Exploring where life and story meet!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The search continues...

I thought I found a new favorite (and living!) author, but I'm afraid the excitement of the infatuation is merely the ephemeral thrill of a transient crush.  While I've been a huge Austen fan, I never strayed into the world of steam punk, unless accidentally by viewing the recent Sherlock Holmes remake films, but I strayed from the Austentine path (or shall we say branched out?) and found myself strangely captivated by the Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol books by Gail Carringer (albeit I only got through the second book in the Parasol books as the others were already checked out at the local library).  She is a talented author, able to paint an intriguing world and colorful characters while displaying an inordinate amount of often silly and always witty humor; there was much to attract and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but alas, it was not a relationship that could last, as it seems the books are far more interested in exploring the intricacies of the characters' 'indelicate' parts more than in exploring that phenomenal world or deepening our understanding of the intricate characters or fleshing out the numerous enticing plot points.

It is quite frustrating, I finally find an author with talent, ability, creativity, and a wonderful sense of humor who prefers instead to delve into things best left to the reader's imagination and trashy romance novels, letting the plot and characters languish while the reader must endure seemingly endless pages of an underclass collegian wet dream, ugh!  No wonder I prefer the company of the dead English authors: our modern world has corrupted even the most talented of living authors, much like our modern cinema which has become all impressive CGI, explosions, gore, and lurid romantic scenes, with nothing of substance or content.  Has the art of story completely collapsed into cotton candy: a cavity causing mass of airy nothing?

The ancients (those writing prior to World War I) were masters of the written word, and though sadly lacking in any commentary on lycanthropes, were still able to write a compelling story without the need of spicing things up or filling space with unnecessary carnal visions.  I suppose there is a reason Miss Austen always ended with the wedding!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Classic literature and the narcissist

If I were an English Major type person (I'm more the minor sort, that and Chemistry, ugh!) I would like to write my doctoral thesis (perhaps someone already has) on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and its presence in classic literature.  Jane Austen and the Brontes certainly had first hand experience with this sort of malady as their characters are prime examples: Jane Eyre's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Lady Susan, the husband in 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' Mrs. Ferars, Mrs, Norris, to name just those that come easily to mind.  Having grown up in such a household, I truly appreciate the incite these classical ladies have into the mindset.  I was also intrigued to find a modern sequel to 'Pride and Prejudice' delving into this issue directly, and not only mentioning it but also giving hope and healing to the victims and highlighting the nightmarish effects it can have on the lives of those so affected.  Most of these spin-off and sequels either lapse into sleazy romance novels or historical fiction or are so poorly written that they aren't worth reading, none of which are worthy of Miss Austen's heir, if such is mortally possible.  But Pemberly Manor by Kathryn Nelson might be just that!

Picking up cues and clues from Ms. Austen's various works, Ms. Nelson delves deeper into the mysterious past of Mr. Darcy and the possible reasoning behind his unique character and its effect on his marriage relationship while straying away from peeking in at the bedroom windows and the greater historical events of the day.  As a study of human character, this novel is dead on, much as Miss Austen herself so often was.  So if you are an Austen fan or have been effected by NPD personally, this is a most excellent read!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A startlingly pleasant discovery of the literary sort

I'm rather timid when it comes to getting into a serious relationship on short acquaintance, at this season of life, money and time are best not wasted on the frivolous or insipid; I'm reluctant to try new books as I have been disappointed times beyond count.  I have delved into several different series/genres hoping that this time it would be different only to have countless hours and the financial investment come to naught.  I've read dozens of books, lived vicariously in distant realms/galaxies/worlds, come to love certain characters as if they were real, only to have the story fizzle out or the entire scheme thrown bodily into the recycling bin as if it had never been.  So most of my literary time is spent on the old classics, familiar as a childhood haunt and as unchanging as the monotony of years and happily available in the public domain.  Then I remembered the local library, and what's even better, the advent of the ebook means I don't even have to leave the house or wait for the 1 physical copy to become available six months hence.  I can dip a toe in a book and if it appears to be a complete waste of time, I can just as daintily remove my toe and peruse the next selection.

My first attempt was 'Death Comes to Pemberly,' by P.D. James (warning, my affectation for old books hasn't come to an end, rather it has morphed into a curiosity of what the modern world makes of the old).  I've never read this particular author before, and while impressed with her writing skill, the book left me cold, flat, and indifferent to the drab characters, their fate, and the rather convoluted plot.  But instead of giving up in despair I tried again.  'Austenland' by Shannon Hale was a much better read and the first modern books I've loved since my former disappointments (much like the heroine of the novel).  It isn't deep or world-shaking or a classic, but it is a fun, lighthearted look at self-discovery and relationships in the complicated modern world.  It's an amusing romance in which the heroine ends just fine with the fact that she's not currently 'in a relationship.'

While modern feminism says women don't need men but society says you're nothing without a romantic interest, it was refreshing to find a book that says what we all feel deep down and hope is true: it is good and healthy to hope for a great relationship but the lack doesn't define your value or defer happiness, unless you let it.  This is a message we need today more than ever, as it is often assumed that being in a bad relationship must be worlds better than being single, whereas that is far from true.  A relationship for relationship's sake is ridiculous and putting life on hold until you have the much coveted 'relationship' is equally disastrous.  This book looks at that idea in an amusing and endearing manner and still manages to toss in a happy ending!  And it gives me hope that not all modern books are doomed to disappoint; I'll keep delving and let you know if I discover another diamond amid the chaff.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Be ye transformed (one painful day at a time)

It has been two and a half years since I've awoken to the fact that my childhood was no as normal as I assumed and that I have major emotional and social issues to deal with as a result.  I'm doing much better in general, the worst of the grief is behind me and I'm learning healthy boundaries and social skills, though at times I still struggle and wonder if I've healed at all, I know I have but sometimes progress is hard to mark, especially when each milestone only seems to unveil some ugly, previously hidden revelation that only seems to make things worse.  Though I suppose it is the same healing a spiritual/emotional/psychological wound as it is a physical one: they usually look much worse before they look better.

There's that off-quoted verse, 'be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds,' yes, much of my memory work was done in the King's English so that's the way it comes out; wouldn't it be fun to have your inner thought life use a cool dialect or accent, Sean Connery anyone?  Anywho, I've always read that verse and wondered why things aren't wonderful right now, if I have a new mind and a new life, why am I still plagued by all these old demons?  Then I look at the baby on the floor across the room from me, not able to crawl yet let alone walk, she can as easily get across the room as I can fly, but in a few short months, after some growth and practice, she'll be treading that same expanse of carpet as easily as I do.  I'm also a bug enthusiast, which means butterflies and dragonflies and such frivolous things always mystify and intrigue me, most of all their growth from bizarre looking worms or aquatic aliens into delicate, intricate, marvelous masters of the air.  But they start life as the humblest and ugliest critters imaginable.  Growth and change in nature doesn't happen overnight, why should I think it would in the spiritual realm either?  Yes there can be miraculous cures to injuries, disease, wounds, addictions, and the like, but in general, miracles are defined as rare, thus most healing takes time, painful time.

Jesus couldn't avoid the cross nor Paul his 'thorn in the flesh,' while the ancient John languished in prison; what makes me any less prone to suffering, waiting, and inconvenience than they, the Savior and the great saints?  Why should I grow from infancy in the faith to mature and wise adult overnight?  It takes time to train the physical body in any discipline be it ballet or bull riding, how much more the soul?  Good thoughts all!  Not the 'instacure' our modern, impatient culture demands, but certainly a solace to those who languish under some affliction of body, mind, or soul.  'My grace is sufficient for thee,' is another of those phrases I remember in the King's English, and therein is peace indeed.   

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Home for the Holidays?

The idea of Home has always fascinated me, mostly because I never had one growing up.  Yeah, we had a house but you were never safe, there was no peace or security or welcome...only shame and fear and anger.  I never knew any different and thought that was 'normal,' that all families and homes were like that; it certainly made for a bleak view of the future.  Since, I have learned better, and happily most people aren't currently renting an apartment in suburban Hell.  The opening scenes of C.S. Lewis's 'The Great Divorce' portraying just that are eerily similar but that's a whole other post.  Of course I had that longing we all have, especially this time of year, for something more than we can yet comprehend, that we are homeless wanderers far from our native heath, a hearth we have never yet seen.  This little article is a nice summation of Homes, earthly and otherwise and was a timely reminder for this season above all others when we yearn most for Home.  Here's a great piece on families, genetic and otherwise this Holiday season.

The people of occupied Israel, languishing under Roman rule some two millennia ago also yearned for Home, for a promised Conqueror and Prince of the line of David to overthrow their enemies and restore a King to Israel.  Instead they got a baby, so poor he didn't even have a proper roof over his head, 'his bed a cattle stall.'  Apparently our ideas of a proper Home and God's are quite different, for later Jesus goes on to say the birds and foxes have homes, but He has no place to lay His head, not even an ox stall.  So maybe Home isn't a physical place, at least not yet.  I had a physical place but it sure wasn't home.  So what is it?

Enter the Kingdom of God.  Christ came to establish His Kingdom, here on earth, but He didn't conquer Kingdoms at His first Advent, what He did was conquer hearts.  There will be citizens of that Kingdom drawn from every people, tribe, and tongue.  Fancy a country without geographical borders or a historical timeline but alive and extant wherever and whenever its people call home!  And such a Home, for here there is true peace and joy and love, no matter what happens in the outer world, even if your home is a cattle stall.  So lonely pilgrim, weary wanderer, you have a country, you have a Home, you need only open the door and step within!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Waiting game

It's Advent, the time when the historical church celebrates waiting and that most hard won of all virtues: patience.  Waiting?  Who needs to wait in this modern era?  I have two day or even same day shipping!  Patience went out of vogue with dial-up!  Get with the times lady, sheesh!  Yeah, me too.  I didn't say I enjoyed it, but that doesn't negate its value or importance, I don't want to work out or eat right either or obey traffic laws...you get the idea.  But we still have to wait, whether we would or not, for there are some things, even in this modern world, that cannot be hurried.  This article reminded me of just that, and not only that everyone must wait for something, but that the waiting is actually a gift, yes, you read that right.  As an adoptive parent, I've spent many Christmases waiting and waiting and waiting, only to have that place in your heart empty again this year, so this season is strangely one I really appreciate, for it reminds me I am not alone in my waiting and others spent centuries waiting for something far more important than my little family disappointment yet many never saw it realized.

I was recently on the hunt for an Advent Calendar and found things like the beer/wine advent calendar so you can drink your way to Christmas or the dog advent calendar so Fido can celebrate the season likewise, because dogs really love Christmas I guess.  There were plenty of specimens with a Santa or other modern seasonal variation counting down excitedly to Christmas with a treat or book or stuffed toy or other little present, but I found none that were real Advent Calendars counting down to Christmas that actually had anything to do with Advent!  Now excitement over the season is fun and counting down to Christmas is a grand tradition, but it isn't Advent so I'm not sure why they still call all these modern secular versions 'Advent Calendars.'  Rather, go listen to a really good version of 'O Come O Come Emmanuel' and just let the mystery, the yearning, the hope, the sorrow enter your soul.  Get rid of the phone, the TV, turn off the lights except for a few candles, and just imagine what it must have been like.  Then put on Handel's 'Messiah' (not just the greatest hits, but the entire work) and listen to the words of the prophets echo down through the ages set to wonderful music.  That's Advent: this almost painful expectation, yearning, hope, unfilled but promised, coming but when?

We sit down and read the Christmas story every year, little thinking of all the anticipation, disappointment, and buildup that led to the cutesy little manger scene we all adore.  Since man was cast out of the Garden, it was promised that One would come to restore all that had been lost.  Through all the dark and turbulent years of exile and war, the nation of Israel was promised a Savior. But the prophets were silent, the temple in ruins, the nation a slave state, and the people scattered across the globe, where was the promised Light amidst so much darkness and turmoil.  And then He came, when least expected, in a way quite unlooked for, so much so that many did not believe it.  But then He left, and we wait still, we long still, we yearn for justice and peace and joy.  But the world is a mess and seems messier every day.  Could this truly be 'the consolation of Israel?'  Where is that promised age when all things will be set aright and tears shall be no more?  We wait, for He has promised to return.  So at Advent we look back to the yearning, the longing, the hope of His first coming and look forward, feeling much the same, for His second.

So countdown to Christmas in whatever manner excites your fancy, but do not forget the true reason behind the season or the countdown thereto.  If you're tired of the garish decorations and soulless music, you yearn for a simpler and more meaningful Christmas, hearken back to the very roots of the season, discover what Advent truly means, and it will make the whole season far more delightful.  Forget the ugly sweater party, crack open Isaiah, and Remember!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sophomoric Genius

I was a Sophomore thrice over: highschool, college, and grad school, so I've had the delightful experience of 'foolish wisdom' enough to at least minor, if not major in it.  You know, when you have just enough education to feel like you know it all but not enough experience to know you don't; know anybody who lives their life like that?  Anywho, apparently I'm developing a taste for the 'juvenilia' of my favorite authors.  If anybody has a copybook penned by C.S. Lewis during his boarding school days or perhaps G.K. Chesterton's grammar school joke book, please let me know.  Jane Austen's 'Love and Friendship' has already captured my fancy and lately I've discovered 'The Inheritance' by Louisa May Alcott of 'Little Women' fame.  I saw the DVD at the local thrift store and did a bit of quick interweb research to learn more about it.

Goodreads.com reviewers declared it to be sentimental and romantic drivel penned by our Lady of little ladies at the ripe old age of 17.  How much stuff written by any 17 year old female is anything but sentimental and romantic with probably a great deal of drivel as well?  Especially with a lady with so large a heart and great an affection as Ms. Alcott?  Certainly Miss Austen's snarky wit made great fun of such goings on in the aforementioned work, but Ms. Alcott is not world famous for satirical wit, but rather for her gentle and greathearted heroines.  To be honest, I did not read the book, I bought the DVD for a buck and went in knowing sort of what to expect (both from the source material and the production company, more on that later).  In was wonderfully sentimental and romantic and drivel of the first order, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The acting was worthy of a Star Wars movie, the plot predictable, and you either liked or despised the characters immensely as they were about as complex as any character in a Star Wars movie too.  And George Lucas was a grown man when he wrote Star Wars so Louisa May is doing just fine by that standard!

My in-laws keep buying us movies from this horrid production company that prides itself on 'clean' movies, and while I appreciate the lack of filthy language, vulgar jokes, graphic violence, and explicit content, just because something is 'clean' doesn't mean it is a quality story, be it book or movie.  Sort of like food labels that tell you what isn't in a product, I don't really care what it does not contain, what's in it?  I'm sure it was a low budget production with unknown actors so I didn't expect a BBC costume drama, that being said, it is a very pretty movie with a good sound track and lovable characters, if a bit awkward.  Mr. Hamilton reminded me of the grandfather in the 'Princess Bride' for some reason, I liked him immensely!

I'm certainly not going to let my husband watch this movie (he's murder on well done Jane Austen films!) but I think I may watch it again sometime.  Just know going in you're in for a bit of fluff, but it is a fun peek into a world that all too soon vanished beneath the smoke and confusion of war, technology, modernism, and financial turmoil, leaving us heirs to a far more jaded, cynical, and lonely world.  The ideals are timeless (if currently considered quaint) and we get a rare peek into the formative mind of a great authoress, which in itself is well worth the effort.  I also wonder how many of we sophomoric moderns would even rate 'Little Women' as sentimental, romantic drivel?  Perhaps it is we who have changed, and not for the better, right along with the world: our innocence lost and our outlook cynical, so much so that we can little fathom a far simpler, slower-paced world, in which the study of personal character, that of all our acquaintance and especially ourselves, was not only possible but a lifetime occupation a la Jane Austen.  Perhaps Ms. Alcott is not so sentimental as we would brand her, perhaps it is we who are not 'sentimental' enough, to yearn for honor and integrity and kindness and gentleness in ourselves and all those close to us.  And in that, this touching little story does not fail, not in the least!