommy always comes home eventually.” Here are some other things he’s figured out.

  • Uncle KJ goes and comes and comes and goes. He is my very favorite person who isn’t Mommy. Or Nana, sometimes. Or whoever has a treat.
  • Nana is great to hang out with when Mommy is gone (and sometimes even when Mommy is not gone).
  • Grandpa is pretty nice.
  • Aunt Katie takes me on walks ALL THE TIME when I’m at her house.
  • But she doesn’t like me running around when the baby is up.
  • The baby is weird.
  • Uncle David lives at Aunt Katie’s house. He is fun when we are outside. He is boring inside.
  • I rather dislike being wet, but if I’m going to get a little muddy, I might as well get REALLY muddy all over.
  • Getting a bath won’t cause me any permanent physical damage.
  • Apple flavored treats are the best! OMG!

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August 12, 2013

On Writing, Lately

One thing that I have noticed about myself of late is that I often do not feel that I have anything of value to say. Those of you who know me in “real life” will probably smile at that, since I am quite a talker and often say all sorts of things. I think my year of illness has humbled me, though, has made me realize that I am neither as smart nor as wise as I perhaps used to think.

I have a lot of thoughts, of course, and a few of them seem to possibly be, if not true diamonds in the rough, perhaps Cape May diamonds in the rough. But I can see that they are, indeed, still quite rough, and I am much more hesitant to make a strong argument – or publish a blog post – if I cannot see pretty well where it will end, and that it got there in a reliably reasonable fashion. I am much more exploratory these days than argumentative. It’s new territory, and a little unnerving for some reason.

That said, my goal this summer has been to post once a week. I haven’t always accomplished this goal, and you may have noticed that more than the usual percentage of posts have been quotes from authors great and small (mostly great, though, I think). But I’m okay with both of those facts, and pleased with the results thus far. And so I will keep up the “post about once a week” habit as I can through the end of the year. It has been a good thing, to be on the lookout for something worth saying or quoting, every week. Maybe I’ll find some new gems for you, gentle reader. In the meantime, I will do a lot of reading and listening and pondering. Perhaps some of these rough ideas will smooth out enough to be fit for a reader’s consumption.

August 5, 2013

Jesus, Master, …

Jesus, Master, whom I serve, though so feebly and so ill,
Strengthen hand and heart and nerve all Thy bidding to fulfill.
Open Thou my eyes to see all the work Thou hast for me.

“Jesus, Master, Whose I Am,” verse 3, by Francis Havergal