Thursday, November 27, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
In March of this year, researchers completed a study which concluded a certain degree of our ability to experience varying levels of happiness is indeed genetic. Likewise, there are studies which reveal the genetic markers controlling the degree to which humans will experience shyness as well as other behaviors such as hostility. The secular, scientific age we live in gives us partial answers to age old questions. Yet, in spite of these conclusions, science is not able to categorically conclude all behavior or personality is something we are born with or derived solely from biology. It appears that at least fifty percent is left to chance and it is within that fifty percent we are either shaped by our own ability to decide or we are shaped by circumstance and other variables such as the influences of family, peers or society.
Self knowledge can be identified early in life. Certain symbols can become life long certainties. Like a ballerina spotting an object while she twirls, there can be focal points which remain with us always. These are decisions we formed on our own and are hard to dislodge. For a long time, I have privately referred to it as the Rosebud Theory and I base it on my own love of pink rosebuds. I can personally remember as far back as two years of age, wanting and needing to see, wear, have pink rosebuds. It was visceral. I wanted my dresses to be adorned with them, I was drawn to baby dolls with “rosebud” mouths. Illustrations in picture books decorated with rosebud borders became my favorites. No matter what I have done or experienced in life, the one constant has been rosebuds. Metaphorical rosebuds for sure, represented by the kind of books I like to read, the movies I like to watch, the hobbies I have. All are akin to the romantic beauty of a rosebud. This is the self I create and hold sacred; and while it may not necessarily be a ’rosebud’ for other people, I believe there is something similarly representative in everyone’s deeply embedded core. Something, which, like a rosebud, remains constant to define them, on their terms and will unfurl to become a complex person based on the bud that defines our innate preferences.
When a boat is tethered by a single line to a dock, it may drift in a myriad of directions. Depending on the conditions of the wind it may drift close to the edge of the dock, safely bumping against the moorings, sheltered somewhat from the wider lake. Or, the wind may kick up and pull the boat out far from the dock, the line taut and strained to a breaking point, far from the original source of safety. Humans are like this. We can be influenced by forces, be they powerful personalities or intervening circumstances, to drift a long way from our original mooring. It may be hard to remain tethered to ideas we form on our own. We may indeed find the influence of ideas we encounter or people we meet overpowering and may even abandon convictions, change our behavior based on the tug of society’s powerful currents. These changes may occur through personal choice or in subtle forms of coercion
It is human nature to believe you are in charge of your opinions or actions. And while, as I briefly alluded to, science can explain some of our behavior as being genetic it also makes sense this genetic basis is malleable. In the happiness study I referred to, the researchers were able to conclude a person’s ability to increase their degree of happiness was dependent on circumstance. So while our “happiness set point” might be one we are born with, the effects of circumstance can increase or decrease our propensity to experience true happiness. Likewise, it is logical to assume other kinds of circumstance can alter who we are or think we are.
During the run up to the recent election, I found it intriguing to read the brief, yet explosive posts written on the social networking sight ‘Twitter’. One in particular caught my eye. The person posting posited the question “Is it possible to be married to someone who votes opposite you?” The responses that poured in were overwhelmingly “NO!” This reaction made me wonder how many of those relationships were genuinely comprised of two individuals who came to a relationship with completely sympathetic views. I pondered the possibility of one personality overcoming another to accomplish such a completely synchronized view. In this way, it is easy to see the extent to which others can create us. If the tables were turned, perhaps if the individual was married to another kind of voter, their preference would or could be altered. Like the boat tethered to the dock, the wind whips you in one direction or another and the circumstances of the situation, the inter-personal relationships, alters what may lie at your core.
However, you may never relinquish your most deeply held love of rosebuds...
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Lately, I find I find myself thinking the cosmic plates of history and the world are shifting. I wonder if we are in the middle of a tsunami of cultural change. If we are, I am going to be like that girl in some asteroid movie I saw once and just stand on the proverbial beach and let the wave wash over me. It is all in motion and all inevitable, so why even think about it? I am completely sure I was not what Darwin had in mind when he was having his "I could have had a V-8" moment about survival of the fittest.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I can't wait for the election to be over. I recently lost a friendship as a result. I was probably overly sensitive in an email exchange, but I tried to apologize, to no avail. Like I have said on Facebook and to other friends I love and cherish, no matter how it turns out I will support whoever wins, wholeheartedly. Anyway, I link to the article because it struck a cord. Happy voting.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Tapped on my window pane and RAN, RAN, RAN!
She ran helter skelter with her toes in the air
Cornstalks flying from her old witch's hair.
Swish went her broom
"Meow" went her cat
Plop, went her hop toad sitting on her hat
WEEEEEE! shouted I,
What fun, what fun!
HALLOWEEN NIGHT WHEN THE WITCHES RUN!!!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I remember when my daughter was five or six, she loved Madonna. I was a nervous wreck about this because Madonna was really NOT the kind of person I wanted her to emulate. In fact, I was concerned that by letting her listen to her little Madonna tape (a birthday gift from her friend who also loved Madonna) I could possibly be accused of neglecting my parental duties. Yikes.
One day, as we were driving along and listening to FM 99.5, Pop Rock, Material Girl started to play. I observed my sweet little cherub mouthing the words “Living in a material world...” and started to panic. I asked her, “Hey, why do you like Madonna?”
“Oh, cuz, she’s just like you, Mommy.”
“Like ME? How is she like me? What do you think this song MEANS?” Full blown panic. I was examining my unexamined life right there, on the way to the grocery store. I was doing a warp speed brain scan. I didn’t own any jewelry to speak of. Our T.V. was smallish and really irritating by modern standards. We only had two bedrooms and one bath. My car was ten years old. No. I didn’t scream materialism.
“How is she like me, honey?” I asked this in a high, squeaky voice.
“She’s a material girl, just like you and me. She buys material and makes clothes. Like you.”
Kids do say the darnedest things. As a matter of fact, so do dear little, slightly confused (medical term dementia) old people.
During our trip to drop our daughter off at college (who, by the way, is now completely over Madonna), my sweet little mother who is 80 and sometimes very confused, was asked how old she was. I think she had dropped some unusual verbal clues in a conversation she was having with the father of another student. For some reason, he felt compelled to ask how old she was.
“Oh, I’m 69.” I was busy dragging things out of the back of the van, half listening, This statement caused me to stop what I was doing and I found the father looked at me oddly.
“No, mom, you are 80.”
“80? No, I’m 59.”
“No, really, mom - you are 80.”
“Are you sure? I feel 69.”
This exchange is every bit as priceless as the one I had with my five year old. It was worth having. She was so engaged and darling. I could tell the father of the other student thought she was charming. He patted her hand and agreed feeling your age is every bit as important as being your age. My mother smiled and waved her hand cavalierly over her shoulder. But if the Baroness has her way, my mother should be put down. For the good of society. To relieve the stress on the healthcare system. There really should be a line drawn. A line that means, “past this point, there are things we just won’t say.” Baroness Warnock crossed the line. There are some stresses medicine will just have to deal with.
Friday, July 18, 2008
As we wind through the Appalachians, I remember the first time I saw a mountain. I was 17 and I was enchanted. I remember a feeling bubbling up inside of me. Like a hidden spring, the possibilities of topography dawning on me, all those embossed globes of my childhood, I could feel, like a blind person the memory of my finger tips running down the spine of a mountain range and now, here it was like a wall before me.
I wondered if I had somehow missed out on something deep and mysterious and ultimately more tremendous than the dark black Illinois loam of my mother's peony bed by having spent my first 17 years on the prairie. I would have had a similar reaction to the ocean except for the fact that Lake Michigan had prepared me better than my paper mache globe.
But now, in my fiftieth summer, as we round each curve in the Daniel Boone National Forest, my body pressed from centrifugal force against the car window, I find my heart beats harder the closer we come to Indiana and the vast expanse of corn fields all wearing their long lace collars of Queen Anne's lace. I am going North.
When I finally see the first corn fields ahead through the asphalt mirage of the highway and glimpse the dark heart of Indiana's hardwood forests beyond in the distance, I start to feel as if I am going home. I sigh, a long sigh, as if I have been holding my breath for yet another year when we finally stop for the evening, our first day of travel complete. I feel as if my own fetch greets me. The ghost of the girl I once was. It is the air swirling around me. It takes me back to my Midwestern girlhood. It reminds through flashes carried into my senses on the breeze. Like the ripple of playing cards in a dealer's hand I can see of all my summers. I shiver and It reminds me why I never wore sundresses without a sweater.
In my youth I resented having to cover my pretty shoulders and now as I stand outside the Comfort Inn in Crawfordsville, Indiana which stands in the middle of a cornfield, I ache to go back in time and cover my shoulders all over again. Now. Even now when I know about the mountains and the oceans and the sultry beauty of Savannah and Charleston, I want to go back to the time when all I knew was perfectly straight strips of highway hidden in the precise grid of gently swaying cornfields and the fact that summer was only, truly, three weeks long.
In years past, our daughters stood, teeth clattering at the edge of the Indiana motel swimming pool, lamenting the chilly early July evening air and yearning for their Southern summer swimming pools. Our Southern born daughters who understood nothing about their riches of sweater-less sundresses, our daughters whose lungs ached for the languid blanket of humidity which made it possible to always wear the thinnest cotton over a bikini in the pitch black midnight of Georgia. There is a beguiling sense of recklessness inherent in a Southern summer evening. Yet only a Northerner can truly spot it. Southerners, like our daughters, raised as they are in so gentle a climate are blissfully unaware of the joys of owning multiple sundresses and walking sweater-less on a summer evening. Yes, Sundresses sum it up nicely.
The next day we drive up through the straight center of Illinois, Land of Lincoln and Chicago and me. Dan Fogleberg once sang Illinois, Illinois, Illinois, I'm your boy. If Dan Fogelberg was Illinois' boy than I am Illinois' girl; I can barely stand to see the road signs which point to Decatur. I drive and glance continually to my left after we leave Bloomington and Decatur fades in my rear view mirror. For reasons I can't explain, the green interstate sign declaring this way to Decatur reminds me of my college love making conducted in a dorm room somewhere in Decatur and the sweet boy I left behind. I remember first kisses and secret good byes and because I know I can never take that exit again, my lips quiver a bit.
Soon we are flying by Rockford and then we are finally in Wisconsin and the flat land gives way to rolling hills and perfect farms with barns and silos and dairy cows that frame either side of highway. We accelerate a bit, in hurry now to exit from the lunacy that is interstate 90/94. We exit and find Highway 51, our impatience growing now to be on our island and rowing on our lake.
As the Northwoods loom ahead of us, my melancholy fades. I manage to shake off all the places I have left behind forever and turn my attention to the constancy of my ancient cottage, tucked away on a tiny round island. I am returning to the place I can always return to: the place where time stops. Here, bull frogs serenade little green ladies throughout the night and loons wail distantly in the hidden bays of the lake. Dragon flies who ironically wear Carolina Blue land on my knees and I remember I live in North Carolina now. The herons abide in marshy alcoves and otters play on their backs at the edges of our shore. A mother deer and her babe sneak across our filled in road to drink at the water's edge and we watch humming birds drink at the feeder we have placed on an old wrought iron lamp stand outside the window.
For fifty summers I have traveled north. North. Toward the stars. On my way to heaven. My summer vacation.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
No Country for Old Men – Shoot, kill, monster guy, shoot kill some more, dreadful, horrible, greed, blood, shoot, shoot, hopeless awfulness, good guy loses, bad guy ends up with a broken arm, older generation is irrelevant and talks gibberish. The End. Okay, the writing was quite good. A watch -able (like a train wreck) film with a sick premise. Big Sigh.
There Will be Blood – They should have used this title for No Country for Old Men, because there wasn’t much blood, just a lot of dirty fingernails, grimy, sweaty, dirty, mean, horrid, awful, people and grunge. There was blood at the end when the despicable, selfish, most likely stinky due to lack of baths old guy whacks the stereotypical Jimmy Swaggert-like sniveling, ridiculously big crucifix wearing bible banger guy with a bowling pin. Oops. I should have said spoiler alert. Sorry. Plot ends midway through movie and it meanders to a short story ending of drunken, sweaty nothingness.
An aside about the short story ending…I have to say a few words on this topic. If you read a lot of short stories, you will find many just … end… boom. No rhyme. No reason. I myself use this technique occasionally because for some reason, it is seems to be the preferred way to wind up a short story, or not wind it up as the case may be. I personally think it is laziness. Some trendy, popular author (in the case of There Will be Blood, Upton Sinclair) ran out of things to say and said to himself “I think I will submit this to see what happens and like The Emperor’s New Clothes, the hapless, sycophant publisher thinking he must be missing something, but doesn’t want to give away his lack of sophistication publishes it and Voila! A literary technique is born. Oh well.
Back to movies…
Bella – Cliché, stupid, did I say cliché? Oh, and it is also cliché. Plot moves forward cliche-ly as follows- another aborted abortion, angst, angst. Cliché angst. Stupid use of scarf. No one wears scarves like this anymore. Movie is a combo plot: Like Water for Chocolate meets Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with a twist of Juno. And this won awards at Sundance? My regard for Sundance plummets. (What is it with Hollywood, and abortion? They are doing mea culpa’s for Roe vs. Wade at an alarming, head spinning rate. Their message is so confusing, no wonder so many young girls are getting pregnant and having the baby and romanticizing the whole thing, I think it is irresponsible.)
Into the Wild – This is actually a good movie. Read the book by Jon Krakauer first, it is really good. He is a wonderful writer then, watch the movie. However, I don’t think Chris McCandless is a hero. I think he must have been troubled and he was foolish. Google Into the Wild and read the many articles, like this one and this one. But so far – it was the best movie.
Live Free Die Hard – Why did I watch this? To make my husband happy. He fell asleep, Emma and I watched it to the bitter end. Why? Why? Oh Why?
And so I write again, loveliness. I am dedicating my blog to the pursuit of loveliness, hence, the picture. Isn't it lovely?
Friday, June 27, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Sunday, June 1, 2008
When I was an adolescent, sometime in the early 70’s, I saw another version of Wuthering Heights. It was more troubling, wilder and titillating than the 1939 version. If anything, it made my desire to actually read the book even more remote, because by this time I had seen Wuthering Heights at least once a year since I was five years old.
When I saw the 1983 BBC Jane Eyre production, I was enthralled but it seemed so thorough, I was convinced reading the book was completely unnecessary.
I came to my love for the actual novels of the Bronte’s rather late. I discovered them through the back door, so to speak. Being a great reader of biographies, I stumbled upon Rebecca Fraser’s book The Brontes, Charlotte Bronte and Her Family in 1990 and fell into the world of this remarkable family with a layman’s interest that has never abated. It was Rebecca Fraser’s biography which made me want to, no; need to read the books for myself.
Reading Jane Eyre at the ripe old age of 31 was amazing. In many ways, I was grateful none of my English teachers required the Bronte’s for any high school reading assignments. Reading Jane Eyre in the wake of the Fraser biography felt like one must feel when making an archeological discovery. For me, reading Jane Eyre for the first time felt like opening the tomb of King Tut. It seemed remarkable to read this novel and discover writing so present, so alive in spite of it having been published in 1847. I was amazed to hear Charlotte Bronte’s voice in my own head.
I went on a Charlotte Bronte spree, Shirley, Villette and when the Juliet Barker biography The Bronte’s was published, I devoured it even while I continued my self education by reading the novels of Emily and Anne.
When the 1996 film, Jane Eyre, was released, I was first in line at the movie theatre. I loved this version, and forgave its shortcomings. The look of Charlotte Gainsborough enchanted me and having a degree in costume design, I adored the costumes throughout.
This movie kindled a memory I had from Fraser’s biography. It was a picture of Charlotte Bronte’s wedding bonnet. For me, the visual aspect of the Bronte Myth had always played a powerful part in my measured self education of all things Bronte.
Perhaps this is what prompted me to make my very own adaptation of Jane Eyre. After finding some very old lace in an antique store, I felt compelled to create my own idea of Jane based on the bonnet pictured in Fraser’s book. I recreated Jane in doll form and in an attempt to interpret her inner purity, dressed her in white. Whatever the reasons; my Jane doll is an outgrowth of my early visual response to the Bronte mystique. My life long Bronte journey began by watching Hollywood’s visual re-creations of the novels. My Jane Eyre doll brings me full circle.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Mary Stewart, The Ivy Tree
This is the way I am feeling today. A bit wistful about the future. Last night I watched the movie “Knocked Up.” I watched it because I had read many very glowing reviews and as a result was inclined to be entertained by the movie. Instead, I found I was dismayed. First of all, I would like to officially declare that our culture is leaving me behind in the dust. I am certainly no activist so no one needs to worry that I will agitate about the decline of decorum. But I have this blog so, I will write about my disgust.
It wasn’t the getting pregnant after a night of drunken carousing that has left me feeling so dismayed. Although, as a plot line it is getting tiresome. Certainly, this is nothing new, and I was young once and I am not going to cast any aspersions on momentary passion. The pregnancy part of the movie was fine, except I do think Hollywood for once should be true to their political positions and make a movie about a young girl who decides to have an abortion, go to Yale, become a doctor, meet a nice young man, get pregnant responsibly and raise a lovely child. Hollywood is all about Rowe v Wade, but they are also COWARDS. There is a flip side to abortion. It is the part no one ever talks about. I agree about safe and rare etc. I also think trying to undo abortion is stupid.. But all this wink and nod film pontificating gets us no where. How many sixteen year olds will think Juno is the way to go? It’s a lovely movie but…I think the character of Juno appeared to be exceptionally bright and capable. Light years ahead of many young girls who will find themselves in her position. Maybe we need to refrain from glorifying the youth culture and their casual approach to “hooking up” and over use of the F word ... Oooo! which brings me back to Knocked Up… Sorry – I got off track.
I think it was the raw display of flat out bad behavior in this movie that blew me away. Lazy, foul mouthed slackers are not only glorified but portrayed as normal and somehow preferable to ANYONE RESPONSIBLE. (big sigh) The message of the movie seemed to be: it is a desirable outcome to become like the five adult males who were the roommates, or the miserable husband who does ANYTHING to stay away from his family. The five LOSERS smoke dope all day, watch porn and screw randomly all while spewing a constant stream of sentences containing the F word, one even went to Yale! That makes everything okay! Even well educated young men can become bums! Now that's progress. So much for an Ivy League education. Also, I love the way women are portrayed. What great writing! Who was the brilliant Hollywood mind that came up with the oriental girlfriend? First of all she didn’t seem to be in complete possession of her marbles. Oh! And I loved the dark, cave like atmosphere of the room, it was heart warming (as in heart burn) the mentally challenged oriental 'girlfriend' pathetically watching lesbian porn next to the disgusting boyfriend... what an embrace of multi culturalism, how cutting edge! Does anyone else see the dehumanizing despair in this scene?
Not only that – it was implied by “Knocked Up’ that exposing a little eight or nine year old girl to adults repeatedly calling a friend of her aunt a “prick” is hunky dory. Upon answering the door the day of her birthday party,and finding said “prick” on the doorstep, her query to the “prick” is “what does prick mean?” The movie seems to promote the okie dokie notion that our hero will now"instruct" our little birthday girl. She is happily and calmly informed in dulcet, smooth, normal tones “prick” means penis! Yea! An anatomy lesson out of a slur! This is certainly a useful example of responsible parenting! I think the whole scene is sickening and somewhat akin to advocating a form of child abuse. It's every bit as damaging as the FLDS bunch down in Texas. The mother of the little girl who played that part should be ashamed. I can’t help thinking that little girl is headed for a spread in Vanity Fair soon. Heck, her agent is probably trying to figure a way to work that out.
I did not laugh much during this movie. It made me sad and Okay, embarrased. It made me feel old and crochety. And I don't want to feel old and crotchety. But YUCK...the mainstreaming of strip joints (the Las vegas scene, a married man with his face buried in the buttocks of a pole dancer, giggle, tee hee, haa haa!) drug use (if it comes out of the ground it's OKAY! says the wise old, hippie turned capitalist father who only smoked dope once a day during the week and then all day Saturday and Sunday! Hey Everyone, shrooms all around!) and incredibly rude behavior throughout (screaming and repeating F---this, F--- you, F--- us, in all sorts of public places, with no reagrd for the people around you who MAY be offended by such language) makes me have to say my impulse is to despair: because the future is upon us, we are here, we have arrived and we are not going to be allowed to be a gentle or kind society. Not if Hollywood has their say. This is my rant for the day. I will follow this post with something soothing. I just had to get this off my chest.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
I began this writing journey four years ago when I enrolled in the MALS program (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies) at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Feeling restless and bored, sensing I needed something more, I responded to a curriculum catalog I picked up on a newsstand for the University which listed a class called “Writing for Readers.” I thought to myself, “I read, I used to write, why not?”
I remember feeling humble and scared at the first class. The teacher (amazing woman) had us go around the room and introduce ourselves and then she made us write. Everyone in the room was hesitant. We had to respond to a writing prompt with a mere paragraph. It was agony. For ten minutes we struggled and erased and crossed out and there seemed to be a collective groan pulsing like high frequency sound waves in the air. To top it off, she requested we read our responses out loud. She didn’t force us, but we could sense her eagerness and we already recognized her amazing-ness, so we acquiesced.
I will never forget driving home from that class. It was about a twenty minute trip and I wrote a poem in my head all the way and ran into my house to write it down. I still have it. I think it may be a very bad poem, but I love it. Since my name is Dorothy, I wrote a sort of metaphor about The Wizard of Oz and how Dorothy had kind of morphed into the Tin Man and how I, Dorothy, was now the Tin Man, released from my frozen, rusted state. I wrote that “words” had the same effect as oil and suddenly I was alive again, my pen limber and flowing. The poem may be dreck, but the sentiment is real. I began writing again that night and have never stopped.
I say I began again, because I have always loved to write. As a girl I wrote stories. I remember starting a novel in the fourth grade. “The Mystery at Blackberry Hill.” Obviously an homage to Nancy Drew. I wrote myths and fables. In six grade, I wrote a story called, “A Girl from California.” It was about a girl from California (duh) who moved to a suburb of Chicago and had trouble making friends and then she finds a really great boyfriend so everything is peachy again. It was written in the style of the short stories that appeared in Seventeen and Mademoiselle Magazines. Reading the short stories was the first thing I did when I received the magazines. I loved them.
“A Girl from California” was all me. Constance (the girl) looked like me and wore the same shade of lipstick as me (secretly, on the way to and from school.) The plot was me, the boyfriend was the boy I had a crush on and the mean friends were my mean friends. My teacher wrote on the story, “Very good story, did you really write it?” It didn’t occur to her that all the reading I did may have shown me a few tricks and informed my writing.I was devastated. Of course I had really written it. But her reaction, even though she apologized to me when I went to her in tears to proclaim the story was all me, spoiled writing for me a bit. I still wrote stories in high school, but dread always followed when I handed them in. I think I became gun shy.
When I saw the class “Writing for Readers,” I remembered sixth grade and thought, “see, reading DOES teach you a thing or two.” And it did and does. All of the stories written in my class, by supposed novices, were incredible. I even belong to a writing group now, "Scribblers," with two of my former classmates. When the class ended the amazing teacher reminded us to keep reading, “read when you get stuck,” she said, “it will help your writing.” It’s true. It’s like saying “open sesame.” It works. I wish I could tell my sixth grade teacher THAT.
I want to thank Felice Austin of Memoirs Ink for choosing my memoir. I also want to congratulate the other winners whose stories I just finished. WOW. They are amazing as well. I love your stories, Deborah Thompson, Lisa Piorczynski and Merry Gordon.
Words are wonderful. Life is good.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The problem with this Persuasion was that it simply fell flat. The actress who played Anne Elliott seemed boringly mopey, too self pitying and her sister Mary was cartoon-ish and wasn’t three dimensional at all. Captain Wentworth, played by Rupert Penry-Jones appeared younger than Anne and too damn nice too soon. He wasn’t grimly stiff and looked soft. Captain Wentworth is supposed to be SEASONED, a self made man of means, a NEW kind of gentleman who was REFUSED by Anne. There should be a sense of bruised pride that emanates from Wentworth. The blonde Penry-Jones was lovely to look at, but it seemed as if he couldn’t possibly be captain, or old enough to have amassed his own fortune. He looked more like a mid-shipman if you ask me.
In the 1995 version Sophie Thompson played Mary Musgrove, Anne Elliot’s hypochondriac, self absorbed but younger MARRIED sister. She was completely insufferable. And wonderful because of it. Amanda Root as Anne in the earlier versions perfectly fit the fading but kind and competent heroine. She was never mopey, just quietly resigned to her fate. The newer Masterpiece Anne (Sally Hawkins) was too ‘blooming.’ She was almost exotic in her looks, with full lips and lovely, peachy cheeks. Although they tried to make her appear dowdy by dressing her in dreadful, bland costumes, (dreadful hats, absolutely DREADFUL) she was still entirely too lovely. In the book, Anne is clearly on the waning edge of her youth and the beauty that comes with youth. Remember, back in 1819 or so, a 27 year old unmarried woman was getting up there. Jane Austen wrote this book when she was past HER own bloom and was a confirmed old maid. Like a deeply exhaled sigh, Persuasion is a wistful imagining of an unlikely reality. Anne Elliot is clearly NOT a young beauty, “A few years before Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as, even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own), there could be nothing in them, now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem.” Jane’s words, not mine. Masterpiece didn’t read closely enough! They used too much blush.
The scene where Louisa Musgrove (Mary’s sister in law, the lady Wentworth is now courting) stupidly throws herself from the sea wall was underplayed. There should have been a tension created. In the book, Jane Austen makes much of this pivotal scene, showing us Louisa’s youthful idiocy compared to Anne’s calm level headedness. This is the turning point when Wentworth realizes he needs to try again and put aside his pride. In the Masterpiece theatre film, it was thrown away and acts as a perfect example of the rushed and compressed script. Okay – I will say it. It just wasn’t good enough. So there.
That is my first review. Northanger Abbey is next. They will reprise the Colin Firth P&P and the A&E Emma. I will enjoy watching both again. I am really looking forward to Mansfield Park (my current Austen favorite) since I hated the politically correct screed of a version that was made a few years ago. I may even enter the JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) essay contest contrasting the book with the movie. All in all, it is going to be a lovely four month wallow in all things Jane
Words to Live By
Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) Middlemarch
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