When You’re Reading EVERYTHING

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Dear Reader,

Sometimes curiosity strikes, and it strikes hard. You know how in a film, a bell will toll in an eerie way, indicating that something dramatic is about to happen. Basically, that is how I feel at the moment, but with a lot less eer, ear? eerie? Good grief!

I am currently working on the first episode of my podcast, and I have been meaning for it to go up sooner than later, but I have been waiting on some sources to arrive via the post, and I also wanted to make sure I really got into all the sources I could before I put the first one out into the world. I know that I am putting a lot of effort into this first go, and I am so happy to be “creating”. That feels good. It does leave me slightly apprehensive about what future podcasts will look like. The book I am working on is not that long, and I’ve really spent a lot of time on it. I want these podcasts to be monthly, but I need to evaluate how much work needs to go into each one. I’ve re-read the book, gone over and over passages, read secondary sources, read primary sources—honestly, I don’t mind that it has taken me the time it has taken me, simply for the reason that I needed to read those sources ANYWAY. There is a point in your life where you just need to sit down and read the hard stuff. And I firmly believe that you should spend time on those things. You don’t have to rush that. You want to linger in it—go right ahead. I feel like maybe in the future if I’m teaching a class or someone is on a deadline with me, they might reference this blog post and say, well you said it was okay. Uhh, alright, but at least make sure you’re really getting to know the material. That is one of my biggest loves–I love when one is given the opportunity to really get acquainted with history, theory, methodologies, philosophy, critiques, criticisms, ideas, art, tragedy: DO THOSE THINGS.

So, in the last little while, I’ve read and re-read some Foucault texts, I’m re-reading/reading the whole book for the first time Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, and I’ve read Plato’s Symposium. I also read this little legal book I bought in England–back in the days when I wanted to study law–about the legal case(s) of Oscar Wilde [I mean, really, past-self, you bought the book about the literary guy you love, and you thought you were going to do law…rightttttt!] So, lots of pride there for me. Remember to be proud of the effort you put into reading. That’s amazing stuff! Feel really good about cracking those spines–both the books and yours as you remember that your back bone does not like to be discombobulated into that contortionist pose in which you must read.

I wanted to touch in because I know I have been absent for a while. I’ve been harnessing that instinct to hop on here and share all of the excitement I have for what I am reading and putting it into my podcast. I’ve got tons of notebooks and papers scattered around my room, and it will soon be funnelled into aural communication.

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Another thing on my mind is the fact that I really need to organize some of the books next to my desk. It would be helpful if I could just live in this idealized space that grew as I acquired books, but marshmallow-world is not yet a reality. So, until then, I’m going to have to spend time organizing. But, I mean, that is also a rather soothing task.

Also, I want to add, you should read books that make you happy. I know that sometimes we try to force ourselves into loving things that aren’t necessarily right for us at the time. So, if you’re not feeling something, just put it down and respect that feeling. You can come back to it, or not. I think we put a lot of pressure onto ourselves about needing to read certain books because it is what other people are reading. I think we should always challenge ourselves in our reading careers, but I also think we need to remember to enjoy what we read. I’ve wanted to read The Idiot for a while now, but, at the same time, I also did not feel like reading that kind of book. And, there will be a time, maybe in November, when it’s frigid AF outside, and I pick up the book and I think: why did I wait so long? But that is the paradox of reading, we can get so much pleasure from one book that, at another time, might have been a massive headache or thorn in our eye. So, respect how you feel when you read. Don’t be afraid to put the book down: unless it’s an assigned reading and your grade depends on it–then, my airy-fairy, free-will advice sort of goes to pot, you can call me kettle.

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So, I’ve got to go make Nietzsche peachy, create some queer book words, and share my voice. Women are doing it! We really are (women is not an exclusive identity, that is, you do you!).  Be free, my pretties! (How on earth did I just go to giving off wicked witch vibes? YOLO! Just don’t splash me with water!)

 

Heaps and heaps of love,

Word Play, Xx

Great Expectations ⎟ Materiality of the Book & Serialization

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I called this project Serial because of the serialization of Dickens’s novels. Serialization is really fascinating; I would describe it as being akin to the scheduled release of television shows. In fact, that is *definitely* the origin of the filmic medium. And, that, to me, is absolutely hilarious—can we all share a group chuckle? I don’t know why I find it so peculiar; we often use analogy to describe things that are historical or out of our current experience, but I just love the idea that the serialization of novels/fictions is how we consume cinematic/filmic media instalments of television shows. I imagine that DVD collections, Netflix, and other streaming services that offer all of the episodes would be akin to the publication of the whole book. Would I carry around a boxed-set of DVDs? Maybe. Like, if it was Harry Potter or The West Wing or Poirot, mais oui, but of course!

Great Expectations was published in 35 parts from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861 in All the Year Round, a magazine of which Dickens owned the majority holdings. It was also published in the U.S by Harper’s Weekly.

  1. December 1860 had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 1-8.
  2. January 1861 had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 9-15.
  3. February had 3 parts released, consisting of chapters 16-21.
  4.  March had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 22-29.
  5. April had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 30-37.
  6. May had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 38-42.
  7. June had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 43-52.
  8. July had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 53-57.
  9. August had 1 part released, consisting of chapters 58-59.

Rather than follow each part’s release date, which would leave me with 35 posts on Great Expectations, [Bah, said Scrooge, Humbug///]. I will go by the monthly releases, which should give me about 8-9 plot-driven discussions, with space to add a few more posts or not, to talk about things that I feel I’ve over-looked or about which I’ve changed my mind.

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First serial of Great Expectations. Courtesy of: George C. Gordon Library.

Let’s consider how the release of the parts of the novel in serial form make the work more digestible and approachable for a reader. According to Robert Patten in Charles Dickens and His Publishers, about 100,000 copies of All the Year Round sold each week. The portability of the magazine meant that it could be shared, meaning that, although 100,000 copies sold each week, the readership was much higher. Dickens’s stories were read aloud in groups, shared, and, I like to imagine, pilfered by unsuspecting readers in coffee shops, the most dubious of public spheres. That is a lot of readers, particularly in an age (in Britain) where literacy was inconsistent. 

I think that most of the reason readers don’t pick up Dickens’s works is because of how large they are. But imagine, not watching Orange is the New Black because there are TOO MANY episodes, without SENSE, am I right? The hand-held, portability of the magazine serialization made Dickens’s words travel, across space, classes, and nations. I love to imagine the sheer volume of Dickens’s words travelling across London as rail travel made living out of the city viable and desirable, John Wemmick, a character in this very story, for example. Work on the Tube, as it is known now, began in 1860, as the Metropolitan Railway, from Paddington toe Farringdon Street. That is something we should also remember when reading Dickens. Just as we are attached to new and developing technology, advances are also to be noted and found in Dickens’s works. We might not notice them because they have existed for us for all time, but railways and travel by rail was a huge topic of debate. Let’s not forget that the railway in Tolstoy stood for the dangers of modernity, the artifice of women (such as in Anna Karenina). 

So we’ve noted that Dickens’s words were portable. The heavy tomes that we now, lovingly, lug around in handbags or saddlebags, whichever your fancy, were not the same that its original readers experiences. Indeed, collated publications of Dickens’s novels usually occurred within the year of its last serial publication. So, they did exist in his time. Today, I sometimes think that the books we read in public also dictate to other people information that we may or may not want to share about ourselves. Like the clothes we wear and the airs we adopt, the public face of reading also indicates things about us to other people. I’m not sure I have any conclusions to draw about this at this time, but it’s something to consider about the books we read, where we read them, and their visibility.

Let’s also take a moment to think about the illustrations of Dickens’s novels. My edition does not have any illustrations, which is such a loss. It doesn’t make the book more adult when you remove the illustrations!!!! I love that Dickens’s stories had accompanying illustrations. I think that the visual world offered by these illustrations gives so much more to the text. It opens a space for more information and different interpretations of the texts. It also provides information that less literate or less-well-read readers can use to piece together information. Since, my edition doesn’t have illustrations, I am going to have to align them when I’m reading. From a cursory examination of the original publications, the illustrations were a later addition. So, I forgive Barnes and Noble their lack of illustrations–not. Ahah! The original illustrations were completed by Frank Stone in 1862; he completed eight for the Library Edition. Later illustrators include F.A Fraser, John Mclennan, Sol Eytinge Jr., and Henry Mathew Brock. 

The serialization of the novel also permits the author to employ cliffhangers and other plot techniques to keep the reader hooked. This might make the work seem to be fighting for your attention, or to have artificial highs and lows, but it also means that the author has to work hard to keep the story gripping and engaging because, if nineteenth-century readers are anything like me, I always forget to tune in next week to find out what happens. Luckily, I have the internet to sort that out. But, I also think that as the member of a very small family (there is only 4 of us AT ALL), with friends strewn across the world, I have an experience that means I hear about a lot less things on a daily basis, compared to when I was in high school or at uni. 

I love the disparity between our experience with Dickens as somewhat unapproachable and out of touch–his books are big AF and his language is complex and full of allusions and his experiences and those of his contemporaries. I am sure that many allusions flew over people’s heads, as they do mine, but that’s part of reading and all creative media. I mean, when I was about 12 and I tried to read Little Dorrit I had no idea what the heck a Marseilles was, turns out it’s a place–HAHA. But because I didn’t know it, it made me want to know it. So, I lived life, and when I learnt that Marseilles was a place, I got it more. And, later, as I learnt history and ideas of nationality and character, I got that the story started outside England in a very meaningful way–but we’ll get to Little Dorrit a little later. Spoiler: IT IS MY FAVOURITE DICKENS *jumps up an down like an over-excited toddler*

Heaps of love,

wordplay xx

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A Rumi Kind of Day

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I have been meaning to post about Charles Dickens recently, but I’ve been a little busy reading about Hegel. I have also been distracted by Rumi. I love his poetry so infinitely much. I don’t own any Rumi collections, which makes me sad. I tend to go into bookstores with people, and I think buying Rumi is such an intimate act that I don’t want to share that with someone else. To me, it’s like sharing something so intrinsic. I find buying books to be very intimate; it speaks to the words you want to swim in your head, the voices you want to tell you things, and the stories you want to collate in your being.

Last year, I almost bought a Rumi collection, but I purchased a wicked copy of The Iliad instead. I mean, it’s not a bad choice! In a game of Would You Rather, I think that could, potentially, be a deal breaker. Do you chose Homer or Rumi? What DO you do? So, I chose Homer, and I can’t say I regret that decision because I knew that I needed Homer at that moment in my life. There was a battle raging in my mind, and Homer gave me the tools to watch how battles can be glorious and well-fought but that your hero will die. Well, that was the aesthetic of the time, the hero must die for it to be considered beautiful and tragic–a sublime melancholy. J.K Rowling showed us the hero just needs to love and “DO” out of love for our fellow humans, beings (of all creatures), and earth.

But, now, I think it is time for Rumi. To me, reading Rumi reminds me of sinking into the most luxurious, healing bath water. I should explain this metaphor a little further. I am a water person. When I was little, other kids would play with each other during fun-swims, but me, I would go to the deep-end and swim as deep as I could. I’d swim under all of the feet of the swimmers, like their feet were seaweed leaves swaying at the surface. And, in my own underwater world, I’d live. I swam with dolphins and mermaids; I solved mysteries of life; I was. That sense of being complete is what I feel when I’m in water. Two years ago, I swam in Lake Ontario. I have been in lake water before, but never in such a large, uncertain body of water. I used to always stare at the water, and I’d watch the ripples grate into each other, a perfect infinity. Being in the water epitomized the intellectualization of a vast infinity. When you look into infinity, you admire its presence. When you are within it, the forces of the other, alien forces, push you and desire you to become part of that system. Like being really tiny in an average-sized tub of jello, you are thrust back and forth, bouncing. But, it is not jello, and you are in the mechanism of infinity. That is how Rumi’s words make me feel.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
-Rumi

Infinite.

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WordPlay Xx
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Reader’s Regret ⎜On Reading When It’s Right For You

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I’ve been thinking a lot about when we read books. It has been said that we come to the books we read when we need them most. I’ve been going through my shelves lately, and I kept thinking, I bought this when I was a teenager, why didn’t I read this then? Why didn’t I read this then? How would my life be different? What complex emotions would I have derived from this experience at that time?

Reader’s regret?

I have to stop myself from giving into that feeling, except as a motivator to keep reading as voraciously as possible. Or, as much as I can. My eyes hate day-reading, so I end up staying up really late to read. It makes no sense; but I think years of libraries have, in fact, ruined daytime for me. So I will use this feeling to spur on better reading habits, but I won’t let it define me or make me feel bad for *past me* not knowing or empathizing or understanding those emotions and feelings the author presents or limits.

I remind myself that those books are still open to me, and, in fact, because I understand language and its nuance more than I did before, those words will take me to places into which I had, previously, been unable to tap. Booktubers often do a year-end wrap-up video about ‘Books that Made Me’. It applies to my reader’s regret. All of the books that I have read, thus far, inform how and what I read in the future. I may pick up a book that I bought when I was a teen, probably a little inappropriately (some of the books I bought were quite mature), and read and enjoy.

For example, I can’t quite remember how old I was, but Costo sold some of Ophah’s Bookclub Books. My mom bought me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. I have only read one of the three, so far, and I only read A Tree in 2013. I do plan on reading the other two, but not just yet. East of Eden seems like a summer novel—and Canadian summers can get sultry—so maybe this summer. Additionally, I think my reading was informed more by Canada’s links to the UK and slight idolatry of UK literature over American literature, so that also informed my reluctance to tackle American lit. (Sorry guys…but I’ll get there). The reason I haven’t picked up Solitude, is mostly that other people have said a lot of “it was a long book”…so peer-pressure!!

A Bit of Fry and Laurie / tumblr

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Back on point, I was an avid reader as a child, so I read other books instead of these. I think they were also a little too mature for my preteen or early-teen self. I think the language and nuance would have been a little lost compared to my reading them now. I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men when I was in my early teens, and I did love it a lot. But, I had many other book to read and re-read. When I was younger, I definitely had an immortality complex when it came to books. I had/have all the time in the world to read. So, I read what I wanted and what I chose. I re-read books many time. I have re-read The Hobbit more times than I can count. Indeed, I read it so many times when I was so young, that it is a “gospel truth” to me. I don’t doubt the existence of hobbits. You all need to stop being such noisy walkers!!

Indeed, I read other books. I didn’t read some of the ones I was bought or took out from the library. I snuck books that belonged to my mom or sister. The books that I read then, have read since, and am reading inform what and how I read. I read Betty Smith’s book in the spring of 2013. I read it, and I saw myself so firmly in the character of Francie. Our childhoods were quite a bit different because I belonged to the sort of middling classes of a privileged country. Yet, I learned and could empathize and connect with the main character because of our mutual love of books and language, our desire to learn in spite of the expense of school, and our desire to share language with others. When I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I fell in love. I recommended it to everyone. I underlined passages and shared them on twitter. I would send photos via text of underlined pages. Pages upon pages, I underlined with love. Margins scribbled in a book that was warped from the final pressure my hands, heart, mind, and eyes exerted upon the covers and spine of this precious book. I loved it so much then and there and now, that I don’t regret that I didn’t read it when I was younger because I wanted to tell the world how much I read or how sophisticated my tastes were. I regret not reading it when I was younger because it was such a pleasure and I wish I had always known that feeling.

But, I remind myself, you did and do. I remind myself of reading The Hobbit and Harry Potter and picture books with my mum. I remind myself of dragging Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland around with me everywhere and not reading it. Sometimes we read books and sometimes we don’t, but books are our most exciting and powerful resources. Wielding a book means power. If you are reading right it is not a tyrannical power, but a power to engage and develop empathy. It gives us the power to engage with the creativity or frustration of the author.

IT Crowd / tumblr

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale the summer before I turned 14. I may not have really understood the stake of Atwood’s story: feminism, patriarchal structures of oppression, &c., but reading it exposed me to that language. I was exposed in a way that I had not been before. I may not have understood feminism from one book, but I was being equipped with the language to be able to understand. I read Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai in school, whilst gay marriage and homosexuality were being discussed distantly in the news or by our elders, this book provided a moment to engage personally and critically (literary not judgementally) with, for me and my peers, a new language: sexuality.

On a brief side note, this is why the internet is so important. It makes these types of knowledges so accessible. I read about these ideas through literature and later through various philosophers etc., but the internet allows young people to engage in discussions of feminism and LGBTQ+. Of course, there will always be trolls and havoc-causers, but I do think the internet has opened a space where language can instantaneously permeate through otherwise impervious spaces. The language of acceptance becomes normalized. But keep reading, young ones, it’s the stuff of life.

So, friends, I wish that I had always been capable of reading the way I do now. I wish that, at the age of fifteen, I could have picked up a book and seen through ideology. I saw the things I saw, even if I was still learning. I’ve read and listened; I’ve worked hard to read the way I do. It was never a chore, except sometimes. I wish I could see the nuance I do now. But, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I hope that I am able to look back, in ten- or twenty-years time, and say, I wish I understood these (new) things back then, too.

The Great Gatsby / giphy

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Word Play Xx

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Chapter the First: In Which Things Are Introduced

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Charles Dickens was an English novelist, who lived in the nineteenth century. He was born in 1812 and died in 1870, at age of 58. This prolific novelist has been praised, condemned, idolised, and ‘read’. He gained success with the serialized publication of The Pickwick Papers in 1836. His next publication, Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress, serialized throughout 1837-9, is our focus, right now.

The aim of these posts is to reclaim Dickens as entertaining and fun. In an age without television, Dickens’s texts are drama-filled performances. He crafted his novels to reflect acted entertainment. Indeed, where Dickens wrote Oliver, now the Charles Dickens House Museum, 48 Doughty Street in London, upon the lectern that he designed for his American reading tour stands his novel, scrawled with his own writing. His words hang in the air, a crescendo of emotion that falls, into the abyss, on empathetic ears.

Dickens lived in an age that has been characterised by the surge of modernity and progress. And, although considered a golden age of trade and wealth, poverty and debt were very real crises of the age—as they remain today. Throughout many of Dickens’s novels, but especially in Oliver Twist and Little Dorrit, he created a realistic and non-idealized portrait of poverty and crime. As we will see, crime and cruelty are not restricted to the underclasses, but even the (very) rich and landed classes may commit crimes. Such a theme becomes more apparent in Little Dorrit, but we’ll talk about that in another serial edition.

When Oliver was serialized, Victoria became Queen of England, so England was not yet encapsulated under the moniker, Victorian. Brought up under the care of a strict mother, Victoria and her reign have been characterised by propriety and chastity. The perception of Victorians as pure and chaste, is, perhaps, drawn from Victoria’s later obsession with the purity of her children, especially her sons. But we must also remember that Victoria and her husband were madly in love with each other, had many children, and were a very intimate couple. If anything, we learn from this example that the Victorian era is wrought with contradictions and anxieties about those contradictions–much like any age.

Dickens’s depiction of poverty and crime in Oliver Twist toys with those anxieties and contradictions. His cast of characters include crime lords, robbers, prostitutes, bumbling parochial authorities, cruel relatives, and kindhearted guardians. Yet, although these characters are identified by these labels, if Michel Foucault has taught us anything, we know that these characters also defy their labels. Except, perhaps, the kindhearted guardians.

Before I give too much away (and spoilers will be included in these posts), let’s meet our characters:

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(from the left) Charley Bates, Oliver Twist, Artful Dodger, (behind) Bill Sikes, Fagin, and Nancy. [Illustration by Phiz. or Hablot knight Browne]

In this print, we meet the motley crew of London’s crime world: the young boys recruited into Fagin’s service, the resisting Oliver, Bill Sikes–the housebreaker, Fagin–the head of the crew, and Nancy–trained by Fagin to steal, but her gender and association to crime signifies her fall from grace. Nancy, is one of the more complex and beautiful characters.

***

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(from left) Mr. Brownlow, Mrs. Bedwin, Oliver’s Mother (in image), and Oliver. [Illustrated by Phiz.]

Meet Mr Brownlow. His portly figure shows he is well-fed, and has a comfortable income. The room features peacock feathers, reminding the viewer that Empire is not far from the reaches of a man like Mr Brownlow. Indeed, the painting that holds up the feathers, has palm trees, a reclining female figure, and turbaned figures. The print presents us with a claustrophobic scene, in the corner or a kitchen, but the world opens up through the painting on the wall. Additionally, Mr Brownlow appears to be looking at the painting on the wall, extending our gaze beyond the plot, rather than at comparing Oliver and the other painting on the wall, the portrait of Oliver’s mother. Finally, Mrs, Bedwin is Mr. Brownlow’s housekeeper, and she is the type of woman that you could imagine would always have a cup of sweet tea and a hug ready.

***

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(from left) Oliver (seated), Fagin, and Monks (illustrated by Phiz.)

Such a brilliant illustration. Dickens’s writing at this part is also brilliantly frightening. Monks is a name we’ll want to recall.

***

The workhouse women, Mrs. Bumble (neé Corney), and Mr. Bumble (formerly the parochial beadle)

The workhouse women, Mrs Bumble (neé Corney), and Mr Bumble (formerly the parochial beadle)

Mrs Bumble chastising Mr Bumble. Ugh. Just desserts? Yes. Mr Bumble is too innocently named. He is not a bumbling man; he is greedy, lazy, and hypocritical. He treats the orphans under his care with cruelty and contempt. He will feature in an upcoming post, so, let’s look forward to that.

***

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(from left) Rose Maylie, Mr Brownlow, Nancy, and Noah Claypole (illustrated by Phiz.)

Pictured above, Rose Maylie and Mr Brownlow learn of the whereabouts of Monks. Noah eavesdrops on Fagin’s orders. Rose is the adopted child of Mrs Maylie, and her gentle heart and status of orphan makes her the perfect character to care for Oliver. More on that later!

***

Next week, I will upload a post about Poverty, Poor laws, and the Virtue of Wealth. I look forward to opening a dialogue about Dickens and his texts.

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On Privacy and Narrative.

unnamed-6The act of reading is an intimate act. You sit alone in your flat. You become alone in a crowded space, as your mind submerges into the text. You hear the author’s words resonate from the silent paper as waves of sound pulsate through your body. At the perfect harmony, you are shattered. Reading allows for a personal intimacy, an intimacy with the text, and an intimacy with the character. Whether or not the narrator is reliable pressures our ability to trust our access to characters’ private lives. Part of us may let go, most of us may cling to the edges of the newly bound or ruggedly aged book in our hands. In my own experience, there is always a sense of wanting privacy and self-freedom, whilst also wanting someone to, omnipotently, understand our own narratives. We don’t want to have to explain ourselves. We want an empathetic audience to our lives, but on some level, wouldn’t that just be insufferable? I’ve been thinking, today, about the need for privacy and space whilst reading Oliver Twist. Of course, many narratives do not give the mundane reality of a person’s day. For instance, not once has Oliver had a wee. Am I the only one that this bothers? (haha, please don’t run away with the idea that I think about this and this alone). But such mundane acts are the building blocks of life. A narrative takes the reader through the character’s movements–as much as we can see, as much as is pertinent to the narrator and/or author’s articulations. Reading can seem especially invasive if we are reading a memoir or a memoir-styled fiction. It seems quite perplexing, in a humuorous sort of way, that to escape this world and slip into a quiet sanctuary, that we, unnoticed by the cast, emerge into other peoples’ lives. Of course, I am also going to claim that, although some might argue the observer effect is null-and-void in this context, it is at the forefront of our engagement with the text, story, film, or television show. We always bring our own biases and knowledges to a book. We each have our own particular strengths. I, for instance, can recall quotations from theoretical texts, but I find it much harder to recall lines from literature. I am incredibly envious of people who can memorise these quotations. I’ll have to work on it, I suppose. Back to my point, we always bring our own state of mind (at the time), our own set of knowledges, our own abilities and lack of ability to empathise, and our own interpretations to what we are viewing or beholden. Our observer effect does not effect the ink’s immutability upon the page, but it is key to our understanding of what we read. We cannot change what happens upon a screen, but how we engage with it is our own observer effect. This may be dubious in other areas of life, ‘research’, or writings, but our nature to engage with things on nuanced and varied measures is precisely the (abstract) beauty of reading. Thus, in our own small ways, as we escape into these worlds, you can align or malign with a particular character. The books become about us, inasmuch as they are about other things. Perhaps, that is why in cases of extreme emotion–it is difficult to lose yourself in a book. But, I’ll always remind myself. The lustful craving for privacy and lack of intimacy is willfully and beautifully undone by the power of narrative, character development, and/even the deconstruction of narrative itself. Those silly post-modernists; shucks.

***

Additionally, I am setting myself a goal of Five Books in March. I’m trying to whiz through Oliver, but so far, I’ve been a little slow with it. My own narrative continues to drown out Oliver’s. But, if anyone is intimidated by Dickens, do read this book. Dickens has such a beautiful way of phrasing things. tumblr_nkpcm0aFEe1sb2oz2o1_1280 Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? I’ve read P&P, and if I don’t get to it this month, I might save it for early spring (Canadian weather). To me, it is a spring novel. Maybe, I can bring it forth sooner through literature? Also, I picked up my copy of Northanger Abbey today and was gently perusing it. This might also contribute to my slow pace with Oliver. Woopsiedaisy. I hope you’ll read along with me and/or let me know what you think about these books or a book you’re reading. Be the courageous ones I know you all to be. I wish you peace and happiness.

Heaps of Love,
Word Play Xx

Current Fling; Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End Tetralogy

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I have decided to give this book a go, again. I first tried to read this when I was doing my M.A in London, but for some reason or another I couldn’t get into it. For example, there were times when I felt that the first few pages were just too rigidly male. That kind of pre-WWI, British, aristocratic maleness drenched in the cologne often referred to as eau de privilege. I’ve decided to retry reading this and putting my own skepticisms aside. I have been promised many good things by the reviews out there, so I remain hopeful. I read a little bit yesterday, but didn’t get too much into the novel because I was out at 90th birthday party. <<aspirations>>

In addition to this text, I’m also going to revisit Dr Margaret MacMillan’s history text, The War That Ended Peace. Dr MacMillan’s text is really readable, so do consider picking up this historical study of the lead-up to war and the consequences of the First World War. Particularly, in an age where we have been engaged in war without acknowledging it or its consequences, I think it is important to revisit and remind myself et al., of its impact. Indeed, perhaps it may seem problematic to re-schematise this age of war within a European/Western context, but a lot of the issues that have arisen in the Middle East are direct consequences of Europe’s post-war territory making and settlement of nations which did not even consult the peoples living in those territories.

I look forward to getting into this book. Additionally, the most-lovely Benedict Cabbagepatch has starred in the BBC dramatisation of this tetralogy of novels, so I may look into those once I have finished reading.

One last fancy. Why hasn’t he starred as Dorian Gray in OW’s The Picture of Dorian Gray? Hum, but let’s not do to the novel what they did with the most recent film. I refuse to link it here. I saw five minutes of it yesterday, and I found myself defending the novel, most adamantly. Ugh. Please, let’s all just take a moment to RESPECT Oscar Wilde’s genius and not just use his book as an excuse for lascivious screen shots. The book contains so many beautiful instances of pure artistic craft. It respects the various artworks and styles it encounters, and the reader is enraptured by Dorian’s collections and decadences. [aside: The reader sees Dorian take opium to forget. But this scene isn’t romanticised. A character (left ambiguous here) is having a terrible hallucination that makes the reader question—what terrible reality makes those hallucinations better? There is more to be said about this, but I’ll leave it here.] Wilde was put on trial and largely criticized for the novel, a piece of artistic genius, which does not contain explicit reference to sexual content (that’s for your own imagination). And, I think that’s the genius of Wilde’s novel. He’s telling the reader…’It’s not here, but you’re thinking it. Just try to stop thinking about it. GOTCHA’ Love this man. I’ll leave it here:

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

– Wilde, Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Heaps of Love,

Xx

Pensives from a Smart Doggy

Pensives from a Smart Doggy

“No Kacheeny, you are mistaken. Achilles’s sense of honour and duty is juxtaposed with Paris’s. Paris seduces Helen and causes the Trojan war. In the midst of war, Achilles’s temper results in Agamemnon dishonouring him by taking Briseis. Here we see that Helen is the ‘object’ of a war, and Briseis a captured ‘object’ of war and a refusal to fight by the greatest warrior. Does that clear up your misapprehension?”

Definitely within the Madding Crowd

Warner bros / tumblr

God, Thomas Hardy is like magic. So innocuously placed, these phrases paint a landscape of subtlety and delight. Loving my current fling–Madding Crowd and all. 

The hill was covered on its northern side by an ancient and decaying plantation of beeches, whose upper verge formed a line over the crest fringing its arched curve against the sky, like a mane. To-night, these trees sheltered the southern slope from the keenest blasts, which smote the wood and floundered through it with a sound as of grumbling, or gushed over its crowning boughs in a weakened moan. The dry leaves in the ditch simmered and boiled in the same breezes, a tongue of air occasionally ferreting out a few, and sending them spinning across the grass. A group or two of the latest in date among this dead multitude had remained on the twigs which bore them till this very mid-winder time, and in falling rattled against the trunks with smart taps.

Between this half-wooded, half-naked hill and the vague still horizon its summit indistinctly commanded was a mysterious sheet of fathomless shade–the sounds only from which suggested that what it concealed bore some humble resemblance to features here. The thin grasses, more ore less coating the hill, were touched by the wind in breezes of differing powers, and almost differing natures–one rubbing the blades heavily, another raking them piercingly, another brushing them like a soft broom. The instinctive act of human-kind here was to stand, and listen, and learn how the trees on the right and the trees on the left wailed or chanted to each other in the regular antiphonies of a cathedral choir; how hedges and other shapes to leeward then caught the note, lowering it to the tenderest sob; and how the hurrying gust then plunged into the south to be heard no more.

Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (Toronto: Penguin Classics, 2013), 8-9.

Absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of when I go for a walk, by myself or with my dog, and I just stare into the distance. The way I notice the trees that line the variegated sun-setting sky. All you can do is breathe in the magic. Hardy’s lines are such beautiful examples of being a crafter of words and the subtle experience of existence. It feels like breathing. It feels like fresh air. It gives life. 

Current Fling, so long and thanks for all the hyperspace and improbability inter-stellar travel

Far From The Madding Crowd

Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

A new chapter; a new beginning; a new start. This book will carry me over until the new year, at 353 pages with rather small type face. I wish they had made it a little larger—because I love worrying about whether this will destroy my vision further. In any case, as I try to read over the noises of everyone else’s raging youtube and televisual noisematics, I will definitely be posting quotations and thoughts as I read the text. Apparently, it is quite the quotable novel. Indeed, the main character is called Bathsheba. I love that, already.

Also, this is really cute: <<MUSIC HERE>>

Alright, onwards I go–into the referential of the madding crowd. 

Lots of love. X