Penny Dreadful

I’ve moved on from Touch and have discovered Penny Dreadful. I’ve much to say….

The Showtime series Penny Dreadful was one of the suggestions in my Netflix profile, and since I was wanting something to get me in the “Halloween spirit” I decided to give it a try.
Wow. This show is no joke.
I’m not usually in to horror shows or movies so I don’t know how long I’ll stick with Penny Dreadful, probably just through the month of October.
It’s a very interesting show. The characters are strong, the settings and costumes are excellent. If you like horror/fantasy you will probably like Penny Dreadful. Vampires, demons, witches, a werewolf, apparitions, curses, Dr. Frankenstein and his “creations”, The Egyptian Book of the Dead- all of these are part of Penny Dreadful. So too is Dorian Gray which I found very interesting. Dorian Gray as a character in a horror/fantasy story? Brilliant.
Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster I expected. But not Dorian Gray.
I’m only just barely familiar with the story of Dorian Gray. I know it’s by Oscar Wilde and I know that the character Dorian wants to remain young and beautiful forever so he somehow transfers part of himself to his own portrait. The portrait ages, Dorian does not.
But that’s all I know. I didn’t know that the story  apparently gets much darker and deeper than that.
Obviously I’m going to have to read that now. It was already on my list but now it’s been moved closer to the top of that list.
The Dorian Gray character on Penny Dreadful is, so far, pretty fascinating. He’s got a vampire-ish (Vampiresque?) thing going on. Pale skin, dark hair falling into his eyes, well dressed, often exposing a good portion of his pale chest, rings on several fingers, silver chain-like necklaces, bit of a preoccupation with blood….
You get the picture.

In addition to great characters and visual presentation Penny Dreadful also has great dialogue. For one thing, it’s set in Victorian London so by default the language would already be pretty rich- and it is. It’s also very quick, smart, and clever.
For example, you’ve got Dr. Frankenstein and his “monster” -characters created by Mary Shelley- quoting the poetry of her husbandPercy Bysshe Shelley.
Ah, I see what they did there, very clever.
And Dr. Frankenstein’s creation names himself after another poet, John Clare. (But I didn’t get that one on my own, I stumbled across it on Google while searching other things.)

There’s lots of dark romantic poetry quoted throughout the series, at least so far. I’m only up to season 2, episode 3. (“The Nightcomers”) However, based on the little I’ve read about the show it looks like poetry is a staple throughout the series.
I’m actually learning a lot watching this show. Poetry, history, vocabulary- I keep having to look up words! But I like doing that sort of thing. The dialogue in Penny Dreadful is so delicious that they don’t really need to add poetry to it, but it’s awesome that they do.

If this belief from heaven be sent, if such be nature’s holy plan
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man
(Wordsworth)

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream
The Earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light
The glory and the freshness of a dream..
(Wordsworth)


More Quotes from Penny Dreadful 

You’re a man with a bloody knife like everyone else out there, so stop putting on airs.

Do you know anything about electrical currents? Your country is making such strides as we labor in the dark ages of coal and peat.
Have you any experience with the principles and applications of galvanism?

Sir, I have urgent need of a necropsy. Will you assist us?…

Lividity, null.
Rigor mortis, null.
Notable ocular hyperemia. 
Ocular reaction, null.
Dental malformation, not naturally occurring due to isotropy.

Nature’s rarely so neat, nature abhors symmetry.

Trauma and penetration of the chest cavity through the manubrium seems the likely cause of death,
but I expect you know that.

Well, it would appear you have an Egyptian man of no particular age, who, at some point in his indeterminate lifespan, decided to sharpen his teeth, cover himself in hieroglyphics and grow an exoskeleton. 
Or you have something else altogether.

Trust me, those Egyptians were a bit madcap when it came to specifics.

Isn’t that a delicious word?
Papyri?
Sounds like something eaten by little Persian boys, doesn’t it?

Life and death… The flicker that separates one from the other, fast as a bat’s wing, more beautiful than any sonnet. That is my river. That is my mountain. There I will plant my flag. 

You seem to be a freethinker who might imagine a world less constrained by what we think we know of as truth.

Man does not live only in the empirical world.

But if one is to engage with the primordial forces of darkness, one must expect a bit of… social awkwardness.

I am not a creation of the antique pastoral world. I am modernity personified. 

Is the language not rich with felicity of expression?

And most of those are from episode 1 alone!

Also, just a few of the interesting words I’ve learned…

cutaneous eccrine pores
tensile exoskeleton
Solipsistic self-aggrandizement
piquantry (or maybe piquancy)
Atropa belladonna (Deadly nightshade)
erythrocytes
thrombocytes
dilettantes
predation

 ephemeral: transitory, lasting a very short time

Demimonde: In Penny Dreadful it refers to the “other” world, a place between life and death, or as the character Vanessa Ives puts it, “A half-world between what we know and what we fear”. The literal French translation is indeed half-world.
The definitions I found via Google:
a group of people considered to be on the fringes of respectable society.
(19th-century France) the class of women considered to be of doubtful morality and social standing.

I’ve also learned about the name/term itself.
Again from Google, penny dreadful: a cheap, sensational comic or storybook.
I think they were more like comic books than storybooks, and very inexpensive, hence the word ‘penny.’ (Obviously.)

So, like I said, I’m just barely in to season 2. Finally there are some witches involved. Although, these are very strange, very creepy kind of witches. Evil. And I don’t like that Penny Dreadful is so heavy with the devil theme so, like I said, I’m not sure how long I’m going to stick with this. I prefer my witches more along the lines of Hermione, Sabrina, and Samantha. ; )
I didn’t expect Penny Dreadful to be this intense. I thought it was going to be something fun like The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, but it’s more gory and shocking than it is fun. Fascinating and smart, yes, but also very, very gory. Sometimes even disturbing.
Once November comes I’ll be in Christmas mode and will not want to watch something like this. But it’s cool for now and even strangely inspiring- I really feel the urge to paint. Huh. Go figure.
Anyway, Penny Dreadful adds a little bit of edginess to my quiet normal suburban little life. I like my entertainment to be edgy- not my life. I like my life calm and peaceful. And these days I can achieve that most of the time.

 

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Review: An Old-Fashioned Girl, final thoughts

So much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

I haven’t had time for blogging this past week. It’s very difficult to blog when you have kids at home all day. However, several weeks ago I did a 2nd, more in depth review of An Old-Fashioned Girl. It’s practically an essay! Only god knows why I do this, why I write so much… Why in the world would I write an essay that no one is going to read?! Why?!
But it’s a good thing I did, I guess, because I don’t have anything else to post nor time to come up with anything else.
So, here you go- my 2nd review of An Old-Fashioned Girl, written several weeks ago.

As I was saying…

So much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

I did a review of An Old-Fashioned Girl on June 30th, but in that one I focused more on a character comparison and analysis of Polly and Fanny, especially Polly.
In this review I will still have a few more things to say about Polly, but I will focus more on the novel itself and its themes.

I thought this story was going to be nothing more than Poor Girl and Rich Girl find that they can learn from each other. But it’s so much more than that. I was really surprised by how long this story was! It isn’t the longest book, in terms of pages, that I’ve ever read, but I think it seemed longer because it moves kind of slowly. It isn’t boring though, at least not to a reader like me who really enjoys 19th century novels.
The characters are entertaining and very distinct from one another, and a lot happens in the novel, but most of the events are minor and unfold slowly. There was, however, one plot twist at the end that I did not see coming. (Excellent!)
Another thing to note about this novel is that it is told in two parts. Part two begins 6 years after the end of part one, but in a way they seem like two totally separate books.

If you’ve read Little Women it’s hard not to make comparisons between it and An Old-Fashioned Girl. The length, scope, and pace of each story is very similar. The setting and characters and their interactions are also similar. Both books deal with regular day-to-day life events, as well as common milestones. Both stories are very tame, mild, and wholesome, and have several very clear opinions, themes, and moral lessons which are presented throughout the story . . .

The rich unfairly judge and snub the poor, love is more powerful than poverty, poverty can be a great teacher, self-improvement leads to a good life, hard work and purpose are essential for a good life, what you do is more important than what you wear, little girls shouldn’t grow up too quickly, one should strive to be as selfless as possible, doing for others is one of the keys to happiness, women should help lift each other up, the bond between women is very important and empowering . . . etc., etc., (I’ve also noticed that death and grief seem to be recurring themes in LMA’s stories.)
The brilliant part, and why LMA’s work is widely considered to be so enduring, is that these things are still very relevant today- as anyone who reviews either book will point out.

After reading An Old-Fashioned Girl I think that the theme and belief most important to Louisa was “work and purpose.” Time and time again this is directly stated throughout the novel, either by the narrator or the novel’s extra-perfect “little Polly.” I know this won’t go over well with some readers, but sometimes Polly was so perfect that it was down right annoying. She was like Mary freakin’ Poppins! “Practically Perfect In Every Way.”

However, Polly was likable, and even occasionally relatable- she has hopes and dreams, she cries and doubts. As I stated in my first review, Polly was an interesting character, but  not an entirely realistic one. She represents the ideals that LMA holds so dear, she is the story’s protagonist and catalyst.
Much more realistic are the members of the Shaw family, especially Mr. Shaw, Tom, and Fanny, who are so very flawed that they all eventually find themselves very unhappy, but they each achieve great personal growth and happiness by novel’s end. Personal growth and self-improvement are also major themes in Little Women.  Based on what I’ve read by LMA fans these themes are in almost all of her work.

Now, back to “work and purpose.” In the story, Polly, who is poor, is often much happier than her best friend, Fanny.  Despite the money, conveniences, and luxuries she has, Fanny is often dissatisfied with her life. Polly encourages her to try and find something to do. She tries to persuade Fanny that if she had a purpose she would be happier. As the story moves on, Fanny comes to believe this more and more, and to her relief and satisfaction it eventually happens.

” . . . feeling that at last necessity had given her what she had long needed, something to do.”

“I shall groan and moan by and by, I dare say, but . . . I’m half glad it’s happened, for it takes me out of myself, and gives me something to do.”

Through An Old-Fashioned girl, Louisa May Alcott adamantly declares that people without something substantial and meaningful to do will not be happy. Idleness leads to “listlessness,” meanness, and possibly a depressed-like state. Work and purpose make for a good life, they keep a person happy and healthy.

“. . . Polly came to know a little sisterhood of busy, happy, independent, girls, who each had a purpose to execute, a talent to develop, an ambition to achieve, and brought to the work patience and perseverance, hope and courage. . . . All these helped Polly . . . for purpose and principle are the best teachers we can have, and the want of them makes half the women in America what they are, restless, aimless, frivolous, and sick.”

I agree wholeheartedly! I know from personal experience how true this is.
But you need love too, especially in childhood. True, LMA included the theme of love in this story- Polly’s family is very loving- but LMA did not directly state or emphasize the importance of love and affection to the degree that she did work and purpose.

I say that if love and affection are in place then, yes, bring on the work and purpose! These are absolutely necessary for human beings to be happy and healthy. This is true age-old wisdom going back thousands of years.

I have to say it again, so much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

The following are some of my favorite quotes from An Old-Fashioned Girl:

” . . . she received, from an unexpected source, some of the real help which teaches young people how to bear these small crosses, by showing them the heavier ones they have escaped . . .”

 

” . . . that indescribable something which women are quick to see and feel in men who have been blessed with wise and good mothers.”

 

” . . . hearts are so “contrary” that they won’t be obedient to reason, will, or even gratitude.”

 

” . . . soon she had other sorrows beside her own to comfort, and such work does a body more good than floods of regretful tears, or hours of sentimental lamentations.”

 

“I can’t sell myself for an establishment.”

 

” . . . so she put her love away in a corner of her heart, and tried to forget it, hoping it would either die, or have a right to live.”

 

“Blessings, like curses, come home to roost.”

 

” He exaggerated his faults and follies into sins of the deepest dye.”

“He was either pathetically humble or tragically cross.”

 

“Why are bad boys like cake?”
“Because a good beating makes them better.”

 

“Everybody fell to eating cake, as if indigestion was one of the lost arts.”

 

“The gentlest girls when roused are more impressive than any shrew; for even turtle doves gallantly peck to defend their nests.”

 

“Occasionally a matrimonial epidemic appears…”

 

” . . . love and labor, two beautiful old fashions that began long ago, with the first pair in Eden.”

 

“I’ve had so many plans in my head lately, that sometimes it seems as if it would split . . .”

. . . which is exactly how I’ve been feeling about this blog.

 

Quotes: After Alice

When I share my (many) thoughts on a book I’ve read, one thing I really like to do- one thing I feel compelled to do- is list my favorite quotes. Because I have so many thoughts on Gregory Maguire’s After Alice, and because I found so many interesting quotes, I decided it would be best to break it up into two parts, which will actually make it three parts as I already did a First Impressions review on June 26th. That was only about 16 or 17 days ago but feels as though it was months ago!

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A full review subtitled “Concluding Thoughts” will be posted next Sunday, July 16th.
This book was full of clever and witty quotes, but I had to narrow it down. The following lines are my favorite quotes from After Alice. Some of them are repeats from my First Impressions post.

 

” . . . where in all these enterprises of thought and institution is Lydia herself?  What is the character of Lydia, and where the soul of Lydia . . .

“And where, for that matter, is Alice?”

“It’s as if a botanical display and an athletic contest and a gypsy circus have all set themselves up in a hippodrome of some sort.”

“Up until ten minutes ago, Ada had not had much experience in the practice of imagination.”

“Miss Armstrong was aware that imagination, often a cause of temptation and unrest, could also serve the soul. . .”

” . . . . the tilting of an eyebrow. This was too obscure a hieroglyphic for the Vicar to decipher, no matter how Miss Armstrong concentrated the pure fire of her being in the muscles of her forehead. One day she would self-immolate . . . . Spontaneous combustion caused by an eyebrow left to smolder a moment too long.”

“The world pauses for royalty and deformity alike, and sometimes one can’t tell the difference.”

“Her gait was still lopsided, but so was the world, so she kept on.”

“Evolution a mighty power, could it yield up creatures capable of argument.”

“I have no use for tea, after all. My mother has died . . .  She is, consequently, dead. She had a big head like mine and Alice’s and it’s my opinion that it simply exploded.”

“The instinct toward panic, once experienced, cannot be unlearned.”

“The Queen of Hearts has a robust temper, you see. And anger gives one an appetite. So her edible guests do try to keep her from losing her temper.”

“I understand there is to be an execution.”
“What is to be executed?” asked the Lion.
“Manners and fine taste . . . .” 

They were going to the garden party . . . and we will be wanting to get there before long.” [Said Ada.] You may want that,” said the White Queen.I want peace among all nations. Either that or lemon drop, I can’t decide.”
(Lemon drop?  A nod to Professor Dumbledore? I suspect so, because the White Queen also has a magic cloak.)

“My,” said Ada, laying the dead rose on the peaty moss. “Life is a very cheap thing here.”
“Cheap and dear all at once,” said the Rose from her grave. “That’s the thing. You’ll figure it out sooner or later.”

” . . . the White Queen and the White Knight. Generally adults were a failure, but these two managed failure well.”

“All of life hinges on what one does next, until finally one makes the wrong choice. But was that this moment?”

“She had no intention of stripping to her smalls in a court of law, however deranged the audience.” 

Though usually a dreamer of commonplace notions, once in a while Ada had enjoyed dreams of flying. So she was hardly surprised to find herself not only capable but skilled at this . . . She moved upward in a spiral . . . She disobeyed earlier advice and looked up rather than down.

” [The] essayist’s point is about the urgency of not being dislodged from one’s deepest beliefs. No matter how beset one might be.”
“Perhaps we are meant and made to shift our beliefs.”
“If we are ‘made’ or ‘meant,’ then someone must have made or meant us.”

 

 

 

 

My To-Read List: books and blogs

Books, books, books, books, books, books, books!

A frenzy of reading! I haven’t read this much in a very long time. It’s great to be back!

I fully intended to start reading again. I went through a little reading lapse about this time last year, but I always knew I’d get back into it. I guess it kind of started with The Snow Queen and other winter tales. Then things really took off when my mother-in-law gave me After Alice and a fellow blogger lead me to An Old-Fashioned Girl. And somewhere in there I also started Vanity Fair although I have no idea why . . .

Anyway, I had to put Alice on pause while I read Old-Fashioned Girl. Now I’m almost finished with Alice and I already have two new books lined up- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Yes Please by actress Amy Poehler, given to me by a friend when I mentioned I had been recently binge-watching Parks and Rec on Netflix. (And loving it.)

As for the other one, when I went to see Alice Through the Looking Glass with my son and mother-in-law we saw previews for an amazing new fantasy/sci-fi movie- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Let me tell you, we are pumped about seeing that movie!
I for one was totally shocked because I remembered seeing that book everywhere last year, but the whole time I thought it was a horror novel! I mean, look at that cover! Creepy. Very creepy. And I CANNOT read horror stories or watch scary movies, I can’t sleep for months if I do. So I never read that stuff.

MissPPeculiarChildren
But now after seeing the previews for the moving, and finding out that it’s actually a fantasy novel, I really, really want to read that book! During the movie preview for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children I mentioned to my mother-in-law that it was also a book. I’m pretty sure that she said, right then and there, that she would get it for us so we could read it before the movie came out. Well, she called me last week to let me know she was in Barnes & Noble buying the books and that she would be mailing mine to me the next day.
It arrived on Thursday and it’s been taunting me ever since.
I’m dying to read it!!!
But I have to finish the others first.

However, I will take a sneak peak at the first line of the novel. I have a strange love and thrill for the first line in novels. The first line is special. It’s like when two people meet for the first time not knowing they’re going to end up spending the rest of their lives together. An entire lifetime together, a family’s whole history starts with that one tiny moment. With books it starts with that first sentence, a sentence that was written not knowing it would become part of literary history.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged . . .”

 

And the first line of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, 

 

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

(Very promising start!)
Reading After Alice and being part of the Louisa May Alcott reading challenge has been quite the learning experience. It’s been fun and enlightening, but also exhausting!- especially taking part in the reading challenge with other bloggers. I’ve been reading and writing my heart out and it’s been great! I’ve learned so much about blogging, I’ve “met” some new people, and discovered some really cool and interesting new blogs and websites.

AmberSeah.worpress.com | She’s an 80’s girl, an 1880’s girl
InTheBookcase.blogspot.com | a place where books belong 
AnneBronte.org
ItsSimplyGrace.blogspot.com Fictionally. Books. Writing. Imagination
SusanBailey.org
RelevantObscurity.com
 A book centered life
And, probably my favorite website name of all time, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com.

I don’t expect to very often find anything for me on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books because I just can’t get into “trashy” romance novels, but I had to include it here because the name is just so damn awesome! But also because it really is a very good site, and they do review more than “trashy” romance novels.

Well, I guess that’s it for now. I’m off to finish After Alice and then it’s on to Miss Peregrine’s.  After that, maybe Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, or I might go back to Vanity Fair.
We’ll see.

Review: My first impressions of After Alice

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After Alice is a Gregory Maguire novel. He’s the guy who wrote Wicked, the novel that tells the Wizard of Oz story from the perspective of the so-called wicked witch of the west.
After Alice is, obviously, a spin on the Alice in Wonderland novel(s). To me the title has a double meaning, and the book, in fact, tells two separate stories. What was going on with everyone else- friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances- after Alice fell down that rabbit hole? The reader is also introduced to Ada, the little girl who also somehow falls down into Wonderland (although it is never called that) sometime after Alice had already descended. Once down there, Ada comes to the conclusion that maybe this strange place is where Alice has disappeared to and decides to go after Alice, to find her and bring her back home, if she can.
So, that’s a brief synopsis.
Now, my first thoughts and impressions of After Alice. . .

Big words. This is why I think Gregory Maguire writes- to use big, obscure words that most people have never heard of, let alone understand.

For example,

aspidistra      comportment      miasma      cozen/cozened      descants
bucholia         ellipsis                   vatic            self-immolate       martinet
camphor        churlish                 gibbet         dipsomania            crepuscular
farrago            purloined             unguent      opodeldoc               hydrocephalic
pellucid          portents                denizen       bosh                         folderol
kitted

Yes, I actually wrote them all down. As I was reading After Alice I became so fascinated by the incredible amount of unfamiliar words and phrases that I felt compelled to start making a list. What I listed above is only part of what I recorded on paper here at home, and includes only up to chapter 7!
Now, to be honest, I haven’t done any research on Maguire at all, so maybe there is an article or something out there that explains why he writes using such obscure language. With that said, I think one possible explanation as to why he uses such strange words in After Alice is that he is writing for the time period in which the story is set. Just a theory…

However, on the back of the book jacket of After Alice there is a quote from the Los Angeles Times regarding Wicked which describes that novel as “A staggering feet of wordcraft. . . .”

Exactly. Wordcraft. The words come first. The story- the tale being told- is secondary. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance, and determination for me to read a Gregory Maguire novel. And I state this unequivocally despite the fact that I’ve read only 1 and 1/2 books by him. A few years ago I read Wicked. It was difficult, but I did finish it. (I also saw the play. The play is much better.) And, a bit challenging though it may be, I WILL finish After Alice. I am, as I’ve said, determined. I will conquer it. That’s why I stuck with and ultimately finished Wicked even though it took me forever to get into it, and it’s why I will do the same with After Alice- TO CONQUER IT, to beat it, to win! I can’t let the book win!
This is a new sensation for me.
I’ve never read any book to “beat” it. I read books that I actually like, books that are fun and interesting with characters and stories that I love, relate to, and learn from. I read books to relax, I read books because I enjoy them- not to conquer or beat them as though reading is some sort of battle or struggle between book and reader. Or reader and author.

At this point (Sunday June 26th, 2016, approximately 1:00 am) I am a little more than half way through After Alice. It took several chapters but I finally understood what was going on, and now that I’m getting close to finishing the book I can say that the story– once the author finally gets to it- is actually pretty good and interesting. It’s also, from what I can remember, much easier to follow than Wicked.
I was just talking to my mother-in-law about this today (well, yesterday, technically.) She’s the one, as I mentioned in a previous post, who gave me her copy of After Alice. She’s  read Wicked as well, and we (along with several other readers we know) share the same sentiments regarding Gregory Maguire’s unusual writing style. We don’t care for his style of storytelling, but he is a good writer. The following are some of my favorite quotes (so far) from After Alice.

“Depending upon the hour, a governess in a troubled household is either a ministering angel or an ambulatory munitions device.”

“Ada, not a deeply imaginative child, believed the cows were resistant to conversation.”

“But she was a good girl. On the way out, she slammed the sewing room door only a little.”

“Mrs. Boyce lay squalid in self-forgiveness.”

“Miss Armstrong was aware that imagination, often a cause of temptation and unrest, could also serve the soul. . .”

“Miss Armstrong sometimes tried to communicate her yearning for recognition as a feminine entity by the tilting of an eyebrow. This was too obscure a hieroglyphic for the Vicar to decipher, no matter how Miss Armstrong concentrated the pure fire of her being in the muscles of her forehead. One day she would self-immolate . . . . Spontaneous combustion caused by an eyebrow left to smolder a moment too long.”

“The world pauses for royalty and deformity alike, and sometimes one can’t tell the difference.”

“She’d fall forever and never land. She’d be the world’s first internal asteroid.”

“She’d stood there for sometime, poking the pyre of coals so that no evidence of her own corruption survived. . .”

“Up until ten minutes ago, Ada had not had much experience in the practice of imagination.”

“Marmalade has to make its own way in life, like the rest of us. . . .”

“She’d have to take up a hobby of some sort if she were to fall for eternity.”

“Her gait was still lopsided, but so was the world, so she kept on.”

“No one can ever know the answer to that question. It is existentially, hyperbolically, quintessentially unknowable.”

“Evolution a mighty power, could it yield up creatures capable of argument.”

 

 

 

Book talk and thoughts: The Alice Coincidences

Something strange…
Something very, very strange has been happening…

strange: (adjective) unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.
Synonyms: extraordinary, unusual, odd, peculiar, funny, bizarre, weird, unexpected, puzzling, mystifying, perplexing, baffling, curious

Alice in Wonderland has been popping up in my life the past few weeks, but especially over the past weekend. First of all, I knew several weeks ago that the movie Through the Looking Glass was coming out soon. I was looking forward to seeing it since I like movies like that and I really liked the first one.
Then, enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 1.
About 14 days ago I got a book from the library to help me with part of my current ‘family situation’- Understanding The Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson. It drew me in right away. I took to it and liked it immediately, not only because it’s one of the most validating books I’ve ever got my hands on, but because the author incorporated quotes and themes from the novels Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Brilliant.
Absolutely brilliant.
Why, you ask, is that so brilliant?
Because the quotes and themes from Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland novels fit Lawson’s book, or any book about BPD, like a pair of True Religion jeans. (So I’ve heard.) The home life of a child being raised by a parent who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) truly is like living in the “Wonderland” depicted in Lewis Carroll’s novels.

A place full of contradictions, denial, and doubt. Consistency is unheard-of, everything is unpredictable, nothing makes sense- riddles with no solution, questions with no right answers, questions you have no right to answer, and you have no right to ask questions! Up is down, down is up. Wrong is right, right is wrong. Quietly accept the unacceptable. Silently tolerate the irate, intolerant tyrant. Trust is fantasy, denial is reality. Every path you choose is the wrong way. There is no right way! It’s not a maze, it’s a trap!  A game with ever-changing rules made up by the self-appointed tyrannical “queen.” (She has mistaken the horns on her head for a crown.) You have to follow the rules she’s made but she doesn’t. And when you try to tell her that there seems to be no way to win or end the game, she insists there isn’t a game at all! She looks at you like you’re crazy! But you know she’s the crazy one!
The audacity! The absurdity! It’s maddening!
But you know the truth. You do. You know it… You know you do…. and yet…. and yet… When the “queen” decides to play nice again you start to doubt your former perceptions… And before long she bullies, corners, traps, isolates, confuses, and silences you yet again. And on and on it goes, back and forth, back and forth-  until the anger and frustration build up within you so much that you really do start to feel crazy.

Understanding+the+Borderline+Mother

The author of  Understanding the Borderline Mother has dubbed this “Borderland.” When I talk to my therapist, husband, or close friends about my mother and the things she has done and said, I like to use the term “the twilight zone.”

twilight zone: (noun) a situation or state of mind seemingly between reality and fantasy, a region or context located in between others and therefore not subject
to their norms, a region in which surreal, bizarre, and incongruous events occur . . .
I’ve never watched an episode of The Twilight Zone, but I heard people use that phrase when I was growing up so I guess it just kind of stuck with me. I have, however, read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I had to read it for a lit class back in high school and I really, really loved it. When I picked up Understanding the Borderline Mother I was pleasantly surprised to see quotes from one of my favorite books. I love quotes! Especially when used so creatively. I wish I could go into further detail about how well the author incorporated the themes and quotes from “Alice” into her book, but that will be for another post. Below are some of my favorite “Alice” quotes used the book:

“I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

 

“. . . they don’t seem to have any rules in particular: at least, if there are, nobody attends to them- and you’ve no idea how confusing it is . . .”

 

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”  “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

 

“Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in all her life before, and she felt that she was losing her temper.”

 

“You know very well you’re not real.” “I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.”

 

“I know they’re talking nonsense,” Alice thought to herself, “and it’s foolish to cry about it.” So she brushed away her tears and went on, as cheerfully as she could.”

This really makes me want to read  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland again. I always planned on reading it again, and I will, but it will be a slightly different experience this time around. I’ll never think of that book the same way again. I also want to read Through the Looking Glass, which brings me to Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 2., After Alice.

I saw the Through the Looking Glass movie with my mother-in-law this past weekend, but the interesting part is that before we even discussed going to see the movie together she gave me a copy of Gregory Maguire’s After Alice. I had no idea that he had done an “Alice” book. I read Wicked and I’m a little familiar with some of his other books- Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Son of a Witch, etc. But I had no idea about Alice.
When my mother-in-law gave me that book I just couldn’t believe it. Here they were AGAIN!
Alice. And Wonderland.
What do they want with me?
Enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 3.
Well, like I said, we saw the movie, and I noticed it was heavy on themes that really hit home for me- family, time, and the past. Namely, that we should treasure our family and understand that “we cannot change the past, but maybe we can learn from it.”

Family and learning from the past- these are both challenges for me, especially the family part. However, another very interesting thing about this past weekend, I spent a lot of time talking to my mother-in-law. I told her about the ‘situation’ with my mom. She asked me how my mom was doing, so I told her the truth. And then some. I told her things about my mom and my childhood that I had never told her before, and I’ve known her for 12 years.
I don’t know why I so strongly felt the need to tell her, but I did. It was very therapeutic. But why? I suppose it’s about validation again. Validation is so important. Author and psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen emphasizes the importance of having someone “bear witness” to our story. I get that, I really do. I agree that having someone listen to your tragic “tale of woe” is, somehow, immensely helpful and healing.
But how many times do I need to tell my story?
How many therapists have I told? How many times does my husband have to hear the same stories? And my friends? And now my blog. How many people need to bear witness before I’m satisfied!? And what, or who, is it in me that feels the need to purge all the time!? And is it really purging if it’s all still in there? Because even though I keep repeating and retelling- it’s still in there…
I know you can’t change the past. You can learn from it.
Well, I have learned from it! And now I’d like to move on!

facepalm

Now, about these Alice Coincidences- the new movie, the quotes popping up very unexpectedly in a mental health book, my mother-in-law giving me After Alice, seeing the movie with my mother-in-law (and my son), and then sharing details about my “Borderland” mother with my mother-in-law….
Are these coincidences pointing to a path? Should I follow? Should I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass before finally reading After Alice?

Or are these just silly coincidences that have no profound meaning and I should just let it go? Maybe that is the message. Let it go. Don’t go chasing Alice like she chased the White  Rabbit down the rabbit hole, don’t fall down into that dark hole…
Eh. It’s probably not that serious! Haha!

Well, I might read After Alice. I don’t like Gregory Maguire’s writing style, but I like the concept of revisiting well known stories from a different angle. And I like the challenge of reading his stuff-  ’cause it ain’t easy! Not for me anyway. However, I feel like I’ll get more out of After Alice if I read the original Alice stories first… We’ll see.

(After finishing this post I noticed another strange coincidence- I used an Alice clip art pic in the second post of this blog many, many months ago. So I went ahead and inserted it in this post as well.)

 

I actually completed my ‘About’ page. I’m satisfied and pretty proud.

Simply put, I love books and I love words. And that’s what this blog is about.

The name says it all. Words and Plots: The words and plots of my favorite books, the words and plots of my life. Hi, I’m Mindy Parrish. I love books, I love to read. My family is crazy.
Books saved my life.

Other (more wordy) ways to describe this blog,

A well organized, well researched, masterfully articulated blog showcasing masterful articulation….
A blog highlighting and celebrating creative, intelligent, inspiring language and stories….
A blog about novels, books, stories, writing, poetry and prose…
A blog about my passion for words and the art of storytelling…
A sophisticated wonderland of quotes, reviews, insights, and intelligent reflections!

Well, I can’t make promises regarding the sophisticated wonderland or intelligent reflections, but I can promise there will be lots of quotes and lots of enthusiastic “reviews” of my favorite novels and short stories. I can also promise venting and raging, monologue style lamentations, and random angry ramblings regarding personal family drama.
After all, “my babbling capabilities are infinite.” (~Lorelai Gilmore)

 

 

Monday Moon Post: Jane Eyre

If you’d rather get right to the moon quotes you can scroll down to the bottom of this post until you see the moon pictures. I’ll get to Jane Eyre and the moon quotes momentarily, but first…

I am so tired. Yes, I know I sound like a broken record, but really, I am tired. There’s been a lot going on- school shopping, grocery shopping, a very long day at the zoo, 90 minutes spent at my son’s new high school just to get his schedule and locate only half of his classes, a very unexpected bachelorette party on Saturday night, a baby’s 1st birthday party yesterday afternoon, and then last night we went to the Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. We had a 2 hour drive there and back and we didn’t get home until just after midnight. This morning I had to get up at 7 to take my 14-year-old son to a friend’s house for a day trip to an amusement park. Well, first I was woken up around 5 by some very strange dreams, but there was still time for me to go back to sleep before my alarm went off. However, I wasn’t able to that because my son was already up and already in trouble. He had been up since about 5- watching YouTube and playing games on his tablet, and he knows he isn’t supposed to do that! So my husband took the tablet from him and put it in our room. And what does my son do? He gets on his laptop!

I know what you’re thinking, Why does he have a tablet AND a laptop?
answer: GRANDPARENTS!
That’s why!
Grrrrrrr! Curse them and their desire to bestow expensive gifts on my children!

So I went in his room and demanded he get off and then of course lectured him about this and that and everything else, which I know isn’t exactly effective, but damn it I’m tired! He is driving me crazy….

Anyway, where was I? Oh, that’s right- busy. Parties, a football game, family stuff, kid stuff, preparing for a new school year, etc….. Prior to all this, or in the midst of it, my brother Nick texted me one night:

[Have you heard about Daniel?  I just found out tonight.]

Ok, honestly, I thought he was about to tell me that our brother was dead. I’m serious. My brother’s situation is that bad. As I said in my first post he is basically homeless. He tells my mom that he sometimes sleeps in abandoned houses, and, believe me, the part of town he frequents has no shortage of abandoned houses. Sometimes he sleeps on a random home’s porch or in an unused garage. People have called the police to have him removed. He is always asking my mom for money, or demanding it from her. And it’s always denominations of 20. Years ago it was, “Hey, can I get $20?” He would always have some desperate reason why he needed it- medicine, bus money, he owes someone, etc… But it was all lies. If anyone agreed to give him $20 then it would turn into $40. “Well, actually 40 would be better” he’d say, but he would settle for $20 if you told him it was all you could do. Then it became $40 or $60, and the story was that he needed it to pay for Suboxone or a hotel room.
No one will let him live with them because he steals. He’s stolen from my mom’s house I can’t tell you how many times. She finally stopped letting him come back. She did, however, very recently get him a pre-paid cell phone so he would have a better chance at complying with his probation. (More on that later.) And what did he do with it? He sold it. He claimed it was stolen but he always says that. We know he sold it. Almost anything my mom has given him since he was 18 he has sold. Maybe some of the stuff was lost or stolen, but we think a lot of it was pawned, sold on the street, or traded in exchange for drugs. You can’t give him anything- he will turn into drugs.
He’s on probation because he broke into Nick’s apartment- for the 2nd time. That’s right, he robbed his own brother. Twice. The first time he got in by smashing the siding glass door. He stole Nick’s flat screen TV, Xbox and games, and some cash. The 2nd time Daniel broke in he did it through an upstairs window. He stole Nick’s brand new Xbox One, the few games he had for it- oh, and his car. A few days later he was caught by the police in that stolen car and was arrested. (Stolen copper pipes were also found in the backseat). The Xbox was already pawned of course. Finger prints- actually an entire hand print- confirmed it was him who broke into the upstairs window. These are felonies, Buddy. You’re going down.
He spent some time in jail, had to detox alone in a cell with nothing more than pain reliever to “help” him through it. Believe me, it was very difficult thinking of him going through that alone…  He would be in prison right now but, because these were non-violent crimes committed by a person who is clearly an addict, he was released under certain conditions. He was given a place at a homeless shelter and was supposed to report to a probation officer for daily drug testing. The program would also help get him a job and into an out-patient rehab program.
I would say, “Well, that didn’t last long,” but it never even began. As soon as he was out he was right back to it- lying, asking for money (40, 60, 80), crying about not having anywhere to live and claiming he had to leave the homeless shelter because it was infested with bed bugs. It probably is, but so is any other place he can find to crash. He has the nerve to claim he’s not on drugs, that he needs money for a place to stay the night, but we know it’s not true. My mom doesn’t give him money anymore, no one does. So I find myself wondering at times, What does he do to get the drugs he wants/needs?
I’m sure I don’t want to know…

People just like him- addicts- are found dead everyday in the neighborhoods where he drifts and wanders. Bodies are found in empty condemned houses and apartments, in dumpsters…. Some have OD’d, some have been murdered.
So you can see how I thought Oh god, he’s dead when Nick texted me.

[Have you heard about Daniel?]

However, he was referring to Daniel not complying with his probation-which I already knew- and that no one had heard from him in a few weeks- which I did not know.
We have no way of contacting him. None whatsoever. Our only way of knowing he’s alive is that he calls our mom, but he apparently hasn’t done that in several weeks. This has happened before, but you never know. This time could be it….

Nick also texted to me, “I don’t know how to handle this.”

This is unusually candid for him. He is a man of few words and certainly not prone to confessions of an emotional nature. I was completely caught off guard. I really wanted to help him but I wasn’t sure how. I know how to help myself, I know what I need to do to “handle” (deal with) the chaos and heartache that my family creates, but what works for me won’t necessarily work for Nick. I’m the only one in my family who has been open to therapy/counseling. I’ve suggested this to Nick several times before, but he was always pretty clear about not wanting to go that route. I think for him therapy has always been a last resort. However, I know that Daniel’s sad life and addiction hurts (and angers) Nick more than it does me. When it comes to Daniel I have been able to achieve a great deal of detachment- Nick has not. And finally here he was reaching out for help. I figured there was no point in suggesting therapy again so I suggested Al-Anon, which has also been immensely helpful to me.  I wanted to suggest both Al-Anon and counseling, but I didn’t think he’d go for it. However, to my surprise, when I texted him about Al-Anon he texted back that he was thinking of counseling.
Well, I jumped all over the chance to encourage that! He said he didn’t know where to start so I gave him a few ideas, but I tried to make sure I didn’t overwhelm him.

So with all that’s been going on it’s no surprise that I’ve had a little anxiety. One night recently I was experiencing some chest pains and shortness of breath. Sometimes when I’m anxious, and especially when my mind is racing with absurd chaotic thoughts, I have a little prayer that I slowly repeat to myself. It helps me calm down.

Peace in my mind
Peace in my heart
Faith in the Kingdom
Faith in the Guard

The first two lines are pretty basic- a simple and concise declaration for a peaceful state of mind and body. The second two lines were inspired by one of the most beautiful lines I have ever read:

“…there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits; that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us”

That is from the novel Jane Eyre (one of my favorites!), which, oddly enough, finally brings me to the quotes for Moon Post Monday. The first time I read Jane Eyre I was very surprised by the number of times the moon was mentioned and it really stuck with me. I made note of the best of them and here they are….

 

“…when the moon, which was full and bright, came in her course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked in at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me. Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk– silver-white and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn…”

moon window silver white

“He saw me, for the moon had opened a blue field in the sky, and rode in it watery bright.”

“The east had its own charm of fine deep blue, and its own modest gem, a rising and solitary star; soon it would boast the moon, but she was yet beneath the horizon.”

“On the hill top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud, but brightening momentarily…”

 

“…for I am to take mademoiselle to the moon, and there I shall seek a cave in one of the white valleys among the volcano-tops, and mademoiselle shall live with me there…”

“…the moon appeared momentarily… her disk was blood-red and half overcast. She seemed to throw on me one bewildered, dreary glance, and buried herself again instantly in the deep drift of cloud.”

moon red

“…the sea, which I could hear from thence, rumbled dull like an earthquake- black clouds were casting up over it; the moon was setting in the waves, broad and red, like a hot cannon-ball– she threw her last bloody glance over a world quivering with the ferment of tempest.”

 

 

Making Progress: Blogging, but not reading

In my last post I said that I haven’t been reading lately, which was kind of a lie…. I have been reading, but not anything new. One night a few months ago I picked up the Tao of Pooh again because I couldn’t sleep. It’s an interesting, mildly entertaining read and -most importantly- it was helping me fall asleep. After about 2 weeks The Tao of Pooh was getting annoying so I stopped reading it and started reading Jane Austen instead. I started with both Mansfield Park and Emma and decided to stick with Emma. I’ve been reading that for the last few weeks whenever I’m having trouble falling asleep. Reading Jane Austen is, for me, like eating a warm, gooey grilled cheese sandwich or chocolate chip cookie- it’s comforting.

Sarah Addison Allen wrote, “Sometimes it’s a comfort just to have a book around.”

That’s how I feel about Jane Austen novels. Having them there is a comfort, reading them is soothing. So when I read a Jane Austen novel I’m not reading it to read- I’m reading it for comfort, to relax and calm down. It doesn’t exactly count as reading. Know what I mean?
I swear I’m going to read a new book soon! But not just yet. I’d rather wait until the kids are back in school. Only 8 more days now.
But what to read? ….What to read…?

Think, think, think.

Hmmm… I went to the Dublin Irish Fest this past Friday. Dublin is a suburb of Columbus and its annual Irish Festival is HUGE. Of course I loved it, I always do. It’s amazing. There is so much to do and see and hear at any given moment. It’s a very inspiring atmosphere and it gave me an idea about what I might read next. I discovered last summer that Oscar Wilde is the author responsible for some of the best, most famous quotes ever, and he was Irish. Two of my favorite Wilde quotes:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

and,

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

There is such wisdom in that one especially. Such wisdom. And the same could be said for the company we choose to keep, or the TV and movies we choose to watch. What you put into your mind, who and what you surround yourself with, will undoubtedly influence your personality. I’ve seen and experienced this time and time again.
There are two other quotes I’d like to mention. I can really relate to these.

“I am too fond of reading books to care to write them.”

and,

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

The last one is basically why this blog exists, the reason why I wanted to start a blog in the first place. I am completely enamored with intelligent, creative language, but that doesn’t mean I’m really good at it! (Oh, how I wish I was!) So I substitute the wit of others in place of my own. Like Mary (played by Jennifer Lopez) says in The Wedding Planner, “Those who can’t wed, plan.” I say, “Those who can’t write, quote.” Or, “Those who aren’t quick, quote.” I think I’m a decent writer, but I know I’m not quick witted- not verbally and not when I’m put on the spot. I’ve had my moments here and there, but it’s not often. However, if I have the time to think about it and write it down, then I have a better chance of displaying some amount of wittiness, but nothing profound. Nothing like Oscar Wilde, or Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. That entire book is quotable, it’s just one big quote- the whole thing! That’s what prevents me from attempting to write a novel- I don’t think I could write anything that’s as good as what I read. I’ve said I want to write books since I was ten, but so far I’ve been too much of a chicken to do much about it. Sad, isn’t it?

But, you know what makes me happy?
Sally Field as Miss Betsey Trotwood, that’s what!
Sally Field as Miss Betsey Trotwood?! Are you kidding me?!
What delicious bacon-wrapped goodness is this!? What did I do to deserve such a treat?

Much earlier this year I read my first Dickens- David Copperfield. Before reading it I did a little research about the novel and one thing that came up consistently was the strength and quality of the characters, and it did not disappoint. Enough cannot ever be said about the characters in David Copperfield. I could go on and on about that novel but truly it deserves its own post so it will all have to wait until then. Now, back to Sally Field. One night last week it suddenly occurred to me that I had been wanting to see if I could find a David Copperfield movie on Netflix. I ended up finding the TV movie (from 2000) on YouTube and watched it that night. I was up until 3 am! And I was so very pleasantly surprised to see Sally field as Miss Trotwood, I only wish there had been more of her!

When I do start reading maybe I’ll read David Copperfield again…. Or maybe it will be something by Oscar Wilde…. The Importance of Being Earnest… Or The Picture of Dorian Gray…. Hmmm…

Hermione would know what to read next.
Hermione would know what to read next.

Well, this certainly has been an eclectic post. Not the most organized or creative mass of words or ideas, but at least I did it. Getting something out there is better than not posting at all.
My next post will likely be on Monday, August 10th, and will mark (for me) the return of Moon Post Monday. It’s an idea I came up with when I was working on my last blog. I sort of stole the idea from another blog that I like and occasionally read, A Witch’s Ashram. (Formerly a WordPress blog but now on patheos.com.) The author of A Witch’s Ashram does Mantra Monday. I realized that I could do something similar with my collection of “moon quotes.” I love the moon; not for any profound or mystical reason, but simply because it’s pretty. (And doesn’t burn me, unlike the sun…) So over the past few years I have recorded or made note of dozens of moon quotes. Many writers have been inspired by the moon so those quotes are easy to come by. The Monday Moon Post can be as detailed and substantial as I want, or as simple as I may need at the time. It’s the type of post that can be done ahead of time and scheduled for “publishing” at a later date, which makes it a realistic way to ensure I post at least once a week- which, as you know, is essential to a successful blog.
See you Monday….