Villette 27-33, "I wish you were at Jericho"

   WOW, can we talk about M. Paul? SIR WHAT IS YOUR DEAL.

   M. Paul, as he is played:
  • Lends books and gives chocolate! Adorable!
  • Cuts pages out of the books that he doesn't want Lucy to read? WHAT?
  •  Helps Lucy learn math! So nice!
  • Yells at her for learning and says that women shouldn't be intelligent? WTH?
  • Gracefully accepts gifts that others would sneer at. (Sort of)
  • Throws a tantrum when one person doesn't acknowledge his birthday with a bouquet fast enough? Excuse me?
  • Genuinely apologizes when he's been in the wrong! Refreshing!
  • Is SO OFTEN in the wrong what with hissing insults in her ear at parties and being, in general, a dick. 
  • Also sees Ghost Nun! Lucy Snowe ain't mad!
  • Spies on everyone in the school for girls that doesn't have curtains in a major way. NO THANK YOU. 
  • Acknowledges that Lucy isn't "inoffensive as a shadow"! Hooray!
  • Tells Lucy she looks nice in her pink cotton picnic dress, CUTE
  • PINCHES her EAR, ach NEIN
   I am of two minds regarding M. Paul and they are diametrically opposed. He is basically two people. One is perceptive and thoughtful and the other is just the woooorst. He covers her with a shawl when she's sleeping and gives her a pillow BUT he only knew she was there because he was prowling about and then expected recognition for taking care of her. I just...I just do not understand.

this is how I feel about you, M. Paul

   Did any of you read any of the Elsie Dinsmore books when you were young? My sister loved them and I hated them, because that idiot Elsie had zero faults beyond sometimes blotting her ink and was simpering and sweet and yet people didn't appreciate her but of course she bore it well. GUESS WHO REMINDS ME OF ELSIE DINSMORE, it's Paulina. Paulina! she's a ne'er-do-bad and she is perfect and is better at everything than everyone else, including speaking French, carrying on conversation, and of course looking good. I feel so thoroughly sorry for Ginevra, and am so thoroughly fed up with Paulina. ALSO I just now noticed that there's a Paulina and there's a Paul and maybe that's meant to symbolize something?

Paul? Paulina?
   And even though Polly is so flawless, and not in a Beyonce way, she still feels like she has to change all sorts of things about herself in order to please Dr John and aaaaaggghhhh I dislike EVERYONE this week. M. Paul is at one moment sweet and kind, then turns awful. Ginevra is all sadness and regret. Paulina is just TOO MUCH. Dr John insists on himself and his whims. AND NOW it seems like M. Paul will be leaving and Lucy Snowe is by turns crying over his leaving and panicking when he wants to talk with her. Hoooooo boy.

P.S. my post next week might be sub-par, because I am going to Skaha in BC to climb HELLA rocks, and it is a venture not conducive to much effective reading/blog writing.

damn RIGHT
(I wish I could climb like this)(or take photos like this)


"He say you Blade Runner."

   From this post, the 6th-10th movies I've watched this year:
  1. 12 Monkeys (95)
  2. Alien (79)
  3. Blade Runner (82)
  4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (07)
  5. The Big Sleep (46)
   Two things first: Ripley for President, and I love Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart 4eva and eva amen.

   AND NOW, let's talk about Blade Runner. Blade Runner mixes science fiction and film noir and I could talk about this for awhile because I've been reading a great deal about it for a paper, BUT what I'm going to talk about is Roy.

   Roy is the most well-rounded, most interesting, and the most human character in this movie. He and Pris have a more developed relationship and more nuanced interactions than Rachel and Deckard ever would, and I'm here to say that Roy and not Deckard ought to be considered the main character of this movie. I don't care whether or not Deckard is a replicant (which he obviously is, as is the origami-folding policeman) when I consider Roy's more complicated issues of OH I'M DYING SOON, AND I WANT TO LIVE LONGER AND SAVE AS MANY OF MY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. (Spoilers ahead) Roy not only kills his creator/father* but also the genetic designer whose DNA helps keep replicants short-lived. Roy, in one moment, faces his mortality, does something truly selfless in saving Deckard, and delivers the best dying speech ever, topping even Boromir's "I would've called you my brother, my captain, my king". NB exhibit Tears In The Rain:
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."
   I know, right? It means almost nothing and yet means everything. The "Tannhäuser Gate" is literally nonsense, it's not a real thing and it's not even referenced in the rest of the movie. But that doesn't matter because Roy is talking about his fear that when he dies, he's gone and his life and the memory of it will disappear. And don't we all fear that? That after we die our existence on earth is slowly erased until even the people who remembered us aren't remembered anymore. It's even in the Bible:
For the living know that they will die,
    but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
    and even their name is forgotten. 

 Their love, their hate
    and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
    in anything that happens under the sun.
    Blade Runner is kind of choppy and messy and has heaps of holes, but I think the most interesting issue it addresses happens when the Voight-Kampff test is administered and it, essentially, measures shame. Rachel is ashamed to be a replicant, Deckard is ashamed that she would even suggest he take the test, and they, notably, are the replicants (assuming here that Deckard is indeed a robot) most associated and involved with humans. Leon takes the test and it makes him angry because he doesn't understand it, Roy never takes the test but he also never displays shame. He does what he feels he has to do, and it doesn't matter if that means he has to murder people or use his dying moments to save Deckard and then speak about memory and fear. He has strength of purpose. The whole movie centers around his quest for more time to live, and his final act is to give that to someone else, to someone who has been trying to kill him the whole time. By the end, his primary emotion is sorrow, while Deckard remains in fear and shame.

    All this to say, Roy is the character to watch closely in this movie, not Deckard. Some other notable things Roy does/says: he says "quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave", wins a chess game against a genius, punches his head through a wall, mourns Pris when he finds her dead (and then saves the person who killed her), and supports and cares about Leon even though Leon is a bit dumb, plus he is increasingly accompanied by Messianic imagery throughout the film. He just wants to live longer than four years and then he can't. ACH, Roy. Roy > Deckard.

   Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has now been added to my to-read list in a major way.

   *Ridley Scott clearly has a thing with questioning origins and where we come from and how we feel about that and react to meeting our maker, and I don't think it's ever more clear than when David says "doesn't everyone want their parents dead?" in Prometheus**.

   **Watch Prometheus. I think it does a better job of delivering its message than Blade Runner does, and it's just an all-around great movie.


Villette 21-26, "Happiness is not a potato"

   I hope I was supposed to read to chapter 26, because I did. There's a lot going on in these chapters; we get a fairly long treatise on the stigma surrounding mental illness (and this is still a problem! crazy), we get the return of Polly and her papa, we get (well, at least I get) convinced that Dr John is not a good match for Lucy Snowe and is indeed weirdly attracted to teenage girls, we get M Paul yelling at everyone until they cry and then getting flustered about it, we get some really lovely descriptions of weather, AND we get MORE ragging on Cleopatra, to which I take offense (more on this later, because I cannot resist).

   Ginevra Fanshawe has taken to calling Lucy Snowe "Timon", which I am sure meant something different but this is the picture I have in my head:

one of the best comedic editing moments known to man
   "I had great pleasure in reading a few books, but not many: preferring always those on whose style or sentiment the writer's individual nature was plainly stamped; flagging inevitably over characterless books, however clever and meritorious"
   I get the feeling that CB is throwing some very specific shade here. Somebody has been saying something about her books and she is full of indignation. You sure showed 'em, Char.

if you haven't seen Double Indemnity you need to RIGHT NOW
   "M Paul was not at all a good little man, thought he had good points" IS LOVE IN THE AIR (for real this time)???? Poor Lucy is so thoroughly upset over Dr John and she can sense his regard for Polly (which, I maintain, is creepy. Dr John you are a 30 year old man, stop chasing after teenagers) and she buried the letters and she cries a lot and I just want everything to turn out okay for Lucy Snowe but I am sort of feeling like it won't because Charlotte Bronte herself was so sad and so fed up with the world. Oh Charlotte Bronte, if only I could go back in time and be your friend and give you a hug and feed you tea and talk about how much we love interesting weather.

"what is love? baby don't hurt me" - Lucy Snowe
   I'm not one for knee-jerk Freudian interpretations but I have been reading a lot of academic film criticism lately and omgosh Dr John has an Oedipus complex and he has it bad. Also if we go further along this line, Ginevra would probably represent the id and Polly would be the superego. Polly is all about control and bearing, and Ginevra is all about pleasure and flirting and being plump. They'd be the id and superego to Dr John's ego, but who knows about Lucy Snowe herself. Okay, enough of this, even I am rolling my eyes.

   AND NOW for some Cleopatra talk (will this become a weekly feature? Only time will tell). I feel pretty strongly about historical Egyptian ladies so feel free to skip this bit if that's not your thing. Lucy Snowe sometimes talks about being uneducated, and it really comes through here, even though she is always dropping historical and literary references elsewhere. Cleopatra was far from the indolent and lazy person that LS has built up in her head, and far from the love-lorn and weak characterization that I think she sometimes gets nowadays. Cleopatra was dealt a pretty bad hand and did really well with it. When LS was talking about Cleopatra lacking any strength of purpose, I remembered another of my favourite paintings of Cleopatra. Nota bene:

you should probably click on this to see it larger
   Here we have Cleopatra testing poisons on condemned prisoners to see which ones will deliver the most painless death. She had realized that if things went wrong they would go completely wrong, and was preparing for her eventual demise. It may or may not be a true story, much like the story of the asp, but just look at her. OMGosh, Lucy Snowe. You would have SO MUCH respect for Cleopatra if you actually knew about her. As it turns out, asp venom does not always prove fatal and when it does it's pretty agonizing, so Cleopatra probably used a combo of poisons including hemlock, of Socrates-suicide fame. THE MORE YOU KNOW. 


6-10, 2015

Here's movies 6-10 for this year. Do you know what they all are?


Villette 16-20 "don't be demonstative, John, or I shall faint"

   IN WHICH Lucy wakes from her faint to find herself surrounded by familiar furniture and we find out that HEYO: Dr John = Graham Bretton in a major way but he, of course being an unobservant MAN (this is the impression I got from ol' CB), did not recognize Lucy Snowe. Incidentally, Lucy Snowe has been aware for QUITE SOME TIME that Dr John is in fact Dr GRAHAM but didn't bother to, I don't know, mention it? I mean, sure, last time they saw each other he was a 16 year old with a weird friendship with a 6 year old and ol' Luce was a surly teen, but you'd think she'd be like "hey! You and your ma are the closest thing I have to family! How is the old bird?" But no. Lucy Snowe just can't be bothered to say more than eight words together when she talks to Dr Graham/John, even though she is super in love with him.

Lucy Snowe's attitude towards LIFE ITSELF

   I'm somewhat concerned about the future of JG/LS and their relationship, since she uses phrases like "as long as we continued friends", and even though he says he has Gotten Over his infatuation with Ginevra, things seem to not bode well for Lucy and her love-life. ALSO: is M Paul in love with Lucy in his own distinctly French way? I'm concerned over these things. I like Lucy Snowe, even if she doesn't like me, and I want the best for her, poor thing. PLUS it is inevitable that Polly will reappear and THEN where will we be?

if LS doesn't live happily ever after

   I feel like Lucy Snowe is closer in character to Mr Rochester than to Jane Eyre. If Lucy Snowe had an inconveniently insane husband, she would have no problem locking him in a tower. (Speaking of which I feel like my fellow read-along-ers would be the type of people who would like the Jane Eyre musical which is, honestly, pretty ridiculous, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to sing it very dramatically wherever I go. Sirens in my car on long drives, over and over, can't get enough.) Here is something I appreciate about Lucy Snowe: she uses "forsooth" in her inner monologue. Yes, LS, we'd probably be friends, we'd probably make fun of everyone around us, we'd probably secretly be a bit sensitive and prone to falling in love with the wrong person and then denying it, and even though you're still kind of infuriating, pals we would become. 

   Poor Lucy when Mrs Bretton gets a pink dress for her! I don't know about y'all but I know how I feel when I bravely try on dresses of the pink variety and immediately get anxious and take them off. Once I tried on a pink dress at Anthropologie thinking that I had maybe gotten over my antipathy towards pink, whether it be bright or pale, and my friend said "you look so good! You should buy it!" and I averted my eyes from the mirror and quickly got myself back into black and grey. Wow, that's a poorly structured sentence but I'm not sure how to fix it. "A pink dress! I knew it not. It knew not me. I had not proved it." INDEED, LUCY SNOWE, INDEED.

   Dr John/Graham: recklessly unwinding thread since 1853.

   Lucy Snowe hating on non-realism in art is pretty hilarious, I gotta say. Imagine how she would react to Jackson Pollock or Picasso or even Caravaggio. She loves paintings of fruit and simple Scotch melodies and she hates paintings of Cleopatra but she also dislikes simpering French portrayals of lame ladies. All her talk of Cleopatra reminded me that a) I haven't thought of or looked at my favorite painting of Cleopatra lately, and b) I'm the kind of person who has a favorite painting of Cleopatra. NB exhibit Cleo:

   This painting is great for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it's portraying the story where Caesar keeps refusing to talk to Cleo so she wraps herself in a rug and has herself and the rug delivered to him as a present and when the rug is brought to him she emerges from it and is all "yo, Caesar, we got some State Business to discuss" and then their ill-fated relationship starts. She's all "I woke up like this" and he's all "woah, lady, no shirt no shoes no service" and it's even a pretty great rug. (Fun fact: did you know that Cleopatra wasn't really Egyptian, but Greek? She was a Ptolemy!) Cleopatra was conniving and cunning and gets a bad rap and the story of her killing herself via snakebite is most likely apocryphal and she was totally BA right til the end. Just picked the wrong side, she did.

I haven't actually seen this movie
   P.S. the aforementioned Sirens, since I obvs can't tell you about it and NOT foist it on you. OMGosh listen listen listen.


Men Explain Things to Me / Rebecca Solnit

   The first essay in Men Explain Things to Me, also called Men Explain Things to Me, has been floating around the internet for quite some time, and it's quite possible that you've seen/read/heard of it before. If not, here is a link to the essay, complete with a wee prologue. Just scroll down a bit and voila: essay. It's an excellent read.

   Men Explain Things to Me eases you into the collection of essays with wit and cleverness, but just you wait because the second essay is going to punch you in the gut, and could feasibly be subtitled "violence against women, by the numbers". But first we read about the silencing of women by non-violent means, which often takes the form of men explaining something to women that the women A) did not ask about, B) already know about, C) understand better than the man does, or, D) wrote a book about as is the case with Solnit.

   Men-explaining-things (I don't really like the word "mansplaining") is something that happens to me, and it is always weird and uncomfortable. It is so, so good to know that this isn't just my experience, but happens to everyone from Rebecca Solnit who has written several books, to the friend who recommended this to me who has a Fine Arts degree. They are by no means ignorant people, and still they get pompous and patronizing lectures. Solnit points out, and I'd like to as well, that she loves gaining new knowledge, and loves having things she wants to know about taught and explained to her. I've told friends before that I am "interested in everything" when they say they think they're boring me. I want to know about others' lives, work, reading, pastimes, projects, and who knows what else. What I don't want is to be condescended to, belittled, or silenced. I don't think any of us want or appreciate that.

   It's a bit difficult to write a cohesive post about a book of essays, so let me just say that this slim volume (seriously, an afternoon or two's worth of pages) is well worth your time, and could function as a Feminism 101 for those who haven't done any sort of gender-studies reading or research. Solnit talks about some very important things, which you can't afford to ignore.

   I'll issue a warning here, that this book deals frankly with both non-violent and violent aggression against women, including sexual assault. If that is going to be triggering for you, consider skipping this book.

   As a bonus, this book falls under one of my book-related resolutions for this year, which is to read twelve books that other people recommend. One down, eleven to go.


Villette-along, chapters 6-15

   Oh boy, I almost didn't make it.

   SO: Lucy Snowe is a teacher extraordinaire who sometimes THROWS HER STUDENTS BODILY INTO CLOSETS, because that is how you handle the French (or the Catalan, as the case may be), who are, in Lucy Snowe's estimation, full of "marsh-phlegm", whatever that means. I am consistently baffled by late 19th century schooling, and how it was entirely insane. I am comparing Madame Beck to Mr Squeers in my head, so I kind of love her, until I ask myself how I would feel with that sort of person being in charge of me and OH BOY, would I ever hate it. She rifles through Lucy Snowe's stuff!! What is your DEAL, Beck? On a related note, what kind of a French name is "Beck"?

   Speaking of French, I have a confession to make. Although I am Canadian, I have the misfortune to not speak French beyond "boun jour" and "oui". It's my everlasting shame. But then, if I had learned French, I would speak Quebecois French and not Parisian French and would be driven batty by what, I assume, is Parisian French in this book so I suppose it is fine to make do with the translations in the back of my book or the muddling-out-the-meaning-through-context-and-the-few-French-words-I-know method that I've employed so far. My excuse is that I am WESTERN Canadian, we finance the nation but we don't speak French.

   I totally called the Isidore = Dr John thing. Also: cool it on the ogling and effusive descriptions of people's looks, Lucy Snowe. We get it.

   Here is a summary of every conversation Lucy and Ginevra have:

   Is "antipathy" CB's favorite word? OMGosh she never stops using it. Using "antipathy" and speaking degradingly about Catholicism: CB's two favourite literary devices.

   I feel like I should have more to say besides "you go girl" about CB's feminist attitudes, but I am currently writing essays on things like "the effects of feminism in the former USSR and post-apartheid South Africa, compared" and all my real intellectual thought it going towards that.

   I apologize that this post is so gif-lite. Here's a good one to make up for it:


Silver Linings Playbook / Matthew Quick

   There aren't many things in the book-reading world that annoy me more than movie tie-in editions where the cover of the book is the same as the promotional material for the movie. Why must this happen? 

   Silver Linings Playbook the movie is enjoyable and features good performances from all, however I don't think it deserved as many Oscar nominations as it got but the Academy Awards are pretty stupid so no surprise there (Argo won best picture that year, and while it is amazingly dismissive of Canadians it's still a good flick). Silver Linings Playbook the book is not as good as the movie, which may seem like a thing a crazy person would say, but I stand by it. The book is fairly boring and formulaic, and really? Just don't bother. It's forgettable. It's possible that I would like this book more if I knew anything about football or cared about football, but I don't.

   If you want a more in depth review than "meh, don't bother", definitely take yourself over to the Book Fight podcast (which I very much enjoy but might offend some with its salty language) and listen to the episode where they talk about it: here is the link. Notably, they discuss the representation of race, mental illness, and therapy in the book, and compare the tome to airport hot dogs.

   My "Movies That Are Better Than The Book" list is now two entries long:
  1. Princess Diaries
  2. Silver Linings Playbook
   Why did I read Princess Diaries? Honestly, I have no idea. It was a weird time.


Villette, 1-5

    Having read Jane Eyre before, I had some expectations coming into this book. Mostly I was concerned that I wouldn't enjoy it, since I thoroughly dislike Jane Eyre and refuse to put in the effort of reading Wuthering Heights because the story is so monumentally ridiculous. Nay, I say, nay! I have gotten into the habit of giving the Brontes the side-eye, except maybe Anne because The Tenant of Wildfell Hall doesn't glorify being in love with an abusive and brooding rich dude. So far, however, Villette suits me fine, and I'm ready to commit for the long run.

ready to read Bronte, oh yeah, better believe it
    Some thoughts while reading chapters one to five:
  • "Wait, her name isn't  Villette? Then who is Villette!?"
  • "Has Charlotte Bronte ever...met a child?"
  • "Oooooh, Villette is a PLACE."
  • "I forgot how long classics take to set the scene."
  • "I feel like Lucy Snowe doesn't like me."
  • "Why are you introducing so many characters just to dispose of them a chapter later, Charlotte? Why?"
   My impressions so far are basically that Lucy Snowe is deigning to condescend to me, Paulina is improbable as, and Miss Marchmont was an entirely extraneous character. It may not sound like it, but on the whole I am enjoying the book. Classics have a pace all their own which takes some getting used to, it starts out almost too slow and quickly becomes comfortable. Classics are good for curling up with in a way that other books aren't. I don't read Cormac McCarthy the same way I read Charlotte Bronte. If I were to compare books to bodies of water, the classics would be a wide, slow-moving, slightly muddy river; providing plenty of opportunity to just float along with the story while keeping some things hidden in subtext and cultural context that you have to delve a bit deeper for. 

   I wasn't feeling super thrilled about continuing this book until chapter five, when this happened:
"How difficult, how oppressive, how puzzling seemed my flight! In London for the first time; at an inn for the first time; tired with traveling; confused with darkness; palsied with cold; unfurnished with either experience or advice to tell me how to act, and yet - to act obliged. [...] What was I doing here along in great London? What should I do on the morrow? What prospects had I in life? What friends had I on earth? Whence did I come? Whither should I go? What should I do?"
   And suddenly I was identifying and sympathizing with Lucy, and didn't mind her somewhat over-bearing tone or her referring to herself by her full name or anything else, really.

this is what you sound like, Lucy Snowe.
   A couple of years ago I flew from Canada to New Zealand and Australia by myself for about five months. I spent some of that time with various friends who were in various parts of Australia, but I was largely alone on my trip. As soon as Lucy Snowe started talking about the feeling of being alone in London with no idea what to do, I remembered landing in Auckland and freaking the hell out because what was I thinking? What had I gotten myself into? It's not on the same scale as Lucy's predicament, but it's nice to know that being afraid of the unknown and of being alone/directionless or of making a horrible error in judgement by coming here (wherever "here" is) is a pretty universal experience and isn't limited to me or even to my century. And while I intellectually realize that these fears and feelings are pretty common, it's still nice to have palpable evidence that they're a part of the human experience. My trip to the Southern Hemisphere was awesome, by the way, and I don't even regret that first bit of crying and quadruple-guessing myself. Part of the experience, yo.

Mr T understands us
   Onward and upward.