Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Ay, madam, it is common.

I am not alone in this.

I have heard other writers express the same feelings time and again. Many writers battle these extremes.

Sometimes we feel our work is good, even great. Then we are either overcome with fear that it is trash, or we “know” it is trash.

I am at the low ebb of this, and have been for a few weeks. It is disheartening even though I know, in my mind, that it is a cycle. My heart knows nothing of the kind. I am never satisfied with my work, but this is something darker than dissatisfaction.

My muse is active enough. The little monster is happily chewing away at my surroundings and then latching onto me with its sharp little teeth until I write out the results of its feasting. I can only hope those results aren’t shit.

But how does one know? There are great writers, both from the past and the present. There is also a lot of mediocrity, and this has increased as the dissemination of information has proliferated. Yikes, that was verbose. I had a point in there somewhere… oh, yes. Some of those mediocre writers, at least, must have believed that their work was great.

If they could not fairly evaluate their own work, how can I?

Oh mother, I owe you so much for raising me on good literature, but it is a double-edged sword. I know greatness. I have stared at pages, retracing words again and again in wonder.  In order to even put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, I had to tell myself that it was enough to write, that I did not have to compare myself to Wodehouse, Solzhenitsyn, Austen or Shakespeare.

That sufficed when I wrote only for myself and for those who were curious to look over my shoulder. The creation of something to be let loose on the world requires more, doesn’t it?  The last thing I want to do is unleash more mediocrity.

There is pride tangled up in this as well. I don’t want to be mediocre.

Then again, perhaps the greats were in doubt, as well. Does anyone really know, truthfully, whether their creations are worth reading? The helplessness is depressing. Do I have to spit out what I can and trust humanity to sort out the rest?

…Yes. Perhaps I do. The only other option is to bury it.

In reply to that option, I will quote Tycho, from Penny Arcade. He is talking about reactions to offensive materials, but the same principle applies, I think, to mediocrity:

The answer is always more art; the corollary to that is the answer is never less art.  If you start to think that less art is the answer, start over.  That’s not the side you want to be on.  The problem isn’t that people create or enjoy offensive work.  The problem is that so many people believe that culture is something other people create, the sole domain of some anonymized other, so they never put their hat in the ring.  That even with a computer in your pocket connected to an instantaneous global network, no-one can hear you.  When you believe that, really believe it, the devil dances in hell.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.

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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


Very ominous endings

Book Meme 2012

Question 4: Best love story

Oh ho ho! A wide-open field. There are many kinds of “love stories.” The Greek language has more than one word for the myriad of feelings we encompass with the word “love.” I already have a habit of cheating in this meme, and so far I feel justified in doing so. True to form, I will rank my choices for best love stories according to categories.

These categories are: Romantic Love, Platonic Love, Unconditional Love, and an Honorable Mention (see? I’m cheating again.)

Romantic Love:

This one is the easiest for me to choose. There are many love stories that I find compelling, but the ones that tend to touch me most without irritating my low-tolerance for “mush” are the stories of Jane Austen, nestled in her satire and human understanding.

Of these, Persuasion stands out from the rest.

If you do not like spoilers, skip to the next category now, though if you don’t know the overall theme of this book, I will be very much surprised.

The relationship between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth is one of suppressed passion. More than that, though, it is a story of enduring and mature love. Where most love stories begin with two characters meeting and growing to love, this story begins years later, when the love shared has been lost, seemingly beyond recovery.

Love is a beautiful thing, but it is faithfulness and endurance that make it a rare and precious beauty. To me, love without faithfulness is like a flower that quickly wilts, becoming ugly. Faithful love is like a tree, whose beauty lasts for as long as it has life. It awes, shelters, and delights even beyond the lives of men. It may have its bad moments, when it drops a limb, or covers your car in pollen, but then the course of true love never did run smooth.

Platonic Love:

There are many contenders for this award, but I have cheated enough for one post, so I will force myself to choose.

Curdie and Lina from The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald.

I cannot defend this choice against all others. I can only say that I return to it time and time again, and at last I find that it must be my choice. Some spoilers will follow.

Curdie is a miner, and Lina is a monster. This is the description MacDonald gives of Lina:

She had a very short body, and very long legs made like an elephant’s, so that in lying down she kneeled with both pairs. Her tail, which dragged on the floor behind her, was twice as long and quite as thick as her body. Her head was something between that of a polar bear and a snake. Her eyes were dark green, with a yellow light in them. Her under teeth came up like a fringe of icicles, only very white, outside of her upper lip. Her throat looked as if the hair had been plucked off. it showed a skin white and smooth.

It is obvious that this is not going to be a case of love at first sight. Curdie feels, for Lina, a mix of fear and pity, and Lina, it seems, feels mostly fear. Being a beast, she never speaks, but they learn to communicate without the need for words. Between the miner and the monster a strong bond of trust and friendship develops to the point where both put their lives in danger to protect the other.

I have always found this relationship compelling and beautiful. Among the friendships I have seen in my literary travels, it is the dearest to me.

Unconditional Love:

This is a tough choice as well. I have wrestled with myself over the question of what counts as “unconditional.” Sam and Frodo came to mind, but as deep as their love is, there is reason behind it. I find that unconditional love must exist against all likelyhood, and what is more, it must be one-sided, at least for a time.

With this consideration, I choose the love Psyche has for Orual, from Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. The story is about many things, but the contrast between selfish and unconditional love is a strong theme throughout.

You should take spoilers as a given by now.

At first, the love between Orual and Psyche is not unconditional. It is quite natural and sisterly. In Orual, it quickly becomes obsessive and possessive, and once Psyche is taken by the god of the mountain, the underlying selfishness in Orual’s love overcomes her.

Unconditional love shows itself when Orual forces her sister to choose between Orual’s life and betraying Psyche’s divine lover. Psyche loves her sister even though the ugly aspects of Orual’s feelings are revealed. She loves Orual for Oural, knowing that she can expect no such love in return.

This story would shatter my heart if Orual never came to understand the difference between selfish and unconditional love. Thank you, Lewis, for revealing hope for Orual, for we are all need unconditional love.

Honorable Mention:

 Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad, from Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

These guys are quite a mix. There is some unconditional love involved because Toad is, quite frankly, a mess, but the others stick by him. There is a “bromance” between them all that mirrors many real-life friendships. It is a quiet (save in the case of Toad), unassuming love that ties them loosely, but strongly, together. In short, I feel that this story shows philos at its finest, and it is that friendship that gives me such enjoyment in reading the stories.

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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