Sylvain Landry – Week 22: TRANSPARENCY

Self enjoys doing Photo Challenges. Since she began doing the WordPress Photo Challenge, three years ago, she’s derived much pleaseure in sharing her travel photographs with blog readers. Photographs can say so much more than words can.

This year, she also became an occasional contributor to the Sylvain Landry Photo Challenge. This week’s SL prompt is TRANSPARENCY. Self thought that theme would be a piece of cake, but it wasn’t. She had to go through all her Florence pictures, all her pictures of the Mission in San Francisco, all her pictures of London, until she finally found this picture of a room in filmmaker and poet Csilla Toldy’s house in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland. Self visited Csilla during the Fiddler’s Green Festival, July 2015. It was a lot of fun:


Csilla was preparing to show self a documentary she made on Bloomsday (celebrated in both Ireland and Hungary!); she had to draw the curtains in her study.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Ampatuan Massacre, Six Years Later: No Prosecutions

Self will never forget the man who stood in a field, looked at reporters and asked, with dreadful composure, “Is this where they found my wife’s body?”

Maguindanao, the Philippines, 2009: 32 journalists and a few innocents who had the bad luck to stumble upon the massacre ended up in a hole in the ground. A massive hole. Pre-prepared. Dug out of the ground with bulldozers. Big enough to accommodate whole cars. All the bodies got dumped in.

Pretty clear the grudge was local, the perpetrators were local (shooting at their own neighbors, how nice), because what outsider would care this much? Seriously?

Self has no words.

What happened in Maguindanao affects the whole. Affects us all. There is no hiding from the shame.





“Lydgate’s hair never became white. He died when he was only fifty, leaving his wife and children provided for by a heavy insurance on his life . . . He had not done what he once meant to do.”

But, he did save his marriage to the fair Rosamond.

Rosamond “continued to be mild in her temper, inflexible in her judgment, disposed to admonish her husband, and able to frustrate him by stratagems. As the years went on he opposed her less and less, whence Rosamond concluded that he had learned the value of her opinion.”

After Lydgate’s death, Rosamond marries again.

She knows contentment, if not happiness.

As for Dorothea, she marries the love of her life, Will Ladislaw. Rosamond wanted him, and nearly wrecked her marriage for him, but Dorothea came along and, well . . .

Self would just like to say, the closing pages of Middlemarch had her in such a state of high tension that she kept biting her bottom lip at every page, saying “No!” or “Yes!” or “You go, Will!” or “Dorothea, you are a saint!”

That scene in Lydgate’s drawing room, where Dorothea stumbles in on Will holding Rosamond’s hands — !!! Dorothea, grievously wounded (She’s been in love with Will Ladislaw all this time!), spends the entire night weeping. Meanwhile, the minute Dorothea is gone, Rosamond puts a hand on Will’s arm, and Will turns to Rosamond and snarls, “Don’t touch me!” Those three words telling Rosamond, more than anything Will might have said, that he returns Dorothea’s love.

That is a scene worthy of the finest Katniss/Peeta angst-y fan fiction. Self knows this is heresy, putting Middlemarch on the same level as Hunger Games fan fiction, but those have been her twin obsessions, for months and months.

It is sweetness itself to learn that, at the death of Dorothea’s uncle Mr. Brooke, Middlemarch passes to Dorothea and Will’s son.

So here’s 2015 in Books:

Self began the year by discovering The Infernal Devices Trilogy. She went to London looking for Shadowhunter sites. She began The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson, and discovered that she and the characters shared a familiarity with Great Russell Street and the British Museum. She ended the year absolutely in love with the novel Middlemarch. How in love? Her personal copy has so many dog-eared pages, self can’t even. She took this 800-page behemoth with her to Florence and even there she never lost the thread of the narrative, never.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

From George Eliot to Mary Gaitskill

Self is in the closing pages of Middlemarch. Self’s admiration for Dorothea Brooke knows no bounds.

Next on her reading list, Mary Gaitskill’s story collection, Bad Behavior, in which (according to the book’s dust jacket), we enter a world “populated with working-class drug addicts, educated hookers, twisted secretaries, and emotionally stunted professionals.”

Oh, what fun. Self is really looking forward to.

After Gaitskill, self is thinking she might give Philipp Meyer’s debut novel, American Rust, a go. She’s taken a peek and it reminds her a little of Denis Johnson. Uber-Hemingwayesque? There are worse things in life than sounding like Denis Johnson. If American Rust doesn’t work out, she’ll head to the next on her list, a horror book, The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. All this, hopefully, before the New Year. What’s so hard? She used to be able to read four or five books a month. This year was pathetic — it took her six months to get through Howard Jacobson’s The Act of Love — but she feels like she might just be regaining her reading mojo.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Damn You, Lydgate! MIDDLEMARCH, p. 730


Look elsewhere unless you are too lazy to read 900 pages of George Eliot’s inimitable novel and only want to turn in one of those quickie papers that tells you the end of a novel you’ve only read 100 pages of . . .

Dorothea makes Lydgate an offer it would be craaazy to refuse. A way to salvage his honor, remain in Middlemarch, continue his work in the hospital . . .

Lydgate tells Dorothea that his wife Rosamond cannot bear to remain in Middlemarch any longer, “the troubles she has had here have wearied her.”

Dorothea pleads to be allowed to speak to Rosamond. Lydgate tells her “No. I prefer that there should be no interval left for wavering. I am no longer sure enough of myself — I mean of what it would be possible for me to do under the changed circumstances of my life. It would be dishonourable to let others engage themselves to anything serious in dependence on me . . . The whole thing is too problematic; I cannot consent to be the cause of your goodness being wasted.”

(Damn you, Lydgate, to have discovered your pride at this late date! Anyhoo)

“It hurts me very much to hear you speak so hopelessly,” said Dorothea. “It would be a happiness to your friends, who believe in your future, in your power to do great things, if you would let them save you from that.”

“God bless you, Mrs. Casaubon!” said Lydgate, rising. “It is good that you should have such feelings. But I am not the man who ought to allow himself to benefit by them.”

“Now that is not brave,” said Dorothea. “To give up the fight.”

(You GO, Dorothea! And you, Lydgate, quit’cher honourable whining!)

“No, it is not brave,” said Lydgate, “but if a man is afraid of creeping paralysis?”

And all self can say, over and over, is: DAMN YOU, LYDGATE! She’s gotten herself as worked up over the angst in Middlemarch as she gets over the angst in her Everlark fan fiction! George Eliot, you are genius!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

MIDDLEMARCH: The Moment When Lydgate — !!


With the whole weight of town opinion solidly against him, his own wife cold and ready to break camp at any moment, young Doctor Tertius Lydgate goes to the widowed Dorothea Casaubon. He tells her how his reputation has been sullied by his association with a man of ill-repute, Bulstrode. He sees no other recourse than to leave Middlemarch.

Dorothea never wavers. Tell me, she urges Lydgate. Tell me all.

And he does.

What a moment! Almost like the one in Mockingjay Part 2 where Katniss seizes Peeta’s face and tells him: STAY WITH ME.

Here’s how Eliot writes the scene (There are many threads. Self will not explain them other than to say: Self is on p. 727, people. Do not expect her to summarize the previous 727!)

  • The searching tenderness of her woman’s tones seemed made for a defence against ready accusers. Lydgate did not stay to think that she was Quixotic: he gave himself up, for the first time in his life, to the exquisite sense of leaning entirely on a generous sympathy, without any check of proud reserve. And he told her everything, from the time when, under the pressure of his difficulties, he unwillingly made his first application to Bulstrode; gradually in the relief of speaking, getting into a more thorough utterance of what had gone on in his mind — entering fully into the fact that his treatment of a patient was opposed to the dominant practice, into his doubts at the last, his ideal of medical duty, and his uneasy consciousness that the acceptance of the money had made some difference in his private inclination and professional behavior, though not in his fulfillment of any publicly recognized obligation.

And then, at last, the confession:

Lydgate: Why should I not tell you? You know what sort of bond marriage is. You will understand everything.

Dorothea felt her heart beginning to beat faster. Had he that sorrow, too?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Transition 3: Further Adventures in Italy

First “transition”: a dish almost consumed


A bowl of navy beans and pasta, which she was told was very “Venetian.” She had it for lunch at the Florian Café on San Marco Square.

The whole of Venice itself is in transition. The structures rest on pylons that are thousands of years old. They look as if they could sink into the sea at any moment:


On the Venetian Lagoon, early November

And, finally, here is Pisa, as the sun sets across the Field of Miracles:


Because self and her niece had so much fun, when her niece suggested another trip in 2016, self immediately said, “I’m there.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Dearest Mum, Who Played in Carnegie Hall

When she was 14 or 15. She won The New York Times piano competition.

This Manila newspaper article focuses on her fashion style. She picked out the clothes herself. The article describes her clothing choices as very “atonal.”

nena del rosario 001

Nena del Rosario Villanueva

Dearest Mum had the tiniest waist: 23 inches all around. Alas, self did not inherit Dearest Mum’s fabulous figure. That honor went to self’s older sister.

Growing up, self resisted all attempts to get dressed up. Even after she started giving readings. “It’s about what’s inside,” she remembers saying to Dearest Mum. “No one has the time to figure out the inner you, so why don’t you just make it easy for them,” Dearest Mum would retort.

Self is so perverse that she continued to dress badly. On purpose.

Now, self is finally beginning to come around to Dearest Mum’s way of thinking.

Years and years later, self is in VCCA when she peeks into an artists studio and spies Drew, playing on a piano. She strikes up a conversation. Eight years later, Drew composes a full-length opera based on one of self’s novellas.

Would you believe, self missed a Nov. 19 concert in Carnegie Hall; the violinist played an original composition by Drew. Sometimes self is very, very stupid.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Transition 2: One Day in Venice

The whole of 2015 has been about travel, travel, travel.

Writing, too.

But here are pics from the day self and her niece Irene went to Venice, early this month. Venice is only two hours away from Florence by fast train. Self and niece are such adventurers!

The train pulled into the Ferrovia Train Station, across from the very old church of Santa Lucia. From Ferrovia, we took the vaporetto to San Marco Square, where we shared a dessert at one of the outdoor cafés.

2nd post on this week’s WordPress Daily Post theme: TRANSITION


Niece and self shared a sundae at an outdoor café on San Marco Square, early November: The weather was beautiful, like fall in California!

Self took these pictures from the vaporetto on the way back to Ferrovia (which lurched so much: hence, these blurred pictures), late afternoon:


On the Vaporetto to Ferrovia from San Marco: early November


Another From the Same Vaporetto Ride

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



The Amazing-ness of George Eliot

This novel gets self every page. Every single page.

Middlemarch, p. 707:

“I think we must not set down people’s bad actions to their religion,” said falcon-faced Mrs. Plymdale.


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