Margaret (never ever again to be Peggy!) was determined to hop a freight train to some faraway big city where she could become a famous author. Having recently read Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood”, she had found her vocation.
“The station’s just down here, Orville,” she cried out to her dog.
“English has always been my best subject at St. Gabriel’s, so I know I’ll be a good writer. Flannery’s symbol was the peacock,” she told him. “Mine can be dogs.”
“Has she called on her cell phone yet, Harvey?” her mother asked.
“Not yet, Shirley,” her father replied. “Give her time.”
I’ve always thought it would be so nice if Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote could meet Charlotte Bronte’s (Currer Bell’s) Jane Eyre. Bronte’s character was, virtually entirely, a rewritten version of the Cinderella story. Instead of a wicked stepmother and three wicked ugly stepsisters, she had a wicked aunt-in-law and three wicked ugly cousins. The unfair treatment she got was by way of the deliberate abuse they chose to heap upon her. By way of a variety of entirely mundane misadventures and hardships, she eventually married Mr. Edward Rochester, and they lived quite happily ever after. Cervantes’ Don, however, fell prey to all sorts of delusional fantasies that led to his trouble. That’s in the nature of the picaresque novel His Dulcinea of El Tobozo, in reality the homely peasant girl Aldonza Lorenzo, was as much of a distortion as everyone and everything else he dealt with. It’s quite a lopsided tale of courtly love. If the Don and Jane were ever to be properly introuduced, it would lead, I should suppose, to quite a colorful episode. The Don, quite aware of the fact that he is at all times obligated to treat a lady with absolute respect, would make every possible effort to be quite the gentleman in Jane’s company. Although she most certainly isn’t very comely of appearance, he may never notice. It’s quite possible that he may think she’s as lovely as he considered his Dulcinea. The pair would be driven to distraction because of all the distinctions between Counter-Reformation Spain and Victorian England. There would be significant religious differences. He’s quite the staunchly orthodox Catholic and she’s a demure Quaker lady. He may give her a bit of a speech pointing out to her all the problems with the errors of the Protestant Reformation. If he gets his hands upon Mrs. Reed and the Reed cousins there could be quiet a lot of big trouble. He’d have to be a bit tactful with Mrs. Reed, Eliza and Georgianna, but he’d really have to put Master John into his place. Sancho Panza would have to spend a lot of time keeping him in check. In Jane’s mundane world, where propriety is an absolute necessity at all times, the Don simply doesn’t fit in. She, however, politely accepts all his idiosyncracies, knowing quite well that he’s ultimately a gentleman. He could tell her all his tall tales and keep her petting Rozinante and Dapple. Jane understands what it’s like to be misunderstood and mistreated. At least hers is quite a practical approach to life. She could give him some pointers about how to deal with things in a more tactful and profitable manner. She would marvel at his and Sancho’s total lack of social skills. I should suppose that throughout their first meeting, the Rochesters and their new Spaniard friends would be quite taken aback at each other in seemingly insurmountable ways. After a while, however, both sides would be quite capable of accepting the fact that all could ultimately work out. The Spaniards would add color and excitement to the relationship, and their English friends, Mr. and Mrs. Rochester, could provide the voice of civility and etiquette. Such an extreme lack of compatibility could even be enjoyable.
A while ago I read a biography of the fourteenth century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer but until recently I’d somehow never read his “Canterbury Tales”. Considering what a compulsive bookworm I’ve always been, that’s quite a major shock. Recently I was looking through the book case downstairs in the den and I noticed that there was a copy of his famous classic narrative poem in standard English so I’ve begun reading it. So far I’m up to the Reeve’s Tale. Often, while reading for a long time, I become unavoidably distracted and my mind wanders. While reading the poem, I somehow spontaneously started thinking back to an incident involving my old friend Jimmy, when we were kids in our early teens. One day Jimmy and I had nothing better to do so in order to avoid boredom he started cracking corn. He never asked me to help him but, conveniently, I didn’t care. Often, if I let my guard down while reading, I start humming an old song or two. Last night I couldn’t help humming the Beatles’ classic, “Do You Want to Know A Secret?” My impatience gets me crazy like that but at least I always keep on trying to apply myself as conscientiously as possible to any task. Once I’ve set my mind to something I’m quite the determined character.
If I could have only one day during which I could have access to any and all luxuries, I should like to have an exceptionally fine gourmet meal, with all the best of possible liquor. There would be a bottomless pit of food and drink. All would be invited. A compulsive bookworm, I’d also really like to stock up on all my very favorite novels, plays, poems and short stories. Unfortunately one day would be entirely too short a time to make any significant travel possible, but perhaps I could fly to Europe at least in order to spend a little while there. Having always enjoyed fancy clothes, jewelry and cologne, I could see to it that I make quite an exceptionally enchanting appearance too. During my short trip I could visit all the best men’s stores in order to get decked out in all the most impressive styles. Of course my day couldn’t possibly be complete without my extending an invitation to Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, requesting that they serenade me with all their best songs. I’d buy an exceptionally nice guitar so I could join them. I’d want more but no one day could possibly include everything. Those are just the highlights.
A success story doesn’t have to be very spicy to be interesting, though it may be to the advantage of the individual that he have quite a few setbacks from which he may learn the occasional hard-earned lesson or two, before things start to work out really well for him. In a certain qualified sense, everything is relative. Nobody can truly recognize how interesting something truly is until he’s done without it for a significant length of time. According to Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, “Success is counted sweetest/by those who ne’er succeed. To comprehend a nectar/requires sorest need.” Anyone who’s never been begrudged things he’s wanted can never be counted on to appreciate what he’s gotten. According to Truman Capote, “failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” That’s something that can be truly appreciated by someone who’s gotten a lot of really bad breaks.
Recently Mary Anne and Steve had company, for a couple of days, from England. Alan and his teenage daughter Keziah seemed like quite a couple of exceptionally interesting likable characters. The live in Lancashire, very close to the Beatles’ hometown, Liverpool. One of the most frequent topics of conversation was the distinction between the American and British variations of the English language. They told us all about the story of Cockney rhyming slang, in which the speaker takes an expression that rhymes with a word, and he uses that expression instead of the word. Most of the time he uses the first word of the phrase instead of the word that rhymes. A slang term for “to believe” would be “Adam and Eve”, virtually always shortened to “Adam”. Having looked it up, since then, online, I’ve noticed that the Cockney version of English has quite a long and interesting history. Because I’ve always been so interested in conversations about the English language and its proper usage, I was quite interested in finding out all I could about the way people speak over on their side of the Atlantic, and even about their food and customs in general. I drink tea practically every day anyway lately but while they were here I drank it a few times each day. Conveniently I got a chance to take advantage of all my literary allusions. I ended up, over the course of the very short time they were here, getting quite a lot of insights about England’s history, traditions, and way of life in general.
If I were ever to be asked to devise a new zodiac sign for people who were born around my birthday, and to base it upon my character traits, it would have to incorporate my obnoxious sense of humor and imagination, along with all my intellectual interests and my perpetual tendency to be quite exceptionally suspicious and to feel uncomfortable with all things new, and with change. Those are perhaps the most significant properties I possess. People born around the tame time of year as I could be expected to have quite an insanely annoying tendency to bug the hell out of each other, and people in general, with all manner of silly antics. Our sense of the absurd would keep people truly on their toes by necessity. We all should have a tendency to think things through by way of a profoundly intense manner of considering things from the point of view of the conservative intellectual tradition, poring over the collected works of all the great minds who have contributed to western theology, philosophy, history and literature among other disciplines. Someone with a birthday during our time of year would also be known as perhaps a bit too much of a stick in the mud, entirely on unfriendly terms with change, and with a quite inordinate interest in the past. If someone under this sign simply inevitably must face up to change, he would only be capable of accepting it, grudgingly, if it happened quite slowly and incrementally. He’d be a bit on the oddly absent minded side, having a significantly easier time remembering things from decades in the past than from his every day life in the here and now. Assuming he could handle an intense dose of impatience and anxiety he’d be quite a jolly good character. The official symbol for this sign would be the beady-eyed square because we’re all such a bunch of beady-eyed squares, now aren’t we? Of course everyone knows that belief in horoscopes is just an ignorant backwoods superstition but if there were such a thing, that’s what mine would be like.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been quite a compulsive bookworm. There’s never been a time when I’ve gone for a significant period without reading something of at least some significance. I have quite an interest in classic western literature. Currently I’m reading both Jane Austen’s novel “Sense and Sensibility” and Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie”. Unfortunately I’ve been a bit lazy about them. Having gone on quite a streak with both for a long while, I somehow stopped reading them a few weeks ago. I have no idea why. It’s most certainly not because I haven’t been bothering to read anything. Over the course of that time I’ve been reading periodicals and all sorts of little things. Perhaps it’s because both those literary works subject my eyes to such an ominous chore but I simply haven’t yet gone back to either of them. I’m now reading both online and they’re so long and difficult. Unfortunately when this happens I sometimes don’t even bother to end up finishing what I’ve been reading. Impatience has always been quite an exceptionally bad problem for me. I intend to continue with them though. I’ve already read “Sense and Sensibility” a few times anyway. Throughout my lifetime I shall always read constantly. As with everything else I do, though, there will be rough spots.
I don’t know if there’s an ideal number of people for a conversation, debate or any other form of interpersonal communication. For me the deciding factor in a perfect conversation is the subject matter. Only a very short time ago I was involved in an exceptionally interesting conversation with my sister and three friends of hers, that involved topics ranging from literature to history. We ended up referring to people like Jane Austen, and presidential assassins Booth, Guiteau, Czolgosz and Oswald. That’s the kind of conversation that can really keep my undivided attention, whether it’s only in a small group, or in a classroom with more than three dozen people. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a very good idea to have an overwhelmingly large group because it would be too difficult to keep track of all that’s going on and to give everyone present a fair chance to participate. As long as all present are interested in the topic or topics of conversation, the number can vary. Of course I quite often enjoy a good interior monologue too. The cast of characters who populate my imagination can keep me company especially well.
“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness,” is a line from twentieth century poet and radical Allen Ginsberg, a major figure in both the 1950’s Beat Generation and the 1960’s counterculture. Having read quite a significant amount of Ginsberg’s work I can honestly say that I’m not interested in doing things his way. Although I understand that it can be nice, and even constructive, for someone to tap into his somewhat less than perfectly well behaved side, I don’t trust my darker impulses. Having found out the hard way, over the course of my lifetime, just exactly what kinds of things I’m capable of, I don’t especially like to tamper with forces that are so easily capable of getting out of control. In my writing I often enjoy exploring dark themes. Television shows from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, such as “One Step Beyond”, “The Twilight Zone”, “The Outer Limits”, and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” have always interested me. A conveniently detached observation of all the inexplicably strange offbeat things that go on in life, that are beyond the normal, is as much as I can be expected to try to deal with. To get personally involved with it, though, would provoke irrevocable trouble.