Wednesday, June 12, 2013

continues, with apologies

Firefox didn't crash:  the computer did. I am surprised that the post was published as I was still writing it. I would like to edit my repetitions, but the computer I am on now is older and leaves blanks here and there.
We visited D once. The "home" that she was in was sometimes in the press because it was a praised innovation. Children were in cottages to create a homelike atmosphere. Ha. We could look through the windows - no one was allowed in the cottages during the day - and see the glowingly polished floor. The girls, woken at 6, polished it on hands and knees before breakfast. There was a boys' section.  D stared ahead and explained that it was to the left:  looking at or indicating the direction was punishable. She obviously lived with some fear. Her birthday was the day before mine, and I have thought of her then for over 60 years and hoped that her life went more kindly.
I went to the dentist by myself when I was ten. Every now and then he would clasp his hands under my armpits and run them down my body. I did not like this, but did not pass it on: it seemed a churlish whinge. Only later did I recognise it, and see the oddness in  that not only did he have daughters around my age, but one was in the class that my mother taught.  An unvetted piano teacher was a pleasant young man, with an odd lurching gait. An odd odour in his room I identified years later as sherry.
My grandmother's Queensland house was filled with her beautiful embroideries. My mother and she argued as to whether petunias were weeds, as she pulled them up and threw them away. Under the mosquito netting on my bed there was a toy rabbit with long , cuddly angora hair, which immediately caused me to bring to Gran's attention that it had been my birthday recently. Yes, he became mine.  Open French doors onto the verandah left us sleeping in the warm, sweet air: I fell in love with the tropics. Older, I went catching crabs and lobsters in the mangroves. Once, anyway.
A weekender in the Blue Mountains had heavy chains from house to earth.  Bush as far as you could see, range after range; drystone walls, wallabies that nibbled my father's  vegetables.  Walk and skip and sing along the dirt road during the daytime, but as dusk fell a presence grew in the bush. I felt unwelcome, out of place and always ended up running and frightened.
My mother raised chickens, kept a cow, sewed our clothes, knitted, made jams, preserved fruit, cooked all meals from scratch. She took up leatherwork and made us gloves and belts, and she did fine crochet. And she taught school, and read. She despised housewifery and passed on few of the arts to her daughters.  She would not wear an apron - a prison uniform to her -, but her decision not to wear a wedding ring seems more problematic.
House 4 was for my teenage years, though there were no such things as teenagers then.  I went to the convent high school.  Light came through tall yellow windows into the austere chapel, where the nuns sometimes prostrated themselves. I sang in the choir during a nun's profession and a priest's funeral: splendid.
The poet Bob Adamson tells how he used to catch and kill hairtail (fish) and watch their iridescent gleam dull and fade and hate himself for it.  My childhood was largely good, enriching and secure, but I think that I am not alone in feeling that something back then made my iridescence fade.

An Irritable Reader

I have never enjoyed Patrick White's writing because of his dour world view. I would be particularly irritated each time he spoke of a woman's flapping breasts, which he seemed to do quite often.  "Flopping" seemed more accurate as well as kinder.
People chewing their lips seem to appear across the literary spectrum. I've seen people bite their lips, but never chew them and I can't even visualise what this would look like or how in fact one would do it.  This irritates me, rather as does the "mobile mouth" which is quite commonplace as well.  An immobile mouth, one that doesn't move, might be worth commenting on, but aren't mouths mobile as a rule? The Two Ronnies commented on this once, saying something like, "She had a mobile mouth, that is, she took it everywhere with her."
For no good reason I dislike books about clever families of academic distinction with children  named "Octavia".  I particularly dislike those which have a son of such brilliance that he appears to the undistinguished hoi polloi to be mentally unstable. Whether there are many of these books, or whether I just tried to read the same one many times, I am unsure.  I think that I suspect that both the family and the author would see me as being undistinguished hoi polloi.  Oh, and they use words like"chthonic", which I have to look up.  And then I forget the meaning, anyway.
I have been, in the interests of my education, reading genre fiction that I would usually avoid. "The American Wife" I read as chick lit. About 3/4 through it occurred to me that the rich, shrewd, drunken, oafish husband could have been G W Bush. And, of course the book is based on G W and Laura, and  has been widely praised. Doh, as Homer would say. that homer, not That One.
Anita Shrieve is a very competent writer. As in many American books, her characters frequently drink Diet Coke. They eat quite often - shades of Enid Blyton comfort - but always, it seemed, to be pizza. Or fritos, cheatos, -  can that be right? - cheerios, oreos. And they cook with oleo.
The formidably competent Kay Scarpetta occasionally cooks, and her author  takes us through the steps as if it's an exotic achievement. What she brews up each time is in fact a simple spaghetti sauce.
Fannie Flagg was, to me, a writer of high calibre.
Two books I read killed off the main character before the end, and this seems to be a mistake.  I want to see them succeed or fail:  not disappear. 
Robert P Parker and Sue Grafton are both adept in effortlessly sliding in the hero's back story. I was surprised at how well "Started early, Took My Dog" was received, although I quite enjoyed it. Then I read the two preceding, and so knew who Jackson was, who Julia was etc:  that is, back story.  I reread "Started early", and it was so much richer with a fuller view of the characters.
I completely fail to understand why "Water for Elephants", (or whatever it's called) and such are so hugely popular though romances ... The "Alpha male" is evidently essential.  It was interesting reading P.D. James to see that Dalgliesh is in fact a rather more old fashioned version of the alpha male. Dear me, he is priggish.
Nicholas Sparks wrote a best selling romance that was made into a film. I read a different one of his, called "Message in a Bottle", and it was very heavy going, except that it contained some of the most inept lines that I have ever read.  Eg: the heroine is, of course, beautiful. He begins describing her by saying, "It wasn't that she was unattractive. She was, or so she had often been told."  What??

Enough ramble. Once I took my daughter to visit a friend, where her excited mother had just received her Book Club choice through the mail. A Danielle Steele. She proudly showed me her whole shelf of Danielle Steele's, which to me was rather like having 30 copies of the same book.
I read a Danielle Steele once. There were 3 aristocratic Russian heiresses in a troika racing across the snow of course, with tinkling bells, of course.  Then something bad happened.  Then something good happened, which was probably them each marrying an Alpha male Russian prince.  This compelling plot could obviously be set in many different locations, which Wikipedia suggests it is. It also tells me that she sells more books than anyone else in the world.
Well, "All the world is queer save me and thee, And even thee's a little strange at times."
 That often seems to be true.  
Now, off back to my reading.