Monday, July 25, 2005

Reading update

Listened to 11 pages or so of Treason's Harbour while on the treadmill this morning before admitting defeat. Beyond the fact that Jack lost the chelengk from his hat in the sand and that Stephen and Martin were having a grand old time with the diving bell, I could not follow anything that was happening and had to reread those pages at lunch. Books with simple sentence structures to exercise to from now on. I'll read, not listen, to the rest of this one.

So glad I sent for an ILL copy of E.C. Spykman's The Wild Angel. From Sarah L. Rueter's introduction:

E.C. Spykman knew her characters, the settings, and the situation of which she
wrote with an intimacy that came from having lived them herself. Born Elizabeth
Choate in Southboro, Massachusetts in 1896, she was one of six children—four
boys and two girls of a prominent Boston lawyer in a family that had been
vigorous and accomplished for generations. She grew up in the midst of a lush
countryside of vast lawns, gardens, and pastures which belonged largely to her
own extensive family and which developed in her a sense of freedom, a spirit of
belonging, and a strong awareness of nature which pervades all of her writing.
Later she was sent to Boston to be socialized, and to the Westover School in
Connecticut to be educated, but it is the influence of those early years in
Southboro which are at the heart of her novels.

All that happens in her stories really did happen, but not always to her. She never made anything up, yet the books cannot strictly be called biographical, because with consummate skill she transformed, rearranged, borrowed in time, exaggerated, and subdued until the whole became a kaleidoscope rather than a mirror of her childhood. One can say that Jane Cares is very much like E.C. Spkyman herself; that the incorrigible Edie is a composite of her younger sister Josie and of her sister's
daughter Josie (the two Josies to whom The Wild Angel is dedicated); that Ted is
like her two oldest brothers and Hubert like her two youngest brothers; that
Summerton is Southboro, that Charlottesville is Boston and that the Cape Cod
locale of the third book is Woods Hole. But, while it can be fascinating to
explore origins, it is the power of her writing that gives E.C. Spykman's
stories their authenticity. Her sharp and honest portrayals of character, her
understanding of the perceptions and emotions of children, her natural dialogue
and sensitive evocation of place and time are what give her writing its truth.

I also learned that Spykman's travels included "taking a cargo ship to Samoa by way of the peaks of Darien, Pitcairn Island, and New Zealand, and making a pilgrimage to the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa." One day if I find myself with microfilm access to the Atlantic Monthly (1923-1927) I can read her articles. Her husband Nicholas Spykman was no mere teacher, as I'd assumed, but the founder of the Department of International Relations at Yale.

Desperately trying to catch up in Don Quixote this week. I'm about 20 chapters behind schedule.

Finished Half-Blood Prince yesterday morning and immediately began to read all the discussions I'd assiduously shied away from. All I have to say here is that what most seem to be hoping for in the final book involving a character that everyone sees differently from the way he's written, from the way Rowling has described him in interviews, what everyone seems to be expecting—well, it would certainly make a lot of readers blissfully happy, but in the process wouldn't it undermine Rowling's philosophical and moral underpinnings? It wouldn't be a redemption of a character, it would merely be a shift in readers' perspectives (or an underscoring of what many already believe anyway), and it would serve to promote the notion that the ends justify the means. I can't accept that's Rowling's intent.

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"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.