03 July 2018

trying to become jane

scrolling through the list of suggestions provided by my library (supposedly based on my reading history and habits), I came across the clearly chick-lit cover of austensibly ordinary by alyssa goodnight.

I knew some things right away, like,
1 this was a real cute retelling of one -- or possibly all! -- the austen novels, and
2 it sucked.
judgy mcjudgerson, book by its cover.

I made a bet with myself and clicked on the book link, just to be met by this review: "Sexy, saucy, fun! Jane Austen would be proud!"


I rarely feel so much rage towards an inanimate object -- or inane reviewer, who probably doesn't even know the author misspelled 'ostensibly' to make a painfully meaningless title just to recall an author who would actually hate it. no, worse: she'd laugh at it.

I don't think of myself as a janeite, but I am well-versed in her work and hold the classic lit of the classic brit in great veneration. I am not above satirical derivative works; I am not above adaptions (LBD was brilliant). but this is a cheap shot.

this is a woman who has misunderstood the fundamental meaning of austen's work, and done the exact thing austen was protesting when she shaped her heroines -- and heroes -- in the quiet drawing-room.

for jane, it's not about the romance. it's about the development. romance is almost the macguffin to get the characters to become better people. the goal of the story is not a resolved relationship -- none of the heroines set out to gain one.

for jane, it's about the women! it's not about how they need/want to be married/going steady with a really hot guy. in jane's time, marriage was status and life was hard for a single woman, so she ends her novels with married (read: secure & happy) heroines. but it's really about how they grow and become real people with real voices, if only in their immediate communities. the fact that they couldn't be respected before marriage may be a failing of society jane herself didn't recognize or feel capable of combatting, but she's working with what she has.

goodnight's book & others like it just reduce women to sex and relationship objects. it's all about them finding their match -- instead of having or developing worth on their own.

no, jane was not opposed to novels and disagreed with their detractors. novels are fun. but her "novels are fun" message appears within the novel she wrote to make fun of an overwrought storyline (see northanger abbey). compare to goodnight's stupid paranormal diary. austen would write a satire of this, if she could make it through the book in the first place.

moving away from jane, goodnight doesn't understand how austen plots work. unable to draw a good character herself, she can't even understand how a good character operates. she draws on superficial similarities (single cate = single emma; single friend evan = single mr. knightley) when the real similarities would be in their relationship (cate, full of herself and her abilities, would try to make decisions for the people she patronizes; evan, fed up with her selfishness, would tell her the tough truth. instead, we get sex-crazed cate who wants to date someone -- ANYONE!!! -- and evan who plays a little hard-to-get & mysterious). emma & knightley show real love, growing to put the other's best interests first; every successful austen couple has their relationship tested by hard-truth-telling -- not by a one-night stand with a guy whose tousled brown hair (...honestly...) makes you weak in the knees.

some subpoints about goodnight's book:
- it's the mark of a weak author who has to use implausibility as a motivator. when you have to make up fantastical happenings to move your plot along, you have a poor plot.*

*I'm not talking about a fantasy story, where the fictional world is founded upon principles that don't exist in ours. those should still be consistent within themselves, but I'm talking about a story set in our world that has to use ***MaGiC!!!*** because the author can't figure out how to get the characters out of a situation without just making them out of it.

- the petulant "heroine" is given lines in an attempt at clever banter, but it's just not. it's not even amusing. it's just stupid, and anyone who thinks it's funny hasn't read enough actual good written conversation. ...hey, I know a good author for that! jane austen!

probably my biggest issue: the point of mr. darcy. is not. to. be. hot. I don't know what austen people are reading. yes, darcy is rich. darcy is handsome. also, darcy is proud. darcy is rude to the people he sees as beneath him, which would be everyone he doesn't know who is also poor and/or uneducated (in the social niceties or intellectually). darcy is kind of a stick-in-the-mud even at the end. and heck, he's super awkward.

I love him as a character; I love that austen takes typical human foibles and works them out of him through a similarly obnoxious (but slightly more lovable) character and helps them make each other better people. would darcy be my favorite hero if he weren't so cliched? perhaps (but srsly henry tilney u guise). THAT STILL DOESN'T GIVE HIM A BROODING SMOLDER.

true love has never been built on a brooding smolder, plus darcy doesn't brood; he is disgusted with the pleb. that's you. do you think darcy would smolder broodingly at you, reader of alyssa goodnight, or do you think he would mutter "every savage can read" as he looks to caroline for the only source of civilized, educated conversation in the room? if you read it and think you're lizzy, you're actually behaving like lydia. darcy would as soon call your mother a wit.

austen wasn't about sex. austen wasn't about sauciness for sauciness' sake. austen was about questioning the social mores to determine what is actually right? what is actually equal? why do we do what we do, and how can we be happy even within unfair constraints? she used relationships to show those things, and yes, to give us the neat, happy ending we all want to see. "sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world -- except for a nice MLT, mutton lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is sliced thin and the tomato is ripe. so perky, I love that."

I think austen would be amused and horrified at this book, which reduces the theoretically well-educated and thoughtful cate to a man-hungry, emotionally immature kindergartner. goodnight -- while claiming, through cate, to be an avid fan and deep reader of austen's novels -- writes a novel that mistakes jane's real messages and mistakes the actions of jane's characters. cate has to "make her own happy ending" like austen's heroines?? none of them does that. not a single one is on the lookout for a happy ending (read: relationship!) and in fact the characters who are (LYDIA) are examples of what not to do.

relationships come as the heroines are ready, and we see a plethora of bad combos in the secondaries: marriage for convenience, not love (charlotte + collins), marriage for love with little respect (jane f + frank c), marriage for superficial attraction (mr. + mrs. bennet), marriage for material gain (willoughby + miss grey), just sex (lydia + wickham, col. brandon's niece + willoughby), marriage for immediacy (charles + whichever elliot sister he married & regretted because he likes anne better). the only relationships that work are ones built on mutual esteem and respect, and that sets the foundation for true love whether before or after marriage: the gardiners. the darcys. the brandons. the ferrars. the tilneys. the wentworths.

there is sexual tension in goodnight's story. there is physical attraction. there is flirtation and "witty" banter (reminds me of marianne and willoughby, those eternal symbols of constancy and truth). but there is no mutual respect and esteem. there is no true friendship, which is putting the friend first by speaking the hard truth that they need to hear. you want to read jane austen fanfic? okay. honestly, that's personal taste, and we aren't all going to agree on what should or shouldn't be liked. but you can't call it in any way like jane austen -- and certainly not something jane austen would like -- just because some superficial plot points resemble one another.

plus that's such a weird use of "ostensibly."

- - -
huge disclaimer: I didn't read the book. I read the first two chapters (library sample), and then I read several synopses and reviews on personal blogs and goodreads. ...positive reviews, no less, by people who gave this book five stars for its hilarity and engaging fun (like this one). I can only go off my excerpt (and to me, trust me, it was plenty) and the summary of the plot provided by people who "can't recommend it enough". take my discussion with a grain of salt, and form your own opinion -- which is all any of us can ever do, really.

20 June 2018

the darkness of the light

last post was such a nice, whole-blog wrap-up that I thought I was done. I wanted to be done: farewell, sweet blog, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ...alas, real life cannot be neatly solved with a goblet of poison and a flick of the rapier. (rather, of course life can literally be dispatched with a goblet of poison and/or fancy sword work, but my point is this blog situation doesn't offer such a tidy conclusion.)

ALL THAT TO SAY: I never know how to come back when I decide I'm going to go and then change my mind. I am the definition of commitment issues. "YOU (you) don't really wanna STAY (no), but YOU (you) don't really wanna GO-oh" sort of thing. call me alexander.

my tangents, man. this needs to stop. let me get it together.

when I was smoll and still schooling at the home, one of the books that's lasted as a favorite was d'aulaire's book of greek myths. it's a huge treasure-trove of, ha, greek myths and I've loved them ever since whenever that was -- a good ten years ago at this point. one of my favorite stories -- so sweet, so sad -- was the myth of hades and persephone. I loved the pathos of hades' loneliness, persephone's innocence, his sort of terrible, sort of creepily sweet abduction: a little hopeless, because how could she fit in with his realm? but of course he longs for life. it's selfish, but totally understandable.

it's terribly sad how much her mother misses and mourns her, and terrible that persephone is imprisoned and tricked into eating seeds from the underworld so she always has to come back. when I first read the story, I felt this indignation towards the typically selfish god who tricks others into giving him what he wants at their own expense. it was like phantom of the opera the way it almost ended, which is of course the enduring charm of PtO, because he doesn't keep her. buuuut nooooo for hades, and there's a reason nobody believes in the greek gods anymore. gee, I wonder why they broke up.

but as I got older, I felt a small tugging in my shipper heart for the two. what if persephone wasn't all that stupid, and didn't mind being queen of the realm -- having a dark, quiet god who loved only her? he didn't seem so terrible. ...but I wasn't writing any fanfiction about it.

recently, I've come across some other books whose authors apparently thought of the same thing. (personally: not a fan. they just aren't that good, and they're a little heavy-handed with the romance as far as I've skimmed.) it was an interesting coincidence to come across carol tufts' poem "Hades and Persephone" yesterday; I was first indifferent, then intrigued, and it's now been entered in my poem-collection book where I keep all these precious things in one analog spot.

Ravishing, he rose at her from the gaping earth
like nothing she had ever beheld
blooming there before...

"ravishing" is an interesting word: 'to ravish' has unpleasant historical connotations of rape, but has been softened over the years to something along the lines of 'laid prostrate by'. you're taken over, enraptured; sort of how "thrall" used to be synonymous with "slave" but now "enthralled" creates a positive, less physical twist -- you're taken with something to the point of serving it. someone or something "ravishing" is overwhelmingly beautiful; but there's still an undercurrent of darkness (darkness, haha, cuz this is hades) in google's synonyms: 'to ravish,' definition two, is to "enrapture, enchant, delight, charm, entrance, enthrall, captivate." it's not totally of the self, it's a little bit magicked. (also, notice the 'enthralled' entry. that was seriously a coincidence to my mention.) he takes her by surprise, and is oddly attractive to her.

and look, it's only been the first word.

I love how tufts uses "ravishing," "rose," and "blooming" in connotation with the lord of the underworld. he's dark and gloomy and cold and quiet and -- not evil; not death; but not exactly good either. and here persephone perceives him through the language of light and flowers, the only way she knows (even though "rose" is a verb here. he still "rose...blooming there". I think tufts knew what she was doing).

his "bleak shadow" begins to wither all the life around him. oddly enough, this isn't terrifying. tufts doesn't make him an ombra-like spirit-sucker, he just appears and sadly kills everything he touches. hades feels resigned here, even though he's active in coming for the goddess. this might be from tufts' use of present participles: -ing words, a little less active than if "his bleak shadow / strangled the insipid flowers, / bleached the easy green from the grass". it kind of happens, and he's not necessarily trying.

the first clue that persephone isn't scared and doesn't mind is I think "Ravishing...". it's not "Terrifying, he rose at her...". if you take "ravishing" in the same sense as "strangling" and "bleaching," then he's not trying to attract her, which makes it a little less romantic. he comes to find persephone, kills the flowers he moves across, and happens to make her attracted to him -- but it's never about her or what she wants. but okay, let's not go that direction just yet.

the second clue that persephone isn't scared and doesn't mind is his "relieving her of birdsong and bouquets". that may even be the third, if you count the "insipid flowers" he kills -- if these are her thoughts describing the situation. she's mesmerized by this new kind of "flower", and all the world she's known till now is dull and something of a burden. did she think it was a burden before? did it only become a burden when he appeared? but at this point, he's ravishing, and that's all that matters in infatuation.

does persephone know he's from the Deep Dark Depths of the Realm of the Dead? is this a death-wish? is life too heavy, too rich for her? I was reminded of janet loxley lewis's "Austerity," whose narrator "Hated the life in the turfy meadow, / hated the heavy, sensuous bees." the beautiful descriptions of growing life -- "birdsong and bouquets, / the rows of oats blowing silver in the sun" -- are all of a sudden a responsibility persephone seems weary of.

and so instead of an aggressive hades swooping in and snatching up a terrified, helpless, innocent, life-loving maiden with a disney-like bird landing on her welcoming finger... we get a woman, tired of ceaseless life, intrigued, irresistibly drawn, suddenly captivated by a new phenomenon -- who approaches quietly and sternly and "relieves" her of her living burdens.

"so she let him take her in his shrouding arms." if that wasn't a straight-up message that persephone wants to die, gosh, I don't know what you want to hear. still, there's an element of autonomy: he doesn't grab her, he embraces her, and she lets him. this is so gentle, so quiet; unannounced and unassuming. the "stricken garlands" slide from her and she disappears underground as a peacock wails and the earth closes over her head.

-- two things here: more -ing words and peacocks.
I don't know what tufts is trying to convey with the constant inging, but one -ing word appears in every single line of this first stanza, and I think that's important. to me, the -ings frequently indicate an essentialness to their descriptors: hades is in essence ravishing. he doesn't try, he just is. his shadow is strangling, bleaching, relieving; his arms are shrouding. the peacock isn't necessarily always, in essence, "beginning", but at the same time, this first stanza is strongly reminiscent of a moment frozen in time, like keats's "ode on a grecian urn". keats uses -ings, too, because this is all constantly yet never happening -- both at once.

that's the joy:

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
   Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And happy melodist, unwearied,
   For ever piping songs for ever new; 

and that's also the tragedy of this "Cold Pastoral": "Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, / Though winning near the goal" (both emphases mine).

there are more interesting word-choice parallels between keats and tufts here. take the first stanza (all bolding mine)(-ing! augh, it's contagious):

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
   Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
   A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
   What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

we've already seen that persephone isn't quite the "maiden loth", but we also know that in the original myth she totes is, and that tufts is taking some flights of fancy here with her poetic license. so the narratives provide an interesting comparison. keats himself is contrasting the raucous hilarity of the envisioned party with the silence of the image on the urn; tufts is changing the story of a terrifying abduction to a gentle, silent interaction between the personifications of life and death: the lovely life, wearied, welcoming death as a relief. (welcoming. see what I did there.)

also peacocks. in my extensive research of peacock symbolism (read: 30-second use of the interwebs), apparently for a time in greek culture, peacocks represented immortality. (thanks to the d'aulaires, I already knew the story of argus and his 100 eyes (it's a good story, look it up), but that doesn't seem to relate.) if that's the case and tufts knew it, the peacock wailing as persephone goes "down once more to the dungeon of hades' black despair" is an interesting feature -- persephone, a goddess, is immortal, but as the representative of life she's just been taken captive by death (or at least the guardian of the dead. hades wasn't literally the grim reaper. work with me here). does the peacock remind us that she can't actually die, that giving up her living rule on earth doesn't mean she gets to abscond forever? or is the peacock just a sad, eerie note, crying where persephone was silent? it almost mourns for her as she goes beneath "the sealing earth." it's a grave.

the peacock's cry -- the second indication of sound in the poem, after the "birdsong" in line 6 -- is at least a final reminder of the sounds of earth. beneath, it is silent

...As if all trilling nature had loosed
Its rush of sound from around her
And she found herself begin
To weep

aren't the words themselves a beautiful whisper? from the rolling -ings to this nearly -ing-less section, replaced with "sh" and "ou" and "s": papery, rustling. quiet. persephone, still alive, -ings her way through the last half of the verse: "turning," "making," "budding," "cloying."

the line "Turning her eyes / from his untried kindnesses" confused me for awhile; it's one of those lines I feel but am not quite sure I actually understand. I think it's a further example of hades' good-guy (well; not-bad-guy) representation. he brings her down and -- silently?* -- offers further kindness (beyond the 'rescue' from life and responsibility). she merely turns away and cries, as if "she grieved / for the temperate pleasures he had undone" but actually from amazement and relief.

*interesting note. these two never talk. is this lack of communication part of hades' misunderstanding that she wants to go? are they somehow incapable of talking to one another? persephone I would absolutely expect to make noise, but is hades only able to be -- forgive me -- silent as the grave?

persephone isn't "half-sick of shadows," she's thoroughly sick of the real deal, "the ceaseless budding / and flowering, the ripeness / cloying at desire." it's like too real to be real; always summer and never christmas would get old pretty quickly. except that it wouldn't get old, because it's always young. I sort of understand how she feels.

remember that part of Tuck Everlasting where tuck takes winnie in the boat and explains life to her?
"But dying's part of the wheel, right there next to being born.... If I knowed how to climb back on the wheel, I'd do it in a minute. You can't have living without dying. So you can't call it living, what we got.... I want to grow again," he said fiercely, "and change. And if that means I got to move on at the end of it, then I want that, too.... Can you picture what that means? Forever? The wheel would keep on going round and round, the water rolling by to the ocean, but the people would have turned into nothing but rocks by the side of the road." (pg 64)
persephone felt it in the always-living things around her; what is light without darkness? birth without death? what is persephone without hades? and here's an interesting line, "ripeness / cloying at desire." think back to keats:

More happy love! more happy, happy love!
   For ever warm, and still to be enjoy'd,
      For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
   That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd
      A burning forehead and a parching tongue.

keats's conclusion is that this frozenness is a blessing: the Bold Lover may always chase, but his love will always be fair. their physical passion will never die. it's not so bad, after all! persephone thinks otherwise. the constant budding and ripeness is cloying, too, and she longs for the cool quietness of death.

I'll read into the poem a little bit here. "When at last he thought to offer" could be hades frantically (or as frantic as this quiet god gets) searching for something to make her happy. I like to imagine that here, in the darkness, he silently offers her the various inanimate fruits of his kingdom, suddenly placing them before her tearful face, and growing more desperate as he sees (what he thinks is) her sorrow for the world above. (love the grieve/believe word combo as well.)

now: it's the part of the story we've all been waiting for. hades offers persephone the definitive pomegranate. perhaps it's the most alive thing he can find in his underworld, and he hopes to bring a bit of her world to comfort her. pomegranates: in my extensive research of pomegranate symbolism (read: 30-second use of the interwebs), apparently these stood for some variety of life and death, immortality, and fertility -- but this also appeared in the original, not just in tufts' work, so it really did mean something. the fruit symbol makes sense with a lot of the themes in the story and in the poem, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to piece those themes together, so I'm going to move on.

When at last he thought to offer
the split pomegranate, the clotted seeds
slick as beaded blood
in the sweating wound she made of him ...

this is the first time I'm genuinely disturbed. this is kind of graphic. not only does it feel subtly sexual, it also feels like something isn't quite right with our girl 'seph. cloying fruit felt overripe, warm, rotten, and the underworld felt cool and dry and safe. but all of a sudden it's wet and damp and she's sucking on a fruit that recalls the imagery of the "gaping earth" from the beginning. this doesn't feel wholesome anymore (I mean, if it ever did).

but let's keep it classy. hades is desperate to keep her. she made of him a sweating wound: is this his heart, broken and bleeding because of his love for her? let's say it is because I prefer that. my interpretation. you don't like it, you can go write your own.

... she brought his chilly hand to her lips
and sucked the musky fruit
enough to hold him those measured months
where he waited to possess once more
what had been lost to him --

"musky fruit." it's not fresh. it's not moderately alive. there is something very intimate about this action -- she takes his hand in hers and uses it as a dish (almost like psyche cupping her hands to offer orual a drink). but she eats the seeds, and considering the words of the poem, it makes her something of an inside-out vampire: not death, feeding on lifeblood, this is life, feeding on deathblood. which is somehow a little insane and a little more creepy.

update: after letting this rest for a night and coming back -- seriously, I can't stop thinking about this poem -- I'm wondering if there's even more to the pomegranate. is it somehow this representation of hades? persephone makes of him a sweating wound, so the beaded blood is his, in a way. the fruit is musky, of the underworld; as he was "ravishing" and offered himself to her, now he offers her this fruit. that makes it seems like an extension of him. she eats these grains and they become both part of her and lost to him, although they also serve to bring her back ("As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you. And if you were to leave I'm afraid that cord of communication would snap. And I have a notion that I'd take to bleeding inwardly"). 

as persephone is life, feeding on death, so hades is death, feeding on life. spoilers: he's preying on her, too, with his embrace.

tufts' poem is full of inversions. of course, we have persephone who loves hades, here, and accepts his advances; persephone who hates life; persephone who wants to stay in the underworld, though he thinks she wants to go; persephone who sucks musky fruit "slick as beaded blood"; and she eats "enough to hold him those measured months / where he waited". I don't know -- if hades could get only one musky pomegranate to try to make her happy, maybe she realizes all she has to do is make it through this bloody trial to stay with him. maybe she eats the pomegranate not with enjoyment but because she wants "to hold him those measured months" and this is the only way.

so what had been lost to him?

the grainy fragrance of the living world,

and how?

the flush loveliness of summer
fading in his famished embrace.

-ing. look at it. the living world, fading. fading because he embraces it.
to hades, the living world is as beautiful as the dead world is to persephone. he loves her light; she loves his dark. he didn't try to bleach and strangle, but he can't help it, and he brought her down to have some life with him -- but for all he knows, she cries to leave and begins to wilt herself, "fading in his famished embrace." so here's another inversion: instead of the pomegranate being persephone's traditional trap to return, the pomegranate becomes hades letting her go.

hades, as god of the underworld, provided balance. he kept the dead in line, and the dead had to be or, like tuck said, "You can't call it living, what we got." but an eternity of death is just as bad as an eternity of life, if you only see one and not the other. it leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd.

persephone, in all her actions, longs for death, from accepting hades' embrace to eating the fruit of the underworld (which would seal her fate to remain). hades, in all his actions, longs for life, and the lost fragrance and beauty of the living world -- which he can't help but kill. persephone herself fades in his famished embrace, and the pomegranate alone provides a heartbreaking compromise: they both must be alone to survive together.

*in trying to come up with a good title for this post, I thought of "the pomegranate compromise" and couldn't stop my mind from thinking "the pomcom" and that is making me laugh harder than my sophisticated sense of humor is comfortable with.

01 January 2018

the last revolving year

because I have an overactive imagination, this blog feels like an untouchable record of days past. I've become separated enough from it that I sort of don't feel welcome back: the book has been sealed! touch not! and wonder, till it drives you mad, what would have followed if you had

but I bide the danger, return to my dusty place and find myself rather changed. it's been almost a year, guys (okay: seven months), and that's a long time. people have had babies in less.

-- no, I haven't had a baby. and no, I'm not having a baby. I'm just saying. the ol blogging routine doesn't fit quite as comfortably as it once did, kind of like those pants you can't wear now that you've given birth. 

still not pregnant! just using the overcomplicated-simile trick to make you wonder.

*edit: I accidentally deleted an entire paragraph here while writing this, so there's a whole thought transition missing -- that I don't remember and am not interested in trying to recreate. we'll just in medias res this popsicle stand.

morbid thoughts spring more easily to mind these days, with a hard deadline looming for the next big life milestone. it's a little surreal. it reminds me of graduating high school, actually, and the strangeness I felt as I realized that "this grade is the end of the line for some people;" that technically I could be done with school forever if I wanted to be. it was a big breaking point, a whole new Thing that I'd never encountered in the cyclical years of childhood.

that's the thing. growing up is very, very cyclical. school in the fall, break in december, school in the spring, road trippin in the summer, school in the fall, et cetera, seemingly ad infinitum. growing older doesn't mean much when you're five or eight or thirteen, it's just an ever-clarifying trip revisiting where you've been before. and then you're finishing high school and the years start to differentiate; and while "next year" at age 12 felt like a chance to redeem all the things you missed during this one at age 11, now that you're 18, 22, you're just hurtling forward through the universe and what's past is irretrievably, irredeemably past.

...is how it always seemed to me. I've had this weird sensation before of realizing this is my one shot: I have one life and it's now and I'll never be <here> again. the sensation is all the weirder when I realize that realization comes from feeling like I've either lived something before or that I'll have the chance to live it again. and I think that multiple-lives feeling stems from my very predictable years as a kid, when the seasons held the same things (with reasonable variation), and it felt like I'd be circling forever. until I wasn't.

any semblance of this circular motion ends for sure in april -- after which I won't even have the structure of school/summer in my life, which I find both terrifying and exhilarating. to continue with the circle game theme, and if life really is an amusement park with the merry-go-round for childhood, I guess I'm moving on to the big-kid rides. we're hitting up T2, montezuma's revenge, friggin ride of steel, and I am going up and growing up. and I plan to have 
a thrilling time experiencing everything.

01 May 2017

change & hope

there are a lot of things that scare and unnerve me, honestly, from burglars to stephen king novels to the dark, but I think my worst fear is ultimately change. I hate change. (not the nice jingle-jangle hot little hebrew coin kind, the variability and mutation and uncertainty kind that leads to scary words like "different" and "progress".)

I know that being scared of progress is one of the stupidest fears to have, but I really hate the idea of infinity and rushing on to an indefinite end -- which is what I feel progress is. like, the ingenuity of man is so immense that I know people will continue to imagine and create on into the future, but part of me feels that we can only actually get so far; that we can only progress to a certain point and won't be able to go any farther. so I'm like, maybe we can slow down a little and not get there so fast? -- I don't actually articulate this. but that's the sort of feeling I get.

the pressure to continually make original things is another part of 'progress' terrifying to me. (a new iphone every year? I actively don't think about it, because I get stressed.) I suppose I feel like the world can only hold so much or so many, and we're overcrowding the categories of 'things that are' with more. (typefaces. it really makes me weirdly uncomfortable thinking about all the new fonts churned out every day, because don't we have enough? aren't we filling the world up unnecessarily, and haven't we already exhausted the possible design combinations??)

is this weird?

well, probably, but I have these thoughts. really I brought up my overarching fear of change because it's something I recognized not too long ago and think is actually a problem that needs to be fixed. I'm so uncomfortable with change -- partly because it's so exhausting keeping up with the constant happenings of the world in news and politics and wars, personal events in town, larger-scale things in the state or country or world -- that I end up avoiding everything because I just don't feel capable of facing it. how is that being a productive member of society?

fear of change, for me, is tied in several ways to laziness. it means I don't have to pursue making anything better, because it's probably good enough. I don't itch to learn new things or expand my knowledge; I just know I'm going to be the old lady who still uses a laptop with a cord!!! in like 50 years because I won't be willing to learn whatever technology the kids are using in 2067. I feel it in my young bones already.

this summer I want to practice embracing change and new things. new things don't need to scare me. new things, I've found, are never as scary when you actually face them as they were when you sat around not facing them but imagining the worst-case scenario of what it would probably be like. ultimately, change will happen whether I want it to or not, so I might as well get used to it and go along with it. I hate that change is messy; but the things is, I don't have to always be in control. I can let things go and relax -- because again, messy will happen whether I want it to or not, so I might as well get used to it. I can practice dealing with change: a much better skill than successfully avoiding it. I don't want to stagnate, either!

really, what's so bad about something new? I don't want the unfamiliarity, the not-knowing, the out-of-my-control, and -- like when it comes to language -- it already works just fine! why change it? I like it the way it is. I love that we can read the history of english in its words, trace etymology and culture through the yes, inconsistent-as-a-spelling-system inventory of english lexical entries. I worry that in a few generations people will need shakespeare translated like chaucer.

so I remind myself that -- hey. it's going to happen. you can do nothing to stop it, so don't waste your time fretting over it. I may not like the specific "progress" made somewhere, but the world would be boring if it was forever the same. and even in design, aren't we always told "done not perfect"? things can always be better, and I can at least spend my life making things around me better -- changing them.
that's my big thought for this summer: I want to be okay with new. to flex when things don't go as planned, learn to let go of my expectations and fears about the future. there's always hope, so just roll with it: everything will be okay.

18 March 2017

:: ships & symmetry ::

my english teacher is really into geometrical literature.

that's my own term. one of her favorite ways of examining the text is looking at the symmetries, plot and otherwise, and the relationship triangles; the relationship rectangles, in some cases. it's a surprisingly useful tool when trying to analyze that subtle something you feel exists in the book but you can't quite grasp (that does happen to other people, too, right?).

this totally came up during jane austen's sense & sensibility, and we looked at the specifically love triangles first. *note: I don't mean "love triangles" in the typical two-guys-competing-for-one-girl, necessarily, but that one person connects two others either by giving or receiving love in some way.


just to touch on the two guys specifically, both are dependent on an older female (ed's mom/w's aunt, mrs. smith) for their income and that forces their behavior early on in the book. ed secretly gets engaged to lucy, but honorably stands by her when his mother threatens disinheritance. w secretly sees marianne, and dishonorably abandons her (as he's abandoned others before) for a richer woman. edward eventually gains his inheritance back and the woman he loves, while willoughby repents too late and always sort of regrets his choices -- he's not a very remorseful person. and his life just isn't that rough.


mother-daughter triangles. the mothers -- who all seem to be incompetent in austen; along with the fathers, who frequently don't exist at all -- are the silly characters who encourage their children towards foolishness. these mothers both have a romantic, excess-of-feeling daughter and a calmer, colder, more practical daughter; ultimately, it's the sense that advances in the world. both elinor and lady middleton marry up, and marianne only does because she becomes more staid in her feelings. and marianne has a lot of feelings. like, she doesn't even go here.


little refresher: col. b loved eliza #1. she was forced into marriage with col. b's older brother, who didn't love her, didn't treat her well, and essentially whose fault it was when she ran off with another guy and became a social outcast. (a lot of interesting things here about eliza #2, col. b, and willoughby, but we'll skip that for now. think about it on your own.)

both col. b and ed are younger sons, the girls they fall in love with are wards of semi-relations, and both first loves are married to the guys' older brothers. the older brothers are clearly out for what they can get, the younger are the ones with honor who pick up the pieces; both younger brothers are eventually "consoled" with the advent of better-suited second loves (...edward doesn't seem so broke up).

pretty cool.

and then on a different note -- what if

brandon : eliza-who-marries-his-brother :: rowland rochester : bertha-who-marries-his-brother?!
it's like a whole new angle on wide sargasso sea.

09 March 2017

:: I'm baaaa-aaack ::

something has been bothering me for a week or so now. I was poking around my old blog posts (because I do that sometimes, it keeps me humble) and found several places where I referred to war & peace between the first time I read it and the latest time I read it. -- I swear guys, I'll stop talking about this book soon. really, really soon. just give me a sec.

I found two different places where I was all, oh, andrei and sonya, shipped forever and I just want to say I'M TERRIBLY SORRY ABOUT THIS, GUYS. I was young, naive, and stupid, and more clearly here than anywhere else had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I apologize for any error I've led you into.

frankly, I sat there for a few minutes trying to figure out if I really meant That Andrei and That Sonya, and when I figured out I did it was like dying a thousand deaths of embarrassment. so not cool (the dying, embarrassment, and proposed relationship).

alrighty! moving on!

spring break is this week and I'm carving out time now to do a thing on tennyson's 'ulysses' and maybe one or two other things about jane austen or wilkie collins -- because guess what class I'm taking this semester, 19th-century brit lit, that's right folks, AND I ALREADY OWNED ALL THE BOOKS.

except one. I didn't own cranford. but now I do! and it's been super fantastic. fact: I'm the only non-english major in the class. also fact: I still managed to pull a 104/100 grade on the midterm (I got all the extra credit on top of full credit for the actual test + essay). final fact: it was the only 104/100 in the class.

really, it's not bragging. it's that this never happens. I poke along being average all the time, and it's so cool to finally have a subject I shine in (because guess what, I've spent all my life holed up with the books and the dust and the sadness because that's what nerdy people do reading ancient books that no one has heard of and for once in my life my completely impractical skills in this area are finally being put to use. I can do nothing that matters in real life, but I read like a maniac, so for one semester I can feel like I have a talent. it's been a blast).
I've also learned a lot about these books I love (we've read sense & sensibility, pride & prejudice, the woman in white, and start jane eyre next week) and it's amazing having someone guide your thoughts rather than having to generate them yourself. also having classmates who read, too, and have actual thoughts to share that are really, really cool and insightful. I'm totally loving this class.

all that to say, more next week. this will be fun :)

03 January 2017

:: getting back in the saddle ::

junior year, part b, begins on monday (where does the time go) and I'm not going to make it through war & peace blog-wise.

hooray, you say. also, nobody cares. and this should have happened long ago.

what's up: I still don't get this book. I still love it, and I'm so happy to be reading it again, even though I'm dreading the -- well, no spoilers. but there will be tears. I know I tend to cry too much over books,* but this, seriously; this will break my heart again. 

*ever heard the story of my first time through bleak house, when I reached the part where richard carstone "began the world -- not this world, oh no, not this; the world that sets this right" and then miss flite let her birds go free, and mama came running upstairs thinking the sobs were a person in physical pain? (as if emotional pain isn't legitimate, come on, mom) ...well, now you have. good book. slightly embarrassing memory.

I'm still taking exhaustingly extensive notes, and I will post some sort of summary of my reading experience/overall book themes, but honestly it's just too much with a new semester coming up to commit to more. also, I can take my notes in personal, abbreviated shorthand and know better what I'm talking about without doubling the time (at least) by translating them here. where, as I am painfully aware, no one reads them.

which is fine. really, it's okay. it just seems kinda stupid to write them twice over when it's all only for me, anyway; and do I have insight? no. I don't even know what I'm talking about. so that could be awkward, if I keep spreading the ignorance.

so for all intents and purposes, war & peace is done. next on the list: a re-discussion of "ulysses" by alfred, lord tennyson. I wrote about this poem a loooong time ago, when the real odyssey was fresh in my mind, but I've grown since then and have a slightly different perspective (like, can we discuss how inaccurate it is that poem-O calls his old mariners together, when homer clearly states (book 23! lines 298 - 303 in fitzgerald's translation!) that he has to collect all new men who have never even seen the sea? what's with that, alfred??). but it's a gorgeous poem, and I'm excited.

peace :)