In Which Promises Are Broken

I know, I told you here, that I would be talking more about Pablo Neruda today.

But, finding a book of his that -isn’t- his love poetry has proven to be near impossible.  I finally had my library look and see if they could get it inter library loan and luckily they can.  But that means I will not have it in my hands for at least a few more days.

So, today, we are going to talk about other things I have read recently that I feel are definitely worth checking out.

I counted today (I write down everything I read in a tiny notebook, for curiosity’s sake) and I have read about 65 books this year (more if you count all of the Walking Dead graphic novels separately, which I did not since it felt like cheating.  Some of those have been re-reads, some audio books, some fairly fun and easy books to read.  Some have been more “literary”.  I’m just going to list the ones that I definitely want to recommend on.

The most recent one I read is Confessions by Kanae Minato.  It is a novel originally written in Japanese, for Japan readers.  It was a really engaging book, about a teacher whose four year old daughter dies.  On her last day of teaching at the school, she informs the class that it wasn’t an accident, that two students murdered her daughter.  She then informs them of the revenge she exacted.  The novel is about the domino effect of all of that.  It explores the idea of revenge and retribution.  What the possible outcome can be of knowing a murderer.  The minds of the killers.  And the teacher’s final revenge.  Parts of the book felt slightly awkward, but I think that’s more due to translation.  My only random negative thought was that the teacher has a couple of parts where she is talking to someone (not her class, that monologue is written beautifully) and seems to be able to go on for minutes without interruption.  If you’re looking for something different to read, check Confessions out.

I also have read quite a few YA novels.  The one I loved the most was Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Ms. Rowell comes from the Omaha area and her books all reflect that.  The geographic area of all of her novels that I have read, center on Omaha and Lincoln.  Eleanor and Park is a tale that takes place in the mid 80s, about two very young teenagers (Eleanor and Park).  Eleanor comes from a very poor house, with a crap step father.  Park comes from a very loving home, but is half Korean (I think Korean, it’s been a few months since I’ve read it).  Quite unwillingly at first on Park’s part, they become friends. Then they become more.  This book really beautifully showed the powerlessness that kids have.  And how that powerlessness can conflict so strongly against their desire to take action, to fix things, to rescue people and things.  It also deals with how people can fit in the weirdest places, sometimes without even knowing.  There is a sense of melancholy to Eleanor and Park that appealed to me.

I listened to Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver as well.  This is a YA novel.  It’s about a girl who dies in a car accident after a day with her popular friends and the people that they make fun of, and the insensitivity they have.  She wakes up on the day of her death.
And relives it.  Making different choices that show how each action sparks another action.  It has a Groundhog Day vibe.  It deals with who you really are underneath it all and what ends up really mattering in the end.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.  I resisted reading this book for the longest time, as when I had started it in the past it had seemed like just another “chick lit” book set in England and I had exhausted my craving for those years ago.  But, then I really sat down and read it.  And it’s definitely not your normal book.  The ending is both expected and unexpected.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  This memoir is stunning in how much Ms. Walls really brings to life both a childhood lived in extreme poverty, but also a childhood lived with eccentric and most likely mentally ill parents.  I know this book was in vogue a few years ago with everyone around raving about it.  I just didn’t read it then.


I, Claudius by Robert Graves


I hardly think anyone would find it odd if I admitted to a certain fascination with ancient Rome. Greece too, but definitely Rome. It’s hardly uncommon. Western civilization has long, long had on obsession with Rome…pretty much back to the time of Rome, or close thereafter.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves has that going for it right off the bat. It’s set up as a fictional autobiography of Claudius, the weakling stutterer and assumed idiot who ends up somehow becoming emperor. It’s amazing enough that he manages to survive at all, much less that he manages to survive through all of the poisonings, betrayals, and frantic infighting that accompany the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula.

(For those following along in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, this one was 1st for Arthur Golden)

Claudius suffers much throughout the book, picked on and pushed around by almost everybody, but it’s certainly clear that he isn’t an idiot. He’s highly intelligent, honest, and fiercely committed to the ideals of the Republic. Unfortunately, he has to mostly keep to keeping his head down and trying not to die. He just doesn’t have a whole lot to work with, and this is Rome at a very bloody time.

I have mentioned Briseis, my mother’s old freedwoman. When I told her that I was leaving Rome and settling at Capua she said how much she would miss me, but that I was wise to go. “I had a funny dream about you last night, Master Claudius, if you’ll forgive me. You were a little lame boy; and thieves broke into his father’s house and murdered his father and a whole lot of relations and friends; but he squeezed through a pantry-window and went hobbling into the neighborhood wood. He climbed up a tree and waited. The thieves came out of the house and sat down under the tree where he was hiding, to divide the plunder. Soon they began to quarrel about who should have what, and one of the thieves got killed, and then two more, and then the rest began drinking wine and pretending to be great friends; but the wine had been poisoned by one of the murdered thieves, so they all died in agony. The lame boy climbed down the tree and collected the valuables and found a lot of gold and jewels among them that had been stolen from other families: but he took it all home with him and became quite rich.”

I smiled. “That’s a funny dream, Briseis. But he was still as lame as ever and all that wealth could not buy his father and family back to life again, could it?”

“No, my dear, but perhaps he married and had a family of his own. So choose a good tree, Master Claudius, and don’t come down till the last of the thieves are dead. That’s what my dream said.”

Frankly, if you wanted to distill I, Claudius down to a couple, simple paragraphs, that would be it. That’s the book in a nutshell.

Course, we all know that Claudius is going to die sooner or later…whether or not in this book. We all know Claudius has been dead for almost two thousand years. We know at least one of the thieves wasn’t dead when he came down from his tree. Still, the above is pretty much the story of Claudius.

I’ve got to love I, Claudius for the historical period Graves manages to convey. I still go both ways on some of the more modern language elements Graves uses, though. A lot comes off as if Claudius was from the current era. It’s more readable than if it was more period accurate language-wise, but it does make it seem a little less Roman. Let’s not forget that my fascination with Rome is one of the reasons I was in I, Claudius to begin with.

Regardless, I did enjoy I, Claudius. I’m just not sure I’m going to read the other volume (Claudius the God). I, Claudius was kind of enough.

The Poems of Pablo Neruda

Today, (and in two weeks time), I’m going to be talking about Pablo Neruda and his poetry. Chitra Divakaruni listed Neruda as a Top Ten.

Neruda was born as Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes y Basoalto. He adopted Neruda as a pseudonym from a Czech poet. He was born in the early 1900s in Chile. His mother died shortly after his birth from tuberculosis. His father remarried and Neruda grew up with his step mother and half siblings. At 19, while at school studying to be a French teacher, he published a book of poetry that when translated into English became 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Neruda also wrote 100 Love Sonnets. It’s these two collections I’m going to be talking about today.

As he grew older, Neruda discovered politics, and became a Communist. His poetry changed through that time, as all poets evolve with their poetry (much as novelists, short story authors and painters do). His “non-love” poems are what I’m going to try to talk about in two weeks.

Neruda was many things in his life, including a Nobel Prize winner in 1971. He was actively involved in Chilean politics, as a diplomat, a senator, a political outcast (when Communism was outlawed in 1948, there was a warrant for his arrest, he hid with friends and escaped to Argentina, later returning to Chile.) and an adviser to subsequent Chilean governments.

Neruda isn’t as well known in America as he is the rest of the world. Many disagreed with his politics, and anyone with a grasp of history knows how a Communist poet would have been regarded during certain time frames of our history here in the United States. However, in the last few years, he is becoming more widely known.

His writing is…stunning. I don’t have many other words for it. His love poetry (and his other poems, I’m sure) entangle a lot of nature into them. He has had the term Whitmanesque applied to him. Neruda died in 1973. Here are a couple of websites I liked for biographical information on him (and yes, one is Wikipedia). Go here for the non Wikipedia site.

I will offer a word of advice before reading Neruda’s work. Parcel them out. I tried to read too many in too short of a period of time so the nature imagery began to run together a bit for me. But even with that happening, there were so many stunning uses of imagery, language and message that Neruda had that I wanted to throw it all down and write poetry myself. But as that part of my brain has atrophied and I know that anything I could manage to get onto paper after reading one of the masters would cause me sobbing grief, I didn’t.

Here are some bits from his poems. Please, do yourself a favor and read some of his poetry. Even if you rarely read poetry or never do, his are worth the time to at least read a few.

Poem VII from Twenty Love Poems and a 1 Song of Despair:

“Leaning into the afternoons I cast my sad nets
towards your oceanic eyes.

There in the highest blaze my solitude lengthens and flames,
its arms turning like a drowning man’s.

I send out red signals across your absent eyes
that move like the sea near a lighthouse.

You keep only darkness, my distant female,
from your regard sometimes the coast of dread emerges.

Leaning into the afternoons I fling my sad nets
to that sea that beats on your marine eyes.

The birds of night peck at the first stars
that flash my soul when I love you.

The night gallops on its shadowy mare
shedding blue tassels over the land.”

The following is from Sonnet II from 100 Love Sonnets

“But you and I, love, we are together
from our clothes down to our roots:
together in the autumn, in water, in hip, until
we can be alone together–only you, only me.

To think of the effort, that the current carried
so many stones, the delta of Boroa water;
to think that you and I, divided by trains and nations”

From Sonnet V:

“I did not hold your night, or your air, or the dawn:
only the earth, the truth of the fruit in clusters,
the apples that swell as they drink the sweet water,
the clay and the resins of your sweet-smelling land.

From Quinchamali where your eyes began
to the Frontera where your feet were made for me,
you are my dark familiar clay:
holding your hips, I hold the wheat in its fields again.

Woman from Arauco, maybe you didn’t know
how before I loved you I forgot your kisses.
But my heart went on, remembering your mouth–and I
went on

and on through the streets like a man wounded,
until I understood, Love: I had found
my place, a land of kisses and volcanoes.”

From Sonnet VII:

“That is why, when I heard your voice repeat
Come with me, it was as if you had let loose
the grief, the love, the fury of a cork-trapped wine

that geysers flooding from deep in its vault:
in my mouth I felt the taste of fire again,
of blood and carnations, of rock and scald.”

From Sonnet XI:

“I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the soevereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,”

From Sonnet XVI:

“Your hips were that much of the moon for me;
your deep mouth and its delights, that much sun;
your heart, fiery with its long red rays,”

From Sonnet XXIX:

“You come from poverty, from the houses of the South,
from the rugged landscapes of cold and of earthquake
that offered us–after those gods had tumbled
to their deaths–the lesson of life, shaped in the clay.

You are a little horse of black clay, a kiss
of dark mud, my love, a clay poppy,
dove of the twilight that flew along the roads,
piggy bank of tears from our poor childhood.

Little one, you’ve kept the heart of poverty in you,
your feet used to sharp rocks,
your mouth that didn’t always have bread, or sweets.

You come from the poor South, where my soul began;
in that high sky your mother is still washing clothes
with my mother. That’s why I chose you, companera.”

From Sonnet XXXVI:

“You with your sickle that lifts the perfumes,
you with the bossy soapsuds,
you climbing my crazy ladders and stairs,”

From Sonnet L:

“Because you are small as you are, let it
rip: let the meteor of your laughter
fly: electrify the natural names of things!”

From Sonnet LXXXIX:

“When I die, I want your hands on my eyes
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.”

As you can see, most of the Sonnets I did not quote in their fullness, I just wanted to give some examples of why Neruda is a master. A sense of what has made him endure on 42 years beyond his death, and how his poetry is still relevant today to those that love, even the poems that are almost a 100 years old.

Let me know what you think! Next time we’ll talk about Neruda’s “other” stuff.

Clockers by Richard Price

The problem with being quasi aware of a book but not really aware is that you may form an opinion of it that has nothing to do with the book itself, a mistaken impression. I ran into this with Clockers by Richard Price. I remembered having heard about Clockers. I remembered that they’d made a movie based on it, and that it didn’t really interest me. I wasn’t real up on reading the book, but I did anyway…and realized that I was thinking of a different movie entirely.

Clockers, having nothing to do with the movie I remembered and wasn’t interested in, was actually pretty good.

(For those following along in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, this one was 9th for George Pelecanos)

Clockers primarily centers on two men. The first is a young drug dealer in a New Jersey ghetto, ‘Strike’ Dunham. The other is a burned out homicide detective called ‘Rocco’ Klein.

Strike is in a precarious position. He runs a crew that sells a large amount of cocaine in small increments on the corner of his housing project. His boss is pressuring him to get into even bigger things, with bigger responsibilities. He flies low, not flashing money everywhere or wasting it. Not sampling product. Still, he’s in the midst of the danger of the street corner, the danger of what his boss is asking him, the danger from both honest and crooked cops, and the danger from his boss overreaching the next boss up the chain. Most in his position don’t last long, but Strike is proud that he’s lasted at least nine months.

Strike hated having a gun, only got it because Rodney had told him he was too little and skinny to get anybody to toe the line on just say-so, that he had to have a piece to do the job. But the truth of it was, he was scared of the gun once he got it—not scared of shooting somebody, but scared of his own anger and what trouble he could get into for shooting somebody. His fear of having to use it probably served him just as well, sometimes even made him creative. One evening three months before, he had found out that some kid working for him was going over to Rydell and selling his bottles for fifteen instead of ten, then pocketing the extra five for himself. Not wanting to use the gun, Strike went over to a pet store, bought a dog chain and whipped this greedy little motherfucker to the ground in front of an entire Saturday night’s playground crowd, standing over him like some heave-chested slave master. It was just business, but Strike didn’t like to think about how good it felt, didn’t like to imagine where that might have ended for him if he’d had that gun in his hand.

Let’s not forget Rocco. Rocco is investigating a murder…the murder of a double-crossing drug dealer Strike’s boss ordered Strike to accomplish in order for strike to take his place. Strike didn’t do it, decided he wasn’t capable, but someone his straight edge brother knew did…and his brother confessed to doing the killing himself. Strike doesn’t really know what happened, only having some ideas. It’d be good if he figured it out, because Rocco certainly wants to find out.

After an hour of watching Mazilli threaten Maldonado with every cliché in the book, from thirty years of darkness to unspeakable sexual bondage, and after an hour of watching the kid respond with a heartrending performance of baffled and quivering innocence, Rocco had gotten bored and decided to cut short the whole damned passion play. He returned to the squad room for a one-on-one with Maldonado’s father and simply told him that unless his son gave up the gun in the next five minutes, the old man could kiss his bolide action goodbye. And in the time it took for Mazilli to smoke a cigarette out on the front steps, Rocco and Touhey sitting alongside him watching the sun go down behind the steel spider of the Majeski Skyway, Nelson Maldonado had changed his tune, decided to come clean and cough up the murder weapon. Rocco had no idea what the father used to threaten the kid that was actually worse than County, but in the end he didn’t really give a shit.

Things get complicated from there. Yes, that’s sarcasm…but truthful as well.

Clockers is gritty, complex, and intensely vivid. I’m not much for crime drama, but this is extremely well written crime drama. It may not exactly be my favorite book, but I’m definitely glad I didn’t stick with my original mistake and sat down to read it. It’s a heavy ride.


Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

This week I read Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I have read this before, in college. After enjoying Woolf’s writing in To The Lighthouse I figured I’d give Dalloway another shot. (If you click the link and read the first paragraph, you will note how I avoided Woolf because I originally did not like Mrs. Dalloway. Or you can rest secure in the knowledge of this without clicking the link since I just told you.)

The following authors listed Mrs. Dalloway in their top ten lists: Robb Forman Dew, Karen Joy Fowler, Denise Gess, Michael Griffith, Elizabeth Hay, Thomas Kenneally, Lydia Millet, Vendela Vida and Susan Vreeland.

The writing in Mrs. Dalloway is beautiful, much like To The Lighthouse. I loved how Woolf captured how we often live both in the moment, but in past moments at the same time. I find myself suddenly barraged sometimes by a random image of something that happened 20 years before and it’s so vivid. I’m not there, like in a flashback sense, but the memory has a texture to it that is more than just the random stories that we tell other people about our pasts. Those told memories seem pallid in comparison to the flash memories I am speaking of.

She even shows someone who is making one of those flash memories, just a bit character who wanders through the park in the beginning.

“Both seemed queer, Maisie Johnson thought. Everything seemed very queer. In London for the first time, come to take up a post at her uncle’s in Leadenhall Street, and now walking through Regent’s Park in the morning, this couple on the chairs gave her quite a turn; the young woman seeming foreign, the man looking queer; so that should she be very old she would still remember and make it jangle again among her memories how she had walked through Regent’s Park on a fine summer’s morning fifty years ago. For she was only nineteen and had got her way at last, to come to London; and now how queer it was, this couple she asked the way of, and the girl started and jerked her hand, and the man-he seemed awfully odd; quarrelling perhaps; parting for ever, perhaps; something was up, she knew; and now all these people (for she returned to the Broad Walk), the stone basins, the prim flowers, the old men and women, invalids most of them in Bath chairs-all seemed after Edinburgh, so queer.”

And you can tell, that 50 years from now, whether Maisie Johnson is in London or Edinburgh or India, she would have a flash of the couple every time she thought of when she first came to London.

The theme of Mrs. Dalloway is a day in the life of Mrs. Dalloway who is planning a party for that evening, or rather most plans have been made, she is preparing for the party. The book traverses her inner monologue, and others random monologues as they either pass Mrs. Dalloway, come into contact with her, or come into contact with someone that she came into contact with.

One of the characters is a returned soldier (the book takes place in approximately 1924) from the first World War. From today’s perspective, it is obvious that he is suffering from PTSD, which back then was called “shell shock” and not always necessarily even believed in. Woolf describes his madness beautifully and even captures the attitude(s) of some of the doctors of the day. Which, sadly, in some cases hasn’t changed much in the last century.

“The word “time” split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time. He sang. Evans answered from behind the tree. The dead were in Thessaly, Evans sang, among the orchids. There they waited till the War was over, and now the dead, now Evans himself–
‘For God’s sake don’t come!’ Septimus cried out. For he could not look upon the dead.”

The above is from Septimus Smith, the ex soldier suffering. The following is from Rezia, his Italian wife whom he married at the end of the war and brought back to London with him.

“He had grown stranger and stranger. He said people were talking behind the bedroom walls. Mrs. Filmer thought it odd. He saw things too-he had seen an old woman’s head in the middle of a fern. Yet he could be happy when he chose. They went to Hampton Court on top of a bus, and they were perfectly happy. All the little red and yellow flowers were out on the grass, like floating lamps he said, and talked and chattered and laughed, making up stories. Suddenly he said, “Now we will kill ourselves,” when they were standing by the river, and he looked at it with a look which she had seen in his eyes when a train went by, or an omnibus-a look as if something fascinated him; and she felt he was going from her and she caught him by the arm. But going home he was perfectly quiet-perfectly reasonable. He would argue with her about killing themselves; and explain how wicked people were; how he could see them making up lies as they passed in the street. He knew all their thoughts, he said, he knew everything. He knew the meaning of the world, he said.”

He is being treated originally by a Dr. Holmes.

“Dr. Holmes came again. Large, fresh coloured, handsome, flicking his boots, looking in the glass, he brushed it all aside-headaches, sleeplessness, fears, dreams-nerve symptoms and nothing more, he said. If Dr. Holmes found himself even half a pound below eleven stone six, he asked his wife for another plate of porridge at breakfast. (Rezia would learn to cook porridge.) But he continued, health is largely a matter in our own control. Throw yourself into outside interests; take up some hobby. He o9pened Shakespeare-Antony and Cleopatra; pushed Shakespeare aside. Some hobby, said Dr. Holmes, for did he not owe his own excellent health (and he worked as hard as any man in London) to the fact that he could always switch off from his patients on to old furniture? And what a very pretty comb, if he might say so, Mrs. Warren Smith was wearing!”

Even the way Woolf structured the novel fit what she was doing, switching between people’s internal monologues. There are absolutely no chapters in the book. It is all one stream from beginning to end. The external time is linear as well. She doesn’t take us from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. then back to 10 a.m. But, the internal time can be anywhere from 30 years ago to current time, to a hour previous.

But. I just couldn’t find myself actually caring about any of the characters. None of them, absolutely none, were happy. All of them seemed discontent and unhappy with where life had taken them, where they themselves fit into society. And while I definitely don’t mind depressed characters, angry characters, psychotic characters, it just seemed like a completely negatively slanted one way to look at people in this world. Virginia Woolf eventually committed suicide, and by the time she wrote Mrs. Dalloway had already suffered from mental illness, hence probably why she wrote so well about Mr. Smith. So, I can see why the book is the way it is. I also evaluated if it was a historical thing that kept me from caring about these characters, and again, I love historical novels, and historical memoirs. I have read a lot of books that cover Britain from 1850 or so to 1950 or so, and mostly loved them.

I just couldn’t connect. I could adore the way Woolf wrote it, could adore some of the techniques she used and the poetry she infused into the prose, but I just…couldn’t get into it.

So, most of the time, I completely change my opinion on a book when I read one, don’t like it and years later re-read it. This time, I didn’t. Except I think I enjoyed the beauty of it more and could appreciate it.

The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Imagine that spirit world children are sometimes born to mortal parents in order to experience the combined pain and joy that is physical life. Imagine that some of these spirit children form a pact to immediately die whenever forced to be born so they can be together again as soon as possible. Imagine one spirit child, Azaro, who breaks that pact when he sees the heartbreak on his intended mother’s face, deciding he will be born into the ghettos of late twentieth century Nigeria in an attempt to make her happy.

This is The Famished Road by Ben Okri.

(For those following along in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, this one was 8th for David Anthony Durham)

Azaro does not find this an easy decision to have made. Life is extremely hard in the form of poverty, corruption, and warring political parties, as well as other hardships:

I learnt that Dad had gone out early to look for a job. Mum was exhausted from the search, the feast, all the walking, the worrying and the cooking. That morning she brought out her little table of provisions to the housefront. She sat on a stool, with me beside her, and dispiritedly crooned out her wares. The dust blew into our eyes. The sun was merciless on our flesh. We didn’t sell a single item.

In the afternoon, the people that Dad had borrowed from to buy drinks came to collect their money. They threatened to seize Mum’s goods. They hung around till evening. Mum begged them to wait for Dad to get back, but they wouldn’t listen. What annoyed Mum the most was the fact that the creditors were people from our compound, who were at the feast, who had gotten drunk on our wine and had thrown up on our window-sill. The loudest amongst them was actually responsible for breaking the back of the chair and destroying two glasses. Another of our creditors, as we learned later, was Madame Koto. She was the only one who did not come to drag for her money. But the others hung around Mum’s stall and spoiled her prospects of business.

His abandoned spirit friends make it no easier, doing everything they can to get him back. Whether by thugs inflicting an ordinary beating or spirits walking the land trying to sneak him away, Azaro is constantly beset, wandering constantly between the physical world, the spirit world, and various levels of crossroads in between:

The valley was essentially populated with strange beings. Instead of faces they had masks that became more beautiful the longer you looked at them. Maybe their masks were their faces. They had houses all along the sides of the valley. They also had their palaces and centres of culture below, under the earth. Their acropolis, along with their fabulous cemeteries, were in the air. In the valley they were all hard at work.

‘What are they doing?’ I asked.

Dad crouched low, his face close to mine. He touched me, and I shivered.

‘They are building a road.’


Dad held my hands. I felt cold and began to tremble. He breathed in my face and the wind almost knocked my head away and I kept being flung up into the spaces and the spirit finally had to hold me down by my hair.

‘They have been building that road for two thousand years.’


‘Why is it so beautiful?’

‘Because each new generation begins with nothing and with everything. They know all the earlier mistakes. They may not know that they know, but they do. They know the early plans, the original intentions, the earliest dreams. Each generation has to reconnect the origins for themselves. They tend to become a little wiser, but don’t go very far. It is possible that they now travel slower, and will make bigger, better mistakes. That his how they are as a people. They have an infinity of hope and an eternity of struggles. Nothing can destroy them except themselves and they will never finish the road that is their soul and they do not know it.’

I like how The Famished Road wanders back and forth between the real and magical worlds. Sometimes one, sometimes the other, and often differing amounts of the two mixed. Both often present danger for Azaro, but the majesty of the spirit world contrasts interestingly against the hardness of earthly life. At the same time, the earthly life has things that the spirit world doesn’t. Somewhere in all of that is the ignorant and well-intentioned confusion in which we find ourselves and try to make our lives.

At the end? At the end The Famished Road is beautiful book. ‘Nuff said.

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

Short note: Birthday planning for children, especially when it’s your own child(ren) is stressful. /end whine.

Short note: Terry Pratchett died today. Earlier in the year, I had the pleasure to read his book Long Earth and the sequel to it. They were amazing. I also count Good Omens Bad Omens in my favorites column. My heart is sad at the loss of Sir Pratchett. If you have never read a Pratchett book, please make an entry of one of his books on your to be read list. Personally, I recommend Good Omens, Bad Omens, even though it is a co-authored book.

Today, I’m talking about Hedda Gabler. It’s a play by Henrik Ibsen. Most likely, you’ve heard of A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen. Most people have. If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you probably remember it from here, and if you’re a newer reader, check out what Dave has to say about A Doll House. Hedda Gabler, I’ve heard mentioned, but it’s not as known as A Doll House.

Pearl Cleage and Vendela Vida list it in their top tens.

Background: I have a degree in secondary education with speech, drama and English. So, in the course of my college career I worked on plays. I was only -in- one of them, but did a lot of backstage work through some others. This play really excited my “drama” side.

It’s a story of a young woman (Hedda, if you couldn’t guess) who has just returned from her 4 or 5 month long honeymoon that was also a dig around in old manuscripts and be scholarly and ramble on about medieval artifacts trip for her husband. They’ve moved into a house that her husband is sure to mention to both his aunt and the family friend who is a judge that Hedda absolutely had always, always wanted to live in. Hedda, from the very beginning is a little nasty, making her husband’s aunt feel like she thought her hat was the maid’s, and other acts like that. They talk quite a bit about how much “plumper” she got while they were gone and Aunt Julie keeps hinting at pregnancy. Later in the play, Hedda herself hints at it and tells her husband to get the news from his aunt. She also remarks that she wants nothing to do with having children (in veiled comments during a discussion with the judge).

Hedda is a fascinating character. You think she is one thing, then she does something that completely realigns your opinion of her. You find out what things led her to be living in the flimsy house of cards that she constructed for herself. She wanted, wants, control in her life. But, everything seems to conspire against that. The actions that she takes, they all lead to less control in her life. She’s a very flawed main character, which at that time in literature and drama, a married woman that refused to cheat on her husband would not be flawed. Flawed female characters were “fallen women”. Hedda is a flawed, unhappy, mean character who just happens to believe in not being unfaithful in her marriage. Which, might increase her trapped feeling that you feel more and more as the play progresses.

This is a play I would absolutely love to see acted on the stage, and not just read it. But, even reading it was a great experience. Some plays don’t work that great until you have actors bringing it to life. Hedda Gabler had a life on the page, with just stage directions and characters’ lines. To see it brought to life on the stage, would be an amazing thing, in my opinion.

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! Please think of me on Saturday as I stand and supervise at least 10 excited children ranging from 4 to 8 years of age, bouncing around and then eating cupcakes.