Words New to Me…

typewriterkeys

  • Carcel lamp – lamp designed in 1800’s by French watchmaker Bernard Guillarme Carcel
  • Exanimate – spiritless; lacking animation or life
  • Peristyle (re: church architecture) – an open colonnade in a building surrounding a court that may contain an internal garden
  • Cloud-flocks – not 100% sure, but might be a ref to a book chapter by John Ruskin (artist and author, 1819-1900)
  • Turnip-watch – a large pocket watch
  • Chudder (material) – large shawl or veil worn by Muslim or Hindu women that covers them from head to foot
  • Godlings – a minor god (This was said in reference to how powerful the children were in that particular family…)
  • Kerseymore (cloth? From sheep) – Kersey is a type of woolen cloth that was an important component of the textile trade in Medieval England. (Orig: town of Kersey, Suffolk.)
  • Harvey’s sauce – (Victorian). A disgusting sounding sauce made up of six anchovies in vinegar, soy sauce, mushroom ketchup, garlic and cayenne.
  • Blades of pounded mace – “mace” is a spice similar to nutmeg
  • Spaddle (re: making ice cream) – a little spade
  • Cellaret (re: making ice cream) – a wooden piece of cabinet-work (similar to a sideboard) except oval in shape, bound with broad bands of brass and lined with zinc partitions to hold ice for cooling wine etc.

From Ethan Frome/Wharton and The Campaign for Domestic Happiness/Beeton).

A Cellaret.

A Cellaret.

Things on Cowboy’s Head – Part 43

Things on Cowboy's Head. No. 43: Small plastic bowl.

Things on Cowboy’s Head. No. 43: Small plastic bowl.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot. All of which helps with this ongoing project I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

 

Halfway Point Reading Status

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Total: 50 books (Last year, I had completed 84 books by this time.)

Pages: 11,158 pages (av. 248). Longest: Sister Carrie – Theodore Dreiser (1900). Shortest: On a Snowy Night in the Woods – Poet: Robert Frost. Illus. Susan Jeffers. (1978)

Non-fiction: 18 (39%) (Last year, I had completed 25 NF by now.)

Fiction: 24 (52%) (Last year I had completed 49 F books by now.)

Other: 2 graphic novels, 1 play, 1 book of poems

DNF: 3 (all NF)

Owned vs. Borrowed22 owned, 19 (library or otherwise).

E-books: 4 (most of which were Project Gutenberg or Girlebooks)

Not as many as last year due to several things including big job changes (which are good and keep me busy and out of trouble) and also a new skill I’ve been developing of “piddling around the house doing nothing in particular” which has been rather fun. I’m hoping to get selected for the World Championships in 2015.

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton (1911)

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“Oh, as to that, I guess it’s always Ethan done the caring.”

This re-read of Ethan Frome was, to be honest, a perfect read – one of those titles that you pick up and everything about the story blows you away. As mentioned, this was a re-read, and this was a   completely different experience than before. I even immediately started to read it again after I had finished the first time as I wanted to see all the foreshadowing that I’d missed the first time around.  (I would compare it to the re-read experience of The Great Gatsby in terms of how different this time around was.)

Checking on-line, it seems that Ethan Frome can be rather polarizing for reviews, the majority of whom (depending on the site you visit) tending to be pretty negative about it which is a big shame. I do think that age (and life experience) can play a determining role in how you perceive this story, and I would argue that this book is one to read when you’re slightly older (as opposed to high school or junior high school).

I happen to love the writing of Wharton (as seen here and here) as she is an expert at describing people and locations and at how she pulls phrases together. As I think a lot of people have already read Ethan Frome, I’m going to jump straight into some thoughts that I put together during my own read.

Quite early in the story, Wharton describes the farm house where Ethan has spent his life and she mentions that the “L” part of the house (joining the stable etc. with the main house) had been demolished earlier. The “L” part is called the “center of New England farm life”, “itself the chief sources the sources of warmth and nourishment” and the “actual hearth-stone of the New England farm”, and yet in recent years, Ethan had knocked this integral piece of farming life down. Why, if it was so important to people in that region? Wharton doesn’t actually specify why (or at least I didn’t spot it), which led me to speculating why it was mentioned.

This shows the L part in a New England regional style similar, perhaps, to the house mentioned in Ethan Frome.

This shows the L part in a New England regional style similar, perhaps, to the house mentioned in Ethan Frome.

The “L” part of the house is linked with warmth and safety. Perhaps after his mother died, the demolishing reflects how his feeling of safety was eroded once he was alone in his family. The missing “L” not only represented a missing link between his house and his stables (protection for the inhabitants during the harsh winters as they went from hearth to work), but also is an image of the hole in his life (perhaps his heart?) after his mother dies. His old comfortable way of life has ended, and this space represents the gap he feels between his old life and his new, his home and the outside, which suddenly seems unstable and fraught with difficulty now that his mother (his anchor) has gone. (I don’t know – just making this bit up but seems to fit.)

Another reason why it’s referred to as an “L” (aside from its architectural significance) could be that the “L” also refers to “Love” – a comfortable and safe feeling that is forever gone now his parent has died.

There are numerous references and imagery associated with the dichotomy of interior/exterior, inside/outside, insider/outsider relationship. Ethan’s sticky relationship with Zeena: he spends time working (and feeling most comfortable) outside the house in the fields, whilst she (Zeena) spends her time indoors being “sick” and waiting for him to return to pounce on him with demands and questions.

thresholdThe threshold (i.e. the crossover point between inside/outside) plays a large role as several sentinel events occur over it: the time that Zeena locks Ethan and Maddie outside when they return late from the church dance, for example, and how both Ethan and Maddie can only be authentic with each other when they are outside the confines of the home, out in the fields or walking along lanes. (There’s also this idea of domesticity vs. agriculture/nature and the natural order of things.) This imagery continues when Zeena leaves to visit the out-of-town doctor (so she leaves the interior to enter the exterior) which allows Ethan and Maddie to enter the formerly hostile interior of the house as it’s now safe.

The threshold (interior/exterior) also plays a role when Ethan and Maddie return from a snowy walk, and enter the house where Zeena is (as always) grumpy. It’s a drafty old house, with the cold continually coming in through the ill-fitting windows and doors (sneaking inside, in a way) and when the couple cross the threshold (to interior) after their walk (exterior), Ethan accidentally brings in some snow that rapidly melts in the dining room and gets scolded by Zeena for making a mess.  It could be argued that nature/exterior (the snow) is overcome by domesticity/interior (heat in the house) in this situation. (Another case of the interplay between interior and exterior, and the reversal of what is usually a haven (inside the house) vs. outside.)

And this balance continues when you consider that most of Ethan’s thoughts are reported (his interior mind) as he keeps the harsh exterior of Zeena in the dark about his real attitude to her and to the marriage.

Another clever image using this dual imagery, this relationship of freedom vs. confinement (interior/exterior), is when Wharton describes the evening when Ethan turns up to escort Maddie home after a church dance. Again, it’s outside (Ethan watching through the windows) whilst Maddie is inside in the warm, and even the church window shadows are described as “bars” on the snow (referring to prison bars) that provide a barrier between Ethan and happiness, between him being included vs him excluded, as an insider vs. outsider…

So, lots to think about here, and I’m so glad that I reread this gem of a novel (or novella). Highly recommended that you undertake another read if you were forced to study this in school.

snow_shadow

Things on Cowboy’s Head – Part 42

Things on Cowboy's Head. No. 42: Pesos.

Things on Cowboy’s Head. No. 42: Pesos.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot. All of which helps with this ongoing project I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

June 2014 Reading Wrap-Up

june

As usual, I have a round-up of what I have read in the past month. It’s a low total for June, mostly because I have been having a reading block of some type and life got a bit busy.

Out of the titles that I did read, the most enjoyable and well written fiction was the collection of brilliant short stories from Anthony Doer (The Shell Collector). (The non-fiction favorite was the Lacey volume.) My DNF included Sheri Funk’s Five Days at Memorial (although it has been awarded some prestigious prizes and was the darling of various book blogs when it was published). I think that in this particular case, it was one of those “It’s not you –it’s me” times and if I try it again at another time, it might be a great read. (It also fell into the category of Scary Big Books and fit the name exactly.)

I read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):

Period Piece – Gwen Raverat (NF) (no post of any note)

The Shell Collector – Anthony Doer (F)

This One Summer – Jillian Tamaka and Mariko Tamaki (GN)

A Sensible Life – Mary Wesley (F)

Great Tales from English History – Volume I – Robert Lacey (NF)

Total number of books read in June:  5 (Wow. Bit low for me, but that’s ok. I’m not doing a challenge or anything.)

Total number of pages read:  1412 pages (av.282)

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 2 F and 3 NF (plus 1 DNF)

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 2 library books and 4 owned books (including the DNFs), 1 e-book.

Things on Cowboy’s Head – Part 41

Cowboy refreshing her cowboy skills... (Thanks to Nancy for the inspiration.)

Cowboy refreshing her cowboy skills… (Thanks to Nancy for the inspiration.)

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot. All of which helps with this ongoing project I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

 

General Reading and Life Update

britannia-america

So, I must apologize for the lack of blog posts recently. It’s been due to lots of things really, but as they were good things, I’m not complaining. My big brother and his family were visiting from England and as 2/3 of the family had never been to Texas before, and it was Independence Day weekend, there were loads of things to do whilst they were here. So there was not much reading time there. However, there was lots of laughing, catching up, Buddy Holly, 1930’s bluegrass music, cowboys and swimming. :-)

Add to this, the sorry excuse of a case of Reader’s Block and an inability on my part to find a book that caught my interest, and it was poor showing on the bookish side of things.

However, I am hoping that now life is back to normal, my reading life will recommence. I’ve just started reading Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” (1911) which I am really loving. It’s a reread, but I remember it as a totally different book which is curious. Checking on-line, it seems that this novel (almost novella) is pretty polarizing for general readers, and so I’m looking forward to finishing it and then researching the blog post for it. (Look for that in the near future.)

For my non-fiction, I’m delving into the world of Memory Championships with writer Joshua Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein.” (I’m hoping that I can learn to remember useful things like where my keys are as opposed to not-very-useful things like obscure Latin phrases and the lyrics to Justin Timberlake songs.) Reading it is a bit of a slog right now, but hoping this picks up in the next chapter or two. Otherwise, it’s “off with its head” (Cue: Alice in Wonderland.)

And then a bunch of library books all arrived at the same time, so will dig through these this weekend to see what takes my fancy.

I might also take a wander through my bookshelves to see what leaps out from the shelf…

reading_block