Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, Day 2

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Fowey: Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Have attended two talks, both of them brilliant. The one this morning was delivered by Kate Aspengren, an American playwright (from Iowa!): Where’s the Fire? A Playwright Considers the Plays of Daphne du Maurier.

Loved knowing about this other aspect of du Maurier. The woman tried her hand at everything: novels, short stories, plays — even poetry!

Aspengren talked about three du Maurier plays:

  • The Years Between (first staged 1944, in Manchester)
  • September Tide (first staged 1948, in Oxford)
  • her own adaptation of Rebecca

Because self has read Tatiana de Rosnay’s Manderley Forever (one of her favorite reads of 2018), she knows of Daphne’s fraught marriage. Her husband was General “Boy” Browning who was mentioned (not flatteringly lol) in the book self just finished reading, Antony Beevor’s Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944. It was a very strained marriage, exacerbated by long absences. And du Maurier seems to have drawn on that for The Years Between.

As for September Tide, trust du Maurier to come up with this wickedly entertaining plot: A woman falls in love with her daughter’s husband. According to Aspengren, “the mother and son-in-law have an instant attraction to each other” despite an age gap of seven years.

Daphne du Maurier brings it.

Stay tuned.

England, 1540s: Things Were Crazy, Just Crazy!

Reading Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life is no fun, but SELF YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN NOT EVERYTHING CAN BE LIKE THE ESSEX SERPENT OR NOVEMBER ROAD!

Now, having gotten that off her chest, let’s just say that since self knows how this particular story ends, she is more interested in the sideshows (More sideshows! More!)

The first sideshow to truly capture self’s attention is on p. 180, the sideshow presented by the Duke of Norfolk. Such is Norfolk’s black hatred for Cromwell that not even the fallen minister’s death could heal the wound. Unfortunately for Norfolk: “he himself was thrown into the Tower of London as a result of his son’s crazy dynastic indiscretions in 1546 . . . ”

Hold on, did author Diarmaid MacCulloch just use the word “crazy”? Indeed he did!

Love it, love it.

Stay tuned.

Lyndon B. Johnson, 11 December 1972

Lyndon B. Johnson speaking at a Civil Rights Symposium in the LBJ Library on Dec. 11, 1972:

“Of all the records that are housed in this library, 31 million papers over a 40-year period of public life” . . . the records relating to civil rights “holds the most of myself within it, and holds for me the most intimate meanings . . . ” Until “blacks stand on level and equal ground,” we cannot rest.

Leadership in Troubled Times, p. 351

Leadership in Troubled Times, pp. 228 – 229

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Washington, D.C.:  This crowd on Tenth Street had formed in front of the Peterson House, where President Abraham Lincoln was taken after being shot, and where he eventually died, on April 15, 1865.

Chapter Nine, which breaks down the reasons Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style was so successful, is so far self’s favorite chapter of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Troubled Times. What Goodwin does really well is show us the humanity behind the icon, and Lincoln was an extremely humane President, who suffered from periodic bouts of depression.

In fact, depression was what led him to break off his engagement to Mary Todd (what a scandal, for those times). A few years later, when he was more in command (emotionally as well as politically), he approached her again and she forgave him. They were married.

It is very hard indeed to read the following paragraph:

When Lincoln was under appalling duress, nothing provided greater respite and renewal than a visit to the theater. During his four years as president, he went to the theater more than a hundred times. When the gas lights dimmed, and the actors took the stage, Lincoln was able to surrender his mind “into other channels of thought.” At a performance of Henry IV, Part I, a seatmate noted, “He has forgotten the war. He has forgotten Congress. He is out of politics. He is living in Prince Hal’s time.” He understood that people might think his frequent theatergoing “strange, but I must have some relief from this terrible anxiety, or it will kill me.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

1954: Brown vs. Board of Education

Self is still slogging through Leadership in Turbulent Times. Nothing Doris Kearns Goodwin writes can be dull. But there is a formula in this one: each section has to show how the subject truly deserves the descriptor “great.” And that makes the sections feel a little predictable.

Nevertheless, there are some surprises. She did not know that the four presidents written about — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson — were Republicans. Ha!

Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother died within a day of each other. Subsequently, he turned on his baby daughter, because her birth hastened her mother’s demise.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt married for love.

Lyndon Johnson built “a substantial fortune.”

Of the four presidents, self is most interested in Lyndon Johnson, because of the crucial role he played in the civil rights movement.

The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision prohibiting racial segregation in public schools had quickened the civil rights movement, incited a violent reaction in the South, and prompted the Eisenhower administration to send a bill to Congress expanding federal authority to protect black citizens in a wide range of civil rights, including voting rights.

Johnson, according to Goodwin, grasped at once that “if the South accepted the inevitability of small, incremental progress on civil rights, it might well become one of the most prosperous regions in the country. If it refused to move forward, it would remain an economic backwater.”

When the civil rights bill came along, Johnson was Senate majority leader. He cannily saw that the civil rights movement could not be stopped, and therefore he worked to build coalition among his peers, adding amendments to greatly soften its sting. He worked at blunting “extreme statements” on the Senate floor, “preventing the conflict from being cast in irreconcilable terms.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Abraham Lincoln, Self Can’t Even

Leadership During Turbulent Times, Chapter 1 (Abraham), p. 6:

  • “When he first learned how to print the letters of the alphabet, he was so excited that he formed letters, words and sentences wherever he found suitable material. He scrawled them in charcoal, he scored them in the dust, in the sand, in the snow — anywhere and everywhere that lines could be drawn.”

— Nathaniel Grigsby, a childhood friend of Abraham Lincoln

Quote of the Day: Abraham Lincoln

My mind is like a piece of steel — very hard to scratch anything on it, and almost impossible after you get it there to rub it out.

  • — from Chapter 1 (Abraham) of Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Now Reading, In Honor of Women’s History Month

Leadership in Turbulent Times

Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin

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Doris Kearns Goodwin, Presidential Historian

Chapter 1, Abraham, is about Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood.

There are a lot of things self knows about Abraham Lincoln, most of them having to do with the fact that he’d grown up poor.

But she never knew that his roots were in rural Kentucky. Mitch McConnell’s home state! Self is no fan of the Senator.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

BARRACOON: The Door of No Return

It took self a few days to get through the Foreword by Alice Walker and the Introduction by Deborah G. Plant. Now, she’s about to begin the book proper.

Just before the Preface is a photograph:

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That little gap of ocean was all the slaves saw as they crowded together in the Slave House, the last stop before they were loaded onto ships that took them to lands of untold misery.

Zora Neale Hurston in the Preface, dated 17 April 1931:

I was sent by a woman of tremendous understanding of primitive peoples to get this story.

It is so uncommonly sad to read the Preface. The slaves entered the barracoon as human beings; little did they know it would be the last time they would feel themselves as such. From that point onward, they were mere cattle.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

New Book: BARRACOON: THE STORY OF THE LAST ‘BLACK CARGO’

from the Foreword by Alice Walker:

  • Ours is an amazing, a spectacular journey in the Americas. It is so remarkable one can only be thankful for it, bizarre as that may sound. Perhaps our planet is for learning to appreciate the extraordinary wonder of life that surrounds even our suffering, and to say Yes, if through the thickest of tears.

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