Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sonnet Sunday: Shakespeare

Today I have chosen one of my favorite Shakespearean sonnets that I think doesn't get enough attention.
Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O, but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profaned their scarlet ornaments
And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.
Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lovest those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.
If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied.

Anyone care to share their favorite Shakespearean sonnet?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP J.D. Salinger

Author of the famous and infamous Catcher in the Rye died Wednesday in his home at the age of 91. Reclusive and revolutionary he will be remembered as the creater of a landmark text in American literature.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Emma Part 1

Last night PBS showed the first half of the new Emma miniseries. From what I've heard, viewers better make this one sate them for a while, the BBC is moving away from the production of "bonnet dramas" (not to be confused with "bodice rippers"). First impressions of the program:
The beginning struck me as very Dickensian. They began with the death of Emma's mother and showed the intersecting and diverging lives of little Emma, Jane, and Frank; these characters are introduced later in the original story and their background filled in. The whole style of the way the story was structured seemed very appropriate for a Dickens adaptation more than an Austen. I do think that the narrative quality works better than I expected and the fact that Knightley does the narration is better, I think, than having Emma narrate. He seems like he would be a more reliable narrator, and it moves more of the focus on his journey. However, thus far I see very little chemistry between Knightley and Emma, they seem very sibling like.
The sets are beautiful and there are many scenes showcasing the high windows and sweeping views, unfortunately many character wave rather obnoxiously out of these beautiful windows. There is quite a lot of waving in this production, some of it I doubt is appropriate given the time and given Emma's airs regarding social stature.
Some of the characterization was very well done. One of my favorite scenelets showed Mr. Elton arriving at Emma's home and giving the property a greedy once over before going down to the house. This may be nit-picky, but I do think that some opportunities to mine rich and witty dialogue from the text were missed.
I am looking forward to seeing how this production develops in the next part.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sonnet Sunday: Keats

I just thought that Sonnet Sunday sounded very nice; Saturdays aren't as disposed to sonnetry and I do so love a little alliteration. This Sunday I'm starting out with Keats in honor of the copy of Bright Star I have on pre-order that should be here next week. I'll be doing a review of it in the paper of the institution of higher education I am currently taking some classes at (purposely ambiguous), that I will also print here.
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

What can I say? I am a sucker for a good sonnet.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman

"Maybe she'll regret coming back, but right now there is nowhere on earth that could feel more familiar." In this modern re-imagining of Emily Brönte's classic Wuthering Heights, the Cathy character, March, returns home years after marrying the right man, having his child, and resisting the temptation to return to her first love, Hollis, once. Can she resist it again?
Though based off of Brönte's novel, it diverges nicely, and becomes its own story, a story of the destructive quality love has and how much choice we have in the direction our lives take. Written with immediacy, Hoffman doesn't limit herself to the characters and events of the original novel, she introduces her readers to a town full of distinctive and realistic characters. Her landscape is incredibly detailed and stories about all these characters are woven through making the audience feel like they grew up in this town, they are up on all the gossip. She also plays with setting, she uses the marshes and back woods of the town as characters themselves, much the way Brönte painted her scene with the wild moors of England. The mystical qualities of the original have also been incorporated without being copied. Small town superstition comes together with the style known as magical realism (seen in works by Gabriel García Márquez, Laura Esquivel, etc.) where things happen that aren't possible, but yet feel possible. Hoffman often plays on the sense of scent; characters are able to smell feelings like rage and desire.
Hoffman also plays with language. Certain descriptions deteriorate throughout the book, she allows vulgarity and profane colloquialism to invade situations, but that only reinforces the actions of the characters. Also, by putting the story in a modern setting I think it personalizes the main characters. Sometimes when reading a text written in an era that was over long before you were born I think people have a tendency to romanticize the characters and situations. One of my pet peeves about film adaptations of Wuthering Heights is that Cathy and Heathcliff come across as too nice. Too loving and cruelly trapped by fate that is out their hands, too justified in the way they treat people. Putting it in a context that is closer to modern readers, I think, assists in creating a more even-handed view of the characters. Some might argue that they aren't the same characters from the original novel, and that's true, but this adaptation did give me a new perspective on Cathy and Heathcliff.
Even if you weren't a fan of Wuthering Heights or have never read it, you will be able to enjoy this as an independent story that is well told. If you are a fan of the original, you'll enjoy seeing the way the characters are adapted to a modern setting, but appreciate that it doesn't chain itself to Brönte's text.

This book is book #2 for my All About the Bröntes Challenge
This is "Book with a place in the title" (Earth) for What's in a Name? Challenge

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Would Emma Tweet About?

This Sunday the new adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma premieres on PBS at nine pm. Since Masterpiece's "The Complete Jane Austen" was wildly popular only a few years back, they have decided to have a special event in honor of this Austen broadcast. They are having a Twitter party. Call me old fashioned, but I want to have a real viewing party with local PBS audiences. Also, as much as I appreciate online channels of communincation, I don't understand the format of Twitter. I comprehend the point of Myspace, Facebook, and (obviously) blogs, but not Twitter. I must forgo the pleasure of joining "PBS and Masterpiece insiders, as well as Austen experts" in discussing the program as it's broadcast.
It got me thinking; Emma actually seems like a heroine that might have enjoyed the world of Twitter. Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny Price probably not so much. However, I think Emma would have enjoyed the idea of "social networking". How would she use it in her matchmaking schemes?
Photo courtesy of Masterpiece PBS.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Dramatic Conclusion of... Return to Cranford: Review

This is perhaps, a few days late, but if you missed the finale and are contemplating a DVD purchase it may be of interest to you.
This Sunday past, Return to Cranford concluded. In the previous episode we were introduced to an abundance of new characters and their problems while many previous characters were shuffled off with barely a mention. Although this was certainly bothersome to those that so loved the original series, the comments of those that had never seen the first were very positive. Dare I say that some of us (or just me) became a bit jaded toward the quaint charms of Cranford when we spent more time with characters and their day to day? Possible.
In the second part, however, things do pick up. The major plot is the love story between Peggy Bell and William Buxton, separated by William's stubborn father. The two of them, though initially a bit rushed, finally get interesting in this episode. Though it is hard to believe that after so little interaction between the two (as far as we've seen) they are so very in love and willing to make such sacrifices. Still, Peggy is very sympathetic and William proves himself an extremely worthy man. There is also the ever present railroad making progress as the story does, as well as a subplot about Mrs. Jameison's sister-in-law visiting and the small social uproar it causes among the ladies for varying reasons. The only plot that carries a truly visible hole is that of Harry Gregson and Miss Galindo. Last episode we met the dastardly Septimus Ludlow who posed a threat to Harry and his inheritance. Though we do see quite a bit of Harry and some of the effects of cruelty that was common in the schools at that time, we never really hear how his dealings with the Ludlow estate are sorted out. If they were, I missed it.
The action does pick up in this episode and new characters become more familiar, it is worth the watching, though not as exemplary as the first series. Will I buy it? Depends on the coupons I get from Barnes and Noble.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fantastic Jane Austen Commentary

I just found this video, it a lovely discussion by Fran Lebowitz. She makes excellent points and works a sharp suit.
Best quote: "A book is not supposed to be a mirror, it's supposed to be a door."

I was planning to post some scribblings this week, but this week has been a step ahead of me. Actually, I've had new inspiration. I'm very glad to have so many ideas, but that hardly removes difficulty from my writing. It actually can be very difficult to focus on one story at a time and move through the different stages of the writing process.
Next week I'll be starting on a new book for the All About the Bröntes Challenge (I finally made the 'ö'- yay) as well as one for the What's in a Name? Challenge.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Agnes Grey

Anne Bronte (the littlest Bronte) is often over shadowed by her sisters Charlotte and Emily. Their classic stories of dashing heroes, love and death have captivated readers since their publication and only seem to grow in their pop-culture influence. Their younger sister is often forgotten by readers.
Agnes Grey is a highly autobiographical work by Anne Bronte chronicling the trials and triumphs of a young governess. Agnes is a clergyman's daughter raised without wealth and high society, but with love and moral guidance. When her father loses money in some bad investments she strives to relieve her family's burden by finding herself work as a governess. Her first household is that of the Bloomfields, a family with three of the most difficult children anyone could dread. Agnes soon realizes how powerless a governess is; she is entirely responsible for the children's behavior, but has no actual power over them. Their parents do, but refuse to exercises it.
After a dreadful year with them Agnes moves on to a family from old money, the Murrays. Her journey to try and give guidance to the two young women whose family is so deficient in their morals is a struggle. The eldest daughter, Rosalie is a tragic character, caught up in her own folly and seeing no reason to change it until, encouraged by her mother, she throws her potential away. Over this period of time Agnes also falls in love with a young curate of the town.
Though not an epic romance full of high drama and great phenomena, Agnes Grey has a refreshingly real quality to it. Its drama is quieter, but in the characters one finds truth, and even certain passages of conversation Agnes engages in, I'm sure I've had myself with people in my own life. Overall, the novel is a meditation on the superiority of practicality, sincerity, and virtue, especially when it comes to rearing children and making marriages. The examples of distant and careless parents that raise unruly monsters for others to tame will be very near the heart of most modern teachers as well.
Overall, a B+. I still prefer Anne to Emily.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

I always forget to do this. Since I am currently reading two novels I will find a random teaser from both. I must seriously buckle down on my reading. Daydreaming, friends, and television have been distracting me. The latter makes me most ashamed.

"Of course I shall tell mamma: that is the very thing that pleases me so much. I shall now be able to convince her how mistaken she was in her fears about me."
-Miss Murray, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

"Through the gateways we passed into the avenue, where the wheels were again hushed amid the leaves, and the old trees shot their branches in a somber tunnel over our heads. Baskerville shuddered as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the farther end."
-The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Happy reading!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Return to Cranford Part 1

Or, Cranford 2: Matty's Revenge. Okay, not quite; the sweet and charming Miss Matilda would never prove vengeful. The piece picks up in August 1844 after a slew of happy endings in the last series there is one immediate thing lurking: the railroad. It threatens to bring change to the small town proudly steeped in its traditions. The series will conclude next Sunday.
The original series had wonderful charm and humor that drew you in so close to the characters; their hopes and tragedies felt like those of your best friends. Though the setting was over one hundred and fifty years ago, you swear you had a Miss Pole living down the street from you growing up, you knew a Caroline Tomkinson in school. The plots intersected very well, all supporting each others' structures.
This piece tries to recreate the gently mocking charm of the first, but proves that perfection can have no repeat. Many of the best characters are conspicuously absent without more than a word of explanation, others are killed off within the first half hour of the program. New characters are quickly shuffled in at the expense of balance. Familiar characters show recognition for these new characters, assuring the audience that they are apart of the Cranford we've known, they were just away for the entirety of the five episodes of the previous series.
Mary Smith returns about halfway through the first episode, she was very integral to the original series, arguably a secondary protagonist. She has not proven to be spectacularly important or interesting thus far, but I have some hopes for next week. Some hopes. The most interesting new character is Septimus Ludlow, the mysterious young son of Lady Ludlow, last heard of off in Italy squandering family money. He arrives and proves himself to be everything one could suspect (and dread) of him from discussions by other characters in the first series.
Though not as solid and engaging as the first series, it is worth watching if you would like to spend some more time in the almost mystical land of Cranford.
If you'd like something steamier, Ovation TV is showing Byron tomorrow evening at 9; a bio-pic of the notorious romantic poet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

From the pages of Agnes Grey

I came across this incredibly long, yet grammatically correct sentence today:

"Then having broken my long fast on a cup of tea, and a little thin bread and butter, I sat down beside the small, smouldering fire, and amused myself with a hearty fit of crying; after which, I said my prayers, and then, feeling considerably relieved, began to prepare for bed; but, finding that none of my luggage was brought up, I instituted a search for the bell; and failing to discover any signs of such a convenience in any corner of the room, I took my candle, and ventured through the long passage, and down the steep steps, on a voyage of discovery."

Bolded is one of the funniest phrases I read all day. I will never feel bad about the amount of commas I use ever again. It reminds me of a word-count padding NaNoWriMo dare; write a one hundred word sentence, actually Anne managed 104 words if my count is correct.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Regency House Party

The first and only reality show I loved. Reading the less than spectacular Austenland recently made me long for the tantrum laced graces of The Regency Hose Party for the first time in ages. I was so pleased to see that Channel 4's website had the complete series up. That is until I saw that they blocked Americans from accessing their videos. Unfortunately, that's where I am. I don't like most American television, so I depend on internet resources to supply me with what BBCA and PBS don't mete out regularly or at all.
This is just my mini-rant/moan about not being able to find anywhere to watch Regency House Party. Any sneaky tricks or alternative names for the videos would be most appreciated. Thank you.
Oh, and Slings and Arrows begins its turn on American tv once again tonight on Ovation TV. It's a fantastic series about a Canadian Shakespeare festival. Anyone that's worked in the theatre will appreciate it humor and even if you never have, check it out.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I haven't posted in a few days because I've been off having a life. It's really nice actually, I should do it more often. I visited my brother and went to the city with some friends. We spent all day wandering about a museum. I got seperated from the group and was followed around by a rather relentless security guard for a while. What can I say, I must be irresistable in a floppy knit cap? Fortunately we were all reunited and the guard didn't bother me anymore.
Today I've been sorting through the masses of junk I seem to have accumlated in boxes in the back of my closet. I found some notebooks from my "essay phase" when I had been reading essayists like David Sedaris. Although not as brutally humorous as Sedaris, I experimented with the form of autobiographical essays. Some are not bad. That's when I realized that none of you (all 3 of you that is) have really heard any of my writing outside of my reviews. Next week I'm going to begin posting excerpts from stories, essays, even just bits of dialogue from things I've written but never shared with anyone else. Maybe get some feedback? I took a creative writing class once that consisted of us bringing in things we wrote outside of class and just sitting around reading them out loud and discussing them. It helped me alot. Made me realize that sharing it with others takes you to a level you cannot get to on your own.
I also started reading Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte while on the train the other day. So far I feel really drawn to Agnes and her plight. I'll be posting a review for it by next week.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The End of Time Part 2

I just watched the finale of David Tennant's reign as the Doctor in Doctor Who. The Doctor faced his greatest enemies; his own people and his own conscience. The Master helps save the day in the end (after the humans are returned to their bodies, thank goodness) and disappears into oblivion, to return again at the writer's discretion. At that moment when the Time Lords and their war are put to rest once and for all (we assume...) the Doctor thinks he has beaten his death, he may just get to stay, when the biggest surprise of the series strikes. The Doctor doesn't die in a noisy battle, in the heat of blood, he dies rather quietly, saving Wilf. With just enough time in his old skin left, the Doctor has self indulgent montage where he visits all of his old companions. He saves Rose for the last, meeting her back before she ever met him in his previous incarnation.
The last words the tenth Doctor says are: "I don't want to go." Perhaps this echoes David Tennant's own emotional sentiments at the end of this show? There were many Hamlet moments in the episode, also maybe a nod to Tennant just coming off a success in the RSC's production of the play. There is that element of great indecision, a duel of sorts and a standoff, a maternal moment. The Ood says to the Doctor "The universe will sing you to your sleep," a parallel to Horatio's "Good night, sweet prince/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
Matt Smith made a roucous first appearance after an especially violent regeneration scene by taking a comical inventory of himself (legs and arms are of great concern to him). Upon feeling his fine bone structure and long hair he shrieks, "I'm a girl!" (So it is possible to have a female Doctor? Or one that isn't humanoid in appearance?) He also notes, "-and still not ginger," a clever nod to the last regeneration and David Tenant's first full episode. I am conservatively hopeful for his turn as the Doctor. He made a great first appearance and because they joked about his feminine looks, I am much more apt to embrace them. However, pictures I've seen from the set of his new season show his costume to be much like the wardrobe of my high school AP History teacher. I might be able to forgive that too. We'll have to see.
Overall, the finale gets an A-. There were a few moments that were a little lackluster, but I went away with a sad smile and hope for the young Matt Smith.