Reading Julio Cortázar’s essay, “Only a Real Idiot” yesterday, I felt such a joyfully liberating surge of life energy, for he captured how I feel, on seeing a hummingbird scratch his neck with his tiny foot like a dog, or a cornflower in glorious blue abandon alongside gritty Rainier Avenue, or José González in concert. Or my classmates doing Aikido at sunset, a Chinese busker twanging strange melodies at Hing Hay Park, or Toots and the Maytalls when they were here, so long ago in the pre-pandemic past…
“I am entertained, deeply moved; the dialogues or the dancers’ motions seem like supernatural visions to me. I applaud wildly, and sometimes the tears well up in my eyes or I laugh until I have to pee; in any event, I am glad to be alive and to have had this opportunity to go to the theater or to the movies or to an exhibition, anywhere extraordinary people make or show things never before imagined, where they invent a place of revelation or communication, something that washes away the moments when nothing is happening, nothing but what always happens.” (“Only a Real Idiot” in Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, p. 62)
It’s all about enthusiasm.
My latest creation–to be unveiled next week at West Seattle’s Summerfest!–is the Luxury Troll Boudoir. (If ever there were a folly, this is it!)
— Set in a picturesque cigar box, each features a troll doll with its own quilt, snuggled into a little bed made of vintage satin
— Comes with a booklet, Beautiful Thoughts for the Boudoir, with quotes and portraits by five inspiring French and American women writers
— Suitable for children or nostalgia lovers of any age
Coming soon to the HGBG shop on etsy!
Author portrait courtesy of https://aldianews.com/en/culture/books-and-authors/cortazar-movies
Trivia Quiz for To the Lighthouse (1927) and A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf
with the answers below
For WSEA “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 5/22/22
I. To the Lighthouse
A. On Frustrated Yearning
1. The book begins with a scene of a young boy’s yearning, which opens the reader’s horizon to a long-awaited sea voyage. In a few lines, however, the dream of travel is dashed. Who is the first person to announce the trip’s impossibility, and why?
a. the protagonist’s nurse, because the boy is sickly and too weak for travel at present.
b. the child’s mother, who reminds him that he has schoolwork to do.
c. the child’s father, who announces that the weather “won’t be fine.”
d. a houseguest, who feels a west wind blowing.
2. On Comfort.
Among other things, words provide comfort to the child and it is usually his mother who speaks comforting words. Which of the following refrains is not spoken by the mother, Mrs. Ramsey?
a. “But it may be fine—I expect it will be fine.”
b. “Let’s find another picture to cut out.”
c. “Oh, how beautiful!”
d. “Well then, we will cover it up.”
e. “Think of a kitchen table, when you’re not there.”
3. Ordinary Misogyny. Quotes that we may find objectionable run through the narrative. Which is not from To the Lighthouse?
a. “They did nothing but talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat. It was the women’s fault. Women made civilisation impossible with all their ‘charm,’ all their silliness.”
b. “Treat ‘em like chickens, son. Throw ‘em a little corn and they’ll run after you, but don’t give ‘em too much. If you do, they’ll stop layin’ and expect you to wait on ‘em.”
c. “She was not good enough to tie his shoe strings.”
d. “There was Mr. X whispering in her ear, ‘Women can’t paint, women can’t write…’”
e. “She guessed what he was thinking—he would have written better books if he had not married.”
4. Extraordinary Restraint. Women react to men’s comments in ways that feel uncomfortably familiar—with silence, resentment, and smoldering rage. Which is not in To the Lighthouse?
a. “She had done the usual trick—been nice.”
b. “’Odious little man,’ thought Mrs. Ramsey, ‘why go on saying that?’”
c. “She would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties or slur over duties.”
d. “She bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked. There was nothing to be said.”
e. “If she had said half of what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now.”
f. All are in To the Lighthouse.
5. How long does it take before the Ramseys take the trip mentioned on page one?
a. two months
b. ten years
c. twenty years
d. one week
II. A Room of One’s Own and themes found in both books
6. Why does Woolf declare that “the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction” must remain unsolved in her work? Which reason is not in the book?
a. because there are too many great women novelists to synthesize into one conclusion
b. because until the 17th century, most women were too poor and uneducated to write anything
c. because throughout history, women have lacked the time, money and solitude necessary to discover their genius
7. Acc. to Woolf, what emotion dominates the books (by men) explaining women and their works?
8. Creativity: How to explain it? Woolf attempts variously to describe what it feels like to conceive ideas and create things. Which quote is not by Virginia Woolf in these two books?
a. “It is fatal for anyone who writes to ignore their sex. The mind must be focused on one’s sexual identity, for its limitations and biological demands matter more than anything.”
b. “She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed. It was in that moment’s flight … that made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as down a dark passage for a child.”
c. “Thought … had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute by minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until—you know the little tug—the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked.”
d. “The androgynous mind is resonant and porous … it transmits emotion without impediment … it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”
9. Woolf’s reality. Which of the following is not in A Room?
a. “If she begins to tell the truth, the [man’s] figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished.”
b. “It is remarkable … what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”
c. “The Suffrage campaign has done the unthinkable! Finally, it has roused in men an extraordinary desire to help women achieve their potential.”
d. “Imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”
e. “Any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at.”
10. What’s wrong with women’s writing of the nineteenth century? Which reason is not cited?
a. Ignorance and emotion. “Anger was tampering with the integrity of Charlotte Brontë the novelist. … Her imagination swerved from indignation and we feel it swerve.”
b. Lack of natural ability. “No woman has ever written as well as Dickens or Proust.”
c. Pressure of convention. “She was thinking of something other than the thing itself. … She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others.”
d. Lack of female community and heritage. “They had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers … it is useless to go to the great men writers for help.”
11. What advice does Woolf not proffer to young women?
a. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
b. There must be a lock on that door, the door to your room.
c. “Adopt the name of a man for your writing; anonymity runs in our blood.”
d. “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn.”
2. e. (Son Andrew makes that observation, describing his father’s philosophical writings.)
3. b. That quote is from Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes.
4. f. All are in To the Lighthouse.
To all women: please write! write simply, write sadly, write with your heart or your anger…
Write about your lives, about your thoughts, about your past, present, or future, but write, and let the world know you were here!
For what it is worth, I’ve pasted below a photo of the books I’ve created during my time on this earth, inspired partly at least by my reading of Woolf’s essay during my time as an undergraduate….
Woolf makes me proud to be a writer. To exist. To forgive us all, and to hope… for more great writers will come! Please write!
And, of course, thank you for reading.
Trivia Quiz for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920; winner 1921 Pulitzer Prize)
(with answers below)
For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 4/24/22
1. Husband, Wife, Stranger? May Archer (née Welland) and her husband Newland Archer seem to understand and love each other in their own way. But they also find fault and misunderstand each other. What one trait does May not have, according to her husband?
a. she takes care of herself
b. she lets her imagination run wild
c. she is loyal and gallant
d. she prefers to ignore unpleasantness
e. she is a true New Yorker and knows how to act
2-5. Social Portraits. Familial, societal, and marital obligations loom large over the characters in The Age of Innocence; those characters who are unmarried or estranged from their families are seen as lonely outcasts. Yet even the most privileged seem pitiable. Match quote to the character. Characters include: a. M. Rivière; b. Newland Archer; c. Countess Ellen Olenska; d. May Welland
2. “’Sameness—sameness!’ he muttered, the word running through his head like a persecuting tune…”
3. “I want to cast off all my old life, to become just like everybody else here. … If you knew how I hate to be different!”
4. “You musn’t think that a girl knows as little as her parents imagine.”
5. “Ah, good conversation—there’s nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.”
6. New York, circa 1870: A Uniquely Historic Urban Setting. There are many famous and familiar places named in The Age of Innocence, where the action mostly stays in New York city. Which one of the following places is not named?
a. Grace Church
b. Washington Square
c. Metropolitan Museum of Art
d. a home on West 23rd Street
e. the Academy of Music
f. Central Park
g. the Empire State Building
h. Wall Street
7. Intimacy and nostalgia. Some of the most poignant passages endeavor to describe times past, longing, and how people who are otherwise intimate perceive life so differently. Which one of the following is not in the novel?
a. “You never did ask each other anything, did you? And you never told each other anything. You just sat and watched each other, and guessed at what was going on underneath.”
b. “Odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me—the result of seeing Clarissa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought.”
c. “She was frank, poor darling, because she had nothing to conceal, assured because she knew of nothing to be on her guard against.”
d. “My good father abhorred hurry. But now we live in a constant rush.”
8. Style and technique. With her mixture of omniscience and interior monologue, Wharton’s narrative provides readers with a feeling of listening to the characters’ most secret and changeable thoughts. Which one of the following thoughts occurs to the hero, Newland Archer?
a. “Don’t let us be like all the others!”
b. “Women ought to be as free as we are—”
c. “We can’t behave like people in novels, though, can we?”
d. “It’s worth everything isn’t it, to keep one’s intellectual liberty; not to enslave one’s powers of appreciation, one’s critical independence?”
9. Keywords and thoughts recur in Wharton’s description of upper-class New York society. Which one of the following quotes is not drawn from Wharton’s book?
a. “keep out the ‘new people’”
b. “rather bad form”
c. “morbidly sensitive”
d. “low-toned comments”
e. “a naïve, generous country”
f. “it’s confoundedly dull”
g. “ritual was precise and inflexible”
h. “the occasion was a solemn one”
10-11. Maxims or life lessons. Similar to many of her contemporaries, Wharton peppers her novel with pithy bits of wisdom. Which two of the following are from The Age of Innocence?
a. “Living’s too much trouble unless one can get something big out of it.”
b. “The worst of doing one’s duty was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything else.”
c. “It seems stupid to have discovered America only to make it into a copy of another country.”
d. “The children you don’t especially need, you have always with you, like the poor. But the bright ones get away from you.”
12. High tech and futurist scenarios. Which one of the following modern ideas and inventions is not in the Age of Innocence?
a. long-distance telephoning
b. 5-day Atlantic ship crossings, from the US to Europe
c. women’s suffrage
d. electric lighting
e. Debussy’s music
13. Age = wisdom? At the beginning, Newland Archer seems to be in his early twenties. How old is he at the end of the book?
a. 57 years old
7. b. (That quote is from Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.)
9. e. (That quote is from Willa Cather, My Ántonia.)
10.-11. b. and c.
A special thanks to Carl and Daniel for the violets from their garden, featured in the nosegay seen above: a symbol of Wharton’s lost world and the nostalgia we all feel for long-lost times, places, and loves…
Feeling blah and still aching from the shoulder where I crashed down, quite incorrectly, during a speedy Aikido roll on Monday, I was surprised and encouraged by these lines discovered during my morning reading, and so I share them for you.
“Every man beholds his human condition with a degree of melancholy. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man, imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events.”
“God enters by a private door into every individual.”
“Our spontaneous action is always the best.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Intellect” in The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Modern Library edition, p. 293-94.
Hang in there. You are not alone.
And some pretty pictures to remind us of what lovely things we can hold and create and appreciate, with our hands and simply by walking outside in nature, despite being shipwrecked in morality!
Featured is Alice in Wonderland Quilt No. 4, photographed yesterday at Green Lake in Seattle, WA.
Trivia Quiz for Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915) and My Ántonia (1918)
For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 3/27/22
1. Women’s work. Cather’s novels provide a glimpse of the paths available for girls growing up in the rural heartland of the USA in the early 1900s. Which one of the following careers is not portrayed as a possibility for women, in the two works we read?
a. Opera singer
b. Wife and mother
f. Real estate investor
h. Church pianist
i. Boarding house owner
2. Overcoming adversity. The two heroines—Thea Kronberg and Ántonia Shimerda (later Cuzak)—undergo many hardships before finding success. Which one of the following obstacles does not adversely affect them, over the long run?
a. unplanned pregnancy
c. familial hostility
d. foreign languages
e. lassitude / lack of will power
f. growing up in rural isolation
3. Social satire. Although her tone is kinder than some writers we’ve read, Willa Cather does ridicule social convention. Of the following passages, which one is written by Cather?
a. “No matter in what straits the Pennsylvanian or Virginian found himself, he would not let his daughters go out in service. Unless his girls could teach a country school, they sat at home in poverty.”
b. “Left-wing people are always sad because they mind dreadfully about their causes, and the causes are always going so badly.”
c. “To a feather-brained school girl, nothing is sacred.”
d. “There were two classes of charitable people; one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”
4. On Love with or without Marriage (and vice versa). It may surprise modern readers to discover multiple critiques of marriage in Cather’s work, given its early time period. Which one of the following is not by Cather?
a. “’I don’t see why anybody wants to marry an artist anyhow. … You might have kept me in misery for a while, perhaps. … I have to think well of myself, to work. You could have made it hard.”
b. “Loverless and inexpectant of love, I was as safe from spies in my heart-poverty, as the beggar from thieves.”
c. “She is handsome, energetic, executive, but to me she seems … temperamentally incapable of enthusiasm. … She has her own fortune and lives her own life. For some reason, she wishes to remain Mrs. X.”
d. “Men are all right for friends, but as soon as you marry them they turn into cranky old fathers, even the wild ones. They begin to tell you what’s sensible and what’s foolish, and want you to stick at home all the time.”
5. Maxims. Life lessons run through both books. Which one of the following is not by Cather?
a. “Living’s too much trouble unless one can get something big out of it.”
b. “The children you don’t especially need, you have always with you, like the poor. But the bright ones get away from you.”
c. “Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed.”
d. “Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”
6. Humorous Asides. Cather’s portraits of unlikable characters provide some comic relief. Which one of the following lines is not by Cather?
a. “Her face had a kind of heavy, thoughtless beauty, like a pink peony just at the point of beginning to fade. … She gave the impression of wearing a cargo of splendid merchandise.”
b. “X was an intensely dreary girl … who had failed so far to marry, and seemed to have no biological reason for existing.”
c. “X [had a] very fat wife, who had a farm of her own, and who bossed her husband, I was delighted to hear.”
d. “It was excruciating to sit there day after day and hear her; there was something shameless and indecent about not singing true.”
7. On Nature. Which of the following lines is not from Cather’s works?
a. “This earth seemed to her young and fresh and kindly, a place where refugees from old, sad countries were given another chance. … a naïve, generous country.”
b. [About apple trees in an orchard]: “’I love them as if they were people,’ she said, rubbing her hand over the bark. ‘There wasn’t a tree here when we first came. We planted every one.’”
c. X was “drinking her coffee and forcing open the petals of the roses with an ardent and rather rude hand.”
d. “Through the screaming wind they heard things crashing and things hurtling and dashing with unbelievable velocity. A baby rabbit, terror ridden, squirmed through a hole in the floor.”
8-10. Finding beauty in an imperfect world. Match the quote to the character. Characters include: a. Thea Kronberg; b. Ántonia Cuzak; c. Lena Lingard
8. “She laughed her mellow, easy laugh, that was either very artless or very comprehending, one never knew quite which. … I caught a faint odor of violet sachet.”
9. “She could lie there hour after hour in the sun and listen to the strident whir of the big locusts, and to the light, ironical laughter of the quaking asps. … her power to think seemed converted into a power of sustained sensation.”
10. “A stalwart, brown woman, flat-chested, her curly, brown hair a little grizzled … She was there, in the full vigor of her personality, battered but not diminished.”
11. An origin tale. Although it details the lives of many immigrants, My Ántonia claims to be narrated by a person who was born in the USA. What state is their birthplace?
d. Nebraska .
4. b. (That quote is from Villette by Charlotte Brontë.)
5. c. (That quote is from The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.)
6. b. (That quote is from The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.)
7. d. (That quote is from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.)
These face masks celebrate the peaceful #Black Lives Matter protests which have marked 2020 in Seattle and ushered in hopes for a more equitable future.
– Available in Large, Adult, and Petite sizes
– Attached by black cotton ties printed with colorful peace symbols. Extra long ties for all hairstyles!
– The latest in retro-chic style (see the June 2020 Vogue!)
– Sold in sets of two masks
– 100% cotton front and back. The fronts are in bright orange and red batik, printed with a black silkscreen of the Seattle cityscape. The backs are made of tight-woven white cotton for superior protection.
– Created from New York Times pattern (April 1, 2020): page A15
– Lined with interfacing for a crisp look with no ironing required
– Include the adorable HGBG puppy dog logo
– Free shipping to anywhere in the USA.
– 50% of proceeds will be donated to the local arm of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s premier civil rights and civil liberties organization. Clients will receive a copy of the receipt from the ACLU when this fund-raiser is over.
– Your purchase supports a Seattle small business and promotes fair and equal civil rights for all!
-Limited availability; only 25 will be made. Order today from the Honey Girl Books and Gifts Etsy store.
Why? Because Black Lives Matter.
P.S. Wonder who that handsome smiling man is, in the background on the right? It’s Langston Hughes (1901-1967): a great African-American activist and writer, and judging from the touching voice of his poems, a beautiful human being. Listen to him recite “I, Too Sing America.”
Exhausted, heart-sick, anxious and wretched? Me too. But we need to get over it. I got a surge of new energy–and humility–this morning from reading the powerful article in the New York Times Op-Ed section by Chad Sanders (author of the forthcoming book, Black Magic). The article is accompanied by the image above, by Hanna Barczyk, which says it all: hey white folks, stop drowning black people in your crocodile tears!
Basically, Sanders is here to chastise us–white people like me who’ve written to our black friends this week–and to explain why our messages are misguided and tiring. Black people are drowning in our smug letters and texts, he says. Moreover, he points out that us telling people, “Don’t feel the need to respond,” is wrong on all accounts: it is oppressive, condescending and not appreciated by the recipient. (How would you like it if someone told you how to feel? or not to feel?)
Most usefully, he provides instructions on what we CAN do, if we want to do something meaningful. As he writes, “please, stop sending #love. Stop sending positive vibes. Stop sending your thoughts. Here are three suggestions on more immediately impactful things to offer instead:
*Chad Sanders, “White Friends, Fight Anti-Blackness,” New York Times (6/6/20): A21.
Being a good student, I immediately got out my wallet and visited the link on Anti-Racist and Social Justice Resources of my favorite local public radio station, KEXP. After studying some options, I chose to donate $100 to National Bail Out. I like their slim organization–run by volunteers–and their clear mission: this is a “Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. We are people who have been impacted by cages — either by being in them ourselves or witnessing our families and loved ones be encaged. We are queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant.” Learn more at www.nationalbailout.org.
In conclusion, please excuse me, black friends, if I annoyed you or wasted your time with my emails this week. And I thank you, Chad Sanders, for helping me understand how I can help with funding organizations like National Bail Out. On a lighter note, I’m thrilled to see one of my clients wearing one of my face masks to a local demonstration! (Looking good, Shep!)
p.s. I’m still moving forward on plans for the “Respect” quilt project, and the special offer of a Honey Girl quilt for only $100 is still good for one more day! See day 73 for details.
fyi: no face masks made yesterday, but production resumes today…
I’m excited today to announce a new idea afoot and to request any feedback you may have to share about the “Respect” quilt project which was inspired by the many beautiful fabrics I’ve purchased from Black-owned businesses around the USA this week (above):
The “Respect” quilt project: allies at work
The “Respect” quilt is a result of Black and white creators working together to honor Black women’s beauty, history, and resilience.
The first one, underway, is being created by a former teacher, a white woman, for a former student of hers, a Black woman in South Bend, Indiana. When in her class at age 15, the young woman wrote and illustrated a short story, Overcoming Adversity, which stayed in the mind of her teacher all these years. (Discussions are afoot about revising it and publishing it with Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC.)
The “Respect” quilt features African fabrics (waxes and Ankara cottons), Afrocentric fabrics, such as Harlem Toile de Jouy designed by Sheila Bridges (NYC), and other fabrics purchased from African-American business women across the USA. It is the intention to celebrate and honor black womanhood that we all share.
Ideas? email: email@example.com
And yesterdays’ face mask production fyi, the final batch for North Seattle College! (if you look carefully, you’ll see that all 45 masks made over the past days are uniquely different, to honor the diverse identities of the No. Sea. College faculty, staff and students!):
So much turmoil and fear everywhere. Anxiety courses through my veins and it is only 9:02 am. No wisdom to share today. Just “same as day 73, and every day since.” If I can help you, please contact me. If not, know I’m feeling the pain too. It’s a mute solidarity of misery and fear. But we can still hope for a better tomorrow. Or even a better 9:15am! On that note, I’m going to go for a walk. Here is a bit of poetry from Mallarmé–an excellent companion for bleak moments–to capture the angst and desire to flee from one’s own mind:
La chair est triste, hélas ! et j’ai lu tous les livres.
Fuir ! là-bas fuir! Je sens que des oiseaux sont ivres
D’être parmi l’écume inconnue et les cieux !
— “Brise marine” by Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)
And the gorgeous translation by my friend Henry Weinfield:
The flesh is sad, alas, and there’s nothing but words!
To take flight, far off! I sense that somewhere the birds
Are drunk to be amid strange spray and skies.
— Stéphane Mallarmé, Collected Poems, trans. by Henry Weinfield (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1994, 2011), p. 21.