Tag Archives: Harper Lee

My own medicine

Well, I have been asked to take a dose of my own medicine. In accepting her nomination for the Liebster Award, BeKindRewrite  requested that I answer my own five questions. Considering her thoughtful answers, this request is perfectly fair. She didn’t even tack on any new questions of her own! Yet. Maybe I shouldn’t give her ideas.

For the purpose of answering these questions, I am going to exclude anything Tolkien. This should make my answers less predictable.

1. If you could walk into a book and make a home there, where would that home be, what would it be like, and what sort of people/creatures would you try to befriend? Specifics would be fun and you can give more than one answer if you like.

I would love to live in Brockhall, from Brian Jacques’s Redwall series (I have not read them all). First off, it is in a tree and partly underground. I’ve always wanted to live in a tree and underground. It is located in a woodland, it sounds quite comfortable, and contains delicious food and talking badgers. Sure, one has to face the occasional violent hoard passing through the woods, but that’s life. The world contains squirrel militia, friendly moles and hedgehogs, and playful otters.

I would also like to see P. G. Wodehouse’s stylized 1920’s, but I am on the fence as to whether or not I would like to live there. It might be just a bit too silly.

2. Name a food you have read about, but never eaten, that you have since wanted to try. It doesn’t have to actually exist. What, in the reading, piqued your interest?

Deeper’n’Ever pie. A savory pie made of veggies. It’s fairly mundane, as far as food from a book goes (it is from the above-mentioned Redwall series), but it always sounds so homey, comforting and satisfying.

3. Do you have a favorite plant? If so, what is it and why do you like it so much?

I do. I have several, in fact.

My favorite tree is the Eastern Hemlock. No, it did not kill Socrates. That was a different Hemlock. The Eastern Hemlock is not poisonous. In any case, it is shapely, feathery, smells like spicy, piney heaven, and has pinecones the size of a penny that open or close depending on the humidity. Magnolia Grandiflora and Juniperus Virginiana come in at close seconds.

It is hard to decide my favorite flower, but I will go with the old fashion daffodil. Early, bright yellow with a long, narrow trumpet and a smell unlike any of its compatriots. Sweet, but with just enough bitterness to avoid being sickening. This particular flower, whose cultivar I do not know, is tough as nails and it opens just when I really need some brightness and sweetness after the winter gray.

My favorite non-flower, non-tree, is the Venus Fly Trap. It is kind of creepy, but awesome. I wish #@$#$%#s would stop harvesting them from the wild, else we might lose them all together. If you ever think of buying an insectivorous plant (fly-trap, sundew, pitcher plant) make sure you know where it comes from. Buy only from dealers who make it clear that they propagate their own stock.

4. What fictional character is your favorite hero (male or female), and what villain really scares you and why?

Barring anyone from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, I would have to say Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. She may not do much that is “heroic” in the story, but she is telling the story, and that is a kind of heroism. I probably love Scout because I can relate to her. I was a similar mix of tom-boy, thinker and impulsive foot-in-the-mouther as a child.

Another hero of mine would be Henry V from William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. I know little about the real man, but the way he is portrayed by the Bard has oft caught my imagination. In his titular play, he shows a wide range of character, sensitive, thoughtful, courageous and stern. He makes decisions that are personally painful to him, because he believes them to be right.

As for a villain who truly frightens me, I would say Jack, from Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. It is telling that I read the book so long ago that I had forgotten his name, and the name of the protagonist. What I have not forgotten is the manipulative, violent, and vicious nature of this boy, that grows worse and worse as he deteriorates, carrying most of the other boys with him into murderous barbarism. Yes, he is only a child. In that sense, he may not be much of a threat, but the inhumanity within humanity that he represents is not to be taken lightly.

5. There is a crossroad at your feet. Behind you lies the path back to home and hearth (wherever that might be). The road directly ahead leads to a city, blue in the distance, settled among hills and on the edge of a bright inland sea. To your right lies a steep climb into old, low mountains clothed in forest and fern. To your left is rolling farmland that eventually flattens out into broad plains dappled by the clouds overhead. You can go as far as you like on any of the roads (even farther than you can see), including back home. There’s no wrong answer, only the where and why.

Ah yes. I know a little more about this theoretical place than the poor people I inflicted it on. It matters little, though, because ignorant or informed, I would go to my right. Mountains you say? Low, old, and covered in fern and tree? That is the road for me. I bet there are even hemlocks higher up, and staghorn lichen and moss.


Verbage

Book Meme 2012

Question 7: Favorite words and phrases, or lines and literary allusions that would win your heart.

What a broad topic! If I get onto “favorite words” in literature I will never have done, so scratch that. The same goes for favorite phrases. In fact, I am determined to warp this question beyond all reason.  What follows aren’t really lines or allusions, but some of my favorite clips of prose. For your sake, I will categorize them a little. I will begin with faith, move on to humor, continue to awesome, shamefully admit romantic sentiment,  and end with a passage that is utterly dear to me. I have restrained my impulse to flood this post with quotes. It has been painful to leave out so many, so dear, but I must resist! As it is, this post is atrociously long.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.'”

-Isaiah 9:1-2 N.I.V.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one of those that look as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day and has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter.
The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass;
A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”

Guards! Guards! byTerry Pratchett

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did, but maybe you’ll say it’s my duty to tell the town all about it and not hush it up. Know what’d happen? All the ladies in Maycomb includin’ my wife’d be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight- to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man it’d be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch.”

Mr. Tate was trying to dig a hole in the floor with the toe of his boot. He pulled his nose, then massaged his left arm. “I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”

Persuasion by Jane Austen

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

“The Mountain

Curdie was the son of Peter the miner. He lived with his father and mother in a cottage built on a mountain, and he worked with his father inside the mountain.

A mountain is a strange and awful thing. In old times, without knowing so much of their strangeness and awfulness as we do, people were yet more afraid of mountains. But then somehow they had not come to see how beautiful they are as well as awful, and they hated them — and what people hate, they must fear. Now that we have learned to look at them with admiration, perhaps we do not feel quite awe enough of them. To me, they are beautiful terrors.

I will try to tell you what they are. They are portions of the heart of the earth that have escaped from the dungeon down below, and rushed up and out. For the heart of the earth is a great wallowing mass, not of blood, as in the hearts of men and animals, but of glowing hot, melted metals and stones. And as our hearts keep us alive, so that great lump of heat keeps the earth alive: it is a huge power of buried sunlight–that is what it is.

Now think: out of that cauldron, where all the bubbles would be as big as the Alps if it could get room for its boiling, certain bubbles have bubbled out and escaped–up and away, and there they stand in the cool, cold sky–mountains. Think of the change, and you will no more wonder that there should be something awful about the very look of a mountain: from the darkness–for where the light has nothing to shine upon, much the same as darkness–from the heat, from the endless tumult of boiling unrest–up, with a sudden heavenward shoot, into the wind, and the cold, and the starshine, and a cloak of snow that lies like ermine above the blue-green mail of the glaciers; and the great sun, their grandfather, up there in the sky; and their little old cold aunt, the moon, that comes wandering about the house at night; and everlasting stillness, except for the wind that turns the rocks and caverns into a roaring organ for the young archangels that are studying how to let out the pent-up praises of their hearts, and the molten music of the streams, rushing ever from the bosoms of the glaciers fresh born.

Think, too, of the change in their own substance–no longer molten and soft, heaving and glowing, but hard and shining and cold. Think of the creatures scampering over and burrowing in it, and the birds building their nests upon it, and the trees growing out of its sides, like hair to clothe it, and the lovely grass in the valleys, and the gracious flowers even at the very edge of its armour of ice, like the rich embroidery of the garment below, and the rivers galloping down the valleys in a tumult of white and green! And along with all these, think of the terrible precipices down which the traveler may fall and be lost, and the frightful gulfs of blue air cracked in the glaciers, and the dark profound lakes, covered like little arctic oceans with floating lumps of ice.

All this outside the mountain! But the inside, who shall tell what lies there? Caverns of awfullest solitude, their walls miles thick, sparkling with ores of gold or silver, copper or iron, tin or mercury, studded perhaps with precious stones–perhaps a brook, with eyeless fish in it, running, running ceaselessly, cold and babbling, through banks crusted with carbuncles and golden topazes, or over a gravel of which some of the stones are rubies and emeralds, perhaps diamonds and sapphires–who can tell?–and whoever can’t tell is free to think–all waiting to flash, waiting for millions of ages–ever since the earth flew off from the sun, a great blot of fire, and began to cool.

Then there are caverns full of water, numbingly cold, fiercely hot–hotter than any boiling water. From some of these the water cannot get out, and from others it runs in channels as the blood in the body: little veins bring it down from the ice above into the great caverns of the mountain’s heart, whence the arteries let it out again, gushing in pipes and clefts and ducts of all shapes and kinds, through and through its bulk, until it springs newborn to the light, and rushes down the Mountainside in torrents, and down the valleys in rivers–down, down, rejoicing, to the mighty lungs of the world, that is the sea, where it is tossed in storms and cyclones, heaved up in billows, twisted in waterspouts, dashed to mist upon rocks, beaten by millions of tails, and breathed by millions of gills, whence at last, melted into vapour by the sun, it is lifted up pure into the air, and borne by the servant winds back to the mountaintops and the snow, the solid ice, and the molten stream.

Well, when the heart of the earth has thus come rushing up among her children, bringing with it gifts of all that she possesses, then straightway into it rush her children to see what they can find there. With pickaxe and spade and crowbar, with boring chisel and blasting powder, they force their way back: is it to search for what toys they may have left in their long-forgotten nurseries? Hence the mountains that lift their heads into the clear air, and are dotted over with the dwellings of men, are tunneled and bored in the darkness of their bosoms by the dwellers in the houses which they hold up to the sun and air.

Curdie and his father were of these: their business was to bring to light hidden things; they sought silver in the rock and found it, and carried it out. Of the many other precious things in their mountain they knew little or nothing. Silver ore was what they were sent to find, and in darkness and danger they found it. But oh, how sweet was the air on the mountain face when they came out at sunset to go home to wife and mother! They did breathe deep then!”

The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald

On a personal note, the above chunk of MacDonald’s wandering is an example of what is often, if not always removed from his work when abridged. To many readers it might seem extraneous exposition, but to me this is the soul of MacDonald’s work. I am convinced that this is what a man writes when his heart is singing, and it echoes the songs in my heart.

I must quit now, while I am ahead. It is agony to leave so many quotes un-quoted! I may have to do a follow-up, or ten.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Shapes are only dresses… and dresses are only names

Book Meme 2012

Question 5: Characters and literary figures I’d name my children after

As I am me, I am going to take this very literally. With the wealth of wonderful writers, illustrators, characters and places, it is tempting to wax poetic about naming a child of mine Eowyn, or Cadfael, but in reality, I think too much to do such a thing. So while there are plenty of names I would like to honor, most are names I would give to pets, not children. I have strong opinions on names because, well, a real person is going to have to deal with their name and all its connotations until they reach the age of 18.

In general, I consider a name’s meaning and history as well as its sound. In this case, I also have to consider the namesake in literature. But what usually stops me from saying “oh I would name a child this, because it is lovely!” is the ever-dreadful, “what would someone with this name actually be called?” Even my own name gets turned from Anne to Annie, though only my parents can get away with it. I would love to name a child Harper, but the thought of its being shortened to “Harpy” gives me pause.

Like I said, I think too much.

Most of my favorite authors are out of the running. George is not a bad name, but I am not fond of it. John Ronald Reuel… no. I like Agatha, but not enough to give that name to a daughter of mine. Rosemary is worth consideration, but I have yet to read enough of her books to form much of an opinion of her. Jane is nice, as is Austen, but I am stopped by how enormous Austen’s fandom has grown. Do I really want my child forever tied to a fan-base? No.

As my literary taste runs to the fantasy genre, a lot of my favorite characters have beautiful names… that, again, I would not tie to a child of mine. There are exceptions though, and below I will choose my favorite literary-derived name for a boy and for a girl.

Gareth

The name itself, I am told, means “gentle.” In some ways its bearer in Arthurian legend is gentle, but not so much that he will not fight for a cause and win. I must watch my step here because some of my readers (quite possibly all of them) are more versed in the Arthurian legends than I am, but from the versions I have read, Gareth and his brother Gawain have always been the characters to whom I was most drawn. They are not the highest or the mightiest, they are not the most pure (what is with Galahad, anyway?), but I find them to be both human and noble. Gareth is astoundingly patient, courageous, powerful, and relatively wise. That seems a good legacy for a son, to me. Best of all, the name is Welsh! Also part of the consideration: while “Gary” is not my favorite name, it does not set my teeth on edge.

Irene

This name comes from Greek mythology, and means “peace.” That alone, however, would not tempt me to choose it for this post. Irene is the name of the princess and her “grandmother” from The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald. The little princess Irene is a mix of uncertain temper, and noble nature. She can be irritable or spoiled, but when the pressure mounts she shows herself to be bold, resourceful, loving and loyal. She alone would be enough, for me, to merit the choice of her name, but then there is her “grandmother.”

Queen Irene seems to be a creature of faerie. One moment she may be a withered hag spinning thread in a garret, the next a young queen with a cascade of golden hair standing in a stately hall, and the next a glowing gemstone down in the mines. The title of this post is a quote from her, an answer to young Curdie’s question as to her true form. Queen Irene is right: none of her shapes or names can tell the full truth of who and what she is. Perhaps I should take her advice and lighten up about names, eh? For all the uncertainty of her person, though, Queen Irene’s character is clear enough. She is full of wisdom, strength, and most of all, love for all that lives. On the whole, I think Irene would be an excellent name to have.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Motley Crew

Book Meme 2012

Question 1: Book Crush(es)

And so we begin with a very personal question.

Though there are many characters I find attractive, I do not develop crushes easily. There are no Byronic Heroes here, for I would rather hit Mr. Rochester with a brick. Also absent are the characters who attract me by their interaction with another character. You will not find Mr. Darcy below (Addibus, if you read this, don’t disown me!), because as much as I find him attractive, it is in his context with Elizabeth. On his own, I like him, but he is not crush-inducing. There is also a dearth of the traditional “hero” types below. While I have respect for chivalry, and the heroes of legend, I find that for me there is such a thing as too high and noble to induce a crush.

So my parameter is simple: Do I have a crush on this character, and why? I will do my best to deconstruct. When I consider these “men” all together, I find it difficult to pinpoint my literary “type.” They do have some traits in common, but on the surface they are very different.

So, who does Jubilare swoon over? Let’s begin with four honorable mentions, and then we will come to the king of my literary heart.

Faramir, son of Denethor
“We are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom, and then preform or die in the attempt. Not if I found it on the highway would I take it, I said.” -Faramir

There are few heroes that can match Faramir’s quality, and he is a secondary character! Dear authors, never neglect the folk who walk on the edges of your central story. Faramir’s role in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is small, and yet his personality fills every corner of it. Son of a maddened ruler, brother to an ambition-corrupted man, Faramir is in a most difficult position. He loves his family, but cannot be blind to their flaws. He must stand in the gap for his people, honor his father, and bear up under the weight of growing despair. Often these three duties conflict. Reserved on the surface, warm-hearted beneath, he is brave and fierce at need, but has no love for war. He is humble, but also a leader, grave but with a sense of humor. For me, he outstrips all the elves and Aragorn as well. Faramir is an “old soul” with a “young heart,” while the elves are often young souls with old hearts, and Aragorn is an old soul with a heart that, while perhaps not yet old, has lost its youth. Faramir is vitality with a steady mind, and he sticks to his honor while taking full advantage of his liberty. In short, he is an excellent balance.

Samuel Vimes
‘Now I know what you’re thinking,’ Vimes went on, softly. “You’re wondering, after all this excitement, has it got enough flame left? And y’know, I ain’t so sure myself…’ He leaned forward, sighting between the dragon’s ears and his voice buzzed like a knife blade: :What you’ve got to ask yourself is: Am I feeling lucky?” -Sam Vimes

Here’s a mess. Faramir is one I would marry if he existed and were interested (both equally unlikely), but Sam Vimes? I am not so self-destructive as to think of him in that way, and yet he is definitely a crush. Is he handsome? No. Is he admirable? …that depends. Whatever he may be, he is NOT balanced. When the reader first encounters Sam (assuming the reader begins with Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett) the good captain is drunk in a gutter. The relevant question is, “why is Sam drunk in a gutter?” The answer is that he is a good man trapped in an impotent job. He is Captain of the City Watch, which has been hobbled in order to allow for a self-regulating ecosystem of crime in his city. Over the course of the aforementioned book and its sequels, Vimes is pulled out of the gutter (and eventually off the bottle) through the efforts of friends, the love of a great-hearted woman, and the shreds of his own determination and nobility. Under the stony face and sharp layers of sarcasm lies the heart of the ideal copper. Vimes is the policeman I want on my case (assuming I am not the malefactor). He cares about people, he cares about justice, and despite the fact that he is often underestimated, he is a very intelligent chap. Despite his rough edges, or maybe partly because of them, he earns a strong place in my heart. Hear the fangirl squeals at his one-liners? That would be me.

Atticus Finch
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” -Atticus Finch

A single father of two who is both firm and loving enough to bring them up well.  In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus tries to uphold justice against the tide of popular “feeling” with a quiet but indisputable strength. I would give a great deal to sit with him on his porch, watch the fireflies and talk. To me, the best mark of a man is that he has no need to prove his manliness. This rural lawyer follows his moral convictions and when he opposes them, a lynch-mob stands down, less out of fear than out of the knowledge that he is in the right, and they in the wrong. I am not sure what more I can say. If I cannot have such a man for a husband, then God give me such a man for my friend.

Blackberry
“‘Frith and Inle!’ said Dandelion. “They’re sitting on the water! Why don’t they sink?’
‘They’re sitting on the wood and the wood floats, can’t you see?’ said Blackberry.”

This is a weird one simply because Blackberry is a hare. I find Leporids cute, but I do not find them physically attractive, so please call off the men in white coats. I would not have mentioned him here if it were not for a funny conversation between my housemate and I. D mentioned that she had a crush on one of the rabbits from Richard Adams’s Watership Down, and I laughed and said that I had a crush on Blackberry. It turns out that he was her crush as well. To be fair, we were both children when we first encountered this story. So, what is it about this hare that makes me wish he A. was not fictional, B. was my species, and C. liked me? Blackberry is the brains of Hazel’s  operation. If there is planning to be done, Blackberry is at the heart of it, and Thlayli owes the clever bunny his life. While others panic, Blackberry has a clarity of mind and a will for action. For all this, he is not a cold, calculating braniac, nor a powerful mind attached to a frail body. He may not have Thayli’s or Captain Holly’s raw power, but he is no pushover, and he is brave when there is need for bravery. His ties of friendship are strong, and he often shows compassion. Loyalty is another of his distinguishing traits, and, lets face it, he just has style! Blackberry proves that Smart is Sexy, even if one is the wrong species.

^^^ All Hail King Samwise ^^^

“‘What am I to do, then?’ he cried again, and now he seemed plainly to know the hard answer: see it through. Another lonely journey, and the worst.” -Samwise Gamgee

Yep. My #1 book crush is Samwise Gamgee. If any character manages to usurp his throne, I will be shocked.

Every time I read Lord of the Rings, Samwise amazes me. At first glance he might seem simple, or even timid. As the story progresses, his hidden facets begin to shine. Early on it is clear that Sam has a poetic soul; a deep appreciation for beauty, peace and simplicity that echos my own feelings.

Courage and determination overcome his natural fears and launch him into action against some of the most terrifying creatures and situations to be found in the books. Who, among us, would take up a short blade, elven or not, and stand alone against a GIGANTIC SPIDER? What diminutive farmer’s son would storm an orc-filled tower in the faint hope of rescuing a friend? Who would carry said friend up the slope of a fire-mountain in order to finish a task that cannot save their lives?

Sam.

His greatest flaw is the humility that makes him doubt his own abilities, but even that serves a purpose. If he were aware of his a worth, he might be intolerable. Samwise considers himself stupid. Hah! He is unlearned compared to his traveling companions, but that is no measure of his intelligence. When there is no one to direct him, when he must take charge, he proves himself quick and capable. Tolkien lets us see into the noble halfling’s mind and there we find him hard at work navigating the rough terrain of the world, as we all must do.

Sam is often credited with loyalty and tenderness. These, he has in abundance. If I had to choose only one fictional character to have at my back through a conflict, it would be Sam. He will not betray his friends, he will not shrink from the task that must be done, and he manages to hope when others around him fall into despair.

Finally, his love of peace, and home, and Rosie touch me sharply. My heart aches with Sam’s longing. I weep when he is sad, and rejoice in tears and smiles when he is happy. Despite not being human, he is staunchly human in his abilities, thoughts and feelings, managing to represent the best that is in us while not denying our weakness.

Therefore, if I have to choose just one fictional crush, one who, if he were my species, not fictional, and happened to like me, I would marry in a heartbeat, I would soon be a Gamgee.

I have made some interesting conclusions about my own heart after seeing these “men” juxtaposed. I will, however, let you draw your own conclusions on the matter.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


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