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American literature happiness loss memory

Trivia quiz on Edith Wharton, “The Age of Innocence”

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

Quotes                                                                                                         

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            

b. 42               

c. 78               

d. 85   

ANSWERS

1. b.

2. b.

3. c.

4. d.

5. a.                

6. g.

7. b.  (That quote is from Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.)

8. b.

9. e. (That quote is from Willa Cather, My Ántonia.)

10.-11.  b. and c.

12. c.

13. a.

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…

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Uncategorized

the death squares… but don’t be scared!

Update on the “Respect Quilts”: No quilt in honor of the Black experience in America would be complete without a representation of death. So I made these death squares today and think they are rather cute. Why be morbid? Death happens. It hurts, it sucks, we all hate it. There will be place on this quilt for political statements; I have four patches to sew on the back which make the #BLM issues clear. But death is all of ours and the way we handle it can be light-hearted. We can make it dance too, while we’re living.

These squares use bright yellow cotton to evoke the energy unleashed when we shake off our mortal coils, and they depict grinning skeletons doing all kinds of silly things: kicking their heels, brandishing swords, or tipping their top hat at you, as if they stepped right out of a classical Hollywood musical. The black velours makes these squares irresistible to the touch, just as the detailed piecing intrigues the eye with tiny bits of beautiful fabrics and satiny textures, thrown together in an off-kilter way.

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conflict creativity death quilts Zen philosophy

day 73: dear country, let me help

Today dawns on a weary, frightened populace as we look around at a nation torn apart by so many calamities. It is overwhelming. I seek to respond but don’t know how, apart from shedding some tears for the civil rights movement we felt was so wonderful while I was growing up, and all the hopes now dashed again, proven wrong yet again. I’m especially worried for my black women friends who are raising sons in this toxic environment. But I am really sorry for all of us, because today you and I are suffering.  Even if we think we’re exempt / immune /numb and incapable of taking in any more horrors, we are suffering. I turn to the Buddhist writings of Thich Nhat Hanh for guidance. I’ve been thinking and singing in my head the Billy Swan song, “I Can Help,” for hours.  Clearly, it would do me good to do you good. But how?

Here is what I learned from the Buddhist:

“When we are suffering, we have a strong need for the presence of the person we love. If we are suffering and the man or woman we love ignores us, then we suffer more. So what we can do—and right away—is to manifest our true presence to the beloved person and say the mantra with force: ‘Dear one, I know that you are suffering; that is why I am here for you.’”*

Today, we need love all around. Maybe you’re missing THE person you love. OK, can’t help with that. But I can be one person speaking up to you today with a friendly gesture that is real.

Dear reader,

I know that you are suffering. That is why I’m writing. I want to remind you that your life matters, your mind matters, your potential matters. Your words and actions matter. All the people who have died matter, and we will remember them, and keep demanding an end to the violence. And if you would like a face mask to wear during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, or quilt to celebrate life, let me know. I can help with that. (Quilts $100 today only; lead time 3-6 months.)

Thank you.

With hope and solidarity,

Julia   (use the Contact form to communicate requests for masks or quilt information, or just to chat. I’ll check in frequently.)

p.s. sorry for such a minute response to what is really a shattering moment in American history, but apart from nothing—symbolic silence—I could not think of anything worth writing. It’s all out there in the news, I can only offer face masks or quilts, and a few words of comfort.  But remembering Billy Swan, I just had to say, “let me help”.

***

Here are a few examples of memory quilts from the past, fyi

and fyi, Yesterday’s face mask production

Face masks made on May 30 2020

*Thich Nhat Hanh, “Love is Being Present,” Right Here with You: Bringing Mindful Awareness into Our Relationships, ed. Andrea Miller and the editors of the Shambhala Sun (Boston, Shambhala, 2011), 7.

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art happiness health work

day 20: on buoyancy and a good omen, maybe?

Hello!  This morning began slowly. I felt utter despair while perusing the testimonials in the New York Times Magazine from Sunday, “Exposed. Afraid. Determined,”  where ordinary working people–“essential” people like cleaners, delivery people, pharmacists and E.R. doctors– explain how the crisis has impacted their daily lives. It is a heart-breaking revelation of our broken system, which should be required reading for all elected officials. Anyway, after feeling hopeless and shedding too many tears, I went out.

 

The day is cool and windy, and the walk down our steep hills to Alki Beach was bracing. Little by little, however, my spirit rebounded. For some reason, it just happened. Like these seagulls, we humans have the capacity to bounce back endlessly, even with the weight of gravity pushing us down and without that nice salty water to hold us up.

Buoyant [Etymology: Old French bouyant or Spanish boyante, light-sailing, pres. part. of boyar, float, from boya BUOY noun + ant]*

  1. Able to float; tending to float or rise; floating; lightly elastic; resilient; able to recover, light-hearted.
  2. Able to keep things up or afloat.

As my spirits rose, my eyes rose too, and saw things I’d never noticed before, like the cool street art hanging from a wire at the corner of Harbor Ave SW and California Ave SW.  Would love to know who created that: so cute and colorful!

It’s fitting that the final image of today’s walk captured an accidentally funny or possibly prescient icon seen here:

Funny street art at Alki April 8 2020

This juxtaposition of images could be a good omen! It could mean that the coronavirus (the creature hanging from the wire) which has been devouring our population (the pedestrian with his head in the creature’s mouth) is on the way down (the arrow pointing down) here in Seattle (the ferry boat and Space Needle).  It’s a floating totem, twisting in the wind, telling us what we want to hear…

Finally, here for the record is a pic of the face masks produced yesterday. Got to get back to work now; more people are waiting. (I am loving this work actually, so thanks, customers and neighbors, for letting me be of service!!)

Masks made on April 7 2020

May all our spirits be buoyant!

*The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), vol. 1, p. 308.