July 15, 2011

A recent post on A Work in Progress mentioned in passing literary “crushes.”  As I told Danielle, I had just been thinking about writing a post about that topic—I’ve had a number of crushes on literary characters and was relieved to know it’s pretty common! After all, there are legions of “Edward” fans out there, and apparently, quite a faction of Weasley twin admirers. Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff remain popular, too.

Making movies from books has probably made literary crushing a lot easier, bringing to life the men on the page, helping out our imaginations. While some versions help, there’s always the chance that you’ll think, “That’s not how I imagined him!”

The first crush I remember having was on Gilbert Blythe, of the Anne of Green Gables series. Then there was Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant, the hero of several of mystery writer Josephine Tey’s novels. Grant has a certain sophistication and humor that appeals to me, as well as plenty of brains and courage. He’s not bad looking either, from what I remember.

Other crushes include:

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Lord Peter Wimsey

Archie Goodwin

Mr. Darcy (actually, several of Jane Austen’s leading men are crushtastic)

And, I’m currently developing a little crush on Patricia Wentworth’s Frank Abbott, a character in her Miss Silver mysteries.

Besides being fun, literary crushes can teach us about what we admire about the opposite sex, as well as what qualities we ourselves would like to have. (I seem to have a thing for detectives…hmmm…) What about you? Have you ever had a literary crush? Did having a movie version help or hurt your crush?

Note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be busy with family vacation and out-of-town guests, so I’ll be writing here only sporadically. Hope your summer is full of simple pleasures and everyday adventures!


Thank You

July 13, 2011

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
--Marcel Proust

Kung Fu Panda

Life Lessons From a Panda

July 11, 2011

Saturday night, my husband and I re-watched a favorite movie, and we must have been in a philosophical mood, because we began to draw life lessons from it and share them with each other. What was the movie? That great spiritual classic: Kung Fu Panda.

Yes, I know it’s a kids’ cartoon, but I’ve been known to take life lessons from tea bags, so bear with me.

For those of you not familiar with this movie, the story is set in a fictional valley in ancient China “peopled” with anthropomorphic animals. A new Dragon Warrior is about to be chosen, ostensibly from among the Furious Five, a group of kung fu masters trained by Master Shifu. Surprisingly, Shifu’s mentor, Master Oogway (a tortoise), chooses Po, a giant panda who has crashed the party (literally) after strapping himself to a set of fireworks. The Dragon Warrior must protect the valley from the villainous Tai Lung, Shifu’s former pupil who was denied the position of Dragon Warrior long ago and has just escaped from prison seeking revenge.

The humor and the terrific animation help the lessons sneak into your consciousness. Some of our favorites:

  • If you love something, you’ll put up with a lot of grief/pain/frustration in order to do it. Po wants to learn kung fu so badly that his response to a good tail-whipping during training is, “That was awesome! Let’s go again!”
  • When you discover what motivates you, the battle is almost won. Po’s motivation is food. One of the best scenes in the movie involves a bowl of dumplings and the comment, “You are free to eat.”
  • Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. Yes, I’ve heard it before. But somehow, hearing a wizened old tortoise say the words…
  • There is no secret ingredient. Po’s father is a noodle seller, famous for his “secret ingredient soup.” Turns out, there is no secret ingredient. To make something special, he says, all you have to do is believe it is special.
So today, do what you love, find out what motivates you, enjoy the present and believe you are special. Thank you, Kung Fu Panda.


Discovery: Ellen Glasgow

July 08, 2011

Recently I discovered a Southern writer I feel is worth sharing. I first heard of Ellen Glasgow in an email from online bookseller Abe’s Books. I immediately checked my library for her work, and found a couple of books, including Barren Ground, which I just finished reading.

Ellen Glasgow was born in Richmond, VA April 22, 1873, the ninth of 10 children born to Francis Thomas and Anne Jane Gholson Glasgow. She was a delicate child, educated at home or in private schools, and read widely, everything from philosophy to European and British literature. Though she never married, she was engaged twice and carried on a long-time affair with a married man, only identified as Gerald B. in her autobiography.

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.”
Ellen Glasgow

Despite losing her hearing beginning in 1889, she published her first novel in 1897 (anonymously) when she was just 24 years old. She went on to publish many more novels, as well as short stories and a collection of poems. Her final novel, In This Our Life (1941), won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942 and was adapted into a movie starring Bette Davis. Her autobiography, A Woman Within, was posthumously published in 1954. Glasgow was a popular writer in her time, and hit the best-seller lists five times.

“Born into an aristocratic Virginia family, the young Glasgow rebelled against the conventional modes of feminine conduct and thought approved by her caste,” according to the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. “The great organizing ideas of her fiction are the conflicts between tradition and change, matter and spirit, the individual and society.”

The book I read, Barren Ground, “… is a semi-autobiographical novel detailing 30 years in the life of Virginia farm girl Dorinda Oakley, who embodies Glasgow’s own conflict between Old South nostalgia and New South realism.” according to “Genesis & Apocalypse of the ‘Old South’ Myth: Two Virginia Writers at the Turn of the Century.”

Glasgow’s books were often social histories dealing with the effects of the Civil War on Virginia society. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, “Cruelty, greed, and intolerance were the real adversaries of mankind, she believed. Her novels led Southern fiction away from the accepted lies that the enemy was the North, the nouveau riche, or black people; they showed that the foe was not without but within.” Many of her heroines also struggled against the expectation that women be dependent and domestic.

“No life is so hard that you cannot make it easier
by the way you take it.” E.G.

In the preface to Barren Ground, Glasgow wrote, “In Barren Ground, as in The Sheltered Life, I felt that the scene apart from the human figures, possessed an added dimension, a universal rhythm deeper and more fluid than any material texture. Beneath the lights and shadows there is the brooding spirit of place, but, deeper still, beneath the spirit of place there is the whole movement of life.

“The book is [Dorinda’s]; and all minor themes, episodes, and impressions are blended with the one dominant meaning that character is fate.”

Glasgow’s writing vividly brings to life that “spirit of place”: “Beneath scudding clouds the plumes of the bent grasses faded to ivory. During the long spring rains, a film of yellow-green stole over the burned ground. At autumn sunsets, when the red light searched the country, the broomsedge caught fire from the afterglow and blazed out in a splendour of colour. Then the meeting of earth and sky dissolved in the flaming mist of the horizon.”


“Around her the farm spread out like an open fan, ploughed ground melting into wasteland, fields sinking into neglected pasture, pasture rising gradually into the dark belt of the pines. She knew that the place was more to her than soil to be cultivated; that it was the birthplace and burial ground of hopes, desires, and disappointments. The old feeling that the land thought and felt, that it possessed a secret personal life of its own, brushed her mood as it sped lightly by.”

I’m going to read more of Glasgow’s work. Have you ever read anything she’s written? Who are some of the authors you have discovered?

“Women are one of the Almighty's enigmas to prove to men that
He knows more than they do.” E.G.


Start Savoring Summer

July 06, 2011

Shish kebab on the grill
“At the end of summer we ask ourselves how many long afternoons and evenings did we savor? Or we should. How many seasonal pleasures did we seek and luxuriate in? How many summer tastes were not only indulged but encouraged?”
Sarah Ban Breathnach, Romancing the Ordinary

What are your favorite sensual summer pleasures?

Simple pleasures

This Week By the Numbers

July 01, 2011

Items consigned, donated or thrown away: 15

Doctor’s appointments for my son: 2

Driving tests taken (by my son): 1

Operator’s licenses received: 1!

Cups of coffee consumed: 14

Lunches with friends: 1

Hours spent with Tank: 5 1/2

Baseball games watched: 2 (Kathy: Johnny Damon tied Ted Williams’ hit record on Wednesday!)

Sketching sessions: 2 (two more than last week!)

New puppies at the barn: 1

Oh, yes, I AM all that!
And how was your week?