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.


The Final Post on TRIOS: the New Whitney Museum, Cork, the Lake at Annaghmakerrig

It is the day after Thanksgiving. Snap out of your food comas, everyone!

Self must say, this year’s Thanksgiving was brilliant. Self ate more than she’s ever eaten in her life. Her friend was up at 6 a.m. because she and her daughter are going to the mall. But self has an on-line class to get caught up on, so she chose to stay behind.

Before delving into her student pieces, however, self peruses her archives so that she can make one last post on WordPress Photo Challenge this week:  TRIO.

Self took the first picture in a museum she considers one of the best in the entire world: The new Whitney Museum. On exhibit right now: a retrospective on Frank Stella.


On the 6th Floor of the New Whitney Museum (Didn’t take down the name of the artist, boo)

The second picture is from one of self’s happy places: Café Paradiso in Cork, Ireland.


From a Book on Dublin-born Artist Sean Scully, which was in Self’s Room in Café Paradiso, Cork

And finally, a picture of the Mother of All Happy Places, a place that signifies peace, happiness, mindfulness, inspiration: the lake in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig.


3 Metal Bars Sticking out of the Lake in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

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.

Still More Trios! Florence

More from the trip to Florence, more on this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, TRIO.

While self and her niece were in Florence, niece booked us on a tour to the surrounding towns of Siena, San Gimidgiano, and Pisa.

The church (or Duomo, the word Italians use to refer to a cathedral) at Siena was beautiful. The front of the church has three entrances:


The Duomo at Siena: So beautiful!

And here’s another museum, whose name completely escapes self, but anyhoo: It’s in Florence, which has 62 museums.

Each wall facing a central courtyard has three arches:


A museum. Somewhere in Florence.


Three figures above a door to one of the smaller chapels next to Santa Maria del Fiore

Deepest apologies for being so lame about specific museums and what-not. Self is in New York City, and she still hasn’t fully unpacked from her last trip (to San Francisco). Will fill in the names when she gets a breather!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


More Trios in Florence

Lovely, lovely Florence.

Self encountered the city for the first time, early this month.

Today, self is browsing through her photo archives to find pictures that fit this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: TRIO.

The first picture is the display window of a bakery that faces out onto Piazza della Repubblica. Look at the piles of pastry on the three plates! In Florence, self was able to indulge her sweet tooth to the max!


Florentine Bakery Near the Piazza della Repubblica

According to the tourist brochures, Florence has 62 museums. Niece got the idea of purchasing a 3-day Firenze card, which lets you into any of the museums, free of charge, for 72 hours (Be advised: They calculate down to the very last minute: say, you purchase the card at 10:56 a.m., it will expire at exactly 10:56 a.m., three days later.)


Three columns in some museum or other (Self will add the name as soon as she has a little more time to browse through her notes from the trip)


Approaching the Uffizi Gallery on the Piazza della Signoria: The front loggia boasts three arches!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

C. P. Cavafy: “Amilianos Monai, Alexandrian, A.D. 628 – 655”

Still searching for closure, comfort, clarity, after the horrible events of the past week.

Turning to the poet C. P. Cavafy.

Specifically, his poem “Amilianos Monai, Alexandrian, A.D. 628 – 655.” Here’s how the poem begins:

Out of talk, appearance and manners
I will make an excellent suit of armor;
and in this way I will face malicious people
without feeling the slightest fear or weakness.

They will try to injure me but of those
who come near me none will know
where to find my wounds, my vulnerable places,
under the deceptions that will cover me.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Ah, Middlemarch! Dorothea and Sir James Chattam, pp. 65 – 66

Self’s reading list is in complete disarray as the end of 2015 approaches.

It’s taken her an average of three months to get through one book.

She doesn’t have the slightest idea how to get through the behemoth of George Eliot’s Middlemarch. But every time she resumes reading, all she can think about is:


STUPID STUPID DOROTHEA! Believing she can have a happy marriage with someone three decades older than her, just because he quotes extensively from books! While there’s a perfectly attractive young baronet named Sir James Chattam who has fallen in love with her and proposed!

If self could, she would sprinkle emojis all over this post, such is her chagrin over early developments in this novel!

But even after Dorothea has turned down his proposal, Sir James is such a good sport that he maintains his friendship with Dorothea, and the most unlikely thing happens: a real friendship. Here’s how author George Eliot describes it:

Hence it happened that in the good baronet’s succeeding visits, while he was beginning to pay small attentions to Celia (Dorothea’s younger and much less bookish sister), he found himself talking with more and more pleasure to Dorothea. She was perfectly unconstrained and without irritation towards him now, and he was gradually discovering the delight there is in frank kindness and companionship between a man and a woman who have no passion to hide or confess.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Ornate 5: Siena’s Duomo; the Loggia of the Uffizi Gallery

Self’s niece was so organized that we got to see three small towns around Florence, all on the same day: Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa.

Self’s favorite was Siena.

The beautiful Gothic cathedral has a magnificent interior (striped columns! Who would have thought!) but it’s the exterior self will focus on for further examples of the “ornate.”

For instance, all kinds of creatures proliferate, including a roaring lion sticking out of a buttress in the front:

Stone lion on the front of the Cathedral in Siena, built in the fourteenth century

Stone lion on the front of the Cathedral in Siena, built in the fourteenth century. The lion represents one of Siena’s 17 districts.

Here is the facade of the Cathedral, or as the Italians refer to it, the Duomo:

The Duomo of Siena is decorated with animals representing each of the city's 17 districts, which compete twice a year in horse races called the Palio.

The Duomo of Siena is decorated with animals representing each of the city’s 17 districts, which compete twice a year in horse races called the Palio.

For the third picture, self goes back to her archive of Florence photos. This is a shot of the loggia of the Uffizi Gallery. On Sunday afternoons, the stone benches are lined with people.

The Loggia of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence: a great spot to people-watch!

The Loggia of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence: a great spot to people-watch!

The last shot isn’t related to the Photo Challenge but is one of self’s favorite pictures from her trip.

On self’s last afternoon in Florence (a Sunday), she took a picture of this adorable creature, whose owners kept calling him “R2” which self thought was a kind of homage to R2D2 of Star Wars, until a young man told her that the dog’s name was “Artur.” Oh. How adorbs!

Artur, who self met on the stone benches in the loggia of the Uffizi Gallery

Artur, who self met on the stone benches in the loggia of the Uffizi Gallery

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self Is Learning New Things Every Day! Today, at the Palazzo Vecchio

Self has seen a lot of museums in just three short days in Florence.

This morning, she found her way to the Palazzo Vecchio. Well, it’s not as if she had any actual destination in mind this morning. She simply pointed her steps toward the Dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore and, armed with her Firenze Card (Irene’s idea, of course. Thank God for Irene!), she stopped at:

  • the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (the oldest church in Florence, consecrated by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, in 393)
  • the Palazzo Vecchio

She paid 5 euros for an audio tour at the Palazzo, and boy, was it ever worth it.

Before entering the Museum proper, she wandered around in the lobby, noticed posters for a conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani and, out of sheer nosiness, asked a woman wearing a name tag who Monsignor Giussani was. The woman told self that the Monsignor was a highly respected teacher and member of the Church, whose writings were very influential.

She also gave self a brochure about the man.

Self began to read the brochure, and she found the man’s teachings exceedingly interesting. Here’s an excerpt from a section called LIVE REALITY INTENSELY.

“There is an experience, hidden yet implied, of that arcane, mysterious presence to be found within the opening of the eye, within the attraction reawakened by things, within the beauty of things, within an amazement, full of gratitude, comfort, and hope — how can this complex, yet simple, this enormously rich experience of the human heart — which is the heart of the human person — how can it become vivid? How can it become powerful?”

Self loves that he used the word “vivid” to describe the intense experience of reality.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Treat 3: Still Florence

Florence is a beautiful city. It is beautiful, and yet worldly, and the people are so warm.

Today, Irene directed our steps to two museums. The first one was a kind of natural history museum, with dinosaur bones and the like. But since self has already seen the Mother of All Dinosaur Exhibits, in the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, she was not much interested in the ones on display in Florence. We moved on quickly to the second museum, which happened to have an amazing exhibit: Works of the Twelfth China National Exhibition of Fine Arts, Italy.

These featured large-scale oil paintings by Chinese painters, the likes of which self had never seen. Thank goodness there was no Ai Wei-Wei. Because he is trotted out at every major exhibit of Chinese painters, and his work doesn’t speak to self at all. After two decades of hearing nothing but praise about him, she is frankly bored by his ubiquitous presence.

Irene and self decided to stop for pastries and coffee at a café called Gilli (founded 1733), which has outdoor seating facing a lively piazza:

Café Gilli, a Florentine landmark

Café Gilli, a Florentine landmark

The Piazza next to Café Gilli, Florence: Self loves the carousel (which strangely had no riders)

The Piazza next to Café Gilli, Florence: Self loves the carousel (which strangely had no riders)

Self had to try the meringues. This one was light and airy and absolutely delicious:

Never had self tasted an airier meringue!

Never had self tasted an airier meringue!

It was wonderful to stroll along the streets by the café, as evening fell.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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