Monthly Archives: November 2011

Before Versailles

I found out that week that Before Versailles was picked by both the Library Journal and RT Book Reviews to be included in best historical fiction of 2011…….

ralph

–To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded–

I saw this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on a friend’s Facebook share and took it here.  I’m looking for small things to get me through the season. I made a fire today (first cold day in Houston); I put red in my front door wreath. Today is the first day of a secret Advent adventure I’m doing with my grandchildren. From where I sit as I type this, I can see a long red ribbon twisting in the wind. It reminds me of that scene in American Beauty when the young hero videos plastic sacks caught by wind; he sees them as dancing. That’s how it feels to view this ribbon that was wound in the tree to attract hummingbirds, but keeps positioning its long arms toward the ground. There are several white blossoms on the paperwhites that are scattered here and there in the yard. Good things. Small things.

What’s small and wonderful in your life? What is success?

splendor

Flipping around, looking for something to wile away time, I came across Splendor in the Grass, about young love. I cried at the end, as I always do. Why? Because Deanie, the heroine, tries so hard to be a good girl. And when being a good girl loses her the boy she loves so deeply, then she tries to be sensual. But her being a good girl is important to him, too, because he loves her. She breaks into pieces and when she is back together again, he has moved on. And so has she, driving away from the ranch where she has just met his wife and seen the child that might have been hers. She isn’t pathetic. She is lovely inside and out and moving forward with her own life. But what might have been is there in the car with her and with the viewer.

It made me think again of becoming a woman and of sex and how a girl-woman goes forth to meet that part of her destiny. Before birth control, the complications were huge. But after birth control, I think it’s all still complicated. I know a girl-woman who is so in love with her someone, who loves her back. Will her being able to explore sexuality more safely guarantee happiness? It’s so complex, this journey into a sensual self. Society doesn’t make it simple; religion often makes it sinful; conventionality tries to make  it invisible and nondisturbing.

Maybe it shouldn’t be simple. I don’t know. I just know from my own experience that the journey can be so difficult. That journey is often what I explore in my novels.  These are the lines from Wordsword at the center of the story:

What through the radiance

which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Through nothing can bring back the hour

of splendour in the grass, 

of glory in the flower,

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind……

What do you think?

return to

I have old faithfuls, books I return to, books I read the way a baby sucks a pacifier. One of my pacifiers is almost any regency by Georgette Heyer. I have paperbacks of hers so old that the pages have to be rubber-banded in a heap. I love her plucky heroines, the sometimes truly witty banter between characters, the very sweet romances. There is a lot of subtle humor in character interactions, which amuses me even more each time I read it. I also reread John le Carre’s Little Drummer Girl about once a year. I love the heroine he’s created in this book, the way he describes and builds character, and the truly gripping plot. He is a master of plotting and character. I reread To Kill a Mockingbird pretty often; the underlying tenderness of the story takes me, though I find the African American characters a bit stereotyped, but what do I know. Maybe for 1930s Southern America, they are not stereotyped at all. It’s just that they’re shaded all one tone, and the others aren’t. I love Winston Graham’s Poldark Saga, the first six books. He’s a fine, fine historical novelist, and Ross Poldark has my heart, as does Demelza. I adore Dr. Naomi Ramen‘s Kitchen Table Wisdom. Again, the scope of heart in her collections of stories about people gravely ill and those who serve them is huge. It’s a wise book, too, nuggets about leading a deeper life scattered like bread crumbs. I love Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, though having read it so many times, I now see plot flaws, but I just never mind them because I like the character of Dona and her story so much, and the marvelous dreamy quality of du Maurier’s prose. Anything I like ( I’m almost always reading), I now put up on my shelf in Goodreads. But the ones listed here are my tried and true go-back- tos for a needed mental rest. My husband doesn’t understand it, and I can’t explain it, except that they never fail to comfort me, I never fail to not like them, I never fail to be amused again or touched again…..and that’s special…….

It occurs to me that I learn a little more about writing each time I read these favorites; I learn on a level I’m not aware of…..

Do you reread? What? And why? Or why not?

flower

May we take steps in peace upon the earth…..boom goes my heart as it opens inside my chest. I’m holding hands with a partner, whom I don’t know, and we moving in a semicircle at a meditation workshop. We repeat-sing the words again as we move in the other direction. May we take steps in peace upon the earth. What tremendous delicacy it would require, I think, to take only steps in peace…..

I bow to the flower in you, we both say, as we bow to one another. Boom, goes my heart again, expanding out inside me, as I am so touched to say such words to another, to have them said to me. Only my very young grandchildren, in their wild innocence, move me this way. My mind can only just grasp the idea of the flower in another, in me, the rose, the daisy, the marigold, the lily, the peony, the violet….their names alone are a kind of poetry. A  flower is a thing of beauty. What a concept, that we are innately things of beauty, that within us is a unique blossom of soul.

I bow to the flower in you.