Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pride and Prejudice Characters: Lydia and Wickham

Today is the third installment in a week’s worth of Pride and Prejudice character studies leading up to next Monday’s 200th anniversary of the Austen novel.
 
Lydia and Wickham

Was there ever a sillier, more insipid, selfish little sister than Lydia Bennet? One would need a thesaurus to accurately describe how crass she is… if Austen hadn’t painted such a wonderful picture for us.

On the kind side of the Lydia spectrum I could say she had an exuberant spirit. From there the rainbow of Lydia character trait runs from “Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled!” to selfish, reckless, and just a little bit mean. (Though she’s got nothing on Caroline Bingley in the Mean Girl department.)

Jena Malon took on the Lydia role for the 2005 movie

Jena Malon took on the Lydia role for the 2005 movie

Although Jane and Lizzie attempt to “check the imprudence” of Kitty and Lydia their efforts have little effect. The girls are indulged by their mother but are …

“always affronted by their advice… Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing….”

Lydia has no filter. She says what ever thought floats across her vapid mind, no matter how rude or inappropriate it might be.

Julia Sawalha in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice [Image courtesy BBC Home]

Julia Sawalha in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice [Image courtesy BBC Home]

“Lord” she tells Jane, “how ashamed I should be of not being married before three and twenty!” Likewise she does what ever she wants without regard for decorum or consequence.

Mary Kate Wiles embodies the 2012/13 party girl Lydia in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries VLOG [Image courtesy @TheLydiaBennett Twitter page]

Mary Kate Wiles embodies the 2012/13 party girl Lydia in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries VLOG [Image courtesy @TheLydiaBennett Twitter page]

She is…

“the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous. A flirt, too, in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation; without any attraction beyond youth and a tolerable person; and from the ignorance and emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of that universal contempt which her rage for admiration will excite.”

Lizzie warns their father not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton, but Mr. Bennet, knows that there will be no peace at home if he doesn’t concede. He justifies the decision by saying…

“Colonel Forester is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to any body. At Brighton she will be of less importance, even as a common flirt, than she has been here. The officers will find women better worth their notice. Let us hope, therefore, that her being there may teach her her own insignificance. At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her life.”

Lydia, of course, does not disappoint. She manages to do the least appropriate thing possible… she runs off, unmarried with a man. That man is George Wickham and it takes some doing to get the couple to the altar.

A triumphant Lydia returns home with her husband in the 1940 movie. With Ann Rutherford (Lydia), Edward Ashley (Wickham), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), and Greer Garson (Lizzie).

A triumphant Lydia returns home with her husband in the 1940 movie. With Ann Rutherford (Lydia), Edward Ashley (Wickham), Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane), and Greer Garson (Lizzie).

When they return to Longbourn …

“Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations…”

She even insists that Jane take walk behind her as she is a married woman now, and therefore holds a higher rank.

Peeya Rai Chowdhury and Daniel Gilles as Lakhi Bakshi (Lydia) and George in Bride and Prejudice

Peeya Rai Chowdhury and Daniel Gilles as Lakhi Bakshi (Lydia) and George in Bride and Prejudice

“I find Lydia to be tiresome” says Austen fan Mary Baldauf Wiedel, “and Wickham is a true cad.” She adds that the two are ”fairly unlikable characters, although no one deserves to be with Wickham.”

Sometimes when I’m rereading the novel* or am watching one of the adaptations I try to remember back to my original impressions of Wickham. Was I suspicious? Did I like his easy manner and winning smile as much as the ladies of Longbourn? Or did I know right away that he was trouble?

Adrian Lukis as Wickham in the 1995 series.

Adrian Lukis as Wickham in the 1995 series.

Not even Lizzie gets an accurate bead on Wickham’s character at first. She spends about a third of the book enjoying his company and listening to his poisonous tales about Darcy.

George Wickham is handsome. He has “a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” An officer in the militia, Wickham makes quite a dashing figure in his regimentals. But Lizzie observes that he has something more in his “person, countenance, air, and walk” than this companions. And he could make the “commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic” interesting.

Rupert Friend in the 2005 Movie [Image courtesy: AustenAuthors.net]

Rupert Friend in the 2005 Movie [Image courtesy: AustenAuthors.net]

He may not be rich, but, as he explains, that is not his fault. Its Darcy’s. Darcy has cruelly denied Wickham the church living promised to him. So now he must make his way as an “honest” soldier.

In reality he’s a gambler, a womanizer, a slacker and a liar. He uses his good looks and his social ease to manipulate people. He even manipulates Lizzie, who is usually a keen judge of character, into taking his side against Darcy. He leaves a trail of debt and broken hearts where ever he goes.

Wes Aderhold updates Wickham in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Wes Aderhold updates Wickham in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

So why does Wickham elope with Lydia? For her part it is probably a romantic lark, an adventure. She seldom looks past the moment and he is fulfilling her immediate needs. But what does she have to offer him? Not money. Not status. Not love. My guess is that he initially does it as a lark too. Lydia is pretty and is certainly willing to run away with him. He can always leave her when he gets tired of the situation and travel to another country to find a rich wife. But, then he realizes that he can make a little money off this deal. When Darcy finds them he realizes he’s hit pay dirt. If Darcy cares enough to come looking for Lydia he’ll care enough to pay Wickham’s gambling debts and pay his overdue tavern bills and more.. All he has to do is marry one of the silliest girls in the country.

Ahhh marital bliss. [Image courtesy BBC]

Ahhh marital bliss. [Image courtesy BBC]

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* for the record… I am not in a CONSTANT state of rereading one or the other of Ms. Austen’s novels. I just thought you should know.

The LY-Di-A Bennet  on Lizzie Bennet Diaries has her own VLOG. Here’s a taste:


Pride and Prejudice Characters: Lady Catherine & Caroline part 1

Today is the second installment in a week’s worth of Pride and Prejudice character studies leading up to next Monday’s 200th anniversary of the Austen novel.

Lady Catherin and Caroline

If there is a truth universally known in the world of Austen it is that the rich play by a different set of rules than the poor or middle class. Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Miss Caroline Bingley are two of her richest women and they play to win.

Lady Catherine was born to her title. Her father was an Earl, so  “She is referred to as “Lady” followed by her first name because she is the daughter of a higher nobleman” [Pemberly.com]— (as was her sister Lady Anne Darcy, Darcy’s mother.) She married well, taking for her husband the landed Sir Lewis de Bourgh. She has one daughter, the sickly Anne de Bourgh, whom she hopes to marry off of to Darcy. (It was”the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of her’s. While in their cradles,” they “planned the union.” )

Barbara Leigh Hunt played the ultimate Lady Catherine in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Barbara Leigh Hunt played the ultimate Lady Catherine in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

She is from old money and represents the old way of doing things. She follows the rules of society strictly and “likes to have the distinction of rank preserved.” [Pride and Prejudice] In fact she spends most of her time CONDESCENDING to her inferiors and giving them advice. Staying in Lady Catherine’s good graces has its benefits — you might be offered a ride home in the Barouche — but it is hard to hold one’s tongue. The woman had an…

opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner as proved that she was not used to have her judgment controverted. She enquired into Charlotte’s domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, and gave her a great deal of advice as to the management of them all;…  Elizabeth found that nothing was beneath this great lady’s attention, which could furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others. [Pemberly.com quote from Pride and Prejudice]

She is a large, imposing woman who may have once been handsome. “…Whatever she said, was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked her self-importance…” [Pride and Prejudice] She is not used to people disagreeing with her. So she’s surprised when Lizzie answers her personal questions candidly.

    Dame Judy Dench took on the role for the Kiera Knightly movie version of P&P

Dame Judy Dench took on the role for the Kiera Knightly movie version of P&P

I’ll give Lady Catherine one thing– for being such a traditionalist she represents a progressive, for the time, position on woman’s property rights.

Your father’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. For your sake, I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no occasion for entailing estates from the female line. [Pride and Prejudice]

By actively seeking an eligible partner for her sickly daughter she is attempting to secure Anne’s future by getting a strong husband to run the estate. . “It’s ironic”, says Karen Hornig, of JASNA Maryland, that “one of the least liked characters in the novel is the one established figure who has the most progressive view with respect to women inheriting property and fortune.”

End of Part One go to Part Two


Pride and Prejudice Characters Lady Catherine and Caroline part 2

PART 2

Lady Catherin and Caroline

Lady Catherine (acting for Anne) isn’t the only one hoping to get Darcy down the aisle. Caroline Bingley would like nothing better than to snag Mr. D..

He’s rich — much richer than her brother — and he comes from old money with a landed estate. Caroline’s rich too, she has 20,000 pounds. But the Bingley’s money comes from Trade. They don’t even have an estate — which is why Charles rents Netherfield in the first place. Buying an estate would raise their rank, but Charles has yet to get around to doing so.

Darcy is uncomfortable around strangers — advantage Caroline. She is the only single woman of his station in the area. Although she, and Mrs. Hurst (her sister), proclaim Jane to be a sweet girl, she’s quick to cut down every one and everything else in Meryton. It’s kind of schtick.

Caroline from the TV series

Caroline from the TV series

What she intends as wit comes off as snobbery. At first Darcy plays along. But by the time Lizzie is staying at Netherfield (while Jane recovers from her cold) he has had enough.

Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley…`is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own, and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly addressed, “there is meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.”

“Caroline was probably a more of a humorous figure at the time the book was written.” Says Karen Hornig, “She is the embodiment of the snobbery of the nouveau riche.  Her family is not landed gentry… and yet she holds herself out as superior to the Bennets.  The irony of her disdain for the Gardiners (also in trade) would not have been lost on contemporary readers of the novel.”

The tables have definitely turned on her by the time every one arrives at Pemberly, but poor Caroline can not seem to keep her foot out of her mouth. Intending to discompose Lizzie she brings up the militia, and by implication, Wickham. But that only serves to alarm Darcy on his sister’s part. Caroline’s scheme backfires and “The very circumstance which had been designed to turn his thoughts from Elizabeth, seemed to have fixed them on her more, and more cheerfully.”

Austen  uses both characters to ding Darcy’s high-handed pride. In the famous letter he points to Lizzie’s family’s “total want of propriety” but some of HIS family and friends are just act just as inappropriately.

Perhaps Austen is being severe upon the these two wealthy members of her own sex, but some one has to be the bad guy.  And as a reader it is delicious to see these two manipulative, snobby women loose the game, even when they are playing by their own rules.

Click here for Part 1


Pride and Prejudice Characters : Mary and Kitty

Today we start a week’s worth of Pride and Prejudice character studies in anticipation of next Monday’s 200th anniversary of the Austen novel.

Mary & Kitty 1

If you are reading this I doubt that I’m giving anything away by saying that at the end of Pride and Prejudice  three out of the five sisters are married. Two, Mary and Kitty, remain at unwed.

No surprise there. Mary and Kitty are practically throw away daughters in the Bennet household. When Austen introduces the family in Chapter One we find out that Lizzie, the clever one, is Mr. Bennet’s favorite, that Jane is the pretty one and that Lydia is the good-humoured one.

The remaining girls finally get a mention in Chapter Two. Poor Kitty has the misfortune of coughing when Mrs. Bennet is in need of something to be vexed at. A little later when  Mr. Bennet introduces Mary as “a young lady of deep reflection he is not giving her a compliment. He’s asked Mary a question and before she can frame a sensible answer — and God forbid she not give him a sensible answer — he cuts her off with “While Mary is adjusting her ideas… let us return to Mr. Bingley.”

Polly Maberly was Kitty in  the Colin Firth / Jennifer Ehle version of P&P

Polly Maberly was Kitty in the Colin Firth / Jennifer Ehle version of P&P

Mary is bookish and plain. ”I should infinitely prefer a book.”  She applies herself to the piano — she’s the only sister who practices — but doesn’t have much in the way of natural talent. She reads moral books and sermons but only seems to pull the harshest lessons from them. So when Lizzie mentions “Pride” Mary has this  little reflection on the subject…

“Pride… is a very common failing… human nature is very prone to it… Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud with out being vain. Pride relates more tour opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” With pompous homilies like that Mary is hard to take.” [Pride and Prejudice]

Still, why does Austen paint Mary as such a looser? She fits the model of what a Regency young lady should be better than any of her sisters after all. … she’s highly moral, she’s willing to exhibit her talents, and she’s demure in social situations. The poor girl can’t help that she’s awkward and unattractive.

Talulah Riley played Mary in the Kiera Knightly version

Talulah Riley played Mary in the Kiera Knightly version

Maybe Austen needs a foil for her more likable, more interesting characters — and until Mr. Collins comes along that foil is Mary. But scratch deeper and perhaps Austen, the genius and keen social observer, is reflecting a little bit of the human dynamic. Doesn’t every large family have its small jealousies and regrets. Here is the middle daughter feeling overwhelmed by her older sisters’ beauty and wit, and over shadowed by her younger sisters’ vivacity and love of life. Mary isn’t the last middle sister to feel like she was drowning in a vortex of better, cuter, funnier siblings. No wonder she strikes a chord of sympathy and kinship with so many readers.

Briana Cuoco plays Mary in The LIzzie Bennet Diaries video blog.

Briana Cuoco plays Mary in The LIzzie Bennet Diaries video blog.

We know at the end of the novel that Mary stays at home, but she is “Obliged to mix more with the world”. Since she is “no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters’ beauty and her own” her self worth improves and she becomes generally easier company.

 

CatherineBennet2

Polly Maberly as Kitty in the Colin Firth / Jennifer Ehle version

Mrs. Bennet dotes on her youngest, Lydia. And Lydia, spoiled beyond redemption, has grown up wild and unrestrained. Kitty, no doubt, sees what her younger sister gets away with, and, in an attempt to earn some of her mother’s admiration and love joins in on the flightiness. Her father thinks even less of Kitty than he does of Mary. He is happy to lump her together with Lydia. [Indeed, the Lydia/Kitty “lump” is so strong that Kitty is usually the first Bennet sister cut from an adaptation as unnecessary.]

Carey Mulligan was Kitty in the Kiera Knightly version

Carey Mulligan was Kitty in the Kiera Knightly version

Kitty feels keenly the injustice of Lydia’s being invited to Brighton as Mrs. Foster’s particular friend. Kitty is two years older and Lydia has, once again, jumped rank. What’s worse when Lydia runs off with Wickham it seems Kitty is the one who bears the brunt of the punishment. Lydia has escaped with her Redcoat. But Kitty has to put up with her father’s wrath…

“YOU go to Brighton. I would not trust you so near it as Eastbourne for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it….” [Ibid]

At the end of the novel we learn that

“Kitty, to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her time with her two elder sisters. In society so superior to what she had generally known, her improvement was great.” [Ibid]

With out Lydia (or Mrs. Bennet) around to influence her she becomes “less irritable, less ignorant and less insipid.”

Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh’s book A Memoir of Jane Austen (1870) gave further details on how the Author envisioned life for Mary and Kitty post novel. He wrote that “She would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of some of her people.” Kitty was satisfactorily married to a clergyman near Pemberley. While Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Philip’s clerks.

Kitty is played by an actual kitty in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. She has her own Twitter account.

Kitty is played by an actual kitty in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. She has her own Twitter account.


Let the Austen-ing begin…

One week to go before the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice!

Jane's silo 2

To lead up to this “Austentatious” event we’ll be taking a look at the novel’s characters this week.

Next MONDAY, JANUARY 28th is the deadline for  the super fun, creative, Jane Austen “Essay” Contest. I’m really looking forward to reading/viewing your unique takes on the novel. Send you entries to: ritaLOVEStoWRITE@gmail.com

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So get your creative juice flowing for the Jane Austen “Essay” Contest to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.

Deadline: 28 January 2013

THIS JUST IN: New prize — just for entering…the first 25 people who send in an entry will receive a cool refrigerator magnet like this brand new Austen Neon magnet…

[TM ritaLOVEStoWRITE]

[TM ritaLOVEStoWRITE]

Any one can participate!  Couple of RULES here:

  1. TRY and keep it under 1200 words please.
  2. The “essay” should be Pride and Prejudice centric.
  3. Please submit your “essay” in English.
  4. Have fun with it!
  5. Oh, and no pornography == THIS is Austen after all!

English: Français : Une gravure de 1833 illust...

Prizes include… All entries will be published in an upcoming special edition of the award-winning ritaLOVEStoWRITE blog. All entries will receive a participation banner for your blog. The top three entries will receive a special “Finalist” banner for their Blog Page, and the top entry will win a Darcy mug! (Please make sure to include an email contact — which I will remove before posting so the whole world doesn’t see it.)

Deadline: 28 January 2013 (That’s the anniversary date of the novel’s publication)

*I seriously encourage you to think outside the box. For you illustrators out there… how about some character studies? Are you a playwright? Why not treat us to a re-imagined scene or two?… This should be a fun expression of your love for Austen and Pride and Prejudice. Don’t be afraid of a little well written/thought out fan fiction. (But no vampires, please.)

AND … Although I’m not going to snark  your intellectual property I strongly suggest you throw a copyright on all your original material in case any one else takes a liking to it.


Buzz Aldrin 1.20.13 Thought of the Day

“Beautiful, beautiful, magnificent desolation.”–Buzz Aldrin

Aldrin on the Moon [Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

Aldrin on the Moon [Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

Edwin EugeneBuzzAldrin, Jr. was born on this day in Montclair, New Jersey in 1930. He is 83 years old.

Aldrin’s father was a Colonel in the Air Force, an aviation pioneer and a Doctor of Science graduate from MIT. His mother, whose maiden name was, appropriately enough, Moon, was the daughter of an Army Chaplain. He had two older sisters, the younger of whom couldn’t pronounce brother, instead she said “Buzzer.” That was shortened to Buzz.

[Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

[Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

He was offered a full scholarship to MIT, but turned it down, choosing instead to enter West Point Military Academy. He graduated third in his class.

He then joined the Air Force where he flew F86 Sabre Jets in 66 combat missions in Korea, shot down two MIG-15′s, and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross.  After a tour of duty in Germany flying F100’s, he went on to earn his Doctorate of Science in Astronautics at MIT and wrote his thesis on Manned Orbital Rendezvous. [BuzzAlrdrin.com]

He joined NASA as part of the third group of astronauts. His expertise on docking techniques earned him the nickname “Dr. Rendezvous”

The docking and rendezvous techniques he devised for spacecraft in Earth and lunar orbit became critical to the success of the Gemini and Apollo programs, and are still used today.  He also pioneered underwater training techniques, as a substitute for zero gravity flights, to simulate spacewalking. [Ibid]

[Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

[Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

During his Gemini 12 Mission he “performed the world’s first successful spacewalk” [Ibid].

In July of 1969 he landed on the Moon with Neil Armstrong while Michael Collins orbited over head during the Apollo 11 Mission. Aldrin and Armstrong   became “the first two humans to set foot on another world. They spent 21 hours on the lunar surface and returned with 46 pounds of moon rocks.” [Ibid]

Image Courtesy: NASA]

Image Courtesy: NASA]

Although he has since retired from NASA he remains a tireless advocate for Space exploration, especially the exploration of Mars. He has written a children’s book, an autobiography, and two space based science-fact-fiction novels.

[Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

[Image courtesy: Buzz Aldrin.com]

At the passing of Neil Armstrong he wrote:

Whenever I look at the moon I am reminded of that precious moment, over four decades ago, when Neil and I stood on the desolate, barren, yet beautiful, Sea of Tranquility, looking back at our brilliant blue planet Earth suspended in the darkness of space, I realized that even though we were farther away from earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone. Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us. I know I am joined by many millions of others from around the world in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a historic moment in human history…. [Buzz Aldrin.com]

When people talk about Neil Armstrong they sometimes say he was the “First man on the Moon.” I’m a huge Armstrong fan, but that statement is just not true. Armstrong was the first man to WALK on the Moon, because he descended the ladder of the Lunar Lander first, but he and Aldrin landed on the Moon at the same time.

English: One of the first steps taken on the M...

English: One of the first steps taken on the Moon, this is an image of Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint from the Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon on July 20, 1969. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Click here the ritaLOVEStoWRITE bioBLOG on Neil Armstrong.


Secondary Character Saturday — SPIDER (Anansi Boys)

Who: Spider

My take on the Anansi brothers, Fat Charlie and Spider. [Copyright: ritaLOVEStoWRITE.]

My take on the Anansi brothers, Fat Charlie and Spider. [Copyright: ritaLOVEStoWRITE.]

From: Anansi Boys

Written by: Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: Jan 2008.

Why: He’s the trickster brother to the book’s everyman hero, Fat Charlie.  He’s the cool, funny, magical brother you’d always wish you had. Kinda. [Full disclosure: I’m really a card-carrying member of “Team Fat Charlie. ” But, as he’s the lead character, I couldn’t really pick him for this profile could I?  So I picked Spider, who is so like Fat Charlie! –Except he’s completely different.]

Here’s what happened when the brothers met:

“Fat Charlie blew his nose. “I never knew I had a brother,” he said.
“I did,” said Spider. “I always meant to look you up, but I got distracted. You know how it is.”
“Not really.”
“Things came up.”
“What kind of things?”
“Things. They came up. That’s what things do. They come up. I can’t be expected to keep track of them all.”
“Well, give me a f’rinstance.”
Spider drank more wine. “Okay. The last time I decided that you and I should meet, I, well, I spent days planning it. Wanted it to go perfectly. I had to choose my wardrobe. Then I had to decide what I’d say to you when we met. I knew that the meeting of two brothers, well, it’s the subject of epics, isn’t it? I decided that the only way to treat it with the appropriate gravity would be to do it in verse. But what kind of verse? Am I going to rap it? Declaim it? I mean, I’m not going to greet you with a limerick. So. It had to be something dark, something powerful, rhythmic, epic. And then I had it. The perfect line: Blood calls to blood like sirens in the night. It says so much. I knew I’d be able to get everything in there – people dying in alleys, sweat and nightmares, the power of free spirits uncrushable. Everything was going to be there. And then I had to come up with a second line, and the whole thing completely fell apart. The best I could come up with was Tum-tumpty-tumpty-tumpty got a fright.”
Fat Charlie blinked. “Who exactly is Tum-tumpty-tumpty-tumpty?”
“It’s not anybody. It’s just there to show you where the words ought to be. But I never really got any futher on it than that, and I couldn’t turn up with just a first line, some tumpties and three words of an epic poem, could I? That would have been disrespecting you.”
“Well….”
“Exactly. So I went to Hawaii for the week instead. Like I said, something came up.” [Anansi Boys]

Anasi Boys 2

Pros: He’s pretty much a god. He can make people do things with the power of suggestion. He talks to spiders. After living most of his life in hedonistic selfishness (he is a god after all) he learns to grow and love.

Cons: When we first meet him he is selfish and destructive.  He’s a liar and a cheat. And he never thinks about the real world consequences since he never sticks around long enough to deal with them. He steal’s Fat Charlie’s fiance, Rosie, and takes over his flat. He pretty much ruins Fat Charlie’s life.

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If you haven’t guessed… I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan. So I was thrilled when one of my besties, Lynn Reynolds gifted me Anansi Boys as an Audible Book  for Christmas. I’d only really done a handful of books on tape before, most notably the Harry Potter books (I’ve also done various books  through my Kindle’s text-too-speech while gardening or painting. But those sound like the “Garman car man” guy  so they don’t count.) Any way, I was really pleased with this Audible Book both for Lenny Henry’s narration and, especially, for the wonderful writing. I think you should give it a try…

Here’s the Kindle link: http://www.amazon.com/Anansi-Boys-ebook/dp/B000FCKENQ/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

And here’s the link for the Audio version – http://www.amazon.com/Anansi-Boys-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0060823844/ref=tmm_abk_title_0

[Image courtesy Amazon.com]

[Image courtesy Amazon.com]

  Click here to read the ritaLOVEStoWRITE Neil Gaiman bioBLOG


RIP Earl Weaver

RIP Earl Weaver. The Earl of Baltimore passed away yesterday while on an Oriole themed cruise.

“On my tombstone just write, ‘The sorest loser that ever lived,’ ” he once said. [The Baltimore Sun]

Here’s the ritaLOVEStoWRITE bioBLOG that I posted on his 82nd Birthday on Aug 14, 2012.

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“I became an optimist when I discovered that I wasn’t going to win any more games by being anything else.”

Earl Weaver

Earl Sidney Weaver was born on this day in St. Louis, Missouri in 1930. He is 82 years old.

Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles from 1968-1982 and again from 1985-1986.  He became a Hall of Famer a decade later.

He played second base for 13 years in the minor leagues, then he managed for another dozen years in the minors before making it to the Show as a first-base coach for the Orioles in 1968. He took over as Manager in July of that season.

He wore #4 on his Oriole’s jersey and had a .583 winning record while managing the club. The team won 6 American League East titles, had 5 100+ win seasons, won 4 A.L. pennants, and won the 1970 World Series under his leadership.

Weaver didn’t want to bunt or sacrifice to advance a runner, according Hall of Fame player Frank Robinson, “He didn’t even have a hit and run sign…” Earl was all about the three run home run.

He pioneered the use of radar guns to track fast balls in 1975’s Spring Training season (according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.)

He was famous for his heated arguments with umpires that often ended with the manager kicking Memorial Stadium’s infield dirt at the official. Weaver was tossed from 91 regular season games.

Locals also remember the “Tomato Wars” he had with groundskeeper Pat Santarone. Santarone had a patch of plants in the left field foul area, Weaver grew his maters at home. The two argued (good naturedly) for 17 years over who had the best tomatoes in Baltimore.

After he left the O’s he worked as broadcaster for ABC television providing color commentary during the 1983-84 baseball seasons. He also did Manager’s Corner with Tom Marr while he was with the O’s (some times to very colorful effect.)

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.  A bronze statue of the manager was erected at Camden Yards (the “new” home of the Orioles) in June of this year.  At seven feet the statue towers over the real life Weaver, who is only 5’7″.  Weaver quipped “I guess there will be a lot of kids looking up at me…saying, ‘who is this?'”


A.A. Milne 1.18.13 Thought of the Day

“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”
–A.A. Milne

 A.A. Milne; Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear  by: Howard Coster


A.A. Milne; Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear by: Howard Coster

A. A. Milne was born  on this day in Kilburn, London, England in 1882. Today is the 131st anniversary of his birth.

Alan Alexander Milne  was the youngest of three boys born to John Vine and Sarah Maria Milne. John Milne ran a school, Henley House, and it was here that the boys took their first steps in the world of learning. One of the teachers at the school was H.G. Wells and he and Alan would remain friends for the rest of their lives. After Henley House Alan went on to Westminster School before attending Cambridge on a mathematics scholarship.

A.A. Milne’s first literary efforts came during his Cambridge days. He edited the college’s humorist publication, The Granta. Alan and his brother Ken worked together, by mail, on light verse that was published in The Granta under a mash-up of their initials A.K.M.

After graduation Alan moved to London and worked as a freelance writer. He had articles published in both newspapers, like the St. James Gazette, and in humor magazines, such as Punch.

In February of 1906 he became an assistant editor and weekly contributor to Punch magazine. His  contributions included stories on sports (especially cricket and golf), the exploits of the fictional middle class Rabbit Family, and children stories that he wrote with his niece Marjorie in mind.

In 1913 he married Dorothy “Daphne” de Selincourt. When World War I broke out he volunteered as a signalling officer. He saw action in France until returning to England in November 1916 with a fever. Once recovered he was

…put in charge of a company at a new formed signalling school at Fort Southwick. He stayed there until he was released from the army on February 14, 1919. [Pooh-Corner.org — The Author]

A.A. Milne on the Western Front 1916. [Image courtesy Spartacus.Schoolnet.co.uk]

A.A. Milne on the Western Front 1916. [Image courtesy Spartacus.Schoolnet.co.uk]

While in the Army he wrote his first play Wurzel-Flummery. Alan didn’t go back to Punch after the war — his job had been given to some one else — and he preferred the freedom of not having a weekly deadline. He also liked writing plays and collaborating with the actors.

…he had several successes, both in London and in New York. Mr Pim Passes By… opened in London on January 5, 1920, and ran for 246 performances in London. It also had a successful run in New York…. Within the next year, Milne had another four plays running in London. Other notable plays include Belinda, The Lucky One, The Romantic Age, The Dover Road, and The Truth About Bladys. … At one time, A. A. Milne was England’s most successful, prolific, and best-known playwright. [Pooh-Corner.org — The Author]

Ironically his biggest flop was called Success.

He wrote an adaptation of Mr. Pim Passes By and a mystery, The Red House Mystery. When he proposed writing Red House his agent bulked, suggesting the public wanted more humor stories. But Milne stuck to his guns, and The Red House Mystery was “his most successful book other than his four children’s books.” [Ibid]

The Red House Mystery

The Red House Mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alan and Daphne Milne had a son Christopher Robin in 1920. They called the little boy “Billy Moon”  at home and among friends (the first name was a nickname, the “Moon” came from Christopher’s mispronunciation of his last name). Alan wrote the first Billy Moon poem “Vespers” after watching the little boy say his prayers before going to bed. It proved so popular that Milne was

asked to provide another children’s verse for a new children’s magazine entitled The Merry-Go-Round. That poem was “The Dormouse and the Doctor“, and also became quickly famous. Alan toyed with the idea of writing a whole book of children’s verse, and the result was When We Were Very Young, published in 1924. To illustrate the book, Milne enlisted the aid of Punch illustrator, Ernest Shepard. The combination of Milne’s poetry and Shepard’s drawings proved to be a winner, as the book sold over 50.000 copies within eight weeks of its first publication. [Ibid]

The family moved to Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex, in 1925 and Alan used the bucolic setting as his backdrop for his next book,Winnie-the-Pooh. Shepard was on board again as illustrator. Milne thought so highly of Shepard’s role in the success of the first children’s books that he insisted Shepard get an 80/20 share of the royalties of Winnie-the-Pooh instead of a flat rate. Winnie-the -Pooh was enormously well received.

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second Pooh book, The House at Pooh Corner was equally loved. (Except by Dorothy Parker who famously quipped in her Constant Reader column in the New Yorker that by page 5 of the book the “tonstant Weader fwowed up”. Milne was unfazed by Parker’s quip, noting that “no writer of children’s books says gaily to his publisher, “Don’t bother about the children, Mrs Parker will love it.””[Ibid])

Milne House at Pooh Corner1000

Alan wrote more plays. His Toad of Toad Hall, based on Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, got it’s stage debut in 1929. The play was hailed as a “family classic” and Milne was quickly getting painted into a corner. Especially in London, his works for adults were being ignored as the public clamored for more Pooh, or at least more children’s fiction. New York was more forgiving and his plays had longer runs on Broadway, including The Ivory Door and Michael and Mary. In 1933 his adult novel Four Days of Wonder sold moderately well, but he didn’t publish another novel for another 13 years.

At the dawn of World War II Milne, the pacifist, wrote Peace With Honour in which he outlined that nothing was

“worth repeating the Somme for. He would later change his mind and would write a pamphlet called War With Honour, in which he explained his changed views. ‘If anyone reads Peace With Honour now, he must read it with that one word HITLER scrawled across every page. One man’s fanaticism has cancelled rational argument.’ [Ibid]

The Milnes had moved away from the ‘Hundred Acre Woods’ and Cotchford Farm for London and New York, but with the War they moved back to East Sussex. Alan was Captain of the Home Guard for the area. His relationship with Daphne, which had waned, rekindled, but his ties with Christopher, which had always been strong, weakened. Christopher joined the Royal Engineers as a Sapper.

In 1946 Milne’s Chloe Marr, his last novel, came out to good reviews. It sold well. He continued to see success with his plays, which were now running in repertory.

[Image courtesy pdxretro.com]

[Image courtesy pdxretro.com]

But his relationship with Christopher — who ” had begun to resent his father and hated the books that made his name famous” [Ibid] — was crumbling. By the early 1950’s Christopher was married and living 200 miles away.

In October 1952, Milne had a stroke which left him an invalid for his remaining years. … A. A. Milne died on January 31, 1956. [Ibid]


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