Categories
American literature conflict creativity English literature French literature friendship generosity retirement social media wisdom

how not to despair, or dialog with a tech guy

An exchange of letters between a CIO of a large agency and a lit professor, both recently retired, who are wondering what the world is becoming as their two worlds collide with consequences no one can predict.

1/23/2023

Dear Julia,

I am reaching out to see if you might be willing to continue our brief conversation since some of what we discussed touched on a problem I have been trying to work through.

While serving as the information officer for an agency with about 1,500 employees, it was necessary to struggle with the introduction and then overwhelming increase in digital information assets.

I am using some of the time available with retirement to question the general presumption that information technology specialists are the sole authority for solving the mysteries of how best to adjust our information ecology – which was developed during what might be characterized as the age of written memory.

I have looked for clues in the transitions from mimetic communication to spoken language, and also from spoken to written language. Given the critical role of literature in all of them, it strikes me that specialists in literature (is the proper term philology?) need to be included in the conversation.

Would you have any interest in chatting with me about this?

Dan

1/24/2023

Dear Dan,

Your email has stayed with me all night and generated the following thoughts which I am putting into writing so I can get on with my day!  It is a fascinating inquiry and a question for which I have no big answer, only an extremely modest proposal for local action.  Ideally, a local kind of action which would allow people like your former colleagues to interact with people like my former colleagues and students, and children everywhere, eventually!

Meetings—better yet, true communion enacted over time through lasting, deep friendships created during these meetings–between people engrossed in creating new technologies and people involved in sustaining the written word, or the spoken/written/taught universe of literature and language, seems increasingly crucial for the wellbeing of our planet.

The two books that have been swirling around in my mind are Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain and Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris (aka “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”), especially the chapter entitled “Ceci tuera cela” (This Will Kill That, in other words, the printed word—unleashed by the printing press which was newly invented in the fifteenth century, the world depicted in his novel[1]–would kill the stained glass windows of Catholic cathedrals and their  monopoly on public story-telling and provision of visible narratives that give meaning to human life).

Here are my morning thoughts:

Now that humankind has (or is in the process of) switched from reading paper to interacting with screens, what is lost?  How to retain our humanity in this new environment? Of course, the issue is not identical to the one raised by Hugo in his 1831 book.  Stained glass windows only represented the Christian perspective, one set of stories, and you could only see them in a church. The printing press unleashed all kinds of perspectives and a potentially infinite range of stories.

But the new printed world excluded the illiterate or made their lives worse, by magnifying the divide between written and oral information systems. At the same time, moveable print made possible the deep learning and idea generating that led to the enormous “progress” in technology, medicine, and the democratization of knowledge which describes the past few centuries since the Renaissance.

In one way, digital technologies return us to a preliterate age, via the growing use of images—emojis, symbols, cartoon faces—instead of words, and the appeal of photographs. Yet forgeries are harder to spot. Photos may be prettified or altered from the real sources. Computers can now generate texts that seem to born from a human imagination. Now it is not only one church whose influence is fading; we may be witnessing the rise of a new superpower that humans no longer control: computers. Especially since computer science is dominated (or seems to be) by a certain kind of people: the new priests of the 21st century, who dictate the inner workings of those vast circuits, and seem to ignore what the consequences may be. Well, we are all ignorant of that.

But so far, the signs are worrisome. Shorter attention spans. Increased forgetfulness. Indifference to other peoples’ feelings, or unawareness that they even exist. Atomization, loneliness, despair.   

And at the same time, vast potential. Instant data retrieval, communication in real time with people far, far away. Alas, much of that communication is “spied on” (or could be) by humans with algorithms, so that predators can maximize details of their interest by selling analytics to advertisers, or compiling data banks to exploit for selling or influencing people. Still no one is “in charge.”

And we can all feel the burned-out sensation of too much screen exposure. Is it analogous to similar concerns over too much reading, from earlier times? Think of The Female Quixote[2] or Don Quixote himself: those novels were meant to depict a danger arising from too much of one kind of reading (novels). Too much imagination can lead one to hold unreal views and harbor expectations ungrounded in reality: disappointment, social ridicule, ostracism may ensue. Love remains out of sight, sadness and loneliness may befall the uncritical novel reader.

Too much screen time, esp. with violent video games, may do a similar trick on the mind but with a difference: instead of seeking and not finding love, one may seek to annihilate people perceived as “enemies” to the self. Even without such violent exposure, one attuned to screens may reduce people to targets or transactions, so that the self continues to feel strong and powerful, as it does on screen.

Spatial relations fade when the experience of walking, doing sports, or navigating a new place with a map are no longer common. Our world becomes an image on a screen with a dot for “you are here” which may be magnetized 1,000% or minimized into insignificance, instantly, with a flick of the thumb.

Communion through idea sharing, mutual experiences, sharing reactions to powerful writing, music, or art—therein lies our humanity, our greatness and our joy. What is the point of thinking, if all your thoughts are private property to be shared inside your head alone? Or posted online and forgotten seconds later by you and never read by anybody during your life?

Writing is still the most profound way to communicate and focused reading remains the best mode of activating thought.

Events that are local, in real time, with small groups of highly literate people (or children/teens/adults who are open to becoming such): that is the kind of event that I have discovered as a college teacher and which I now seek to propagate around me in West Seattle. That kind of event works, is remembered, and is cherished by humans. It is in a way a medieval model, except with no Church to coerce us or for us to serve. It is not “scalable” except in multiplying the model in locales worldwide.

Then what?

Therein lies the mystery.

Does it matter?

But I will seek ways to help create communion as long as I am here. Give hope, encourage, commiserate.

Thanks for asking!

Julia

p.s. Below I’ve pasted a flyer for one of my latest efforts. Pass the word to any kids you know!

“Write YOUR Story” now enrolling for Spring 2023!

Free Writing Workshop for people ages 8-12

Meets on Thursdays, February 2 – May 4, 2023*

4:30pm to 5:30pm,

High Point Community Center: 6920 34th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98126

Taught by two West Seattle writer/professors                               

TO ENROLL:  Contact the High Point Comm. Center (206) 684-7422

Website:  http://jdouthwa.wixsite.com/writeyourstory1                

*(no class on 4/13 and 4/20)


[1] In Germany, around 1440, goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press, which started the Printing Revolution.  Wikipedia.

[2] The Female Quixote; or, The Adventures of Arabella is a novel written by Charlotte Lennox, pub. 1752, imitating and parodying the ideas of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605-1615).

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conflict creativity death humor Russian literature

Trivia Quiz for “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov

Trivia Quiz for The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

(written 1928-1940; published posthumously in 1966)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 1/22/23

A. The Literary Hybrid: Satire + Origin Tale + Cityscape + Supernatural Adventure

1. A Biting Satire. As a doctor, writer, and member of the intelligentsia, Mikhail Bulgakov witnessed first-hand the terrors of the Stalinist regime (1927-1953), and, assuming his work would never get published, he pokes fun at many aspects of the era’s impact on ordinary lives.  Which one of the following is not criticized in the novel?

a. the government-sanctioned housing shortage in Moscow

b. the “politically dangerous” issue of having foreign currencies in your possession

c. the total absence of censorship, which gave rise to a media free-for-all promoting anarchy, xenophobia, and mob rule

d. the graft, bribe-taking, and other unscrupulous behaviors practiced by official Soviet bureaucrats

2. An Ambiguous Easter Novel. Bulgakov’s biographer calls this book an “Easter novel” for all but one of the following reasons. Which one of the following does not occur in The Master and Margarita?

a. The novel describes the day when Procurator Pontius Pilate proceeded over the trial in which Jesus was condemned to death on the cross, and the following days.

b. The novel is an evangelical’s spiritual autobiography, in which he describes finding faith on a special Easter.

c. The story takes place in the springtime.

d. The novel has 33 chapters (or 32 plus an epilogue about an afterlife): the same age as Jesus when he died.

3. A Cityscape. Even those who have never ventured to Moscow will develop some familiarity with the city by the end of this novel, due to its precise locations and relatively small focus. Which one of the following sites is not a center of the action?

a. Patriarch’s Ponds

b. Griboyedov House

c. The Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace of the Imperial Family)

d. Sparrow Hills

4. Strange occurrences and supernatural travel run through the second part of the book, in which all but one of the following events transpire. Identify it.

a. Margarita becomes a witch and flies across the night sky.

b. A cat demands, “Passport !” and stretches out a chubby paw to receive it.

c. Margarita attends a ball where she meets a number of criminals, poisoners, and madmen from history.

d. The Master’s novel is published to great acclaim in a foreign country far from Moscow.

B. A Strange Worldview

5. Characters blurt out phrases that sound outlandish, but merely reflect political realities of the time. Which one of the following is not from The Master and Margarita ?

a. “Money … should be kept in the State Bank, in special, moisture-free safe-deposit boxes, and not in your aunty’s cellar where the rats can get at it!”

b. “Have you come to arrest me?”

c. “Take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.”

d. “One really shouldn’t make big plans for oneself, dear neighbor.”

6. Laughter: the Ultimate Weapon? Bulgakov’s humor emerges slyly in this novel; which one of the following is not an example?

a. “And it was then, as the chairman insisted afterwards, that the miracle took place: the wad of bills crawled into his briefcase all on its own.”

b. “The foreigner leaned back on the bench and practically squealed with curiosity as he asked, ‘You mean you’re atheists?!’ … “Oh, how delightful!”

 c. “Neither the conductress nor the passengers were amazed by the most important thing of all, namely, that a cat was not merely getting on a streetcar, which wasn’t so bad, but that he intended to pay his fare!”

d. Woland’s show includes a “Ballet of the Bureaucrats” wherein clerks become angels and dance in unison.

7. Advice on living, or how not to disappear. Which maxim is not from Bulgakov’s book?

a. “Submission, self-denial, diligent work, are the preparations for a life.”

b. “Today I’m unofficial, but tomorrow I might be official! And vice versa, of course, or even something worse.”

c. “Insults are the usual reward for good work.”

d. “What are smart people for, if not to untangle tangled things?”

C. Miscellaneous Insights

8. Death is a central theme and end of this book. Which one of the following is not from The Master and Margarita?

a. “Chess became an incurable addiction that tormented him until the day of his death.”

b. “A round dark object was propelled under the railing … it began bouncing over the cobblestones of Bronnaya Street. It was Berlioz’s severed head.”

c. “’Crash! Bang! Over falls the baron!’” ‘I was practically hysterical,’ put in the cat, licking a spoonful of caviar.”

d. “Needless to say, truly mature and cultivated people did not tell these tales about an evil power’s visit to the capital.”

9. Mikhail Bulgakov was also a playwright and some dialogue is remarkable. Which one of the following is not from his novel?

a. “’I shouldn’t be blamed too severely—after all, it’s not everyday you meet up with an evil power!’ / ‘That’s for sure! How nice it would be if it were everyday!’”

b. “What more can a bear want?” [the mother asks]. / “Love, I think to myself, like the warmth in the cowshed of all those breathing cattle with a common goal—survival.”

c. “’The sturgeon’s not the issue.’ /  ‘How can it not be the issue if it’s spoiled?’ / ‘They sent us sturgeon that’s second-grade fresh’ said the bartender.”

d. “’When people have been stripped of everything, as you and I have been, they look to otherworldly powers for salvation! Well all right, I’m willing to do it.’ / ‘That’s it, now you’re your old self again’.”

10. The message? Which of the following is not a quote from this book?

a. “And so, almost everything was explained, and the investigation came to an end, just as, in general, all things do.”

b. “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?”

Answers

1. c.

2. b.

3. c. The Hermitage Museum is in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

4. d.

5. c. That quote is from Bram Stoker, Dracula.

6. d.

7.a. That quote is from Charles Dickens, Bleak House.

8. a. That quote is from Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.

9. b. That quote is from Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening.

10. b That quote is from Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence.

***

Come back in February for the quiz on Vanity Fair (1847-48) by English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.

Categories
Irish literature

Trivia Quiz for “The Dead” by James Joyce, and “Dream Story” by Arthur Schnitzler

Trivia Quiz for “The Dead” by James Joyce (1924), and

Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler (1926)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 12/11/22

With answers below

A. “The Dead”

1. Despite being called a “great affair,” the description of the Misses Morkan’s annual dance reveals hints of their modest status in Dublin society. Which of the following details is not mentioned, about their home and party?

a. The caretaker’s daughter (instead of a stately butler) answers the door and welcomes in the guests.

b. The guests include family, friends, and pupils of the hostesses, who earn money by giving music lessons.

c. Their feast is composed of leftovers, artfully concealed under thick sauces, accompanied by watered-down wine and stale bread.

d. The women live in a rental, the upper part of a “dark gaunt house”—and have done so for the past thirty years.

2. One of the main concerns of the hostesses, during this event, is to avoid a certain disgrace. Which one of the following explains their fear?

a. They fear Mary Jane’s former lover might show up and cause a scene.

b. They fear the men will start fighting about Irish politics, as often happens at their gatherings.

c. They fear an old friend might show up drunk and behave poorly, thus embarrassing them in front of the music students, many of whom belong to better-class families.

d. They fear the landlord might come upstairs to argue about the noise.

3.  The main character, Gabriel, is described as having all but one of the following traits. Which is not in “The Dead”?

a. He is their favorite nephew.                                         

b. They haven’t seen him for years since he’s often abroad, as a member of the merchant marine.

c. He is son of their dead elder sister who had married a man from the Dublin Port and Docks.

d. He is their favorite choice for presenting Christmas speeches, given his education and literary career.

4. Gabriel’s mood is darkened during the evening by a few minor incidents; which of the following is not mentioned?

a. The caretaker’s daughter turns sour after he mentions her future wedding and rebuffs his friendly gesture.

b. The sight of his dead mother’s photo reminds Gabriel that she once opposed his marriage to his wife, Gretta.

c. The sound of people’s feet dancing overhead makes him worry that his speech is too high-brow.

d. A drunk woman makes fun of his “Continental” accent.

5. In the end, Gabriel espies his wife listening to some music. This episode stirs up equivocal feelings. Which of the following is not a consequence of that moment?

a. He sees “grace and mystery in her attitude, as if she were a symbol of something.”

b. “A sudden tide of joy went leaping out of his heart.”

c. Gretta starts to sob, remembering a boy she once loved, and who sang that song for her.

d. He realizes that “her face was no longer beautiful” and it makes him sad.

e. All of the above are a consequence of the music.

B. Dream Story

6. Schnitzler’s story builds on a strange experience which inspires a sequence of events.  Which of the following describes the initial experience?

a. A husband and wife attend a concert where they hear an old song the wife once loved, and which reminds her of lost love.

b. A husband and wife attend a masquerade ball where people make passes at them, separately, thus inflaming their sexual desires.

c. A husband and wife attend a political meeting and the husband is inspired to get involved, much to his wife’s regret and anger.

d. A husband and wife attend a family gathering where people tell dirty stories that make them ashamed of their past.

7. The text contains hints of a message throughout, in sentences such as all but one of the following. Which one is not in Dream Story?

a. “Uneasy, and tormenting themselves, each sought … to draw out confessions from the other.”

b. “All at once those insignificant events were imbued, magically and painfully, with the deceptive glow of neglected opportunities.”

c. “There’s no dignity to be had in being a slave.”

d. “No dream is entirely a dream.”

8. Maxims from the underworld. During a weird evening, one hears some warnings/advice. Which of the following is not said by shadowy strangers in Dream Story?

a. “There’s nothing here to smile about.”

b. “It is not a question of satisfaction, but one of expiation.”

c. “When a promise has been made here there is no turning back.”

d. “Here it doesn’t matter whether you have forgotten the password or if you never knew it.”

9. Which one of the following words is seen to have a special power, lending logic and synchronicity to the action in Dream Story?

a. “Sweden”               

b. “Jimmy”                

c. “Rosebud”                          

d. “Denmark”

C. BOTH BOOKS TOGETHER!

10. Which quote from “The Dead” sounds like it applies to the characters in Dream Story?

a. “One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither with age.”

b. “It was the rule, that was all.”

c. “’When we are hungry we are all very quarrelsome.’ ‘And when we are thirsty we are also quarrelsome.’”

d. “To follow the voice … was to feel and share the excitement of swift and secure flight.”

ANSWERS

1. c.

2. c.

3. b.

4. d.

5. e.

6. b.

7. c.  (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)

8. a. (That quote is from The Discomfort of Evening.)

9. d.

10. a., b. or d.

Come back next month when we’ll discuss a classic of Russian literature!

Date & time: Sunday January 22, 2023: 3:00-4:30pm. Trivia Quiz is posted on this blog afterwards, each month.

Place: C and P Coffee House on California Ave SW: outdoors, on back patio

Event: West Seattle Classic Novels (and Movies) book club meets to discuss The Master and Margarita, by Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov (published posthumously in 1966-67, written from 1928 to his death in 1940). 

contact person: juliawsea@gmail.com

Thank you for reading,

and happy holidays to you and yours!

Categories
children death loss memory

Trivia Quiz for “The Discomfort of Evening” by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Trivia Quiz for The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

(winner of the International Booker Prize, 2020)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 11/20/22

(answers below)

A. Memoirs of a Child

1. Motivation. Multiple reasons lie behind the choice to write these (fictional) memoirs, yet none are explicitly stated by the narrator (who shares some features of the author’s own life). Which one of the following does not seem likely as a reason to write this book?

a. a great affection for family and desire to share funny and sweet stories

b. a victim’s effort to seek justice—divine or societal—for the suffering she’s endured

c. a novelist’s desire to shock city folk by exploiting brutal and grotesque aspects of rural life

d. a one-time believer’s want to expose harsh views promulgated by the Dutch Reformed Church.

2. Duration. How much time is covered in the narration?

a. Nine years: she is 12 years old at the beginning and 21 at the end.

b. One month: she is 10 at beginning and end, and the time goes only from December to January.

c. One night: it all happens on the terrible night her brother drowned, when she was 10.

d. Two years: she grows from age 10 to age 12.

B. A Strange Worldview

3. Maxims. The Discomfort of Evening includes numerous judgments and lessons on life by the young narrator. Which one of the following does she not say (or think)?

a. “Anger has hinges that need oiling.”

b. “There’s nothing here to smile about.”

c. “For our generation, professional prestige lay most significantly in the moral worth of one’s employer.”

d. “Everything that requires secrecy here is accepted in silence.”

4. Home sweet home? Which one of the following does not describe the narrator’s home?

a. They have only three TV channels: Nederlands 1, 2, and 3.

b. They live on a farm, with various animals including cows, rabbits, and chickens.

c. They consider stewed cow’s udder with mustard to be a special treat.

d. They are hiding Jews in their basement, the narrator thinks, because her mom stores food there.

e. Their home is beloved far and wide for the music, friendship, and joy one finds there.

C. People and Their Problems

5. Strained relations abound. Which one of the following is not in this book?

a. A brother sexually abuses his sister.

b. A boy sexually abuses a neighbor girl.

c. A girl masturbates with a stuffed animal.

d. A mother becomes grief-stricken, then numb, then suicidal, faced with her life’s challenges.

e. A father kills his son, to teach him a lesson.

f. A girl suffers from long-term constipation and her father tries to “cure” her.

g. A boy forces a girl to kill an animal as a sacrifice.

6. A difficult world surrounds them. Which of the following maxims is not cited?

a. “Crows in a farmyard are an omen of death.”

b. “You don’t take rotten mandarins back to the greengrocer’s.”

c. “Mum doesn’t like made-up things, because stories in your imagination often leave out suffering and Mum thinks it should be part of things.”

d. “I promise to make you feel wanted, loved and cherished every single day.”

e. “Sometimes it’s good to frighten them a bit.”

7. Death is the central theme and end of this book. Which of the following is not from The Discomfort of Evening?

a. “You die fast or slowly and both things have their advantages and disadvantages.”

b. “Since death is inevitable, it’s best to forget about it. Carpe diem!”

c. “Death never just happens to you, there is always something that causes it. This time it was you. You can kill too.”

d. “I asked God if He please couldn’t take my brother Matthies instead of my rabbit.”

8. Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is also a poet and some lines are poignant or remarkable. Which of the following is not from The Discomfort of Evening?

a. “I only saw her lips moving and my mother’s pursed shut, like mating slugs.”

b. “What more can a bear want?” [the mother asks]. “Love, I think to myself, like the warmth in the cowshed of all those breathing cattle with a common goal—survival.”

c. A maid screams: “There was no reflection of him in the mirror!”

d. “There’s a drowned butterfly inside me.”

e. “Their hands were always searching for something and if you were no longer able to hold an animal or a person tenderly, it was better to let go and turn your attention to other useful things instead.”

9. Striking symbols. Which of the following is not a symbolic presence in this book?

a. a pet hamster is drowned in a glass of water, while three children watch

b. a child is forced to break open her piggy bank (in the form of a cow), with a hammer

c. an IUD (or “coil” birth control device) is found in a baby book

d. a painting becomes uglier and uglier, while the person in the painting becomes mean and cruel

e. a sign says: “LOOK OUT! TOADS CROSSING,” beside a road littered with crushed bodies

10. The message? Which of the following is not a quote from this book, on family and religion?

a. “It must have been most irksome to find himself bound by a hard-wrung pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child he could not love. “

b. “I’m beginning to have more and more doubts about whether I find God nice enough to want to go and talk to Him.”

c.  “It might sound crazy, but I miss my parents even though I see them every day.”

d. “One day I’d like to go to myself.”

Open question: Some might ask whether such a brutal, depressing story should be considered as “art,” let alone win the prestigious International Booker prize. As Alice Walker wrote: “If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”

ANSWERS

1. a.

2. d.

3. c. (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)

4. e

5. e.

6. d. (That quote is from a website of loving quotations [https://www.ftd.com/blog/celebrate/love-words], certainly not from this book.)

7. b. (That quote is a platitude of my own invention.)

8. c. (That quote is from Dracula.)

9. d. (That plot is from The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

10. a. (That quote is from Jane Eyre.)

P.S. The open question remains open; we questioned what it means to be “better,” among other things…

**********

Join us next month, on Sunday December 11 at 3pm, when we will discuss two classic stories that have been adapted into movies. You are invited to view the films and compare them to the stories (if time permits).

The books to read are:

1. Arthur Schnitzler, Dream Story. Also known as Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, it is a 1926 novella by the Austrian writer Schnitzler (128 pages). It was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick called Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

2. James Joyce, “The Dead.” First published in 1924, this story is the last one in the Irish writer Joyce’s collection of short stories, Dubliners. It is about 50 pages.  A film version of The Dead exists as well: it is the 1987 drama directed by John Huston, written by his son Tony Huston, and starring his daughter Anjelica Huston. 

Happy reading and viewing; hope to see you in December!

Categories
English literature memory retirement wisdom

Trivia quiz for Iris Murdoch, “The Sea, The Sea”

                         Trivia Quiz for The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 10/30/22

With answers below

1. Why leave? Why go there? Many reasons lie behind the choice to leave London for a retreat, at the book’s beginning. Which one of the following is not cited by narrator Charles Arrowby?

a. “To repent a life of egoism”                      

b. “It is time to think about myself at last”

c. “It affords me a curious pleasure to … watch the violent forces which the churning waves, advancing or retreating, generate inside the confined space of the rocky hole.”

d. “I looked with timorous joy towards a stately house; I saw a blackened ruin.”

e. “(There is only one bed; I am not expecting visitors!)”

2. The Sea: a landscape of the mind. Charles reveals his changing feelings by reflecting on the sea. Which one of the following is not from Murdoch’s novel?

a. “Although the sea was fairly calm I had the same irritating difficulty getting out of it…. Swallowed a lot of water and cut my foot.”

b. “What is pertinent is the calmness… its sense of restraint.”

c. “The early dawn light hung over the rocks .. with an awful intent gripping silence, as if it had seized these faintly visible shapes and were very slowly drawing them out of a darkness in which they wanted to remain.”

d. “The sea was joyful and the taste of salt water was the taste of hope and joy. … Meeting my sea-dervish companion I shouted, ‘Now aren’t you glad you came to me?’”

3-6. Uneasy truths. The Sea, The Sea includes numerous lessons on life: some are of dubious value, others are heard then forgotten. Match the saying to the source. Characters include: a. Charles ; b. James; c. Rosina  d. local folks at the Black Lion inn

3. “A man would drown there in a second.”

4. “Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.”

5. “It’s so easy to frighten people.”

6. “People lie so, even we old men do. Though in a way, if there is art enough it doesn’t matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art.”

7. Marriage and desire: painful illusions. Which of the following quips is not from The Sea, The Sea?

a. “Our marriages have become a mere farce.”

b. “One of the horrors of marriage is that the partners are supposed to tell each other everything.”

c. “A marriage is so hideously private. Whoever illicitly draws back that curtain may well be stricken … by an avenging deity.”

d. “A long marriage is very unifying, even if it’s not ideal, and those old structures must be respected.”

8. The wisdom and mystery of James. As Charles mulls over his past, the reader gleans curious insights into his relationship with his cousin James. Which one of the following does not apply to James?

a. After Charles plunges into the sea, James rescues him in a miraculous way.

b. His London home is full of gold Buddhas, fetishes, and other oddities from the Orient

c. He was a Nazi sympathizer whose secrets, when revealed, caused a public disgrace.                       

d. As a boy, he was fond of custard cream biscuits, and he offers some to Charles during a visit.

e. He warns Charles to avoid myth-making, and to stay away from Hartley.

f. When reminiscing with Charles, James says, “What larks we had.”

g. At the end, Charles inherits James’s London house and moves there.

9. Titus: a Long-lost family member? Or a weird coincidence? Which one of the following phrases is not spoken by Titus Fitch to the narrator Charles?

a. “Are you my father?”

b “I want to go home.”

c. “Oh, the sea, the sea—it’s so wonderful. … A swim? Oh—yes.

d. “I’m against forcing people, I think they should be free.”

e. “We’ll get to know each other one day. There’s time.”

10. Happy ending? A chance encounter with some animals seems to put a happy ending on Charles’s retreat. What animals show up?

a. dolphins

b. sea turtles

c.  seals

d. rabbits

11. Yet one foe may persist: the mind. Which of the following is not a description of Charles’s thoughts toward the end of the book?

a. “My thoughts still had to be kept on a leash, and there were long dark passages down which they were straining to run.”

b. “My responsibility for Titus’s death, which now so largely occupied my mind, amounted to this: I had never warned him about the sea.”

c. “But suppose nothing happened .. and nothing happened…?”

d. “Time, like the sea, unties all knots.”

e. “Last night someone on a BBC quiz show did not know who I was.”

f.  “I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express.”

ANSWERS

1. d. (That quote is from Jane Eyre.)

2. b. (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)

3. d.

4. a.

5. c.

6. b.

7. a.  (That quote is from Père Goriot.)

8. c. (That reference applies to the employer of Stevens, in The Remains of the Day.)

9. b.

10. c.

11. f. (That is the ending of Jane Eyre.)

******

COME BACK NEXT MONTH, for our quiz on Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening (winner of the International Man Booker Prize, 2020).

Categories
English literature memory work

          Trivia Quiz for “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Trivia Quiz for The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 9/25/22

With answers below

A. The Journey

1. Duration and Motivation. Multiple reasons lie behind the trip undertaken by Stevens. Which one of the following is not cited as a reason by Stevens in his narration?

a. employer’s offer to pay for gas                  

b. visit to interview potential employee                    

c. no one to serve at Darlington Hall     

d. potential romance              

e. only 5-6 days

2. Landscapes of the Mind. Stevens reveals much of his psychology in reflections on the English countryside. Which one of the following is not from Ishiguro’s novel?

a. “I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart.”

b.  There were “long stones that stood on end, balancing themselves in a queer, miraculous way.”

c. “What is pertinent is the calmness… its sense of restraint.”

d. “While speeding along between large open fields … or else steering carefully through marvelous little villages … I found myself yet again turning over certain recollections from the past.”

B. The Memories that Reveal the Self

3. Maxims. The Remains of the Day includes numerous judgments and lessons on life. Which one of the following is not spoken by Stevens?

a. “By the very nature of a witticism, one is given very little time to assess its various possible repercussions before one is called to give voice to it, and one gravely risks uttering all manner of unsuitable things if one has not first acquired the necessary skill and experience.”

b. “The sad fact is that long-continued, pleasant normality becomes a bore.”

c. “For our generation, professional prestige lay most significantly in the moral worth of one’s employer.”

d. “There is one situation and one situation only in which a butler … may feel free to unburden himself… when he is entirely alone.”

4. A lofty, yet limited vocabulary: a sign of moral rectitude or rote thinking? Certain key words recur in Stevens’s narration. Which one does not run through The Remains of the Day?

a. dignity        

b. professional                       

c. restraint                  

d. error           

e. banter

f. loyalty                    

g. love            

h. role             

i. distinguished          

j. triumph

C. The Enigma of Other People

5. What one crucial moment captures the dynamic between Stevens and Miss Kenton?

a. The day she interviewed Winston Churchill in the library, contrary to the wishes of Stevens.

b. The morning they shared cocoa together in the quiet kitchen, while plotting a joke on the cook.

c. The night her aunt died, when he stood listening outside her room in the hall, but did not knock to offer condolences.

d. Their final decision to run away together to start a new life in South America!

6. Lord Darlington’s infamous career. As Stevens mulls over his past, the reader gleans increasingly unpleasant details of Lord D’s fall from favor. Which one of the following does not apply to Lord Darlington?

a. he used his home to conduct secret events that aided Hitler’s rise

b. he was a womanizer with several children he refused to acknowledge or help

c. he was a Nazi sympathizer                        

d. he forced Stevens to fire Jewish employees

7. Stevens, Sr.: the Archetypal Suffering Father? Readers of Balzac may see similarities between this father and Père Goriot. Which one of the traits does not appear in Ishiguro’s story?

a. a series of embarrassing humiliations       

b. an anonymous burial in a pauper’s cemetery

c. a bare garret room              

d. an absent wife        

e. a deathbed scene with little emotion                     

f. a cerebral hemorrhage                                

g. stilted relations with family

8. Tragi-comic asides. Stevens is enlisted to undertake the sexual education of a young man, Mr. Cardinal, at one point. What one phrase does Lord D. not proffer, to request this service?

a. “You are familiar, I take it, with the facts of life.”

b. “Sir David has been attempting to tell his son the facts of life for the last five years.”

c. “Be sure to remind him about consent, and treating women with respect.”

d. “Sir David finds the task rather daunting.”

e. “I’m terribly busy.”

f. “Be an awful lot off my mind.”

g. “Just convey the basic facts and be done with it.”

9. A chance encounter with Harry Smith challenges Stevens’s view of dignity and citizenship. What one phrase does Harry Smith not say in support of his views?

a. “There’s no dignity to be had in being a slave.”

b. “We owe it to the lads.”

c.  “The likes of you and I will never be in a position to comprehend the great affairs of today’s world.”

10. When Stevens is asked by a smalltown doctor, “You aren’t a manservant of some sort, are you?” his reaction is (choose one):

a. embarrassment                  

b. relief                      

c. shame                     

d. indignation

ANSWERS

1. d.

2. b. (That quote is from Daphne Dumaurier, Jamaica Inn.)

3. b. (That quote is from Sōseki Natsume, I Am a Cat.)

4. g. (“Love” is rarely mentioned in this work).

5. c.

6. b.

7. b.

8. c.  (That quote does not appear in Ishiguro’s novel; it was invented for the quiz.)

9. c. (Stevens voices that opinion, not Harry Smith.)

10. b.

Categories
American literature art children creativity French literature humor music nature quilts

Only a real idiot can have this much fun! (homage to Julio Cortázar)

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!)

Luxury Troll Boudoirs in progress, HGBG workshop, West Seattle (7/5/22)

— 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

Categories
English literature friendship memory

words, and a quilt, to wrap your mind around…

Making the All Star Seattle Quilts which are now keeping me busy brings to mind my hometown and all that I treasure about it. Is it any wonder that T.S. Eliot’s poem, “Little Gidding,” jumps into my thoughts? It too is about going home, time passing, things gone. Much about Seattle has changed too, since I grew up and first left town. Yet the symbols, imagery, and places in these quilts have all been chosen for their historical relevance and personal acquaintance–and there’s still enough to love. Sailboats, forests, mountains and bookstores, restaurants, record shops, and schools–all part of what makes living in Seattle so sweet, sometimes so heart-breaking.

Below some images from “All Star Seattle Quilt no. 2,” and some lines from Eliot’s beloved poem. Enjoy!


What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

And every phrase

And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,

Taking its place to support the others,

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,

An easy commerce of the old and the new,

The common word exact without vulgarity,

The formal word precise but not pedantic,

The complete consort dancing together)

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,

Every poem an epitaph.

And any action

Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat

Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

Categories
art creativity design happiness

omg! so happy!

If you’ve read much of this blog, you’ll realize that until 2018 I was a college professor, lost in the whirlwind of conflicting thoughts… I was a complete novice at business, though I took a great course and do know how to sew and design pretty things. But still… even the MBA in a Box (which still sits on my shelf) was intimidating, and I felt like a failure–or completely INSANE to be doing what I do–quite often. And if you’ve ever tried to create anything or start a small business, you’ll also empathize and feel a surge of joy right now, on hearing that I JUST MADE MY FIRST BIG SALE today! The All Star Seattle Quilt (above) sold after just one day on Etsy!

So now, I’m riding on the wind, as I look forward to a wonderful session of T’ai chi, after the exhilarating Water Taxi ride to the waterfront… and it’s not even raining (right now).

All Star Seattle Quilts nos. 2 and 3 are underway and will feature the T-shirts of more local favorites! No. 2 will feature Pegasus Books, Easy Street Records, and Beanfish Tayaki; No. 3 will feature Elliott Bay Books, Easy Street Records, and Communion Restaurant. preorders available now! (6-8 weeks)

Categories
art cats creativity design dogs friendship happiness quilts trees wisdom

small mercies

It’s been pretty damp out here lately. It’s easy to let your spirits fall flat and feel dreary. Even the computer sends out small, slightly ominous messages of warning, in the right-hand corner of the screen.

Yet I take heart in Emerson’s words this morning: “I am thankful for small mercies.” The beauty of green lush scenery and the ever-changing skies, the humorous way my computer seems to be speaking, commiserating about the weather… it’s all so endearing, so regular, so northwestern. It’s life happening right before our eyes. The passage which follows in Emerson rings strangely familiar too, to readers of Michael Singer and other contemporary writers on consciousness:

“The new molecular philosophy shows astronomical interspaces betwixt atom and atom, shows that the world is all outside; it has no inside.”

Emerson also reminds us, like Singer in Living Untethered (just got my copy and loving it!) that:

“Life’s chief good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find, without question. .. To fill the hour–that is happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.”

“Life is a tempest of fancies, and the only ballast I know is a respect to the present hour. … we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad justice where we are.”

— from Emerson, “Experience” in Selected Writings, pp. 350-352.

And then there’s “All Star Seattle Quilt” No. 1, finished yesterday! It was fun to stitch in some of my favorite natural scenes and landmarks from this city I love so much… and to blend them with fabrics from the many cultures which make this such a quirky, lively place to be: African block prints, Vietnamese tigers, Japanese cranes in flight, Mexican flowers in bloom–we have so much to be grateful for, in this outpost on the far western side of the country.

Hint: those T-shirts and the tiny pin represent local landmarks which will be featured in “All Star Seattle Quilts” Nos. 2 and 3, coming for summer!

And now, about that weather…