Saturday December 7, 2013
In Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, the heroine spends her day preparing for a party. She collects flowers, prepares her clothing, and makes all the arrangements; but she also carefully recollects her past--loves and loss. Streams of life flow through the pages of this novel--a river of longing.
But all the expectations for her party and memories of times past also involve a intricate dance with death. Woolf was haunted by war (and the soldiers she was certain would invade). She was also troubled by the certainty of her own slippage toward madness.
In A Sketch of the Past, Woolf wrote, "One's life is not confined to one's body and what one says or does." A life is related "to a larger design, a pattern hidden behind the 'cotton wool' of daily life." It seems so terribly simple: our lives as words.
What does she mean then? What does her life represent? As Virginia Woolf writes in Mrs. Dalloway:
- "Did it matter then... that she must inevitable cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?"
- "But often now this body she wore... this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing --- nothing at all."
- "Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death."
Cover Art © HarperCollins.
Monday December 2, 2013
It's the second day of December. It's the day that John Brown was hanged. (Henry David Thoreau offered his take on the the infamous outlaw with A Plea For Captain John Brown.)
Charles Dickens conducted his first reading in the United States on December 2 in 1867.
And, Samuel Taylor Coleridge joined the Calvary on December 2, 1793 (he went on to become a famous poet, who launched the Romantic Period with William Wordsworth.
Take a look at the reading selection for December 2:
No gardener need go far to find
The Christmas rose,
The fairest of the flowers that mark
The sweet Year's close:
Nor be in quest of places where
The hollies grow,
Nor seek for sacred trees that hold
All kindly tended gardens love
And spread their latest riches out
In winter's praise.
But every gardener's work this month
Must surely be
To choose a very beautiful
Big Christmas tree,
And see it through the open door
In triumph ride,
To reign a glorious reign within
What are you reading?
Sunday December 1, 2013
It's the first day of December. It's National Pie Day, Feast day of St Eligius, and the day that Barbes Diena is observed. December 1 is also Rosa Parks Day: the day that she ignited controversy by refusing to move to the back of the bus.
- December 1st was also that date in 1830 when Victor Hugo was supposed to finish his famous novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Of course, he missed the deadline, and the novel wouldn't be published until 1831, but it's still a literary curiosity for the day. In the novel, Hugo writes: "When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door."
In other reading, for December 1st, Vachel Lindsay writes:
"This section is a Christmas tree:
Loaded with pretty toys for you.
Behold the blocks, the Noah's arks,
The popguns painted red and blue.
No solemn pine-cone forest-fruit,
But silver horns and candy sacks
And many little tinsel hearts
And cherubs pink, and jumping-jacks.
For every child a gift, I hope.
The doll upon the topmost bough
Read the reading selection for this December 1st.
Thursday November 28, 2013
Mark Twain requires very little introduction...
Mark Twain is infamous for his American wit and controversial topics (with his banned book, Huckleberry Finn and his many witty turn-of-phrase lines). So many of this books have been devoured by readers of all ages over the years. He wrote about racial and class relations, time travel, dialectic local color, coming-of-age, tricksteristic antics, and identity convolutions. Through his colorful fictions, we venture down the river and around the world (following his Pied-Piper call).
November is the perfect time of the year to recollect and re-examine the contributions of our favorite American writer. After all, Turkey Day is here! And, like most topics, Mark Twain had classic bits of wit and wisdom to offer about Thanksgiving!
Mark Twain's Thanksgiving observations: "The observance of Thanksgiving Day--as a function--has become general of late years. The Thankfulness is not so general. This is natural. Two-thirds of the nation have always had hard luck and a hard time during the year, and this has a calming effect upon their enthusiasm."
Mark Twain is one of those writers with whom I'd have loved to sit down and chat with (if I could go back in time). Imagine talking about books, writing, or really any topic at all.
What questions would you ask (of your favorite author)? What do you think Mark Twain would say about the current state of affairs--with books, technology and all the rest of it this November?