Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Room with a View revisited (with a bonus scene from my novel)

I read A Room with a View for the dozenth time this weekend and have been thinking again about why I love it so and why other people do not love it so much.

I think one problem many people have with the book is Forster's writing style. At times, Forster is explicitly straightforward, speaking directly to the reader: "It is obvious for the reader to conclude, 'She loves young Emerson.' A reader in Lucy's place would not find it obvious." Other times, Forster is oblique. For example, near the beginning of the book Lucy and George witness a murder, and it changes everything. It's the whole reason George breaks out of his depression, falls in love with Lucy, and pursues her. But the entire murder is described in four sentences. The first time I read the book, I missed it. I thought Lucy had seen a fight - not a murder. So then when they started talking about the dying man and the murderer, I was like, "Wait. What?" And I had to go back and reread those four sentences.

Same with one of the most pivotal scenes in the book: when Lucy falls into the violets and George kisses her.  This is the entire description of their kiss:
"George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her."
That's it. The entire description of the moment that haunts Lucy (and presumably George) through the rest of the book. She has dreams about it. She blushes anytime anyone mentions violets. And yet, in the scene, we don't get a single detail of how she's feeling in the moment. No racing hearts. No quickening pulses. No electricity.

I read A Room with a View once with a book club, and the biggest complaint about it from my friends was that they didn't feel like there was any chemistry between Lucy and George. I think that conclusion is entirely due to the way Forster writes and how much it contrasts with the emotional detail we're used to in modern day writing. Think of that tome Twilight and its bare bones plot padded with excruciating detail of every thought Bella ever has about being near Edward or being confused by Edward or wanting to kiss or touch Edward. Page after page of descriptions of them not touching. Or think of the fourth Harry Potter book and the endless descriptions of teenage angst that made me want to stab myself in the eyes.

In contrast, Forster doesn't explicitly tell us what the two characters are thinking. Instead, we are expected to fill in the gaps with what we've observed and what we've imagined.

I loved Twilight. Despite its terrible cliched prose, I basked in the excruciatingly detailed descriptions of them not touching. And yet it's the violets that get my heart racing. In my mind, it's the ultimate romantic scene...
"At the same moment, the ground gave way, and with a cry she fell out of the wood. Light and beauty enveloped her. She had fallen on to a little open terrace, which was covered with violets from end to end....Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man. But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone."
Re-reading this yesterday, I realized that I had put this scene in my own novel. It was inadvertent, but it's there - apparently at this point so much a part of my subconscious that when I tried to imagine the perfect romantic moment where a girl is kissed by a boy she kind of has a crush on but is in a bit of a muddle about, I put them on a natural terrace and created a still, quiet mood and the girl has a look on her face that gives the boy a reason to gather his courage and then...
He paused, looking straight at her, and Emma realized something was about to happen, something she wasn’t sure she wanted to face.
A shimmering silence enveloped them, a fragile stillness like a glass blanket. Emma was afraid to breath as Will bent hesitantly toward her, his eyes opened wide, staring straight into hers. At the last second, she closed her eyes and met his lips. A roar like a rushing waterfall filled her ears, a sound so loud that several seconds passed before she heard the chant in her head: I'm kissing Will. I'm kissing Will. I'm kissing Will. And then conscious thought broke through, and the chant turned into a shout that surged over the raging in her ears: I'm kissing Will! 
“Thomas!” she cried, breaking free from the kiss but still unconsciously clinging to Will. His eyes snapped open, and he looked at her with a mixture of surprise and eager expectation on his flushed face. 
“Thomas,” she said again. “Thomas. I'm dating Thomas.”
The perfect scene. The perfect view. Those glorious muddles. Without a doubt, my favorite book.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Rylan Blogs: Twas the two night's before Christmas eve

So we were driving to Grammy's and we finally got there. we went in the house (and apparently they were having supper). So we joined in. finally we unpacked our stuff and the me Cole and Eli watched tv. Mom and Dad and other people were talking. then me and Eli went to bed and Mom and Dad  went in our room at nine thirty. the next day it was what I call Christmas eve eve and we woke up and watched cartoon network for three hours and we had breakfast when we where watching tv. Grammy came lazy and she said"good morning boys" we said"good morning.We continued playing and watching and mom came out and said" hey boys tomorrow Miriam's coming. I said" yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christmas 2014Christmas 2014

Sunday, January 11, 2015

50 Books Challenge

I still have a Christmas post to write, but this is way more important...

I'm continuing to challenge myself to read 50 books a year. Last year, with my return to work, I didn't do so hot, but 41 isn't terrible.

As part of my challenge, I pick an author to read in-depth. This year, I chose F. Scott Fitzgerald since I had to read The Great Gatsby for school. I only made it through part of one other book by him before deciding I am not a fan.
  • The Great Gatsby: ****
  • This Side of Paradise: *
Despite not being a fan of John Green, I read two more books of his:
  • The Fault in Our Stars: ****
  • Paper Towns: ***
This is the only book I gave five stars to this whole year: A Monster Calls: *****

Except these two, which I have read more than once before:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird *****
  • Anne of Green Gables *****

Other books I read for school:

  • Black Boy ***
  • The Crucible ***
  • A Raisin in the Sun ***
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God: ***
  • Speak ****
  • A Child Called It ***

This book I couldn't finish because it was putting me to sleep on my commute: The Light Between Oceans*

Some non-fiction:
  • Bossypants ****
  • Blink ****
And the rest:
  • The Sense of an Ending ****
  • Between Shades of Grey ****
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon ****
  • The Engagements ****
  • Wonder ****
  • Mormon Wife ****
  • All Our Yesterdays ****
  • The Secret Keeper ****
  • The One and Only Ivan ****
  • Night Film ****
  • I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You ****
  • Defending Jacob ****
  • Eleanor and Park ****
  • The Hiding Place ****
  • The Final Empire ****
  • The Shoemaker's Wife ***
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy ***
  • The Round House ***
  • Before I Go to Sleep ***
  • The Humming Room ***
  • The Apothecary ***
  • The Black Opal ***
  • The Sea of Tranquility ***
  • Juniper Berry ***
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette **

The Latest and Greatest in Extracurricular Activities

Soccer season came and went without me taking a single photograph. Have I mentioned how much I hate soccer season? And it has only gotten worse since I started working....

In October, all of the boys decided to try out some new sports. I found a super inexpensive tae kwon do class for Rylan through Raleigh Parks and Rec. Despite being the boy who loves pink and princesses, Rylan is the most physical of all of my children and loves to play fight. Tae kwon do has been a great fit for him.

This past month, since hockey ended (see below), Eli decided to try out tae kwon do also. After his first class, I said, "How was it?"

He shrugged, which is his way of saying he doesn't really want to tell me.

"Harder than you thought it would be?"

"I guess."

"You think you owe Rylan a little respect now?"

"I guess," which is his way of saying definitely but I don't want to admit it.


Meanwhile back at the ranch, Cole and Eli got to try out ice hockey through the Boys and Girls Club. Needing more kids for their hockey team, the director of the Boys and Girls Club practically begged the boys to join. Michael and I were excited because it was a good opportunity for them to try out for free a sport that we otherwise would not be willing to pay for.

The verdict: Eli loved it and wants to continue playing. Cole, meh.


All three boys continue to take piano lessons, and Cole and Eli have continued with percussion in their school band. Their band concert was absolutely wonderful, and I wish I had recorded some of it.


Annual Trip to Chimney Rock

During another fun day of this:

camping 2014

...Eli went over the waterfall, fell backwards off his inner tube, hit his head, and all tubing was pretty much spoiled the rest of the day. Of course, if I would have had to predict which one of my kids was going to have some sort of tubing accident, it would have been Eli. (here, here, and here)

We still enjoyed being lazy in the river, ...

camping 2014

...climbing on the rocks,...

camping 2014

...and enjoying nature.

camping 2014

We went on a fantastic boat tour of Lake Lure that included several very important landmarks (where Dirty Dancing was filmed) and ended with rain.

camping 2014

We ended the trip with our annual meal at that Mexican restaurant in Chimney Rock.

camping 2014

Unfortunately, Michael had to point out the phallicism of Chimney Rock, and since we will now never be able to get that image out of our heads, we may be moving our annual camping trip to a new location next summer.

camping 2014camping 2014

Annual Trip to the Beach

These photos are from August. Rest assured, we did not go swimming in the ocean in January...

2014 beach

2014 beach

2014 beach

Michael decided we needed some of those boards (that I'm forgetting the exact name of right now), and the two older boys definitely enjoyed them. I can take or leave the ocean, but I definitely don't mind a good day of beach-reading and photographing my little toothless cutie:

2014 beach

Friday, December 12, 2014

On working full time

In my ideal world, parents would only work 30 hours a week instead of 40. Combined they'd get paid for a 60 hour week - more than the 40 hours an individual would work but so much more manageable than the 80 hours of two typical full time employees.

Similarly, sometimes I think about how much better off the world would be if every household had one person working full time and one person staying at home. Better for the environment. Better for relationships.

Before I went back to work...
  • Dinner got made every night, which meant less trash and less factory farmed food.
  • The house was always clean and the laundry actually got done.
  • Michael and I both had more hours for freetime.
  • The weekend was spent relaxing, rather than hustling to get chores done.
Things I've figured out since I started working:

  • I have our groceries delivered through a company called Papa Spuds. They provide locally grown produce, milk, eggs, and meat, and it's delivered once a week right to our front door. It's the best thing in the world.
  • I have the boys sorting their own laundry - both dirty and clean.
Things I have not figured out:
  • when to clean the house
  • how to balance getting stuff done on the weekends with getting to spend time relaxing and enjoying each other's company
  • how to get enough sleep
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