Lynne Sharon Schwartz: The Introduction to MIDDLEMARCH

Self avoided reading the Introduction to MIDDLEMARCH (The Barnes & Noble Classics edition) until she got to p. 649. Because she wanted to come to her own conclusions about the characters and their fates (less than 200 pages to go!)

But now, self thinks it is safe. That is, her feelings and responses are firmly established and she will not easily be confused or swayed by reading someone else’s opinion.

Schwartz’s Introduction is a long one. But self is most struck by what she writes in her third paragraph:

Its twin supporting pillars are the protagonists, Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate, each one as ardently ambitious as the author, each with an abundance of energy and a longing to do good in the world. Each is unhappily — in fact, wretchedly — married, each thwarted by chance and circumstance, but above all by the flaws of character that circumstance mercilessly elicits and nourishes. For all that, Dorothea and Lydgate are far from identical. Their differences are as acute as their personalities. Lydgate, the eager young doctor of progressive principles, enjoys the professional and social opportunities open to an educated, well-connected man. Dorothea, through her wealth and position, endures what Eliot calls the “gentlewoman’s oppressive liberty,” in 1829 a narrow field of operation indeed — the liberty to do nothing. Despite rigid local opposition, Lydgate can steer his energies into specific goals. Dorothea is afflicted by a “moral imprisonment,” “where everything was done for her and none asked for her aid.” Against that oppressive emptiness, her only weapons are her yearnings, her emotions, her high moral standards. With few practical means to achieve her vague ends, such assets can verge on the absurd.

To all of which self can only say: YES! YOU GO, LYNNE SHARON SCHWARTZ!

Stay tuned.

Victory Can Only Come After Struggle

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, VICTORY, posted on Friday morning. Right after that came news (from Twitter; self’s news always come from Twitter) about the Paris attacks.

It seemed very ironic, that the photo challenge urged us to think of the positive. The terrorists made that all seem like such a travesty.

Nevertheless. Nevertheless.

Here are some pictures that self needed to look at today. Reminders of the positive.

The inaugural issue of Irish lit mag Banshee was celebrated at the most recent Cork International Short Story Festival, in September. Self was so glad she attended the launch:

It is a perilous venture, the field of literary magazine publishing. But the young women who edit BANSHEE prove that the dream never dies.

It is a perilous venture, the field of literary magazine publishing. But the young women who edit BANSHEE prove that the dream never dies.

One of the most life-affirming and redemptive characters of recent fiction is, in self’s humble opinion, the baker of The Hunger Games. She only caught the symbolism today: Hunting doesn’t feed the belly, doesn’t sate it, to the degree that bread does. In the purported love triangle of the trilogy, there was never really any other choice for Katniss: Peeta Mellark rocks.

Self will mourn the passing of this franchise when the final film opens on Nov. 20. J-Hutch, you did a great job bringing Peeta Mellark to life!

Self will mourn the passing of this franchise when the final film opens on Nov. 20. J-Hutch, you did a great job bringing Peeta Mellark to life!

Finally, one of self’s favorite reads in 2015 was Crab Orchard Review’s West Coast and Beyond issue, which included a haunting short story by Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Self brought the issue with her to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, this past summer. Whenever her writing energy flagged, reading a bit from the Crab Orchard Review never failed to revive her inspiration:

Several of the contributors from the West Coast & Beyond issue will be participating in a panel during AWP 2016/ Los Angeles, end of March.

Several of the contributors from the West Coast & Beyond issue will be participating in a panel during AWP 2016/ Los Angeles, end of March.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Our Dear Miss Dorothea Brooke: “Surely I am in a Strangely Weak Selfish State of Mind” (MIDDLEMARCH, p. 81)

The visit to her betrothed’s estate brings up a strange restlessness in Miss Dorothea Brooke. While dressing for her first public engagement as the fiancée of the pompous (ass) Mr. Casaubon, Dorothea asks herself the million-dollar question:

How can I have a husband who is so much above me without knowing that he needs me less than I need him?

This intelligent, passionate woman then proceeds to tie her thinking up in knots, thus:

Having convinced herself that Mr. Casaubon was altogether right, she recovered her equanimity, and was an agreeable image of serene dignity when she came into the drawing-room in her silver-gray dress — the simple lines of her dark-brown hair parted over her brow and coiled massively behind, in keeping with the entire absence from her manner and expression of all search after mere effect. Sometimes when Dorothea was in company, there seemed to be as complete an air of repose about her as if she had been a picture of Santa Barbara looking out from her tower into the clear air; but these intervals of quietude made the energy of her speech and emotion the more remarked when some outward appeal had touched her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

That Fateful Moment When It All Comes Crashing Down: MIDDLEMARCH, p. 72

The old dotard Casaubon (HOW, self asks, how does one pronounce that simply ridiculous name?) has taken his future bride, Dorothea, to his rather meager estate (Remember Dorothea turned down a proposal from a young and attractive baronet, Sir James Chattam, in order to assert her preference for the much older and much sillier Casaubon). In the distance, they espy a figure, that of a young man lost in thought, wandering around with a sketchbook.

Dear blog readers, when a young man appears, attached to the estate of the much older man, and this older man is a silly and benighted person, who is bringing his young future bride for a first glimpse of his new home, there is only one way this can go down: Think Tennessee Williams. Faster than self can say “Desire Under the Elms,” Dorothea and her betrothed approach (What really clinches the deal is that the young man is toting around a sketchbook. Artists are crrrrazy. Crrrrazy attractive. Just ask the Bronte sisters)

Here is what transpires:

The young man had laid down his sketch-book and risen. His bushy light-brown curls (Think of Samson in the Old Testament! The appeal of the hair!), as well as his youthfulness, identified him at once . . .

“Dorothea, let me introduce to you my cousin, Mr. Ladislaw. Will, this is Miss Brooke.” (And what person can withstand a young man named Will? Certainly not self, who just this year fell in love with Will Herondale from Cassandra Clare’s Victorian Steampunk trilogy, The Infernal Devices!)

The cousin was so close now that, when he lifted his hat, Dorothea could see a pair of gray eyes rather near together, a delicate irregular nose (like Tom Hiddleston’s? The guy who plays Loki in those Thor movies?) with a little ripple in it (like Owen Wilson’s?), and hair falling backward . . . Young Ladislaw did not think it necessary to smile, as if he were charmed to this introduction to his future second cousin and her relatives, but wore rather a pouting air of discontent. (Heathcliff! Oh where art thou, Heathcliff!)

“You are an artist, I see . . . “

And self will pause here. Right here. So she can drive dear blog readers crazy with anticipation.

Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: MIDDLEMARCH, Book I, Chapter II (“Miss Brooke”)

From Middlemarch, by George Eliot:

“You admire a man with the complexion of a cochon de laite.”

— Dorothea to her sister Celia, about Mr. Brooke, who over dinner announced “I cannot let young ladies meddle with my documents. Young ladies are too flighty.”

(According to the Barnes & Noble edition self is reading, Cochon de laite is French for “suckling pig.”)

Privately, Celia thinks:

Learned men “must be dreadful to live with. Only think! At breakfast and always.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Kelly Link: “Summer People”

Context: The story is about the budding friendship between two high school girls, Fran and Ophelia. Ophelia drives a Lexus, is very tender-hearted, and has been tending Fran through a bad case of the flu, since Fran’s Dad took off for a couple of weeks to attend a religious revival meeting he learned about on the internet. Before Ophelia came along, Fran was self-medicating with Nyquil liqui-gel, four a night.

“The door you slipped my envelope under,” she said, finally, “you oughtn’t ever go in there.”

Ophelia looked interested. “Like Bluebeard,” she said.

Fran said, “It’s how they come and go. Even they don’t open that door very often, I guess.” She’d peeped through the keyhole once and seen a bloody river. She bet if you passed through that door, you weren’t likely to return.

“Can I ask you another stupid question?” Ophelia said. “Where are they right now?”

“They’re here,” Fran said.

Fran suddenly tells Ophelia she has to go (Oh NOOOOOOO!!!!!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Generation Gap, by Joan McGavin, Hampshire Poet for 2014

With the Armistice declared,
school was closed
and the children all
ran hilty-skilty
down the brae.
Mum burst into the house —

her brother’s photo
already three years
on the mantelpiece.

promoted corporal,
he holds
the swagger stick
glances to the side.

And now she’s gone,
and those questions
one could ask about him
— dead on the Somme —
will need books,
the internet, research,
for any hope of answers —

and between me and my uncle
only the red hair
and my mother
forever saying
how much I reminded her of him.

— by Joan McGavin, Hampshire Poet for 2014

Inspiration 2: Yorkshire Landscapes

More for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: INSPIRATION

From The Daily Post:

What is your inspiration? What moves you? What is it that never fails to motivate you, to get you going, or make you happy?

Self will focus on inspirational landscapes. Such as these from Yorkshire:

Yorkshire, July 2015

Yorkshire, July 2015

And more of the same:


And still more of the same:


Honestly, the landscape of Yorkshire is so amazing. Green and hilly and full of eccentric rock placements. Sort of like the towns of Yorkshire themselves, with abbeys and cathedrals and Haworth coffee shops and Shipley punks and Bronte parsonages and cemeteries and Salts Mills and David Hockneys and Yorkshire teas and Victorian Steampunk and 1940s Festivals.

Self hates that they won’t let you take any pictures in the Bronte Museum in Haworth. Inside as well as outside, according to the young woman who was the first tour guide she encountered, standing by the front entrance. The guide had watched self taking a picture of a yellow flower by the front steps.

But self felt she really had to get to Yorkshire, not just because of the Brontes, but because of Will Herondale and the events in Clockwork Prince, book 2 of The Infernal Devices.

There is a very crucial plot twist that takes place in Yorkshire but, in the meantime, we have:  Balcony scene, Demons Ball, Chiswick. Herondale, what else can self say. Tessa being all encouraging (p. 292): “Will, you need not be so careful. I will not break.” And then, you know, Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff, Tessa saying Will is like her Heathcliff, the moors, whatever.

So brooding and romantic, Yorkshire is!

So brooding and romantic, Yorkshire is! July 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE: Demon’s Ball, Chiswick, Part 2

Ah, supernatural fiction. Ah, changelings and demons and faerie glens.

Self is still reading about the Demons Ball at the Lightwoods (interspersed with her other reading: Howard Jacobson’s The Act of Love, set on Great Russell Street of all places; The Guardian; and Lucifer Princeps, the book about angels and nephilim and the netherworld, which has NOT, despite all self’s anxieties, been keeping self up at night, thank goodness!)

Today, self is off in search of a really neat supernatural bookstore, one she found on the web, which is a long way from her usual haunts. So she’d better off. She plans to walk there. London yesterday was wet, wet, wet. But today is as beautiful as summer. So, walk. When her feet give out, she’ll duck into the nearest tube station.


Tessa, still masquerading as Jessamine, has managed to distract Nate enough so that she didn’t actually have to kiss her own brother. Which would have been YUUUUCK!!!

She finds herself conversing with a faerie:

“Did you know your mother had eyes just like yours, gray sometimes and blue at others?”

Tessa found her voice. “Who are you?”

“Oh, my kind doesn’t like to give our names, but you can call me whatever you like. You can invent a lovely name for me. Your mother used to call me Hyacinth.”

“The blue flower,” Tessa said faintly. “How did you know my mother? You don’t look any older than me — ”

“After our youth, my kind does not age or die. Nor will you. Lucky girl! I hope you appreciate the service done you.”

Tessa shook her head in bewilderment. “Service? What service? Are you speaking of Mortmain? Do you know what I am?”

“Do you know what I am?”

Tessa thought of the Codex. “A faerie?” she guessed.

“And do you know what a changeling is?”

Tessa shook her head.

“Sometimes,” Hyacinth confided, dropping her voice to a whisper, “when our faerie blood has grown weak and thin, we will find our way into a human home, and take the best, the prettiest, and the plumpest child –and quick as a wink, replace the babe with a sickly one of our own. While the human child grows tall and strong in our lands, the human family will find itself burdened with a dying creature fearful of cold iron.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE, p. 280: Demon’s Ball, Chiswick


Tessa Gray and Will Herondale do some detective work around the Lightwoods’ mansion during a Demons Ball.

Will is disguised with a half-face mask (Later, he has occasion to remove it, and Tessa Gray notes that the mask has left delicate red marks on the tops of Will’s cheekbones. And very well-sculpted those cheekbones are, do dear blog readers even need self to remind them! Those are Herondale cheekbones, but of course!)

Tessa Gray has changed into Jessamine Lovelace, a blonde flibbertigibbet who has been conducting a secret romantic relationship with Nate Gray, Tessa’s brother.

So, during the ball, there are many whispered, affectionate caresses between the unsuspecting Nate and his sister (disguised as Jessamine). Here’s one. The whole way through the scene, let’s just say: Self. Can’t. Even.

Nate’s hand slipped around the back of her neck. He was wearing gloves, but Tessa couldn’t rid herself of the feeling that something slimy was touching her skin. “My little Jessie,” he murmured. “You behave almost as if you’ve forgotten your own part in this. You did hide the Book of White in my sister’s room as we asked you to, did you not?”

“Of — of course I did.”

“That’s my good girl.” He was leaning closer. He was definitely going to kiss her. It was most improper . . .

At which point, self was all BLEAAAAAH!!!!  PHOOOEEEEY!!!!  BAAAARRRRRFFFFF!!!

If dear blog readers want to know if Cassie Clare (Esteemed Author) actually does go there, read the book for crying out loud!

(Incidentally, she was on Fleet Street again today. She didn’t get a chance to pop into St. Bride’s, but she’ll have to do that one of these days)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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