It Begins

In the movie self just saw, Ben-Hur actually says “Wow.”

It’s a tad too long, but the final chariot race was thrilling. She saw it in 3D, which wouldn’t ever be her first choice, because 3D usually makes her dizzy, but she was short on time and had to grab the first screening that came up.

And she did not get dizzy! In fact, she forgot she was watching 3D about 10 minutes after the screen went black and this message appeared:

PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES NOW.

Today self, having forced herself to re-read the first 30 pages of Northanger Abbey, is finally beginning to see the point.

She must have been so tired earlier, when she first began reading. That’s the only explanation she can come up with for the words dancing like spots before her eyes.

Now, self has arrived at a part where Catherine is sure of her attraction to Mr. Tinsley, and is still very equable to her best friend’s brother, John Thorpe. He’s such a natterer. But Catherine is much too nice to drive him away. Besides, she’s too humble and self-effacing to think that she has an actual suitor.

As self realized after reading Middlemarch last year, if a young woman is moral enough and innocent enough, her rich inner life can well prove to be her undoing: She can convince herself of the rightness of self-sacrifice like nobody’s business.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Northanger Abbey: Readers, Meet John Thorpe

Still in Bath.

We meet the brother of Isabella Thorpe, whose name is John Thorpe.

This is his appearance:

John Thorpe was a stout young man of middling height, who, with a plain face and ungraceful form, seemed fearful of being too handsome unless he wore the dress of a groom, and too much like a gentleman unless he were easy where he ought to be civil, and impudent where he might allowed to be easy.

The very plain-ness of the man means the heroine, Catherine, will be paired up with him because she, though not un-attractive, is decidedly not beautiful. So why should anyone in Bath, England, pay attention to her? Isn’t it rather presumptuous of her to go to Bath and look for romance? Most women of Austen’s day and age would be happy to have anyone, looks or affinity do not matter in the least.

Self knows there will be plot twists and blah blah blah, but why in God’s name does Austen allow John Thorpe to bore us the same way he bores Catherine with pages and pages of tomfoolery and dull dialogue that was delivered to greater effect by Tom Bennett in the recent movie Love & Friendship?

We get that John Thorpe has no other subject of conversation other than horses (“look at his loins; only see how he moves”) and gigs, and that he doesn’t see the value of novels, but — could Jane Austen please stop belaboring the point and get on with it, please? A point can be made twice. It cannot be made three times. This is a short novel.

All self can see in her head is the dinner scene in Love & Friendship when Tom Bennet takes great delight in “little green balls” on his dinner plate and asks what they are and Reginald de Courcy (who is brought to blazing life by a blazing hot Xavier Samuel) says, “They’re called peas.”

Speaking of Xavier Samuel, self cannot wait to have Love & Friendship in her Netflix feed.

Stay tuned.

Self’s Life in Books

In 2013, she read a total of 30 books.

In 2014, to her great disappointment, she managed to read only 7.

Thus far, in 2016, she’s read 18 books. Oh happy happy joy joy.

2013 was a great year for her reading life.

She read:

  • Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
  • Anna Karenina
  • Don Quijote
  • Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses
  • Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s Litte Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  • The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michae Connelly
  • Henry M. Stanley’s How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa

In 2015, self’s great reads were:

  • Silas Marner
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
  • The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill

This year, self’s favorite books have been:

  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (which she just realized she’d already read five years ago: She didn’t remember a thing!)
  • Anjelica Huston’s second memoir, Watch Me
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton

She’s struggling through Northanger Abbey. Really struggling. But she is determined to finish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Northanger Abbey: Men

Self must confess that the reason she started reading Jane Austen again is the movie Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman, and starring the delicious trifecta of Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, and Xavier Samuel (She would name more of the actors if she wasn’t so very short of time today). The movie was based on Austen’s unfinished novella, Lady Susan. Anyhoo, it’s quite a good movie, one of self’s favorites so far in 2016.

Northanger Abbey is not as self remembered. There are very long discussions of novels whose titles make them sound “genre” (See her previous post). And nothing happens other than: breakfast, tea, dances, and sitting in bed to recover from dances.

Since self writes fan fiction, she doesn’t mind genre. She doesn’t mind any kind of writing, as long as it’s good.

Anyhoo, the plot of Northanger Abbey concerns — as far as self can make out, the narrative is very circomlocutious — two young, unmarried women who meet at Bath, become fast friends, and then share opinions on everything from novels to keeping up appearances, to men. The novel thus far is just a series of conversations. Time is passing but who cares? The smallest detail of daily life is not too mundane to receive meticulous attention.

One of the young ladies (self forgets which) states that men “are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”

Her conversant protests that “they always behave very well to me.”

Upon which, the first lady responds:

  • Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! — By the bye, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgotten to ask you what is your favorite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?

To which the other lady responds that her preference is for “brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.” The other says that she prefers her men “sallow.” (Pardon, self always mixes up “sallow” with “hepatitis B” or consumption or ill health)

Which is so fascinating, self wonders how old Jane Austen was when she wrote this, she is so looking forward to reading more! This would be considered chick lit if the sentences weren’t so very very very long and if something more were at stake than how to pass an indolent holiday in Bath.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Reading, in Bath: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

“Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warning, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

Austen: In Defence of Novelists

Quicker than you can say SQUASHED BANANA, self whips through Swimming Studies and begins the next book on her reading list, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

She’s pretty sure she’s read this before, but has no memory of the plot.

Somewhere in the early chapters, Austen goes on a riff about the status of novelists in English society. Self did not know you can get exercised this way, and go on to write what is essentially an argument, and plop that in the middle of a novel. Where is the scene? Where is the narrative arc?

Clearly, the English novel in Austen’s day was a very accommodating genre.

Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers.

Jane, Jane, Jane. Deep breaths.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

SWIMMING STUDIES: About Pools

Maybe because self is reading Swimming Studies, she starts looking up information on Land’s End and the Sutro Baths.

The magnate who developed Sutro Baths was named Sutro (Duh, but of course!).

Sutro Baths was the centerpiece of a resort bordering the Pacific. San Franciscans could get there by paying 5 cents for a trolley ride.

In a way, self understands what Sutro was aiming for, because her very own grandfather built a resort, right in the middle of sugar cane fields in Barangay Granada in Negros Occidental in the Philippines.

Self’s grandfather, like Sutro, was a populist. The most loyal patrons of Santa Fe Resort are workers. The entrance fee is still ridiculously low because self’s family understands the demographic: the patrons come from the surrounding fields, workers wanting a break. It was called Santa Fe because her grandfather loved American westerns. In addition, he had a huge crush on the American swimmer/film star Esther Williams, so there’s a statue of her in Santa Fe, in Barangay Granada.

Self’s grandfather built an Olympic-size pool which remains a major draw to this day: It was the first, and possibly still the only, Olympic-size pool in the Philippines.

Who does that? Who has such a crush on Esther Williams that he builds an Olympic-size pool in the middle of an island. Not only in the middle of an island, in the middle of sugar cane fields.

When journalists come to write about self’s island, they never mention Santa Fe Resort. It’s such an eccentric thing, the location. The fact is, it’s nowhere near a beach. Consequently, there is no tourist traffic. There are no Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, American or Europeans. In Santa Fe Resort, you will encounter Filipinos. Just Filipinos.

It is a resort built by a man who only got a high school education. A resort for the people who live within a few kilometers, who are from that place.

Self spent every summer of her childhood there.

Sometimes she wonders if those summers were the reason she is a writer now. Because, her grandfather showed her: you can do anything, if you use your imagination.

It is a terrible thing is to have no imagination, to have your dreams stay small.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Reading (2016)

  1. Memoir, Leanne Shapton, Swimming Studies
  2. Brick 96
  3. 2nd poetry collection, John Clegg, Holy Toledo
  4. Nonfiction, Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power
  5. Walasse Ting, 1 Cent Life
  6. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Another Sentence of the Day: Self Getting Hungry!

Before school I would go for a run with my dog, Rambo, then make two large peanut butter cookies in the toaster oven and eat them, steaming hot, on the bus.

— Leanne Shapton, Swimming Studies

Really enjoying this book. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Leann Shapton

  • A talented butterflyer named Doug, who has long blonde bangs and will become a Buddhist, lives there, as does Duncan, whom I have a thing for.

— Leann Shapton, in her memoir Swimming Studies

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