Friday, December 30, 2011

Chapter 38: Life Moves On

Anne quickly realizes that she can't leave Marilla alone -- which is a problem, since she was planning to head off to Redmond College.
"He says that if I give up all reading and sewing entirely and any kind of work that strains the eyes, and if I'm careful not to cry, and if I wear the glasses he's given me he thinks my eyes may not get any worse and my headaches will be cured. But if I don't he says I'll certainly be stone-blind in six months."
So she decides to stay home, and get a teaching job on the island.
"I'm just as ambitious as ever. Only, I've changed the object of my ambitions."
And go to school. Overachiever.
"'But I'm going to study Latin and Greek just the same, Mrs. Lynde," said Anne laughing. "I'm going to take my Arts course right here at Green Gables, and study everything that I would at college.'"
She's planning on teaching in a school near Avonlea, and getting home on the weekends -- but Gilbert Blythe has other plans, as Rachel Lynde is happy to inform everyone.
"But as soon as Gilbert heard that you had applied for it he went to them—they had a business meeting at the school last night, you know—and told them that he withdrew his application, and suggested that they accept yours."
Which is something Anne was hardly expecting. And that's what it takes for her to remove her head from somewhere unmentionable and do something about their relationship.
"It was Gilbert, and the whistle died on his lips as he recognized Anne. He lifted his cap courteously, but he would have passed on in silence, if Anne had not stopped and held out her hand."

"I forgave you that day by the pond landing, although I didn't know it. What a stubborn little goose I was. I've been—I may as well make a complete confession—I've been sorry ever since."

"We were born to be good friends, Anne."
All together, now: sigh.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chapter 37: Handkerchiefs at the Ready

Okay, this chapter? Sob central.

Matthew dies, people. Matthew dies.
"It was long before Anne could love the sight or odor of white narcissus again"
And deservedly so.

The thing is, I like Kevin Sullivan's version of this much better. Montgomery has Matthew collapsing after receiving word that all his savings have been wiped out. That just seems too -- I don't know, prosaic, maybe? As opposed to the movie version, where Matthew just goes on as he always has, quietly working the farm and taking care of Anne, right up to the end.

Cue the sobs:
"For the first time shy, quiet Matthew Cuthbert was a person of central importance; the white majesty of death had fallen on him and set him apart as one crowned."

"There were flowers about him—sweet old-fashioned flowers which his mother had planted in the homestead garden in her bridal days and for which Matthew had always had a secret, wordless love."

"Anne hoped that the tears would come in solitude."
And now that she's all alone except for Anne, the last bit of Marilla's reserve cracks, and she admits how much she really cares.
"'We've got each other, Anne. I don't know what I'd do if you weren't here—if you'd never come. Oh, Anne, I know I've been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe—but you mustn't think I didn't love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It's never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it's easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you've been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.'"
But then slowly, eventually, they can begin to think of other things. And some of them are quite funny:
"'Josie is a Pye,' said Marilla sharply, 'so she can't help being disagreeable. I suppose people of that kind serve some useful purpose in society, but I must say I don't know what it is any more than I know the use of thistles. Is Josie going to teach?'"
And some are surprising, adding a whole new dimension to the not-romance between Anne and Gilbert.
"John Blythe was a nice boy. We used to be real good friends, he and I. People called him my beau."
But, oh, Matthew. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chapter 36: Stage-Setting

Something pretty monumental happens to Anne in this chapter: She wins the Avery Scholarship, which will cover her tuition for a bachelor's degree at Redmond College. (Queens just offers a teaching certificate, which Anne finished up in one year.)

So things are good. And the school year's over, which means Anne's back at Green Gables, where she belongs.

Cue the impending doom soundtrack.

Look, if you've read the book, you know what's coming. So let's just look at a couple of the lines Montgomery uses to set us up for the next chapter.
"'Reckon you're glad we kept her, Marilla?' whispered Matthew, speaking for the first time since he had entered the hall, when Anne had finished her essay."

"'Marilla," she said hesitatingly when he had gone out, "is Matthew quite well?'"

"'If I had been the boy you sent for,' said Anne wistfully, 'I'd be able to help you so much now and spare you in a hundred ways. I could find it in my heart to wish I had been, just for that.'"

"It's only that I'm getting old, Anne, and keep forgetting it."

"It was the last night before sorrow touched her life; and no life is ever quite the same again when once that cold, sanctifying touch has been laid upon it."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chapter 35: Guess Who Takes Center Stage

This is a short chapter, and it's very much about one person who's suddenly on Anne's mind quite a lot.
"She could not help thinking, too, that it would be very pleasant to have such a friend as Gilbert to jest and chatter with and exchange ideas about books and studies and ambitions. Gilbert had ambitions, she knew, and Ruby Gillis did not seem the sort of person with whom such could be profitably discussed."
Montgomery makes a point of emphasizing that this isn't a romance; Anne's got her own ideas about that, and Gilbert still doesn't make the cut. But she's not looking for romance right now.
"There was no silly sentiment in Anne's ideas concerning Gilbert. Boys were to her, when she thought about them at all, merely possible good comrades. If she and Gilbert had been friends she would not have cared how many other friends he had nor with whom he walked. She had a genius for friendship; girl friends she had in plenty; but she had a vague consciousness that masculine friendship might also be a good thing to round out one's conceptions of companionship and furnish broader standpoints of judgment and comparison."
And as a result, she's gotten just a bit more down-to-earth about her academic pursuits.
"Anne no longer wished to win for the sake of defeating Gilbert; rather, for the proud consciousness of a well-won victory over a worthy foeman. It would be worth while to win, but she no longer thought life would be insupportable if she did not."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chapter 34: Leaving Home

Anne heads off to college in this chapter, a big moment for both her and Marilla and Matthew.

Marilla even verges on indulgence:
"Anne's outfit was ample and pretty, for Matthew saw to that, and Marilla for once made no objections whatever to anything he purchased or suggested. More—one evening she went up to the east gable with her arms full of a delicate pale green material."
And is it just me, or are tears starting to be a regular thing for her?
"As Marilla watched the bright, animated face and graceful motions her thoughts went back to the evening Anne had arrived at Green Gables, and memory recalled a vivid picture of the odd, frightened child in her preposterous yellowish-brown wincey dress, the heartbreak looking out of her tearful eyes. Something in the memory brought tears to Marilla's own eyes."
And then Anne leaves, and Marilla and Matthew each deal with it in their own way.
"Matthew, with a suspicious moisture in his eyes, got up and went out-of-doors. Under the stars of the blue summer night he walked agitatedly across the yard to the gate under the poplars."

"Marilla plunged fiercely into unnecessary work and kept at it all day long with the bitterest kind of heartache—the ache that burns and gnaws and cannot wash itself away in ready tears"
Gilbert proves useful after all, even if he and Anne don't have much of a speaking relationship.
"Yet she was undeniably glad that they were in the same class; the old rivalry could still be carried on, and Anne would hardly have known what to do if it had been lacking."
As does Josie Pye, who's never been one of Anne's favorite people.
"As a part of Avonlea life even a Pye was welcome."
But that doesn't last long.
"Anne was wondering if, after all, solitude and tears were not more satisfactory than Josie Pye's companionship"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chapter 33: The Big Concert

Now that Anne's done with school, having passed the exam even to her satisfaction, it's time for a little play. She's one of the local girls invited to participate in a benefit concert.
"Matthew was in the seventh heaven of gratified pride over the honor conferred on his Anne and Marilla was not far behind, although she would have died rather than admit it, and said she didn't think it was very proper for a lot of young folks to be gadding over to the hotel without any responsible person with them."
She ends up riding over to White Sands with Jane Andrews and Jane's older brother, which is not something Anne sees as one of the positive aspects of the evening.
"Billy Andrews insisted that Anne should ride on the front seat with him, so she unwillingly climbed up. She would have much preferred to sit back with the girls, where she could have laughed and chattered to her heart's content. There was not much of either laughter or chatter in Billy. He was a big, fat, stolid youth of twenty, with a round, expressionless face, and a painful lack of conversational gifts. But he admired Anne immensely, and was puffed up with pride over the prospect of driving to White Sands with that slim, upright figure beside him."
Anne has her moment, though, giving a performance that impresses everyone who was there to mock the simple country girls -- all thanks to another misunderstanding with her favorite male:
"But suddenly, as her dilated, frightened eyes gazed out over the audience, she saw Gilbert Blythe away at the back of the room, bending forward with a smile on his face—a smile which seemed to Anne at once triumphant and taunting. In reality it was nothing of the kind. Gilbert was merely smiling with appreciation of the whole affair in general and of the effect produced by Anne's slender white form and spiritual face against a background of palms in particular."
So how much longer are we going to have to wait for their reconciliation? Well, we've got five more chapters to get through.

And we close with a philosophical moment:
"'We ARE rich,' said Anne staunchly. 'Why, we have sixteen years to our credit, and we're happy as queens, and we've all got imaginations, more or less. Look at that sea, girls—all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. You wouldn't change into any of those women if you could. Would you want to be that white-lace girl and wear a sour look all your life, as if you'd been born turning up your nose at the world? Or the pink lady, kind and nice as she is, so stout and short that you'd really no figure at all? Or even Mrs. Evans, with that sad, sad look in her eyes? She must have been dreadfully unhappy sometime to have such a look. You KNOW you wouldn't, Jane Andrews!'"

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chapter 32: The Big Exam

So Avonlea's students go off to take their version of the SATs. Just like the SATs, the Queens test will clearly determine their worth as humans and all their future possibilities, so nerves are appropriately on edge.
"Jane asked him what on earth he was doing and he said he was repeating the multiplication table over and over to steady his nerves and for pity's sake not to interrupt him, because if he stopped for a moment he got frightened and forgot everything he ever knew, but the multiplication table kept all his facts firmly in their proper place!"
The "he" in the previous sentence is Moody Spurgeon McPherson, and I'm left wondering what this kid did to make himself so unpopular.
"Sometimes I have wished I was born a boy, but when I see Moody Spurgeon I'm always glad I'm a girl and not his sister."
Is it just the fact that he's not on the same level as Anne? I feel kind of bad for him, but who knows? He might be the sort who's just too generally irritating to want to spend time with.

Gilbert Blythe is not that sort, but that doesn't mean that he and Anne have improved the state of their relations any.
"They had met and passed each other on the street a dozen times without any sign of recognition and every time Anne had held her head a little higher and wished a little more earnestly that she had made friends with Gilbert when he asked her, and vowed a little more determinedly to surpass him in the examination."
As we all remember, she does not, of course, surpass him. They tie for first. But I think Kevin Sullivan had it right, shifting things around in the movie so Gilbert's the one who gives her the news.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chapter 31: In Which We Cite Longfellow

In the chapter title, at least. Per the ever-amazing Annotated Anne, "where the brook and river meet" is a line from his poem "Maidenhood."

The Queens exam is still hanging over Anne, but she's trying not to let it get to her.

First we have a foray into the question of appropriate professions for women:
"Why can't women be ministers, Marilla? I asked Mrs. Lynde that and she was shocked and said it would be a scandalous thing. She said there might be female ministers in the States and she believed there was, but thank goodness we hadn't got to that stage in Canada yet and she hoped we never would. But I don't see why. I think women would make splendid ministers."
Which gives me an opportunity to go all history-nerd on you and make sure you know who Antoinette Brown was. And check out the family this woman married into - one of her sisters-in-law was Elizabeth Blackwell, the first professional female doctor in the U.S. (and another sister-in-law, Emily Blackwell, also became a doctor), and another was Lucy Stone, famous for not changing her last name when she married. This is why I want to write about the Blackwell family!

Speaking of people who went their own way, we get a quick look at why Miss Stacy was such a great teacher:
"Much of all this was due to Miss Stacy's tactful, careful, broadminded guidance. She led her class to think and explore and discover for themselves and encouraged straying from the old beaten paths to a degree that quite shocked Mrs. Lynde and the school trustees, who viewed all innovations on established methods rather dubiously."
The other thing we get in this chapter, which covers the better part of a year in not a whole lot of words, is a glimpse of Marilla finally giving in to her human side.
"And that night, when Anne had gone to prayer meeting with Diana, Marilla sat alone in the wintry twilight and indulged in the weakness of a cry."
It's not much. She still thinks of it as a weakness, an indulgence, and I can't imagine her actually crying in front of Anne at this point -- but can you imagine the Marilla of Chapter 1 even considering the possibility that she might allow a tear to escape?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chapter 30: College Prep

If you don't already adore Marilla, this chapter should win you over. How can you not want to give her a hug (one that would be totally unwanted by her) when you see how vulnerable she is?
"Marilla looked at her with a tenderness that would never have been suffered to reveal itself in any clearer light than that soft mingling of fireshine and shadow. The lesson of a love that should display itself easily in spoken word and open look was one Marilla could never learn. But she had learned to love this slim, gray-eyed girl with an affection all the deeper and stronger from its very undemonstrativeness. Her love made her afraid of being unduly indulgent, indeed."
And as Marilla's busy not telling Anne that she loves her, Anne's making progress toward leaving home for the first time. She's part of the Queens class, the students who are doing extra work to prepare for the entrance exam for Queens College.

Which gives her competitive side an opportunity to shine.
"There was open rivalry between Gilbert and Anne now. Previously the rivalry had been rather onesided, but there was no longer any doubt that Gilbert was as determined to be first in class as Anne was. He was a foeman worthy of her steel. The other members of the class tacitly acknowledged their superiority, and never dreamed of trying to compete with them."
Except when it doesn't.
"All at once, as it seemed, and to her secret dismay, she found that the old resentment she had cherished against him was gone—gone just when she most needed its sustaining power. It was in vain that she recalled every incident and emotion of that memorable occasion and tried to feel the old satisfying anger. That day by the pond had witnessed its last spasmodic flicker. Anne realized that she had forgiven and forgotten without knowing it. But it was too late."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chapter 29: A Visit

Anne, accompanied by Diana, makes a brief visit to Miss Josephine Barry's house. The narrator makes sure we understand that this is not exactly a moment of altruism.
"Miss Barry was a rather selfish old lady, if the truth must be told, and had never cared much for anybody but herself. She valued people only as they were of service to her or amused her. Anne had amused her, and consequently stood high in the old lady's good graces. But Miss Barry found herself thinking less about Anne's quaint speeches than of her fresh enthusiasms, her transparent emotions, her little winning ways, and the sweetness of her eyes and lips."
This is a growing-up chapter for Anne. It's not plot-heavy, and she's not learning any important lessons here; she's just demonstrating the maturity she's already accumulated. For instance:
"Josie Pye took first prize for knitted lace. I was real glad she did. And I was glad that I felt glad, for it shows I'm improving, don't you think, Marilla, when I can rejoice in Josie's success?"
"It was an elegant room, Marilla, but somehow sleeping in a spare room isn't what I used to think it was. That's the worst of growing up, and I'm beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don't seem half so wonderful to you when you get them."
Even city life isn't tempting to Anne:
"It's nice to be eating ice cream at brilliant restaurants at eleven o'clock at night once in a while; but as a regular thing I'd rather be in the east gable at eleven, sound asleep, but kind of knowing even in my sleep that the stars were shining outside and that the wind was blowing in the firs across the brook."
Which Marilla is glad to hear. This is the closest she comes to admitting that she misses Anne when Anne's away.
"I'm glad you've got back, I must say. It's been fearful lonesome here without you, and I never put in four longer days."
Coming from Marilla, those are some pretty emotional words.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chapter 28: The Lady of the Lake

Yes, I'm mixing Arthurian legends here. Deal.

Fun fact, from Montgomery's journal via the Annotated Anne: Montgomery was not the fan of Tennyson's poem that she made Anne out to be: "I detest Tennyson's Arthur! If I'd been Guinevere I'd have been unfaithful to him too."

This, of course, is when the girls decide to act out the poem. And even though Anne doesn't plan to star in the drama (because a red-haired Elaine is too ridiculous to consider), she ends up in the boat anyway.
"It was Anne's idea that they dramatize Elaine. They had studied Tennyson's poem in school the preceding winter, the Superintendent of Education having prescribed it in the English course for the Prince Edward Island schools. They had analyzed and parsed it and torn it to pieces in general until it was a wonder there was any meaning at all left in it for them, but at least the fair lily maid and Lancelot and Guinevere and King Arthur had become very real people to them, and Anne was devoured by secret regret that she had not been born in Camelot. Those days, she said, were so much more romantic than the present."
Slight problem: the water is supposed to remain outside the boat. And it doesn't.

Which gives Gilbert a chance to rescue the now-stranded Anne.
"Without waiting for an answer he pulled close to the pile and extended his hand. There was no help for it; Anne, clinging to Gilbert Blythe's hand, scrambled down into the dory, where she sat, drabbled and furious, in the stern with her arms full of dripping shawl and wet crepe. It was certainly extremely difficult to be dignified under the circumstances!"
And he thinks it gives him an opening:
"'Anne,' he said hurriedly, 'look here. Can't we be good friends? I'm awfully sorry I made fun of your hair that time. I didn't mean to vex you and I only meant it for a joke. Besides, it's so long ago. I think your hair is awfully pretty now—honest I do. Let's be friends.'"
Not so much:
"Her resentment, which to other and older people might be as laughable as its cause, was in no whit allayed and softened by time seemingly."
Which, of course, no one else can understand.
"'Oh, Anne, how splendid of him! Why, it's so romantic!' said Jane, finding breath enough for utterance at last. 'Of course you'll speak to him after this.'"
Jane very narrowly avoids getting smacked over that, while the reader quite probably wants to shake some sense into Anne. Girl, there is not exactly an oversupply of eligible young men with a sense of romance in Avonlea -- or most other places.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chapter 27: Oh, the hair!

But first, a bit of insight into Marilla's thought process:
"Marilla was not given to subjective analysis of her thoughts and feelings. She probably imagined that she was thinking about the Aids and their missionary box and the new carpet for the vestry room, but under these reflections was a harmonious consciousness of red fields smoking into pale-purply mists in the declining sun, of long, sharp-pointed fir shadows falling over the meadow beyond the brook, of still, crimson-budded maples around a mirrorlike wood pool, of a wakening in the world and a stir of hidden pulses under the gray sod."
And, while we're at it, Matthew's:
"Matthew, who, being patient and wise and, above all, hungry, had deemed it best to let Marilla talk her wrath out unhindered, having learned by experience that she got through with whatever work was on hand much quicker if not delayed by untimely argument"
That aside, let's talk about the disaster that results when Anne tries to dye her hair black:
"Green it might be called, if it were any earthly color—a queer, dull, bronzy green, with streaks here and there of the original red to heighten the ghastly effect. Never in all her life had Marilla seen anything so grotesque as Anne's hair at that moment."
(For the record, when I was just a bit older than Anne, I dyed my brown hair reddish-brown. It wasn't actually a big change from my natural color. But I was sure the box said that the dye washed out after 6 weeks. Which it did not. And as my hair started to grow out, the difference between the two colors was just substantial enough that I spent several months with a subtle stripe across the back of my head.)

Oh, wait, it's an excuse for Marilla's xenophobia to make another appearance:
"Anne Shirley, how often have I told you never to let one of those Italians in the house! I don't believe in encouraging them to come around at all."
"Besides, he wasn't an Italian—he was a German Jew. He had a big box full of very interesting things and he told me he was working hard to make enough money to bring his wife and children out from Germany."
Onward, Anne, even without your formerly lovely long hair.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tidbit: Crow

Crow, Barbara Wright. (Random House, 1/10/12)

A common complaint in the kidlit world: historical fiction with African-American characters is pretty much slavery and the civil rights movement, with very little attention paid to the century in between.

Attention is being paid, and it's worth it.

The main character here is a generation removed from slavery -- it's hardly forgotten, but it's not what defines him. We've got issues of upward mobility, the clash between tradition and modernity, and the post-Reconstruction backlash.

(ARC provided by publisher.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tidbit: Bigger than a Breadbox

Bigger than a Breadbox, Laurel Snyder. (Random House, 9/27/11)

This is not a review. It's totally an endorsement. And a biased one, because not only is Laurel a fabulous person1, she's one of the few Twitter/blogging/online friends I've actually met.

That said: This is an excellent book. The story moves along, things are developing, there's all kinds of complexity -- and then there's a didn't-see-that-coming emotional punch at the end.2

(Advance copy provided by publisher.)

1 Bonus points to everyone who caught the Troop Beverley Hills reference there.
2 And I am not easily impressed by endings. Ask me sometime about The Usual Suspects.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tidbit: How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life, Sara Zarr. (LBYR, 10/18/11)

Proof that you can write a damn good YA novel that clocks in below 300 pages.

And unlike some other books,1 the flawed characters are ultimately endearing, not the kind that make you want to throw the book away and give up on them.

Somehow HTSAL even left me thinking good thoughts about a guy who wears eyeliner (but don't get any ideas).

(Review copy provided by publisher)

1 I will not name names. I will not name names.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tidbit: The Maid

The Maid, Kimberly Cutter. (HMH, 10/18/2011)

This is a book about Joan of Arc -- fair to say it's a story that's been done before, just a few times. I went into it knowing how things were going to turn out. So when I tell you that I was so engrossed in the last third of The Maid that I forgot I was supposed to be looking for Colleen and made her go searching all over the museum grounds for me, you get what I'm saying, no?

Knowing that Joan was going to win her big battle, knowing that the Dauphin was totally going to abandon her, knowing the outcome of the trial, I still had to find out how Cutter's version of it was going to happen.

(Advance copy provided by publisher)

New feature: tidbits

After months of telling people that I don't review new releases here, I'm suddenly a bookseller again. Which means I need to read a lot of new releases, and have something intelligent to say about them.

And it's way easier to do that here at Archimedes Forgets than keeping track of everything myself.

But the thing is, I don't review because I'm bad at it. I can do a passable job of telling you why to read something I like, but I'm just no good at analyzing why it works, or anything like that. And I can assure you that phrases like "luminous prose" are not going to start popping up here.

So I think it's time for a new feature here: tidbits. Consider them virtual shelftalkers, if you like; you might see some of them appearing on paper at the bookstore.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From Bob Edwards to Alexander Hamilton, with a rant in between

I made a mistake last night. I was supposed to go to bed when I set down Bob Edwards' A Voice in the Box, not scroll through Twitter and click on infuriating links.

Especially not when I'd just gotten to the dumped-by-Morning-Edition section of A Voice, which is seething with controlled fury. So that may have shaped my reaction to "Six Ways Amazon Book Streaming Could Help Small Business."

Maybe. Just a bit.1Vlad's a smart guy.2 And it's morning now, and I still think it's a dumb article.

First, it's total SEO-bait. The headline calls out small-biz benefits, but the article doesn't actually make the case for any.

Item 1: "We're going to take a leap of faith here and assume that what Amazon is offering goes beyond the usual Project Gutenberg titles that every e-book reader and service has made available for free, since they will need to do so to attract subscribers to their service."
  • "the usual Project Gutenberg titles" -- nitpicky it may be, but this phrase grates on me. The works in question are mostly public domain titles. Because their copyrights have expired,3 these documents are often available for free in digital format,4 or in a variety of formats from any publisher who cares to put them out.5
  • "need to do so to attract subscribers" -- I'll be curious to see what percentage of new Prime customers sign up for the service because of streaming book access.
Item 2: "Google Books is Not Enough."
  • Maybe the service should claim this as its tagline, with all the current and former James Bonds doing voiceovers.
Item 3: "which is still a big 'if' at this point"
  • In fact, it's a huge if. Everything in this article is speculation, and a whole lot more verbs should be in the subjunctive mood.
Item 4: "To obtain e-books from Amazon right now, you must go to Amazon’s website, search for what you want, and download it. If Amazon’s purported service does it right, you’ll be able to tap an app on your smartphone or their forthcoming tablet and stream a book directly to your device."
  • Which is pretty much what you can do with the Kindle app on any of these platforms, no? The key difference between the-way-things-are and the-way-things-might-be is that in the latter case, there would be no payment component to the transaction -- something the article overlooks.
Item 5: "Streaming Model May Bring Down Price Points."

No, you know what? I give up. It's not worth it, and I don't want to spend any more time on this.6 I could have been writing a post on Alexander Hamilton instead.7

1 Standard disclaimer applies: I'm an indie bookseller, a fan of indie bookstores, and a former employee of their trade association. So my perspective on who these moves are likely to help is neither unbiased nor disinterested.

2 For reference.

3 Or, in the case of government documents, they're simply public domain.

4 Except for the many $0.99 versions. Why? If you're going to spend the money, get a good annotated edition!

5 Which is why we were subjected to the Everything and Zombies nonsense two years ago.

6 Plus, the month is still young, and I don't want to waste my one officially-sanctioned outrage just yet.

7 TK soon. Preview here and here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chapter 26: Anne gets her writer on

The concert has passed, but its touch lingers in Avonlea. There's Anne's take:
"Perhaps after a while I'll get used to it, but I'm afraid concerts spoil people for everyday life. I suppose that is why Marilla disapproves of them. Marilla is such a sensible woman. It must be a great deal better to be sensible; but still, I don't believe I'd really want to be a sensible person, because they are so unromantic."
And the wider repercussions:
"To be sure, the concert left traces. Ruby Gillis and Emma White, who had quarreled over a point of precedence in their platform seats, no longer sat at the same desk, and a promising friendship of three years was broken up. Josie Pye and Julia Bell did not 'speak' for three months, because Josie Pye had told Bessie Wright that Julia Bell's bow when she got up to recite made her think of a chicken jerking its head, and Bessie told Julia. None of the Sloanes would have any dealings with the Bells, because the Bells had declared that the Sloanes had too much to do in the program, and the Sloanes had retorted that the Bells were not capable of doing the little they had to do properly. Finally, Charlie Sloane fought Moody Spurgeon MacPherson, because Moody Spurgeon had said that Anne Shirley put on airs about her recitations, and Moody Spurgeon was 'licked'; consequently Moody Spurgeon's sister, Ella May, would not 'speak' to Anne Shirley all the rest of the winter. With the exception of these trifling frictions, work in Miss Stacy's little kingdom went on with regularity and smoothness."
Shall we count the elements of awesome in that passage?
  • All the schoolroom drama
  • The quotes around "speak," because anyone who's been a preteen girl knows that not speaking to someone is not the same think as not "speaking" to them.
  • The fact that a minor battle was fought over Anne's honor (and she can even cherish the romanticism of it, because Gilbert wasn't involved!)
Incidentally, Moody Spurgeon MacPherson, who's just about always referred to by both his first names, is the namesake of notable nineteenth-century ministers Dwight Moody and Charles Spurgeon. (In a couple chapters, we'll see Mrs. Rachel make a point of that.)

Now that it's time to sort out post-concert life, Anne decides it's the right moment to get up a story club with the other girls. There's some fun stuff in there, but one line from Anne gives you the Cliffs Notes version of the club:
"Miss Josephine Barry wrote back that she had never read anything so amusing in her life. That kind of puzzled us because the stories were all very pathetic and almost everybody died. But I'm glad Miss Barry liked them."
Raise your hand if you wrote stories like that as a kid!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chapter 25: Matthew discovers fashion

"Matthew was having a bad ten minutes of it."
Poor man. Not just because he's hiding from a gaggle of girls who have taken over his house, but because of the adventure he's about to embark on.

As he sits there wondering how long he's going to have to wait before the giggling mass of hormones moves on, he figures out something that Marilla hasn't yet considered worthy of attention:
"The more Matthew thought about the matter the more he was convinced that Anne never had been dressed like the other girls—never since she had come to Green Gables. Marilla kept her clothed in plain, dark dresses, all made after the same unvarying pattern. If Matthew knew there was such a thing as fashion in dress it was as much as he did; but he was quite sure that Anne's sleeves did not look at all like the sleeves the other girls wore."
And he knows better than to talk to Marilla about it. So instead, he girds his loins and sets out on the difficult task of being a sixty-something bachelor buying a dress for the first time.

He's so uncomfortable with the idea that he doesn't even go to his usual store:
"To be sure, the Cuthberts always had gone to William Blair's; it was almost as much a matter of conscience with them as to attend the Presbyterian church and vote Conservative."
But he can't get away from the estrogen, since he's waited on by a female clerk.
"Matthew was covered with confusion at finding her there at all; and those bangles completely wrecked his wits at one fell swoop."
He ends up with no dress, and twenty pounds of brown sugar.
"It had been a gruesome experience, but it served him right, he thought, for committing the heresy of going to a strange store."
And of course, he's still not telling Marilla a thing, so she's left to rant about the brown sugar and show her disdain for the hired help once again:
"You know I never use it except for the hired man's porridge or black fruit cake. Jerry's gone and I've made my cake long ago."
Matthew finally solves the problem by going to Rachel Lynde, who thoroughly approves:
"That man is waking up after being asleep for over sixty years."
and secretly makes up a dress for Anne. Naturally, transports of delight follow.

Anne wears the dress to the school recital, to much acclaim -- and, Diana points out, some special attention:
"Wait till I tell you. When you ran off the platform after the fairy dialogue one of your roses fell out of your hair. I saw Gil pick it up and put it in his breast pocket. There now. You're so romantic that I'm sure you ought to be pleased at that."
Who wants to bet on that?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chapter 24: Miss Stacy

It's time to welcome one of the most awesome adult characters in Anne of Green Gables: Miss Stacy. (Points to Kevin Sullivan for giving her a more expanded role in the movies!)

Avonlea's new teacher scores points with Anne straight off:
"When she pronounces my name I feel INSTINCTIVELY that she's spelling it with an E."
But Miss Stacy's not held in quite such high esteem by the senior residents of Avonlea, who look somewhat askance at all the new innovations she introduces into the curriculum. Nature studies, "physical culture exercises," and concerts step a bit outside the 3 R's, y'know?

The concert is given "for the laudable purpose of helping to pay for a schoolhouse flag," and The Annotated Anne speculates that this might be a brand new Canadian flag, since the Dominion of Canada had only recently been formed.

Marilla has nothing against inculcating a spirit of patriotism in young Canadians, but she's pretty sure that's just an excuse for dressing up and staying out late.
"All I hope is that you'll behave yourself. I'll be heartily glad when all this fuss is over and you'll be able to settle down. You are simply good for nothing just now with your head stuffed full of dialogues and groans and tableaus. As for your tongue, it's a marvel it's not clean worn out."
Matthew, of course, thinks it's great. Because anything that makes Anne happy is great. Which prompts a lovely narrative aside:
"Those two were the best of friends and Matthew thanked his stars many a time and oft that he had nothing to do with bringing her up. That was Marilla's exclusive duty; if it had been his he would have been worried over frequent conflicts between inclination and said duty."
Poor Marilla, always having to be the grownup!

(Post pic borrowed from here, as the most likely one displayed at the school. I plead guilty to being a dumb American; I didn't realize the maple leaf was a quite recent invention.)

[Update: So close! book lovin' Ontarian pointed out that the original pic was a later iteration of the red ensign.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chapter 23: Balance skills

Montgomery sets up this chapter by letting us know that it's time for Anne to get into some mischief again:
"Almost a month having elapsed since the liniment cake episode, it was high time for her to get into fresh trouble of some sort, little mistakes, such as absentmindedly emptying a pan of skim milk into a basket of yarn balls in the pantry instead of into the pigs' bucket, and walking clean over the edge of the log bridge into the brook while wrapped in imaginative reverie, not really being worth counting."
Yeah, not much happening there.

But, just like in The Christmas Story, that whole holding-your-head-up thing makes life complicated. Especially when Josie Pye is the one making the dare -- in this case, daring Anne to walk the ridgepole.

Only it turns out Anne's ability to balance is not quite on the level of her ability to taunt Josie, and she ends up falling off the roof.

Now it might be tempting to make fun of Diana's reaction to Anne's fall:
"Oh, Anne, dear Anne, speak just one word to me and tell me if you're killed."
But just consider the response:
"No, Diana, I am not killed, but I think I am rendered unconscious."
Which obviously is not the case. So they gather Anne up and carry her back to Green Gables, provoking one of Marilla's pivotal moments in the book:
"At that moment Marilla had a revelation. In the sudden stab of fear that pierced her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her. She would have admitted that she liked Anne—nay, that she was very fond of Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was dearer to her than anything else on earth."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chapter 22: What's better than asking a friend to tea?

Being asked to tea by the new minister's wife.

Among other things, it signals that all has been forgiven after the anodyne cake incident. Phew.

Also, no one gets drunk when Mrs. Allan is the hostess.

This is another vignette/not-much-plot chapter. What we get to see is a snippet of Anne growing up -- a little bit.
"That is the first time I was ever called 'Miss.' Such a thrill as it gave me!"
"For Anne to take things calmly would have been to change her nature."
"Marilla had almost begun to despair of ever fashioning this waif of the world into her model little girl of demure manners and prim deportment. Neither would she have believed that she really liked Anne much better as she was."
By the way, the two poetic allusions in this chapter show both how effectively Anne has spread through the world, and also how well Montgomery knew her stuff. A quick Google search for "spirit and fire and dew" (Robert Browning) and "deeps of affliction" (John Owen) turn up just as many pages about the book as references to the originals.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chapter 21: Ew

Avonlea acquires a new minister, and it's quite the small-town event:
"If Marilla, in going down to Mrs. Lynde's that evening, was actuated by any motive save her avowed one of returning the quilting frames she had borrowed the preceding winter, it was an amiable weakness shared by most of the Avonlea people. Many a thing Mrs. Lynde had lent, sometimes never expecting to see it again, came home that night in charge of the borrowers thereof. A new minister, and moreover a minister with a wife, was a lawful object of curiosity in a quiet little country settlement where sensations were few and far between."
I love it when Montgomery goes all dry-humor on us.

Anne, of course, was not left out of the process while the church decided which minister to call:
"These stood or fell by the judgment of the fathers and mothers in Israel; but a certain small, red-haired girl who sat meekly in the corner of the old Cuthbert pew also had her opinions about them and discussed the same in full with Matthew, Marilla always declining from principle to criticize ministers in any shape or form."
Part of the event nature of the minister's arrival is the obligation of every respectable family to invite him and his wife to their homes. Naturally, Anne is the one to feel the pressure.
"It's such a responsibility having a minister's family to tea."
And she subtly adds her own tweaks to Marilla's tea:
"'Mrs. Barry had HER table decorated,' said Anne, who was not entirely guiltless of the wisdom of the serpent, 'and the minister paid her an elegant compliment. He said it was a feast for the eye as well as the palate.'"
And not so subtly:
"Mercy on us, Anne, you've flavored that cake with ANODYNE LINIMENT. I broke the liniment bottle last week and poured what was left into an old empty vanilla bottle. I suppose it's partly my fault—I should have warned you—but for pity's sake why couldn't you have smelled it?"
No one was injured, of course.
"It's meant to be taken internally—although not in cakes."
Which doesn't mean the cake was a successful part of the meal.
"'Well, you'd better go and give that cake to the pigs,' said Marilla. 'It isn't fit for any human to eat, not even Jerry Boute.'"
Yup, couldn't let another chapter pass without getting in a dig at the help. Ah, well. Onward, Marilla!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chapter 20: In which imagination gets out of control

Not much happens in this chapter; it's more of a vignette that demonstrates that Anne is still Anne -- in this case, because she totally lets her imagination get the better of her in the matter of the Haunted Wood.

Besides that, we get a look at Avonlea childhood customs:
"Charlie Sloane dared Arty Gillis to jump over it, and Arty did because he wouldn't take a dare. Nobody would in school. It is very FASHIONABLE to dare."
And the use of questionable verbs:
"After the Mayflowers came the violets, and Violet Vale was empurpled with them."
And a look at how Anne's bedroom has changed:
"In all essential respects the little gable chamber was unchanged. The walls were as white, the pincushion as hard, the chairs as stiffly and yellowly upright as ever. Yet the whole character of the room was altered. It was full of a new vital, pulsing personality that seemed to pervade it and to be quite independent of schoolgirl books and dresses and ribbons, and even of the cracked blue jug full of apple blossoms on the table. It was as if all the dreams, sleeping and waking, of its vivid occupant had taken a visible although unmaterial form and had tapestried the bare room with splendid filmy tissues of rainbow and moonshine."
And a sign of how Marilla has changed:
"'No, I can't say I'm sorry,' said Marilla, who sometimes wondered how she could have lived before Anne came to Green Gables, 'no, not exactly sorry. If you've finished your lessons, Anne, I want you to run over and ask Mrs. Barry if she'll lend me Diana's apron pattern.'"
(Post pic: Obviously, live oaks and Spanish moss are not among the flora of Prince Edward Island. But can you think of anything that is more mood-setting in a picture of woods?)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chapter 19: Lessons are learned

Lesson 1: It doesn't matter how careful you are with your special communication system, grownups are going to object.
"We have arranged a way to signal with our candles and cardboard. We set the candle on the window sill and make flashes by passing the cardboard back and forth. So many flashes mean a certain thing. It was my idea, Marilla."
Lesson 2: When designing said communication system, make sure the code meshes well with logic.
"Two flashes mean, 'Are you there?' Three mean 'yes' and four 'no.'"
Lesson 3: When begging to go to a concert, muster your arguments.
"Prissy Andrews is going to recite 'Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight.' That is such a good moral piece, Marilla, I'm sure it would do me lots of good to hear it."
Lesson 4: When that fails, Matthew will always succeed.
"Argument was not his strong point, but holding fast to his opinion certainly was."
Lesson 5: Reminding Marilla how much worse you might be is generally a win.
"But then just think of all the mistakes I don't make, although I might."
Lesson 6: Show your lack of interest in a way that leaves no doubts.
"Only one number on the program failed to interest her. When Gilbert Blythe recited "Bingen on the Rhine" Anne picked up Rhoda Murray's library book and read it until he had finished, when she sat rigidly stiff and motionless while Diana clapped her hands until they tingled."
Lesson 7: Look before you leap.
"The two little white-clad figures flew down the long room, through the spare-room door, and bounded on the bed at the same moment. And then—something—moved beneath them, there was a gasp and a cry—and somebody said in muffled accents: 'Merciful goodness!'"
Lesson 8: Rachel Lynde knows everything. Don't even try to fight it.
"Old Miss Barry is rich and they'd like to keep on the good side of her. Of course, Mrs. Barry didn't say just that to me, but I'm a pretty good judge of human nature, that's what."
Lesson 9: Turn your weaknesses into strengths.
"I've been so used in my early days to having people cross at me that I can endure it much better than Diana can."
Lesson 10: Even crotchety old people can surprise you.
"I'm afraid my imagination is a little rusty—it's so long since I used it"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chapter 18: Anne saves the day

Who else grew up on the American Girl books? Each girl's series included a Saves the Day book -- Kirsten Saves the Day, Samantha Saves the Day, and so on. Well, this is Anne's version.

Anne and Matthew are left home while Marilla, Rachel Lynde, and various other Avonlea adults go off to play politics.
"It was a January the Premier came, to address his loyal supporters and such of his nonsupporters as chose to be present at the monster mass meeting held in Charlottetown."
At the time Montgomery was writing, the Premier in question was Sir John MacDonald.
"Mrs. Rachel Lynde was a red-hot politician and couldn't have believed that the political rally could be carried through without her, although she was on the opposite side of politics. So she went to town and took her husband—Thomas would be useful in looking after the horse—and Marilla Cuthbert with her. Marilla had a sneaking interest in politics herself, and as she thought it might be her only chance to see a real live Premier, she promptly took it, leaving Anne and Matthew to keep house until her return the following day."
Anne and Matthew are enjoying a cozy afternoon at Green Gables (which in this case means Anne's doing just about all the talking):
"I learn the proposition off by heart and then he draws it on the blackboard and puts different letters from what are in the book and I get all mixed up."

"Ruby Gillis says when she grows up she's going to have ever so many beaus on the string and have them all crazy about her; but I think that would be too exciting. I'd rather have just one in his right mind."
... when Diana bursts in. Little sister Minnie May has come down with a bad case of croup, and the senior Barrys have also gone to see the Premier. As has the doctor. This gives Anne an opportunity to draw on the experience of taking care of "twins three times" -- she knows what to do, and she does it.
"Anne, although sincerely sorry for Minnie May, was far from being insensible to the romance of the situation and to the sweetness of once more sharing that romance with a kindred spirit."
Also, it provides Montgomery with another opportunity to disdain French Canadians.
"Young Mary Joe, a buxom, broad-faced French girl from the creek, whom Mrs. Barry had engaged to stay with the children during her absence, was helpless and bewildered, quite incapable of thinking what to do, or doing it if she thought of it."
Anne's nursing gets Minnie May turned around by the time the doctor arrives, and she's the hero of the day.

But aside from the drama and romance of it all, the best part, as far as Anne's concerned, is that Mrs. Barry decides this is a decent reason to forgive her for letting Diana intoxicate herself, so the girls are allowed to be friends again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chapter 17: Life goes on

Okay, I jumped the gun a bit in Chapter 16. This is where Anne and Diana make their meldramatic farewells.
"Ten minutes isn't very long to say an eternal farewell in"
Anne is devastated, though Marilla reminds her she's still got her wits:
"'I don't think there is much fear of your dying of grief as long as you can talk, Anne,' said Marilla unsympathetically."
Now that she's forcibly lost her best friend, Anne decides she might as well go back to school, where she can at least see Diana, even if they're not allowed to speak. And she's determined to be at the top of her class -- especially since that means she'll get to beat Gilbert Blythe.
"it was entirely good natured on Gilbert's side; but it is much to be feared that the same thing cannot be said of Anne, who had certainly an unpraiseworthy tenacity for holding grudges"
Also, one noteworthy allusion in this chapter:
"The Caesar's pageant shorn of Brutus' bust
Did but of Rome's best son remind her more."
That would be Anne (or at least the narrator) quoting from Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" to describe her post-Diana emotions. Thematically appropriate, if perhaps a little implausible for an 11-year-old girl.

Chapter 16: A sad day at Green Gables

On one level, this chapter is about the rupture that occurs in the bosom friendship when Diana manages to get herself drunk.

At the same time, we get more insight into Marilla, and see how she subtly rebels against community norms.

Anne invites Diana over for tea while Marilla is out, giving them both a chance to play sophisticated grownup. Anne ("There are so many responsibilities on a person's mind when they're keeping house, isn't there?") plans the meal in exquisite detail, Diana ("looking exactly as it is proper to look when asked out to tea") very politely inquires after Marilla and Matthew -- and then they remember that they're little girls who don't have to act like that all the time.

Oh, and we get to hear about some of Anne's cooking disasters! "The last time I made a cake I forgot to put the flour in.... Flour is so essential to cakes, you know."

And then Diana starts to feel off, and decides to go home -- where her mother discovers that she's not sick, she's drunk. Because the three cups of raspberry cordial she had turned out to be currant wine.

Which was a total accident. Not a precursor to the Avonlea equivalent of beer pong. But Mrs. Barry totally doesn't care. Remember how Montgomery gave us a signal that Mrs. Barry was not entirely to be trusted when she was first introduced? There was a reason.
"Mrs. Barry was a woman of strong prejudices and dislikes, and her anger was of the cold, sullen sort which is always hardest to overcome. To do her justice, she really believed Anne had made Diana drunk out of sheer malice prepense, and she was honestly anxious to preserve her little daughter from the contamination of further intimacy with such a child."

"She was suspicious of Anne's big words and dramatic gestures and imagined that the child was making fun of her."
Result: Diana is banned from all contact with Anne. Both girls are devastated. Melodramatically so.Link
But back to the currant wine for a minute: It turns out that Avonlea residents are of the teetotalling strain of Calvinism, so Marilla's actually been rebelling against her neighbors by making it. (Although she doesn't go so far as to rebel against an official authority figure.)
"Well, this story will be a nice handle for those folks who are so down on me for making currant wine, although I haven't made any for three years ever since I found out that the minister didn't approve."
At least Marilla (in Lydia Pinkham mode) is able to laugh (discreetly) at the situation. Anne doesn't seem to believe she'll ever laugh again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chapter 15: A Tempest in the School Teapot

The post title for this chapter is the same as the actual chapter title, because it made such an impression on my when I first read the book. I hadn't yet come across the phrase "tempest in a teapot," so I didn't understand the play on words, but there was something about the rhythm or the imagery of it that stuck with me.


There are a lot of great lines in this chapter, so let's do a quick summary and then get into those.

Anne puts in her first appearance at Avonlea school -- coincidentally, on the same day that Gilbert Blythe gets back to town. Gilbert decides that the best way to get the attention of a redhead is to call her "Carrots," and is informed otherwise by means of a slate connecting with his skull. The situation is not improved by an incompetent teacher who singles Anne out for punishment -- and even worse, misspells her name -- and the chapter ends with Anne deciding that she's not going back there any time soon.

And the good bits:
  • "The little girls of Avonlea school always pooled their lunches, and to eat three raspberry tarts all alone or even to share them only with one's best chum would have forever and ever branded as 'awful mean' the girl who did it. And yet, when the tarts were divided among ten girls you just got enough to tantalize you."
  • "'Not that lovers ever really walk there,' she explained to Marilla, 'but Diana and I are reading a perfectly magnificent book and there's a Lover's Lane in it. So we want to have one, too.'"
  • "if you were quiet—which, with Anne and Diana, happened about once in a blue moon"
  • "'I guess Gilbert Blythe will be in school today,' said Diana. 'He's been visiting his cousins over in New Brunswick all summer and he only came home Saturday night. He's AW'FLY handsome, Anne. And he teases the girls something terrible. He just torments our lives out.'... Diana's voice indicated that she rather liked having her life tormented out than not."
  • "Gilbert Blythe wasn't used to putting himself out to make a girl look at him and meeting with failure."
  • "And then—thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert's head and cracked it—slate not head—clear across."
  • "'Oh how could you, Anne?' breathed Diana as they went down the road half reproachfully, half admiringly. Diana felt that SHE could never have resisted Gilbert's plea."
  • "Diana hadn't the least idea what Anne meant but she understood it was something terrible."
  • "Mr. Phillips's brief reforming energy was over; he didn't want the bother of punishing a dozen pupils; but it was necessary to do something to save his word, so he looked about for a scapegoat and found it in Anne"
  • "Once, when nobody was looking, Gilbert took from his desk a little pink candy heart with a gold motto on it, "You are sweet," and slipped it under the curve of Anne's arm. Whereupon Anne arose, took the pink heart gingerly between the tips of her fingers, dropped it on the floor, ground it to powder beneath her heel, and resumed her position without deigning to bestow a glance on Gilbert."
  • "Marilla saw something remarkably like unyielding stubbornness looking out of Anne's small face. She understood that she would have trouble in overcoming it; but she re-solved wisely to say nothing more just then."
  • "'Well, since you've asked my advice, Marilla,' said Mrs. Lynde amiably—Mrs. Lynde dearly loved to be asked for advice"
  • "'I love Diana so, Marilla. I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do? I hate her husband—I just hate him furiously. I've been imagining it all out—the wedding and everything—Diana dressed in snowy garments, with a veil, and looking as beautiful and regal as a queen; and me the bridesmaid, with a lovely dress too, and puffed sleeves, but with a breaking heart hid beneath my smiling face.'"
  • "Marilla turned quickly away to hide her twitching face; but it was no use; she collapsed on the nearest chair and burst into such a hearty and unusual peal of laughter that Matthew, crossing the yard outside, halted in amazement. When had he heard Marilla laugh like that before?"

Monday, August 8, 2011

What I do

(When I'm not blogging about old books, of course.)

I know I sound like a pretentious twit when I say this, but I kind of don't get people who aren't news junkies.

This is not new. But I was reminded of it tonight courtesy of a tweet from a friend who had been unaware that riots are currently happening in London and other English cities.

No matter how much I say I'm not judging her for that, you're free to start the name-calling now.

That's why I can't imagine having the experience my parents did two summers in a row:

We went on August road trips, to the Four Corners area in 1990 and Yosemite Lake Tahoe in 1991. Both lovely places, remote in parts, but hardly cut off from the world.

And both times, my parents (and the rest of us, but as I was still in the single digits I can't take too much credit) figured out that something big had happened during those trips when they stopped at a gas station and found the prices much higher than the last time they'd filled up.

Something big, August 1990: Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Something big, August 1991: A Soviet coup briefly deposed Gorbachev.

And somehow, when those events happened, we didn't have a newspaper. We hadn't turned on NPR. (I didn't grow up with TV news, so that one's not surprising. And yes, y'all, this was pre-Internet. I'm old.)

We were on vacation, and it didn't occur to my parents that some kind of news consumption was an essential part of our day. That's a choice I just don't see myself making.

I check news sites first thing in the morning. On a day like today, I had the NYT front page up in a tab all day. And let's not even talk about how often I check Twitter.

This isn't just a generational thing; the Internet is just the most current mode of information transfer. What I do -- what I want to do -- is know what's going on and tell other people about it.

It was, to some extent, what I did when I was at ABA. (That was the external side. The internal side involved a lot of me popping into my boss' office to share the latest industry nonsense developments, and it was a hit.)

If Andy Carvin didn't exist, I'd want his job. (Unfortunately, I was not hired when I said that, more elegantly, when I interviewed at NPR.)

This is what I do. In some form, it's what I will always do, whether or not it's part of my job description.

But if someone wants to pay me to do it, I wouldn't say no.

(Post pics are -- assuming I labeled them correctly -- from the 1991 Yosemite trip. Taken with a magenta flip-flash camera, baby!)

[Update, 8/9: So much for my steel-trap memory. A conversation with my mom tonight led to us determining that the August 1991 trip was, in fact, to Lake Tahoe. We spent a long weekend or something like that at Yosemite in the spring of that year. No breaking news during that vacation; it was mostly memorable for my first-ever coyote sighting. In addition to name-calling, you are also now free to mock.]

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chapter 14: Accused, confessed, and vindicated

Marilla's brooch (go back to Chapter 13 if you're confused) has gone missing.

Anne saw it. In fact, she picked it up and played with it, even though she wasn't supposed to. Which makes her, in Marilla's eyes, the guilty party.

Which Anne steadfastly denies.
"I never took the brooch out of your room and that is the truth, if I was to be led to the block for it—although I'm not very certain what a block is. So there, Marilla."
Result: Anne is confined to her bedroom until she confesses -- which means, if she doesn't, missing the Sunday School picnic. (Again, Chapter 13.) Which means she's in the depths of despair -- oh, and refusing
"Boiled pork and greens are so unromantic when one is in affliction."
Matthew, incidentally, is the person who listens to this particular plaint, which sticks with him when he goes down to his own dinner:
"mournfully surveying his plateful of unromantic pork and greens as if he, like Anne, thought it a food unsuited to crises of feeling"
Marilla has her doubts, but she's not willing to share them. She reminds Matthew that the whole child-raising thing is her business, thank you very much.
"The retort silenced Matthew if it did not convince him. That dinner was a very dismal meal. The only cheerful thing about it was Jerry Buote, the hired boy, and Marilla resented his cheerfulness as a personal insult."
Result: Since she's not allowed out of her room until she confesses, and she desperately wants to go to the picnic, Anne decides to make up an elaborate confession, the upshot of which is dropping the brooch into the pond during a romantic reverie.

Which, understandably, displeases Marilla. As punishment, Anne's not allowed to go to the picnic after all, prompting moans of unfairness.

Until Marilla discovers that the brooch has, in fact, gotten caught in her shawl, and has been hiding in the closet for the past two days. Much apologizing ensues, Anne goes to the picnic, and all is well again.

Chapter 13: Marilla's first kiss

This chapter is mostly a setup for Chapter 14. The salient details are this: Anne's excited about the Sunday School picnic, and Marilla has a brooch that's her one nice piece of jewelry.

That said, there's still some good stuff here.
  • Good idiom: nineteen to the dozen, as in Marilla's "now she's perched out there on the woodpile talking to Matthew, nineteen to the dozen, when she knows perfectly well she ought to be at her work." The Annotated Anne claims that this means "for every dozen words a normal person can speak, Anne can cram in nineteen." That seems a bit too specific for a common phrase, and other etymology sources just say it means doing something fast (and may have come out of the mechanization of coal mining -- your trivia tidbit for the evening).
  • Good Anne-phrase: "just little young rainbows that haven't grown big yet." Don't you want to pick them up and cuddle them?
  • Good bonding:"It was the first time in her whole life that childish lips had voluntarily touched Marilla's face. Again that sudden sensation of startling sweetness thrilled her. She was secretly vastly pleased at Anne's impulsive caress, which was probably the reason why she said brusquely..."
  • Good description: Even if you had no idea what an amethyst looked like, you'd understand what Anne's on about: "They are what I used to think diamonds were like. Long ago, before I had ever seen a diamond, I read about them and I tried to imagine what they would be like. I thought they would be lovely glimmering purple stones. When I saw a real diamond in a lady's ring one day I was so disappointed I cried."
So: picnic and brooch. Remember those.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chapter 12: Bosom friends

I had such lofty dreams of illustrating this post with images of all the flowers Montgomery lists in Mrs. Barry's garden:
"There were rosy bleeding-hearts and great splendid crimson peonies; white, fragrant narcissi and thorny, sweet Scotch roses; pink and blue and white columbines and lilac-tinted Bouncing Bets; clumps of southernwood and ribbon grass and mint; purple Adam-and-Eve, daffodils, and masses of sweet clover white with its delicate, fragrant, feathery sprays; scarlet lightning that shot its fiery lances over prim white musk-flowers"
Which would be lovely. But I also thought it might be nice to get this post published before Christmas.

So. This is the chapter in which we meet one of the other key players in Anne's life. It takes about two minutes for Anne and Diana Barry to become fast friends.

But first we meet Mrs. Barry, and if you know what comes later, you'll see that she's very deliberately being set up as an unsympathetic character here.
"She reads entirely too much—" this to Marilla as the little girls went out—"and I can't prevent her, for her father aids and abets her."
So things are good in Avonlea, on many levels. Which is something Marilla comes very close to admitting herself:
"I will say it for the child," said Marilla when Anne had gone to her gable, "she isn't stingy. I'm glad, for of all faults I detest stinginess in a child. Dear me, it's only three weeks since she came, and it seems as if she'd been here always. I can't imagine the place without her. Now, don't be looking I told-you-so, Matthew. That's bad enough in a woman, but it isn't to be endured in a man. I'm perfectly willing to own up that I'm glad I consented to keep the child and that I'm getting fond of her, but don't you rub it in, Matthew Cuthbert."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stuff I mostly haven't read yet

... but am sharing anyway. Partly so I can clear out my bookmarks, and partly because a quick skim makes me reasonably confident that there's something to worth reading in all of these.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chapter 11: I feel you, Anne -- I want pretty dresses too!

No, clothes aren't the exclusive focus of this chapter. But just as much as Sunday School (which actually appears in the chapter title), this chapter deals with the difference between how Anne and Marilla deal with appearance.

Marilla has made Anne some new dresses to replace her asylum clothes:
"One was of snuffy colored gingham which Marilla had been tempted to buy from a peddler the preceding summer because it looked so serviceable; one was of black-and-white checkered sateen which she had picked up at a bargain counter in the winter; and one was a stiff print of an ugly blue shade which she had purchased that week at a Carmody store.... She had made them up herself, and they were all made alike—plain skirts fulled tightly to plain waists, with sleeves as plain as waist and skirt and tight as sleeves could be."
Anne, though intent on being grateful, can't help but long for puffed sleeves. Which Marilla thinks are both wasteful and ridiculous.
"But I'd rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself," persisted Anne mournfully.
But just a little further along in the chapter, we get to see that Anne doesn't care all that much about general standards of fashion, as long as her own standards are met -- and a wreath of flowers, picked on the way to church, certainly satisfies the second condition.
"Whatever other people might have thought of the result it satisfied Anne, and she tripped gaily down the road, holding her ruddy head with its decoration of pink and yellow very proudly."
Anne gets through her first experience in the Avonlea church without mishap, though she has plenty to criticize when she gets home to Marilla. And once again Marilla's facing a conflict between the sense that she should be instilling absolute respect for authority in her new charge, and the fact that Anne's critique is pretty on-target.
"Marilla felt helplessly that all this should be sternly reproved, but she was hampered by the undeniable fact that some of the things Anne had said, especially about the minister's sermons and Mr. Bell's prayers, were what she herself had really thought deep down in her heart for years, but had never given expression to. It almost seemed to her that those secret, unuttered, critical thoughts had suddenly taken visible and accusing shape and form in the person of this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity."

Chapter 10: What's an imagination for if not to make things up?

First, another look at the pre-Anne atmosphere at Green Gables:
"As a general thing Matthew gravitated between the kitchen and the little bedroom off the hall where he slept; once in a while he ventured uncomfortably into the parlor or sitting room when the minister came to tea. But he had never been upstairs in his own house since the spring he helped Marilla paper the spare bedroom, and that was four years ago."
Matthew, having promised to stay out of Anne's upbringing, now finds himself interfering for the first time. Because, after all, he does know better.

What's more, he knows how to persuade, so that Anne, who had been steadfastly refusing to apologize to Mrs. Rachel, sees that maybe she's wrong.
"It would be true enough to say I am sorry, because I AM sorry now. I wasn't a bit sorry last night."
And then Anne agrees to tell Marilla nothing of his "interference":
"Wild horses won't drag the secret from me," promised Anne solemnly. "How would wild horses drag a secret from a person anyhow?"
I suppose that's a reference to the quartering portion of drawing and quartering -- but those are generally domesticated horses used for that purpose. So how did "wild horses" become part of the cliche? The idea of being trampled by them? Somehow dragged behind one?

You can see this is Miss Shirley's affect on everyone, not just her adoptive family.

So Anne tells Marilla that she's agreed to apologize, and they head over to the Lynde house. But Marilla's a smart lady, and she notices things:
"But the former under-stood in dismay that Anne was actually enjoying her valley of humiliation—was reveling in the thoroughness of her abasement. Where was the wholesome punishment upon which she, Marilla, had plumed herself? Anne had turned it into a species of positive pleasure."
Complete with begging forgiveness on her knees.
"Good Mrs. Lynde, not being overburdened with perception, did not see this."
Narrative snark FTW.

And then we get another look at how Marilla is the one changing here, learning what it means to have a child in her life and to unbend occasionally.
"Something warm and pleasant welled up in Marilla's heart at touch of that thin little hand in her own—a throb of the maternity she had missed, perhaps. Its very unaccustomedness and sweetness disturbed her. She hastened to restore her sensations to their normal calm by inculcating a moral."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chapter 9: The famous temper

Anne's settling in at Green Gables, but it's a while before she meets her neighbor. (As opposed to the rest of us, who met Rachel Lynde in the first chapter.) But as Montgomery points out:
"Mrs. Rachel, to do her justice, was not to blame for this."
Mrs. Rachel, to do her justice, doesn't waste any time telling Anne what her faults are -- with special emphasis on Anne's appearance. Miss Shirley does not restrain herself.
"I hate you," she cried in a choked voice, stamping her foot on the floor. "I hate you—I hate you—I hate you—" a louder stamp with each assertion of hatred. "How dare you call me skinny and ugly? How dare you say I'm freckled and redheaded? You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling woman!"
Which, while perhaps not entirely true, is certainly justified.
"Oh, but there's such a difference between saying a thing yourself and hearing other people say it," wailed Anne.
Marilla, of course, is rather put out at this scene -- and by the fact that she gets where Anne's coming from, so it's difficult for her to balance ideals of Calvinist upbringing with human feelings.
"An old remembrance suddenly rose up before Marilla. She had been a very small child when she had heard one aunt say of her to another, 'What a pity she is such a dark, homely little thing.' Marilla was every day of fifty before the sting had gone out of that memory."

Anne prepares herself for some horrible punishment, showing off that imagination we've already become acquainted with, and giving Marilla the opportunity to deliver an excellent deadpan:
"We're not in the habit of shutting people up in dark damp dungeons," said Marilla drily, "especially as they're rather scarce in Avonlea."
The upshot is this: Anne is under orders to apologize to Mrs. Rachel. Anne is understandably reluctant to do so. Which sets us up for Chapter 10, but not without a closing line that makes Marilla that much more lovable:
"She was as angry with herself as with Anne, because, whenever she recalled Mrs. Rachel's dumbfounded countenance her lips twitched with amusement and she felt a most reprehensible desire to laugh."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Chapter 8: Our heroine assumes her title

The first night of Anne's permanent residence at Green Gables has passed, and now she and Marilla set about the business of getting to know one another for real.
"By noon she had concluded that Anne was smart and obedient, willing to work and quick to learn; her most serious shortcoming seemed to be a tendency to fall into daydreams in the middle of a task and forget all about it until such time as she was sharply recalled to earth by a reprimand or a catastrophe."
Remember how I mentioned the "Miss Cuthbert" thing a couple chapters back? Here Marilla explains why she wants Anne to call her by her first name:
"I'm not used to being called Miss Cuthbert and it would make me nervous.... Everybody, young and old, in Avonlea calls me Marilla except the minister. He says Miss Cuthbert—when he thinks of it."
And we get a delightful, possibly snarky insight into Marilla's thought process. She may not have any experience with raising girls, but she certainly has her ideas about how it ought to be done:
"Marilla was as fond of morals as the Duchess in Wonderland, and was firmly convinced that one should be tacked on to every remark made to a child who was being brought up."
And then finally, Anne begins to identify with her new home.
"But it's a million times nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than Anne of nowhere in particular, isn't it?"
Yes, Anne, it is.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Men of L'Engle #9: Adam Eddington

Let's just let Ms. L. introduce Adam, shall we?
"Adam Eddington, sixteen, going on seventeen, out of high school and set for Berkeley in the winter.... He had always, with a degree of arrogance, considered himself sophisticated because he had grown up in New York, because his friendships cut across racial and economic barriers, because he could cope with the subway and shuttle at rush hours, because the island of Manhattan (he thought) held no surprises for him."
This is the Adam we first meet in The Arm of the Starfish, heading off to get himself involved in far more international intrigue than usually accompanies a summer internship.

Which is actually the first of two times he ends up in the midst of completely unrelated international intrigues. By accident. The kid has a talent for it, even if he doesn't seem to have learned much from the first go-round.

But we're willing to overlook that, generally, because he's pretty awesome otherwise. Also he loves Vicky, and who reads the Austin books without identifying at least a little with her?

As far as I'm concerned, though, the single most endearing thing about Adam is one very subtle line in A Ring of Endless Light: "his trunks were zebra-striped." L'Engle just lets it fall, in the midst of Vicky's thoughts about the rest of his appearance (conclusion: not bad), and she expects the reader to know that the only reason zebra-striped swimming trunks matter is because they are the ones Joshua used.

Leading characteristics:
  • Chauvinist. Despite the fact that he's the awesome love interest (and he speaks Spanish), I'm not going to give him a pass on this one. It's particularly egregious in The Arm of the Starfish, where he lets himself get into all sorts of trouble with Kali because "what she was saying was only a soprano twittering in his ears. Most girls' conversation was, in his opinion."
  • Scientific. A point he makes over and over. See pull quotes.
  • Trustworthy. The first adjective Vicky applies to him, and we're never given any reason to doubt it.
  • Easygoing. Maybe that's not the word I'm looking for -- how would you describe someone who's totally comfortable joining in family singalongs with people he's only just met?
Pull quotes:
  • "I'm a scientist, not a poet. Even when I was a kid I read Scientific American, not fairy tales."
  • "You can't hindsight that way. When something happens, it happens, and you have to accept it and go on from there."
  • "I think that places hold atmospheres, too."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Men of L'Engle #8: Zachary Gray

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that you have to have a much stronger belief than I do in the possibility of Zachary's reform to find him a likable character. Maybe I'm too black-and-white, but I don't see him as a complex character, just a slimy one.

But I do have a lot to say about him. So that's something.1

I'm almost surprised that L'Engle never made an explicit Holden Caulfield reference in her descriptions of Zachary, because there's a clear resemblance. "Phony" and "crumby" make frequent appearances in Zachary's conversation; he's a rich kid largely ignored by his parents; none of what happens is his fault.

Zachary makes his first appearance in The Moon by Night, just after one of his prep school expulsions. Choate once, Hotchkiss another time -- at least the guy gets thrown out of classy places.2 He pursues Vicky as the Austin family travels across the country, then turns up two years later to pursue her again.

After he (not much of a spoiler) makes a complete ass of himself, repeatedly puts Vicky in danger, and abandons her. Then he appears in A House Like a Lotus, where he pursues Polly, makes a complete ass of himself, puts Polly in danger, and abandons her. Anyone want to guess what happens in An Acceptable Time?

And then at the end, he's allegedly hit bottom, seen the error of his ways, and redeemed himself. Which I do not find one bit convincing. Because after abandoning Vicky, he appeared to have seen the error of his ways.

So I don't see Zachary as a flawed but ultimately decent character. He's a bundle of abuser warning signs. Perhaps he'll give someone else a chance to learn the lesson Polly didn't: If a boy thinks that "non-virgin status" = "reason to let him have his way" -- that's when you get up and walk out.

Leading characteristics:
  • Spoiled. And knows it. He's well aware of his ability to get anything he wants out of his parents. Or as he puts it: "When I don't get what I want I have hysterics. They're very effective."
  • Gorgeous. This is one point Vicky and Polly are both very clear on. The "Hamlet look," as Vicky calls it, works for him.
  • Manipulative. And utterly sleazy. (Sorry. Personal sentiment intruding there.) But just look at how he plays with Vicky and Polly's emotions. There is just no reason for a line like "If I had somebody like you around maybe I wouldn't go getting kicked out of schools all the time."
Pull quote(s):
  • "money and connections can do wonders"
  • "I've been in a filthy mood. Get me out of my mood."
  • "I'm a self-protective bastard."
  • "Polly, don't you understand? I needed you. I needed you terribly."
  • "I don't want to be a lawyer, as you so naively put it, but I intend to be one."

Where's Zachary now? Somewhere expensive, probably. Not a lawyer. And still not worth it.

1 Also, he's the excuse for Suzy to taunt Vicky with "Love is a little thing shaped like a lizard; it runs up and down and tickles your gizzard." Which is just lovely.2
2 Basically, he flunks out by choice. Or as Polly puts it, "He didn't do well in school because if he's not interested, he doesn't bother."
3 I mean that in a totally non-sarcastic way. (I know; it's not always easy to tell.)