Tania's Words

here is an empty shell- a resonant shadow- waiting

Archive for Edith Wharton

The Olympics, Taco Dip, and the Death Cold.

I am watching the Olympics and eating taco dip. What an exciting day. Really. Lately, it seems like nothing is going on. Maybe it is cause we are all stuck under the misery that is the death cold. Some of you may remember waaaay back around Jan 15th when I was complaining about a death cold. Yes, I am still sick. I think it is finally on its last legs, for which I am eternally thankful. Unfortunately for Parker, this death cold still has him firm in its grip. Two kinds of antibiotics later, he is still not better.  This is really getting rather old.

Due to the cold, I haven’t really read very much. I did finish Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, which I really liked. Although I found her writing to be a rather odd mix of cliche and wonderful. If such a thing works. I do wonder if that isn’t because her style of writing has not aged very well- or if it just became rather over emulated by other writers? At some points, her prose is sparse and moving, beautifully descriptive and very real. At other times, it seems trite and over burdened, even painfully “romance novel”- esque.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the story. It really had me thinking- on the one hand, there is a part of the reader (or maybe just me), that sympathized with Ethan’s plight- his loveless marriage, his absolute lack of choices, his visceral desire to be with the woman he loves. I also appreciated his sense of duty, and the fact that he was selfless enough to realize that he could not leave his wife with no resources or cheat his friends for the sake of his happiness alone. I think because we live in a culture which celebrates individuality, and where there is this idea of taking care of yourself and your happiness at all costs, I really responded to this in Ethan. The fact was that in order for him to be happy, he  would have had to cheat his friends and neighbors, and leave his sick wife with the mess to clean up, and no money or property or family to care for her.

I also appreciated the way that the story ended, although I can’t really explain why. It certainly didn’t have a happy ending. In no way could it have- had he and Mattie successfully committed suicide, it wouldn’t have been happy. It might, however, have held that strange sort of romanticism that stories like Romeo and Juliet have. Instead, Wharton had them  live with the consequences of their choices for the rest of their lives. Because life isn’t easy and we don’t always get what we want. And that is just the truth. I’ve learned this for myself in so many different ways. And even though this is true, we still have this wonderful gift every day- of life. And with it, endless possibilities and opportunities.  But that is just my take. I don’t really know how Ethan felt, as his romantic story ends with the sledding accident, and the reader is just left pondering the consequences of his and Mattie’s impulsive actions.

Anyway, after Ethan Frome, I picked up Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Patton. I’ve been reading it slowly for about a week and a half, and am enjoying it. It is a very different sort of book from those I have been reading. It is really beautifully written. There is something about the literature that has come out of Africa- those books that I have read have a sort of different quality, a different style of prose and narrative, that I really enjoy. I am hoping to finish it soon. Then, unfortunately, I must take a break from the fun book reading, to read The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown, for The Book Club. Blah. I don’t want to read it, but I did promise I’d read all the books this year. So I must.

Might I just add that I had a wonderful little Lost/Book Frenzy mashup the other day? I am watching Season 3, which is notoriously NOT my favourite season. I am enjoying it more this time around than last, but then again, I have more answers now, so I need not be so annoyed that I have no idea what is going on. Anyway, I was watching the episode where Ben cons Sawyer into thinking they’ve given him a pacemaker. Anyway, I laughed my ass off when Sawyer quotes something from Of Mice and Men to Ben and then says, “You’d like it, puppies get killed.” (Or something to that effect). I also, however, really appreciated how much more I got out of that scene, now that I’ve finally read the book. Especially when Ben is quoting the book back to Sawyer- the passage where Crooks says ” A guy needs somebody- to be near him…A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, longs he’s with you. I tell ya…I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”

I think that this passage, in this moment between Ben and Sawyer is so important, especially as we see Sawyer now, realizing that maybe he is just one of those people who is meant to be alone. As he is beginning to blame himself for Juliette’s death, thinking that perhaps if he had not been selfish, if he had been able to bear his loneliness, she might not be dead…I think that this theme will become more important as the show wraps up. But I could be wrong. We will see when it ends in May (sniffle….)

Well I am off to finish my taco dip and watch some more Olympics. I should go to bed early, as Parker will probably be up early- poor thing has a terrible cough, but thank goodness his fever is gone, the bloody noses have passed, and he is eating again.  It helps that the whole downstairs is opened up now, so he can run around and be distracted from his misery. Especially since his Grandma gave him a wonderful valentines day present- a special broom all of his own. His “boom”, has been sawed off so it is shorter, with a good rubber tipped cane tip on the end (so that he can’t hurt us when he is wielding it), and it has his name  on it as well. He loves his “boom” so much, he tried to share it with the cats. They didn’t like that very much 🙂

The Most Depressing Reading Spree Yet.

Apparently this blog is going to be about books. A book blog. Because it seems that reading is all I ever do. Well not really. There is my obsession with Lost, taking care of Parker, and the house.  I’ll admit, though, that the house is the most sadly neglected aspect of my life. I am a terrible housewife. Really terrible.

Moving on to things that cheer me up, lets talk about what I’ve been up to lately. Let’s see. I have been under the thrall of a death cold which will not release me. Maybe it’s been two colds. Who knows by now? I’ve been sick for about four weeks, which is just a barrel of laughs.

Wait, this is supposed to be cheering me up. Ok, happy thoughts. Well, after I finished The Great Gatsby, I read A Farwell to Arms.  I had read pretty much the whole book a week ago, barring the last 30 pages. However, since I knew how it ended (yes, for those of you who don’t know, I read the end of most books first. I like knowing what is going to happen), I couldn’t bring myself to read the end. I already knew what happened right? But it was so much worse in context of the whole book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book. I really like Hemingway.  As someone who has been a history dork in a past life, I really appreciated his candid description of the war (WW1). There is something very simple and dry about his style of prose which belies what he is really saying. The whole book you have soldiers talking about how tired of the war they are, how they are done with it already, telling each other, “You think you know, but you don’t yet. You’ll know when you really know, ” The whole book is kind of like this- men saying something without saying it. There is a subtle subtext to all of the conversations, all of the interactions, that really make the reader think.

You realize by the end of the book, that it really adds up to nothing. Henry’s realization that he is really nothing important- in the end his relationship with Cat, his status as a lieutenant, all the men lost in the war, the war its self…it is as if it is nothing really. The meaninglessness of the situation, the war, his life. The scene in the end when he is remembering  the ants on the log- it is really moving in this way.  He is so detached from what he sees happening, as if he is a God like figure, but one who doesn’t really care or isn’t very invested. It doesn’t matter if the ants live or die in the end. He could take them out of the fire, but eventually, they will die anyway. It is almost as if their existence is meaningless. It doesn’t matter that he kills them, none of it really matters at all in the end. But as much as it doesn’t, and as detached as he is from it all, underneath the words on the page, you know that he finally gets it. What the soldiers were talking about- now he really knows.

Ok, so that was depressing. But it was a good book. I apologize if my sentiments are rather  muddled. I am not up for any real meaningful insights today, or any sort of real eloquence. Perhaps I should just leave it at that then.

Anyway, last night I read Of Mice and Men, which I have never read. Wasn’t crazy about it. Mostly though, that was because after the Hemingway, I wanted to read something uplifting. The only really uplifting stuff I have is Nora Roberts type stuff. Which is why I read these books.

Life is hard, and sometimes, it sucks a lot. I mean, it is awesome a lot too, but sometimes, you just need to escape a little. I love the predictability and dependability of a good romance novel. You know that in the end, love will conquer all. They will be happy and together, and everything will work out. Sometimes, I need a little of that to get through the day. And while I really needed a pick me up last night, I just wasn’t in the mood for Nora.I really should have known better.

This was like the time that Liz and I watched some ridiculously depressing movie (I can’t remember what it was though). We decided to watch something uplifting, and picked Legends of the Fall. Neither of us knew a thing about the movie, other than it starred some hot guy (maybe Brad Pitt?). Any of you who have seen this movie will know what a monumental mistake this was. This movie was like one seriously depressing moment after another.

And so went my reading of Mice and Men. In my defense, I had no idea what it was about. I loved The Grapes of Wrath, which was a depressing book in general, but overall had a beautiful and uplifting ending. How was I to know it would involved murdered puppies and mice and lonely people treating each other badly? Oh well.

I haven’t much hope for the next book I am reading, which is Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton. But it was there, I was there. I would have read Sons and Lovers, because as we all know, I love me some D.H. Lawrence. But I figured I should expand my horizons and read something by someone I haven’t read before.

Speaking of all these books, lets talk about how much I love my library. I got all of these books at my local library’s Friend to Friend sale for 1-2$. It is awesome.  Hence, I heart the library.

Well, I should be off. In non book related news, Relay for Life is kicking into high gear. I had no idea how involved I was going to get with the planning committees when I joined last September, but I am really loving it. I am getting to know some amazing people, and I am a part of something that is really important to me, an organization and a community that are near to my heart, that inspire me and give me hope. I don’t think I could ask for more!