Sunday, January 28, 2007

W.B. Yeats

Today is the 68th anniversary of the death of W.B. Yeats. (That was a horribly convoluted sentence. I apologize.) He is one of my favorite poets. I wrote a paper on him for one of my classes last semester and I really fell in love with his poetry all over again. He had a gift for language that few can equal.

It is very difficult to choose just one poem of his to post, but here goes:

When You are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Wikipedia's W.B. Yeats page--be aware that one of the pictures on this page is highly inappropriate--it's at the bottom of the page, under the picture of his grave.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Reflection on a Painting

I wrote this about a month ago and though I'd share it.

In this picture you stand, quiet, unconcerned, in an empty street while across from you—on the other side of the picture—stands a man. You look towards him. He looks towards you. What are you to each other? Lovers, once lovers, siblings, friends, enemies? Will you run towards each other in joy or will you turn away, forever leaving this still portrait, this instant? Or perhaps none of this will happen. Perhaps he will cross the street to you and say “I did not expect to find you here.” And perhaps you will smile and say, “I came to meet you.” And then you will walk home together, stopping to buy the meat on the way. Or perhaps you will cross to him and he will look at you and tell you how you have not changed a bit and you will say that same to him as all the while you both think how few years have changed so much. Or is this an assignation and you have been waiting for an eternity, pacing back and forth back and forth while in the distance this man comes towards you eagerly? You are not in mourning for there is this coquettish pink flower in your hat. Perhaps you know that you look well in black or that black is mysterious and alluring. At any rate, there you stand in this quiet drab street, a spot of black, looking away. And we will never know yet we will weave our own story about you, each one choosing the one he likes best.

The painting is called "The Wait" and is by Jean Beraud. I have a copy of it in my room and was not sure what it was called until I saw another painting by the same artist on the back and noticed that he had signed it. I found the digital version here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Before I post it though, I apologize for not posting recently. I attempted to switch my blogger account to the new version and while it switched, I now cannot sign in on IE6. I can on Flock, so I guess I'm just stuck using Flock for all Blogger things. Bah, humbug. I've emailed them but I haven't heard back and, honestly, I don't expect to. Alas.

On to the quiz:

Baaaaahhhhhh--that's me being a meme sheep. Stolen from Mary Beth

1. Put your music player on shuffle.
2. Press forward for each question.
3. Use the song title as the answer to the question.


What does next year have in store for me?
High Germany (ooh, that's interesting)

What’s my love life like?
The Emperor Piano Concerto by Beethoven (hmmmmm....)

What do I say when life gets hard?
Ma coeur s'ouvre a ta voix("My heart opens at the sound of your voice")-Camille Saint-Saens (this would be so much better for the love life one...I suppose we could be talking religiously but that's just kind of odd)

What do I think when I get up in the morning?
Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninoff, "Allegra scherzando" (sure......)

What song will I dance to at my wedding?
Rolling in the Barrel/The Pinch of Snuff/Vincent Campbell's/The Galloping Hound (well it is folk music, so it is possible, I suppose)

What do you want as a career?
El Condor Pasa (If I Could) (What does THAT mean????)

Your favorite saying?
El Cumbanchero (it's not, in fact I have no idea what that means)

Favorite place?
Forth Eorlingas (okay, Middle-earth....)

Where'd you go for a road trip?
A Journey in the Dark (Moria??? They don't even have roads in Moria)

What would you listen to while driving?
Finale (from the 95 P&P) (that sounds really horrible.....Finale)

What do you think of your parents?
Not About Me (*snigger*)

Where would you go on a first date?
Pemberley (LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Your life’s theme song?
Thinking About Lizzy (My middle name is Elizabeth)

Describe yourself?
Messe Basse--Kyrie Eleison by Gabriel Faure (it is one of my favorite pieces of music)

What is the thing you like doing most?
Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, Andante (whaaat???)

What is my state of mind like at the moment?
Breath of Life (interesting)

How will I die?
Solo Gousli (death by Russian folk instrument.....)

Your funeral?
Polianka (more Russian folk music...maybe I'll die in Russia?)


I work in my college’s library which uses the Library of Congress system. I have always used the Dewey Decimal system before and it was awhile before my brain could make the switch.

That was all background except for the last bit which was purely extraneous information. The point is that the other day I was shelving videos in our video section when I noticed that all of the movies made from Ernest Hemingway’s books were in the action and adventure section. This makes me pause and wonder. I am not a Hemingway fan. “The Old Man and the Sea” leaves me cold and I think that the best part of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is the title (from Meditation XVII by John Donne). But I am not so crass as to say that Hemingway is not literature—or at least not as much literature as, say, “Tom Jones.” That would be sad indeed. And it made me wonder what poor Hemingway had done to deserve such an unkind fate. I suppose the classification makes some sense—the main characters usually are in situations that most of us do not face everyday. But all the same, Hemingway provides some deep insights into human beings and, while I don’t agree with him, I would argue that those insights are the point of his work as opposed to the external comings and goings which are merely vehicles he uses to open up the character to us.

The problem, of course, lies in the fact that evidently the Library of Congress does not see things the way I do and so Papa Hemingway must roll in his grave every time the videos are shelved.

NOTE: It has occured to me since writing this that the classification system MAY have something to do with the fact that Hemingway is American but I will not swear to it and I haven't had a chance to investigate further yet. If anyone else knows, leave me a comment. :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

2006 in Books, Part Three

Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff: Rosemary Sutcliff is definitely one of my favorite writers and certainly my favorite within the “historical fiction” label. I hadn’t read Eagle of the Ninth before and it now ranks with The Lantern Bearers in my favorites of her works. The main character’s father disappeared years ago in the wilds of north Britain with the Ninth Spainish Legion. He now is going back to try to find the legion’s eagle but he has no idea what he will find. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers.

More Spirited Than Lions by Sarah Elizabeth Cowie: This is a former feminist’s examination of the role of women within the Orthodox Christian Church. It uses the examples of women saints throughout the centuries to build a comprehensive view of femininity in the Church and how this both agrees with and differs from contemporary conservative Protestant and Catholic views as well as more liberal ideology. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers, especially Orthodox.

The Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers: Some friends of mine recommended Lord Peter to me. I am eternally grateful to them. I have only been reading these books since August but I wonder now how I ever did without them! For the record, my favorites are Gaudy Night, Strong Poison, and Clouds of Witness. But they are all (excluding most of Busman’s Honeymoon) extremely agreeable. Highly recommended for more mature readers.

The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis: I had read the first two some years ago but I think I was a bit young for them. Anyway, I read all three this time around and enjoyed them, although I agreed with Tolkien that the philology is all bosh (although I am by no means an expert). I liked the last book a bit less than the first two, but all three were quite good. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers.

W;t by Margaret Edson: I had seen the movie “Wit” which was based on this play a few years ago and when I got to college I discovered that my roommate loves the play and had a copy. It is every bit as good as the movie, maybe even a little better. Vivian Bearing is an English professor who discovers that she has very advanced ovarian cancer. Includes one of my favorite lines in the world: “Death be not proud comma death thou shalt die. You see, nothing but a comma separates this life from the world to come.” (From memory, if that isn’t the exact line please don’t kill me, although I would be glad of any corrections.) Highly recommended for mature readers.

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper: This year I really went back to about five or six years ago and revisited some of the books that I liked then. I read a great deal of Susan Cooper about that time but when I re-read a few I discovered that I only really like King of Shadows at this point. It is the story of Nat, a boy involved in putting on a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Globe in London. One morning he wakes up in Elizabethan England where he discovers that Shakespeare himself is putting on the Dream for Queen Elizabeth. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers.

A number of books by Madeline L’Engle: Another set I went back and re-read. I don’t always agree with her theology but she has a number of good insights into human nature and our relationship with God and she tells a very good story. I recommend in particular A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and A Ring of Endless Light. Recommended for slightly more mature readers.

Part One here
Part Two here

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

2006 in Books, Part Two

Grey is the Color of Hope by Irina Ratushinskaya: The autobiography of a Russian poet, who for her poetry was sent to a political prison inside a prison camp during the 1980s. This is a fascinating story which gives a real glimpse into the Soviet Union just before and during Gorbachev. Highly recommended for more mature readers.

A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt: I have read all but the last book in the Tillerman series and I can say without hesitation that this is my favorite. The characters are real and interesting and I liked having a better sense of who Jeff is. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers.

Fr. Arseny by Vera Bouteneff: Fr. Arseny was a well known and respected Russian art historian. Fr. Arseny was a well known and respected Russian art historian who became a simple priest and was put into a Soviet labor camp. This is his biography, gathered by one of his spiritual daughters from those who knew him. There is a second book, Fr. Arseny: A Cloud of Witnesses. Highly recommended for more mature readers.

The Year of Jubilo by Ruth Sawyer: This is another book that I had read years ago and enjoyed but had been unable to find again. It is a sequel to Roller Skates. Lucinda is much older and more mature. Her relationship with her brothers and her mother is really explored. Highly recommended for almost all ages.

Downright Dencey by Caroline Dale Snedeker: Dencey is a Quaker girl on Nantucket in the 1800s. This is the story of her girlhood. I had heard of this book vaguely for some years and when I finally found it and read it this summer I felt sad that I had not been able to read it growing up. It is a lovely story, simple and sweet, but with layers that an older reader can appreciate. Highly recommended for all ages.

Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren: Yes, she wrote Pippi Longstockings, but Astrid Lindgren was (in my opinion) a much better writer than she shows in that book. This is the story of a family who goes to live on Seacrow Island and their life together and with the other inhabitants of the island. Highly recommended for almost all ages.

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis: For years one of my dear friends has been writing me letters and telling me to read this book. I finally did this summer and loved it every bit as much as she thought I would. It is a re-telling of the Psyche myth. I think it will take another reading for me to be able to talk about it intelligently but I know that it meant something to me. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers.

Part One here
Part Three here

Monday, January 15, 2007

2006 in Books, Part One

2006 was an eventful year in my life which meant that, unfortunately, I did not read quite as much as I would have liked to. The final count, including re-reads is 258 books. My goal, as for every year, was 365. Still, the year had several bookish high points. So let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

The Open Gate by Kate Seredy: When I was younger the library in my old home town had this book in their children’s section and I loved it. Then they got rid of it and for years I suffered its lack in silence. Finally I realized that I needed to read it again and so I asked for it for a Christmas present. My copy is very old and in a protective cover and my father told me that it was extremely difficult to find so I am very careful with it. It is the story of an American family who lives in a modern apartment filled with “push-buttons” until the day that Gran drags them to a country auction. Highly recommended for all ages (if you can find it).

The Art of Prayer by Igumen Chariton of Valamo: This is an Orthodox Christian anthology, largely taken from the Philokalia, on prayer. It includes sections from St. Theophan the Recluse, St. Ignaty Brianchininnov, and others. Highly recommended, although more for Orthodox than non-Orthodox.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden: This was passed along to me from my grandmother who was moving herself. It is the story of a convent of nuns in England in the middle of the 20th century. I enjoyed the characters, particularly the main character, Philippa (later Dame Philippa) who was once a successful business woman. I also enjoyed a look into a community which I would not otherwise have had. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers (i.e. approximately 15 up, depending on your family’s standards).

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter: I believe that this was the first time I actually finished this book. It is a must-read for any serious Tolkien lover. It gives a much more comprehensive view of Tolkien’s character than any other work, including Carpenter’s excellent biography. It includes some wonderful letters to his sons which are very personal and also many which shed light on different aspects of the writing of his books. Highly recommended for anyone who has read his works. It does contain a few minor swear words, I believe.

The Trapp Singers by Maria von Trapp: This is the original book, the real story behind “The Sound of Music.” I remembered liking it when I read it years and years ago and so I re-read it and was amazed. It is ten times better than the movie. The Trapps were a very faithful family and Mrs. von Trapp is very honest about their vision and beliefs. She is also an extremely entertaining writer. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare: We read this in my AP English Literature class. It is now my hands-down favorite Shakespeare play. Yes, everyone dies at the end. But it is complex, beautiful, full of great lines, and even funny in parts. Highly recommended for more mature readers.

Part Two here
Part Three here

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Favorite Word

I willingly classify myself as an English geek. After some years of searching and denying my—never mind, I always knew and I think I accepted it long ago. And as an English geek I naturally must have a favorite word. Some people say that “cellar door” is beautiful, apart from any meaning. I agree. But it is not my favorite word. You see, I am both ‘lit.’ and ‘lang.’ (If that conveys anything to you, virtual chocolate is coming your way.) I like the sound and the meaning of a word to be united. And so, after some years of searching I have found my favorite word! (Actually, I’ve known what it is for several years, but I did try to figure it out for about a year.) Silver. A simple word, two syllables. Mostly sibilants (s, l, and v). But say it slowly, letting it slip out over your tongue. Doesn’t it sound metallic and cool and beautiful? Now think of silver. Isn’t it metallic and cool and beautiful? Hmm, where have we seen that list recently? Oh yes…(I think I’ve tried to be sardonic too much for one post. Enough.)…Anyway, you understand what I am trying to say, hopefully. Silver sounds like what it is. I like that very much indeed.

EDIT: Oh yes, and I have returned to college so more posts are forthcoming.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Just to let you know

I have not yet died nor fallen off the face of the earth. I will be back at school (and therefore have full-time internet access) late Sunday. I do have several new posts which I will be delivering early next week, including the year 2006 in books. So I will see you then!