Friday, January 28, 2011

Charlotte Bronte's "Biographical Notice"

+JMJ+

I'm rereading Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights with a tutee this month. The text includes an "Editor's Preface" and a "Biographical Notice" written by Charlotte, which have been reprinted in (as far as I can tell) all subsequent editions. I found this passage from the Biographical Notice, which is about herself and Anne as much as Emily, especially interesting:

Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the "writing on the wall," and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation. We have a right to rejoice when a true seer comes at last, some man in whom is an excellent spirit, to whom have been given light, wisdom, and understanding, who can accurately read the "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" of an original mind . . . and who can say with confidence, "This is the interpretation thereof."

Living authors like Heather King can show up in the comboxes and make everything more interesting, but we can only guess what the dead ones might think of us!

Interestingly (perhaps ironically!), this Biographical Notice is also where we find Charlotte's famous description of her other sister Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall as "an entire mistake." She was never happy that Anne had had it published, and after Anne's death, she kept the publisher from printing any new editions. She clearly believed she had accurately read the "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" of her own sister's mind--and I suppose that of all the critics who have ever lived, she has the strongest basis for saying so. But were her actions condescending or what?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wide Sargasso Sea, or Bertha's story

Alrighty, Blogger has already eaten this post entirely, so let me reconstruct it if I can...

Anyway, around mid-century the author Jean Rhys, a native of Dominica, was struck by the idea of writing the story of Bertha, Mr. Rochester's mad Creole wife. In 1966, she published Wide Sargasso Sea, a re-imagining of Bertha's back story, which was a critical success and won a major literary prize. It's billed as having an anti-colonialism bent and also as being a feminist narrative, but whatever -- it was a good read. Told from multiple view points, it follows Antoinette Cosway (later Bertha Mason) through an isolated childhood to a quickly arranged marriage with Mr. Rochester, to a passionate newly-wed existence that begins to implode when Mr. Rochester learns some of Bertha's family history. The truth is pretty fluid in the book, so it's hard to know what did and didn't really happen, but I found it engrossing even if I wasn't ready to assign in canonical Jane Eyre status.

I easily found a copy in my library and breezed through it quickly, so if anyone's out and about this week (before we shift to our as-yet-unassigned February read), pick it up and let me know what you think.

While researching movie versions (Netflix has both adaptations, but they're both labeled as being fairly explicit in a way the book is not), I came across the Sock Puppet Theater version. It has little do with the actual plot of the novel, but it's so charming I must share.

jane's ideas on marriage

warning: Spoilers ahead

Can I say how much I enjoyed reading Jane Eyre? How little I wanted it to end--and yet, I also didn't want to stop reading. This is the dilemma I always hope for in a book, and it's so hard to come by on the NYT notable book list. Why do I keep looking there when the best books are sitting on my shelf unread? I won't make the mistake again soon.

Anyway, I've been thinking about the ending of Jane E. and how it could easily have ended with Jane's discovery of Rochester's secret--a tragedy. I wonder what editorial decisions went into to turning the narrative around, giving Jane a new life, giving her a family and money. I wonder if Bronte always knew that that was where she would take her heroine.

That image of the tree, struck by lightening, two separate trunks cleaving to one another until they both decay--I couldn't decide if this was a beautiful metaphor or a depressing one. On one hand, we all decay--as Mrs. D so beautifully noted in her last post. Isn't it better to meet the inevitable with another self at our side?

On the other hand--with all of Jane's comments on not wanting to lose her independence, and of not being Rochester's equal, at this stage in the narrative the decay aspect of the metaphor looks like a condemnation of marriage.

I know I'm drifting dangerously close to a feminist reading of JE, but what does it say that a marriage did not take place between Jane and Rochester until she had acquired a fortune and been wooed by another man, while Rochester lost half of his fortune, was physically maimed, and shunned by society? Is this really a marriage of equals? And if so--why is the cost of equality so high for Rochester? I realize that his loss of looks, sight, fortune and esteem all serve to bring down his pride, and give him a taste of the suffering that Jane has experienced for her entire life. But the book gives me enough faith in Jane to assume she could be his equal even without all his loss (perhaps even an equal in pride--which is perhaps what Bronte wanted to avoid).

Found myself a bit jealous of the later descriptions of their marriage--spending all day reading to one another and describing the scenery. I suppose, as with everything else, there can be too much of a good thing--but I don't see it happening soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jane and Appearance

Jane emphasizes her appearance. She doesn't fit the fashionable type: tall, dark, and elegant. Over and over again she describes herself as plain, having irregular features, small, etc. This is comforting to the reader; almost every woman secretly worries she's some kind of ugly, and it's good to see the less beautiful girl get the man and the fortune. When I first read Jane, at 13, I felt a great kinship with her, although my features are generally regular and at the time I had a long thick mass of curly hair that was to die for. Still, I've never had a Grecian nose, so I was just like Jane, right?

This time around, I read from the perspective of an older, long married woman, and Jane sounds a dream of lost youth. I'm 32, and I've had five children in fairly close succession, which has irrevokably changed my body in ways obvious and and not so visible. Taking a break from reading Jane, I looked in the mirror and was underwhelmed: I have the bad skin and flaking scalp of winter dryness, my hair wants washing because I can't be sure of getting hot water in the shower, my hands are cracked and scaly, I have lines on my face and an increasing number of gray hairs. Jane sees herself as dull and uncompetitive; I (like Mr. Rochester, I guess) saw a fresh girl at the height of her powers. Gawd, I feel old.

More fun, in March



The new Jane Eyre opens March 11th. Betty, let's you and me meet up and go see it together!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reading Jane

Ladies, I'm still reading. This is my third or fourth go-round with Jane, so this time I'm taking it in a leisurely fashion, trying to catch nuances and themes that eluded me in my younger days. This paid off on the first page or two -- I'd never realized that the pictures in the book Jane reads in the breakfast room (the book John Reed throws at her) are the unconscious basis for the paintings that Jane shows to Mr. Rochester. (I say "unconscious" because although I haven't reached that scene yet, I believe Jane tells Mr. Rochester that she didn't paint from models but from her imagination.)

Oddly enough, on this reading, Mrs. Reed became a much more human character to me. Before she'd always seemed a monster of injustice, barely short of a caricature. Now I could see her frustration, dealing with a child she didn't understand, cognizant enough to know that Jane is different but not intelligent or compassionate enough to learn how to best manage her. I confess: the moment where Mrs. Reed holds Jane down in her bed and dares her to speak another word resonated with me. I've done my share lately of dealing with fractious children behaving in ways I can't explain, sassing me (so it seems) when I'm tired or cranky or in pain, and the temptation to grab them and make them shut up is great. I don't sympathize with Mrs. Reed, but she's become a more complex character to me, and I admire Charlotte Bronte's ability to create a character, even one who only features in a few chapters of a long book.

No more human now than before, however, is the odious Mr. Brocklehurst, that paragon of hypocrisy -- and that's odd, because he is apparently based on the real head of the school Charlotte Bronte attended, the school at which two of her sisters died of tuberculosis. Perhaps the horror of those schooldays was still too raw to Bronte to allow her to give nuance and subtlety to the man who perpetrated such injustices.

I had to buy a new copy of Jane Eyre, having lost the one my grandmother sent me ages ago. Ladies, Penguin has a new line of clothbound hardcover classics that are a delight to look at and hold. I bought Jane Eyre and Little Women (which cover is charmingly patterned with images of scissors), and I can't stop looking at them and picking them up.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jane again

Readers, I didn’t want this book to end. I stayed wrapped in its spell all weekend. My husband has started to resent dear Jane since I preferred to cuddle with her and a cup of hot tea, rather than cozy up on the couch for movie-watching with him. So finally I savored the last few pages and put it down Monday morning. It cast such a spell, I hated to leave that world.

But to put a finger on exactly what is incantatory… the language, the romance, the setting, the loftiness of Jane’s faith in the individual soul?

Like Melanie, I'm looking forward to other comments, because I just have some rambling thoughts, no coherent argument, to make.

After Betty mentioned our friend’s essay on the romance of domesticity in Touchstone, along with the fact that I started a biography of Lord Byron’s wife and sister, I found myself questioning whether Jane was a Romantic or not. She is practical and resourceful and doesn’t seem to suffer self-doubt, but she has this restlessness even at Morton. She trusts that passion is the mark of true love, but she believes it is better to be “free and honest” schoolmistress than to be “a slave in a fool’s paradise at Marseilles.” She certainly has high standards and believes strongly in the equality of souls, although she appears to treat servants and her country students with condescension. Her joy in finding she has cousins whom she loves (as opposed to the Reeds) and her satisfaction with her quiet marriage seem to quench any restlessness of her heart; she finds perfect contentment in her small cottage life reading and talking – a romantic - but not capital R Romantic - happily ever after ending. 

Some other questions:
Is there any conflict in her rejection of Mr. Rochester’s initial proposal and her offer to go to India as a helper to St. John but not as a wife? On the one hand it seems like she doesn’t care about appearances (despite her faith in physiognomy) as long as she knows she is doing what is right, but on the other hand, you’d think she be able to accept Mr. Rochester’s explanation of why he thought it would be okay to marry Jane because he had talked himself into believing that the first marriage was illegitimate. But Jane is willing, although she dreads the idea, to risk being “the instrument of evil to what you wholly love” rather than risk living in sin.


St. John is an interesting character – are we supposed to admire him or see him as a fanatic? I thought how he described Jane was interesting when he first calls her “impassioned” and then clarifies: “I mean that human affections and sympathies have a most powerful hold on you. I am sure you cannot long be content to pass your leisure in solitude, and to devote your working hours to a monotonous labour wholly void of stimulus; any more than I can be content… to live here buried in morass, pent in with mountain – my nature, that God gave me, contravened; my faculties, heaven-bestowed, paralysed – made useless. You hear now how I contradict myself. I, who preached contentment with a humble lot, and justified the vocations even of hewers of wood, and drawers of water, in God’s service – I, his ordained minister, almost rave in my restlessness. Well, propensities and principles must be reconciled by some means.”


This speech of his, too, stuck out: “It is hard work to control the workings of inclination, and turn the bent of nature: but that it may be done, I know from experience. God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate; and when our energies seem to demand a sustenance they cannot get – when our will strains after a path we may not follow – we need neither starve from inanition, nor stand still in despair: we have but to seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as the forbidden food it longed to taste – and perhaps surer; and to hew out for the adventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune has blocked up against us, if rougher than it.”

If he had decided to be a soldier or statesman instead of a clergyman, would he have been able to marry Miss Oliver and to find an outlet for his energy in those pursuits? Or would that have made his soul smaller? Is his example a justification of celibacy to a culture that prized marriage so highly?


On another note, do you think novelists were especially susceptible to faith in physiognomy? The idea that you can read a person’s personality in the prominences and valleys of their face seems quaint now, but is there enough history in people’s faces that the only fault is to regard it as a science?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jane Eyre reading notes

I just finished Jane Eyre after two nights of staying up far too late because I just couldn't put it down. I can't wait till everyone else is done. In the meantime I don't have much coherent to say; but thought I'd post some of the notes I made as I was reading.

First, this passage amused me-- I actually chuckled out loud as I sat in the OB's office attached to the fetal monitor for my non-stress test-- because although the language is not at all contemporary, the sentiment expressed by Miss Ingram against pretty men who are concerned only about their appearance is similar to one I've heard in rants against "metrosexual" men:
"Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!" exclaimed she, rattling away at the instrument. "Poor, puny things not fit to stir a step beyond papa's park-gates; nor to go even so far without mama's permission and guardianship! Creatures so absorbed in care about their pretty faces and their white hands, and their small feet; as if a man had anything to do with beauty! As if loveliness were not the special prerogative of woman-- her legitimate appanage and heritage! I grant an ugly woman is a blot on the fair face of creation; but as to the gentlemen let them be solicitous to possess only strength and valour; let their motto be: -- "Hunt, shoot, and fight: the rest is not worth a fillip. Such should be my advice were I a man."

And another bit that amused me is the way Jane and Mr Rochester bicker a bit over money before she sets off to see Mrs. Reed:

"You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!" he growled, "At your peril you advertise! I wish I had only offered you a sovereign instead of ten pounds. Give me back nine pounds, Jane; I've a use for it."
"And so have I, sir," I returned, putting my hands and my purse behind me. "I could not spare the money on any account."
"Little niggard! said he, "refusing me a pecuniary reuest! Give me five pounds, Jane."
"Not five shillings, sir; nor five pence."
"Just let me look at the cash."
"No, sir, you are not to be trusted."
My edition, the Signet Classic, has an afterward by Arthur Zeiger of The City College, New York in which he complains about how stilted Bronte's dialog is to a modern ear. I didn't notice it to be stilted at all; but then maybe I'm used to reading period novels. In any case, the above exchange is certainly one of the better bits of dialog.

Another of Zeiger's complaints I found much more apt and that was about the plotting. I'll agree that I found I had to turn a blind eye to the improbability of Jane's turning up at her cousins' doorstep when she flees Thornfield. That did strain the limits of my credulity and I just had to accept it. Though at the same time, I wasn't really bothered by the telepathic communication between Jane and Mr. Rochester which leads her to reject St John's proposal and instead return to Thornfield. So perhaps I'm just an inconsistent reader.


One last unconnected thought was about the nature of Bertha Mason's mental illness. Especially after working as a receptionist and doing the billing for a group of therapists for a while after college, I am fascinated by the way mental illness is portrayed in literature. Sometimes you can guess what the condition would be in today's diagnostic terms. At other times, it seems so hard to figure out. A large part of the barrier is just that mental illness was understood so differently that I think the symptoms are even perceived and described differently. In the same way, I also sometimes have a hard time figuring out physical ailments in older novels.

All this is really random. I hope someone else has a bit more focus than I do right now.

More on Jane Eyre

This morning NPR had a bit about a study done some years ago on inmates who had attempted to assassinate political figures.  The researchers found that many of the would-be assassins were motivated by a desire for notoriety, in revolt against anonymity and failure.  For some reason it reminded me of this passage from chapter 12, when Jane describes her restless nature.

“I valued what was good in Mrs. Fairfax and what was good in Adele; but I believed in the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness, and what I believed in I wished to behold.

Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented. I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes.  Then my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third story, backwards and forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind’s eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose before it – and, certainly, they were many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that was never ended – a tale my imagination created, and narrated continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, to laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex."

Not trying to say that having a restless heart makes you a would-be assassin, just noting the universality of that sense of longing for more.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I must be here to fulfill some kind of quota

I think what happened here is that Betty, MrsDarwin, and Melanie decided to remediate my poor reading habits as documented elsewhere, and the rest of you took pity upon me. Or else you didn't know that I snuck in with a fake ID, I don't know.

I've been blogging for so long (HI ENBRETHILIEL REMEMBER ME?) that I can't imagine the world really needs to know much more about me, but I see that the protocol is to write a contributor bio. So.

I've wanted to be a writer and a teacher my whole life. Something along the lines of saving the world through writing a lot of things in its general direction, or something. And yet I managed to go through my entire undergraduate education without taking a single English/Lit class. I find this shameful and consider it an indictment of the AP program in this country. I also am really good at skimming.

Anyway, so now I write about teaching, and teach at people if they will hold still for long enough. I read constantly but a lot of it is either online news and commentary (cough: blogs) or textbook/nonfiction reading. I also have terrible, terrible book amnesia. Did I mention I am here as a charity case?

It appears that we are supposed to reveal our Texas connections so I will say: I currently live in Texas. I am not from Texas. (But Texas wants me anyway).

I'm from a college town in Georgia - I guess you could say I'm a southern expat. I loved growing up around University People. University People were the smartest, tweediest, most unironically hip people in the world, and I was sure I would join their ranks until I got a little sidetracked. Which is okay, because I think I'm more suited to hopping from one interest to another rather than focusing on a particular area of study. That's what I tell myself.

So, thanks to you all for your hospitality, and tell me what to do next.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Starting Jane Eyre

I'm only on chapter five; but thought I'd start the ball rolling anyway.

Reading about how unloved Jane was as a child I find it amazing she didn't turn out as twisted as Mrs Reed accuses her of being. I can only think that the affection that Bessie shows her does mitigate the lack of affection and the outright cruelty of her aunt and cousins. Or is a wonderful demonstration of how resilient children really are.

The detail that stood out most in the first chapters was about Jane's doll:
To this crib I always took my doll; human beings must always love something, and in the dearth of worthier objects of my affection, I contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow. It puzzles me now to remember with what absurd sincerity I doated on this little toy, half fancying it alive and capable of sensation. I could not sleep unless it was folded in my nightgown; and when it lay there, safe and warm, I was comparatively happy, believing it to be happy likewise.
I think what strikes me most is how puzzled the adult Jane is at the memory. I suppose in part her reaction seems odd because it's such a contrast with a Christmas picture book I've been reading over and over again to Isabella, The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, which is the tale of a little orphan girl who falls in love with a doll. And of the doll who falls in love with the girl. Godden takes it for granted that a doll is a worthy object of affection for an orphan child. Though she also provides Ivy with an adoptive family at the end of the story, so I suppose the doll is necessary but not sufficient. Godden has written quite a few doll tales, all of them are at least in part told from the dolls' point of view.

Jane on the other hand seems to feel some distaste for her childish affection for the doll. I can't tell if it's just that it was meant to be a rather hideous and pathetic doll or if it's a more general feeling of revulsion for that much emotion being lavished on an object rather than a person. I suspect the latter though since she refers to it as a "graven image". We're meant to see it as a sort of idolatry.

Guest Post: Heather King Responds

MrsDarwin sez: I wrote to Heather King and asked if she'd be so kind as to comment on our reading of Parched, and she was gracious enough to stop by, and to write a guest post in response.

If you're not reading Heather's blog, Shirt of Flame, then tolle et lege nunc.

Hi there folks--please know how honored I am that you read Parched, and how gratified I am that you liked it (I think)...For me, the story of a drunk who gets sober is a death and resurrection story, and death and resurrection is the deepest, most interesting, most ever-astonishing story possible.
I've been reflecting lately upon the trajectory of the story of Christ in the Gospels: a very long lead-in to the Passion, then the Passion, then the fairly short "description" of the patchy, ephemeral, now-you-see-it, now-you-don't Resurrection. The Resurrection is inherent in the way the story is told. No victimhood, no whining, no anger, no blaming, no reproach, no glamorization of evil, no melodrama made out of (though no diminishing of either) Christ's own suffering. And I think that same trajectory, and that same approach, is what makes for a good memoir. If ever there was hero, it is Christ, but even for Christ, the focus was on the Father, and the Father's glory, not on him.
I agonized long and hard over the family member aspect of the book. One brother asked to be taken out completely, and when I talked to the lawyer from the publishing house (who goes over the memoir with a fine-toothed comb) I was shocked when he at one point asked: "Is there any chance that your mother would sue you?" I said, "WHY?" And the passage he quoted was the (obviously exaggerated for comic effect) one where I described my friend coming over for supper and my mother serving everybody a teaspoon of mashed potatoes and three peas! Which could apparently "damage her reputation in the community."
I replied, "Truth is an absolute defense to a slander claim and I have seven brothers and sisters who would take the stand and say it was more like TWO peas"...
But seriously, my mother loved the book, or said she did. I had a reading in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, next to the town where I grew up, and the whole family, or those who lived in the area, came. After all, I dedicated the book to my parents, profusely thanked them, gave my mother credit for saving my life, and took full responsibility for my actions during and after drinking. But it's true that different family members have a very different view of, and very different experiences of and interpretations of the same event. So I have been very careful in writing about my family, and in fact have hardly done so at all, since...
Here’s to more good reading, and true writing,
Heather

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thoughts on Parched and Memoirs

Ladies, my home internet was finally set up -- in my own home, at my own desk. It feels like old times as I sit here typing with a baby on my lap (and she sits too; that's how long it's been).

My copy of Parched arrived before Christmas, but Darwin seized upon it first. Thus I first encountered it in the snippets I read over his shoulder. I saw Heather exploring her grandmother's house, then I next encountered her in seedy bars, then suddenly her family was staging an intervention, then she was singing in the kitchen of the rehab house, and these were all isolated vignettes. I found it hard to imagine how the threads would be connected: how, from the wondering child delighting in snooping around grandma's house, did she descend to the sad woman hunched in the living room being confronted with the damage her drunkenness had done her family?

He handed me the book at 11:30; I put it down at 2:45.

Perhaps it underscores my self-absorption, but I spent the rest of the night laying awake composing my own memoirs. Although her descent into the depths was hellish, I knew by the very fact that I was reading her published memoir that she came out all right. But it was the format of the memoir that intrigued me. Right at the beginning I was seized by the minor detail, underlining her family's borderline poverty, of how the children wore plastic bread bags in their boots to keep out the cold. Heather King and I don't have many points of similarity (I'm a very slow drinker, for starters, so I've never been drunk in my life), but at that moment I was transported back into my own childhood, in the kitchen of our trailer, sitting on the peeling sheet vinyl floor, as my mother fastened bread bags around our socks with big rubber bands before we wrestled on our snow boots -- something I'd forgotten; something my own children will never have to remember.

Of course the problem with memoirs is that they necessarily involve other people; people who are often still alive and may disagree with one's interpretation of their actions or motivations. There are many episodes in my own life I wouldn't put into print until my mother was dead; I wondered how Heather King's family, and her mother, in particular, felt about her book. Did her mom feel that she'd been unaffectionate? Would she say that Heather was making a big deal out of nothing? I ask honestly; I loved the early family sections because family life is so universal that even without being like my own family (now or then) many sections rang true and clear. I don't have a similar paradigm for drunkenness.

I've been reading Heather's blog, Shirt of Flame; I wonder if we might contact her and ask her to comment over here on our reading of Parched. (Betty, you'd enjoy her current post, which includes a fine dissection of Jonathan Franzen.)

Next book

Just got home last night, so apologies for the late response to Betty's cue to pick a new book.

And of course, I can't decide, so time for a vote:

1. Something old: Jane Eyre or The Scarlet Letter. I haven't looked at either of these since high school. Wanted to reread JE before seeing the movie, but Hawthorne is shorter, and rereading "Young Goodman Brown" a couple months ago made me want to go back to Hawthorne.

2. Something newer: These choices are kind of cheats because I finished them on our trip: Sticking with memoirs, we could read Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking about her husband's death. A little slow, but a tender portrait of a celebrity marriage that worked amid reflections on loss.

or

A Bigamist's Daughter by Alice McDermott. I loved and hated this book. Would love to hear someone else's take on it. If it were made into a movie, it would be rated R for sex and language, but lots of Catholic overtones. Young unmarried editor at a vanity press gets into a relationship with one of her authors who can't finish his book about a bigamist. She also is sorting through her feelings about her parents and other relationships.  Interesting, sometimes irksome characters, but I was intrigued by the conclusion.

or

Short stories by William Trevor: A Bit on the Side. I'm actually not quite done with these. But like the McDermott, I'm having a love/hate relationship with the book. Mostly love. I hadn't read any Trevor before.

or

Something different: The book from the pope, Light of the World. I just ordered it for my dad for Christmas and it came to my house instead of going to him.

So cast your votes. I'm open to suggestions, too, if there is something else you've loved and want to share.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Favorite Quote from Parched

"It was as if the part of my brain that governed experience had been lobotomized, and this sense of being so deeply separated from my truest, sanest self--the fact that on one hand I felt compelled to engage in behavior that basically consisted of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that one the other hand I was somehow willing it--created a moral/psychic conflict of such ghastly proportions and satanic complexity I simply tuned it out. Unable to reconcile my warring parts, I stuffed my feelings, tamped down every uncomfortable emotion, compartmentalized myself into two different people--good versus bad, self-pitying versus compassionate, sarcastic versus thoughtful--never knowing who I was, or able to predict who I was going to be on any given occasion." (pp 148-9)