You think you’ve read a lot of poetry for your degree and from whenever you’ve picked up a random collection…. and then you start reading established poets talk about poetry and you realize that the scratch you thought you’d made has in fact left no visible mark at all. Some of these poets I’ve known about for a long time, some I’ve recently discovered, but they’re all poets I’m hoping to spend more time with in the near future!
I bought her book on writing metrical poetry, but except for the odd poem here or there, I’ve never read her poetry! Born in 1935, she recently passed in 2019. Her work mostly deals with nature (which may explain why I’ve never gravitated towards it before).
Host of the Slowdown Podcast I talked about last week, I first heard about Limón when I was reading Natalie Diaz’s work, Postcolonial Love Poem (which is fantastic, by the way) because they are friends and write letters to each other. Limón’s poems are more personal and often written in free verse–she might be a good poet to start with because I bet your public library has one of her collections!
Won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize, the first Black author to do so, and all around she was an extremely technically accomplished poet who wrote about things that were important to her and the Black community at large. Her poetry is firmly rooted in the world. I bought her collection on a trip into the City, so I really have no excuse not to jump into her work.
I haven’t read nearly as much Borges as I would like to in any genre, but I definitely haven’t delved into his poetry. I found a copy of his selected poems in a used bookstore with the original Spanish and the translations. My Spanish is not nearly good enough to understand them fully in the original, but having them there to just read aloud and listen to the music is going to be really helpful. Many of the same themes he deals with in his fictions and essays (the nature of time for example) are in his poetry as well.
Easily the earliest poet on this list–Basho was a master of haiku in 17th century Japan. I learned about him while reading up on Japan, and I want to explore more of his work. The wonderful thing about haiku is that it’s short but it gives you plenty to think about. You can read a few with your morning coffee and let the images swirl around all day.
Harlem Renaissance poet extraordinaire, I’ve only read of few of his poems from Poem a Day and in anthology–I’ve got some major time to spend with this poet. Although he wasn’t always well received in his own time by critics, he sought to portray the working class community really honestly with all its joys and sorrows.
Okay so weekly roundups are apparently not a thing that I can mentally commit to, especially with school this semester. So we’re going to make it a monthly thing instead. January seems to have flown by.
Just as a disclaimer–none of my links are paid/sponsored/solicited. It’s just stuff I like or wanted to share.
Eventful Events and Happening Happenings
January is always a busy month because of Paul’s birthday and our date-aversary. This year I found a bunch of DnD related gifts for Paul including the new DnD book Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, a world building journal, dice made out of blue sandstone, and a gorgeous dice case (from this Etsy seller in case you’re interested. His work is beautiful and he gave great customer service). On his actual birthday we went to see a friend who was leaving town for Taiwan. We’d been trying to get together for a while, but you know–pandemic. Still, it was really nice to see him and get out of the house for a bit.
It’s hard to believe that Paul and I have been together for 11 years. We don’t usually make a huge deal out of our dating anniversary, but since we take any excuse to eat a nice dinner, we brought sushi and sake in to celebrate. We’ve reinstituted date night this year, and we’ve had to get creative since we can’t really go anywhere. This month we’ve taken the Legos out, done a science experiment kit (which was kind of a dud, so we watched a movie), played a video game (Paul played and I narrated the dialogue), enjoyed a floor picnic in a fort, and answered some interesting questions. If you’re looking for new discussion topics with a significant other (or even a close friend), I’d recommend this box of questions. I am really enjoying them so far.
School started again. I can’t believe this is my last semester. This year has been a total whirlwind. The last two years have been to be honest. I’m working on my ePortfolio, which has examples of some of the projects I’ve worked on throughout the program, doing a virtual internship, and taking two other classes for fun–history of US libraries and history of the book, which I’m very excited about.
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani This lovely book was recommended by my mom. It tells the story of a carpet maker and her quest for learning and success in a male dominated sphere. I found the writing to be immersive and convincing.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans Smart, sharp stories fill this collection. I loved every moment with the sets of very different and complex characters. Evans sense of empathy, humor and wit is evident on every page in these stories that deal with the complexity of the past and how it makes its mark on the present. These are stories that bite, but lick the wounds clean.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Fifth Season / The Obelisk Gate / The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin My friend and I read The Broken Earth Trilogy together this month, and we both really enjoyed it. The trilogy follows an orogene–an evolved human who has the power to both stop and create tremors in the earth–as she tries to stop the destruction of the human race. This fantasy trilogy has a lot of science fiction elements in it, and a fascinating use of geologic time scales, which I’ve never seen before in fantasy. The books have very complex characters without clear villains, and there’s a fascinating earth-based magic system. Like all great science fiction, it probes the question of what it means to be human, and like great fantasy includes a hero’s journey, some dope magic, and a quest (though sadly no dragons).
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende If you’re looking for a book that weaves magic into reality, that has interesting characters, and that proclaims the power of storytelling you should probably read this book. Allende is an amazing writer with a strong command of place and a great understanding of people and power.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee Mom and I read this book together, which is one of the best family sagas I’ve ever read. My mom did not want it to end–even though it was over 450 pages long! We follow a Korean family living in Japan throughout the course of the 20th century, learning about their struggles against discrimination, poverty, illness, war, and the kind of secrets that can tear a family apart. The writing is so good, and Min Jin Lee has an excellent sense of how long to stay with a particular moment before moving the story along. This is a fast-paced book despite its page length.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi I must admit I had slightly higher expectations for this book than I probably should have. It’s still a pretty interesting tale of a henna artist, dealing with her family, her ambition, and her mistakes, but I wish the character evolution had been a little more interesting.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana This YA novel follows Princess Amrita on her journey to save herself and her people from a would be conqueror. Although aspects of this book, especially the mythologies it pulls from, are really intriguing, the writing and characterization really fell flat for me and I had a hard time believing the magic within the universe.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Effie Gray (2014) This biopic follows Effie and her dismal, dreary, and disheartening marriage to John Ruskin. While the film itself is mostly tragic, Gray’s life does eventually take a turn for the better or at least less dreadful. However, we do not get to see that in this film. The cinematography is beautiful though…so that’s something. Streaming on Netflix.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Tea with the Dames (2018) A documentary featuring some of the great British actresses of the 20th/21st centuries: Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins. They talk about their lives and careers. I really enjoyed it. Streaming on Hulu.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie (2018) When I was little my parents didn’t want me to have a Barbie, but I begged and begged. She’s a complex figure–on the one hand she is emblematic of one particular vision of beauty and womanhood, but on the other hand she represents the first doll of her kind–one that allowed girls to act out their own dreams and ambitions. This documentary details the history of the doll as well as her new evolutions towards body positivity. Streaming on Hulu.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power (2020) I think Atwood is an amazing writer. This documentary mostly focuses on A Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace along with some of her earlier works, but it’s a great insight into her process and character. If you’re a fan of the author, you should definitely check out this documentary. Streaming on Hulu.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Secret Garden (2020) A new adaptation of the classic children’s story. I’m not sure we needed that much actual magic in the garden to be honest. It was all a little bit much and not very convincing. Though watching it did make me wonder if I’ve ever really liked this story. I don’t remember loving it that much as a kid either. Maybe it’s just not for me.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Mummy (1999) I had never seen this movie before, and I’m not gonna lie I mostly wanted to watch it because it has a librarian in it. But oh goodness, a librarian causing a domino effect in her library? Cringe. Also the props in this film are some of the least convincing things I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I watched it because there are a lot of random references to it, but mostly it was….showing its age in terms of not only its special effects, gender politics, and racism.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
David Copperfield (1935) I think of this story as kind of a gender swap version of Cinderella. Boy has wonderful mother. Mother remarries to evil stepfather. Mother dies tragically. Boy has to work for evil stepfather. Boy gets rescued by godmother–not a fairy godmother, but close enough. Then some other stuff happens…but it’s all quite entertaining until David marries the wrong girl. But he figures it out eventually so all’s well that ends well. The acting is over the top, but it’s still pretty fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
What was the best thing you read/watched in January? Let me know in the comments!
One of my classes this semester is a photography preservation class. Part of doing archival work around photographs involves identifying different photography processes. There are many ways of making a photograph, even from the earliest days of photography in 1839. Some photographs are one of a kind objects, other photography techniques involve creating a photo negative that is then developed into a positive print.
This week we were challenged to identify a photograph either from our own collections or from an archive or other repository. Since most archives are closed right now, I chose one of the prints in my own photography collection.
This photo is a gelatin silver DOP print, which was one of the most popular print techniques of the 20th century. You can’t see it from the photo, but it has a high gloss finish, which became popular during the 1930s.
My Nana was able to tell me a lot more about the people in the photograph and when and where it was taken, so learning about the photograph’s process also meant that I learned more about my family history.
Are you interested in learning about your own family photographs? Graphics Atlas has great information about identifying different kinds of photography and has great information about the science behind each kind of photo process. It shows views under magnification and commons signs of deterioration.
For example, my family photo shows signs of silver mirroring in the darkest areas. See that silvery blue sheen in the photo? That means that the silver has migrated closer to the surface in areas that are really dark (where there was a high density in silver to develop the photo).
Why do archives care about identifying photos?
It helps to date photos. By identifying the process, we can have rough estimates about the date based on when the technique was being used. That said, this isn’t foolproof because some really old techniques are still being used by photographers today.
It helps with preservation. Knowing the ideal conditions for a photograph or a negative is dependent on knowing the kind of artifact you’re working with.
It helps with access. Importantly, knowing that you have a specific type of print can help researchers looking for specific kinds of photos to study.
What’s the oldest family photo you have? Let me know in the comments!
A lot has happened in two years. First there’s the obvious–a pandemic and a necessary growing conversation about race in the United States. Then there’s the personal. My husband and I moved to the Bay area. I started a masters degree at San Francisco State in film, pivoted, and am now on course to graduate with a master’s of library and information science next spring.
In this upheaval, I’ve learned a lot, traveled more, read more, watched more. I want to share some of this with you. I hope you’re willing to come along for the adventure.
What’s changing from the old content? There will still be posts on film, especially older films as well as book recommendations and reading updates. I’m planning on adding some more baking with bookworms posts, which were time intensive but quite fun.
What’s primarily changing is a new focus on libraries and archives. We’ll talk about what they are, what they’re doing, how you can visit them (even from home!). We’ll talk about the work they’re doing and who they’re doing it for, among other things. We’ll also talk about history through objects and documents because I can’t get enough of it.
Why now? I am finding that I have a lot to say about books and libraries, especially right now with everything that’s going on. And I’m not going to lie to you–I am going stir crazy–I need a project! Restarting my blog seemed like a good way to add some accountability to my week.
So welcome to the revamped Ink in the Archives. I hope you’ll stick around and dive into history with me.
My big adventures from the past year are in the slideshow: our wedding, our honeymoon in London and Edinburgh, our trip to Taipei, and my trip to Paris.
When I started this blog in 2014, I was working on my first book. I needed a way to write without really having to work on my novel and feel simultaneously that I was using my voice. I had no idea what I was doing, and I tried a lot of different things, sharing lots of different interests. This blog has always been scattered–a smattering of things I’m interested in. I’ve tried to narrow things down and change directions; I’ve taken long breaks and tried to get back up to speed, but it hasn’t really worked all that well.
I know I haven’t been a very consistent blogger of late (or maybe ever). As I’m getting a little bit older and about to go back to graduate school in Cinema studies, preparing and getting ready to move make it less likely than ever that I’ll be able to keep to any kind of schedule. So I’m announcing my last post here on Aliza Shandel or Ink & Reel as you might know it. I plan to still post lots of things on Instagram. You can follow me there if you want to hear my thoughts on things in more bite-sized format. I post lots of pictures of calligraphy, travel, and books.
Thank you for reading my blog and sticking with me through all the changes. I wish you all great luck with your own writings and adventures.
It’s finally warming up here in Idaho. I’ve always liked winter, but the weeks and weeks of snow and below 10 degree weather have been getting to me. Normally, spring is my least favorite season (daylight savings is the worst), but this year I could not be more excited that it has decided to make an appearance. I’m still getting used to the idea that I do not need to take my wool coat with me everywhere I go.
I think for many people spring means getting to go outside again, but for me it means getting to read outside again, which I love to do until the second bug comes near me.
Here are 10 books I plan on reading this season (you know, in between moving and visitors and wedding planning):
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
Our intrepid book club leader has chosen this book for our March meeting. She was a coxswain for her college rowing team. I’ve never read a lot about crew (or about sports in general), but I’m interested to see where this book goes as the story and time are really interesting.
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
This is our book for the April book club meeting (at least I think it is. Maybe don’t quote me on this…). I know virtually nothing about it except for what I recently read about it on Goodreads, where it has excellent reviews. It seems to be a book about the Iroquois tribe and the Huron tribe, and is the story a young woman who was captured, her captor, and a missionary who travels with them.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
One of our members chose this book for May. I had heard the title of this book before, but I didn’t even realize it was nonfiction until I looked it up today to find the author’s name for this post. This book about Savannah, Georgia seems dark and strange–I can’t wait to read it.
The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell
I plucked this book off the shelf at the library, and I don’t know anything more about it than the title. But I figured since it has to do with WWII and books, I’m pretty much guaranteed to like it.
Nine Folds Makes a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan
Another book that I found by chance, this book’s title intrigued me. The story follows members of Ireland’s Jewish community following WWII.
Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
This is the only book from last year’s book club meetings that I haven’t finished yet. Mostly because the little paperback sort of got lost behind all the shiny library hardcovers I plunked in front of it.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
I don’t know why, but I really want to read this book that has sat on my shelf forever with increasing urgency.
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
I really enjoy reading Isabel Allende’s work, and when I read about this book in the NY Times Book Review, I knew I had to pick it up.
In the Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
This is another book I found while strolling down the library’s shelves. It follows a family whose ancestors were shipwrecked on a Caribbean island.
Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser
This book follows the women in Louis XIV’s life. I’m fascinated with this time period in French history, and I’m always interested to read about the women behind the men.
Have you read any of these books? Do any of them pique your interest like they did mine? And what are you reading this spring? Let me know in the comments.
Last month, Ursula Le Guin, author extraordinaire, sent a letter to the Editor of the Oregonian. Someone had just recently published a letter in the newspaper that talked about how politicians using “alternative facts” was no different than science fiction.
Le Guin states that the two things could not be more different. Science fiction is, after all, fiction. Made up. Not real.
In contrast, when people purposefully say things that aren’t true in order to deceive, there’s only one word for that: a lie.
Her letter is short and eloquent (you should definitely read it). But I think it’s so important that as readers and critical thinkers that we demand truth. Because it’s only with real, solid, provable facts that we can make good decisions–no matter your beliefs or politics. We should all demand facts, so that we can move forward. We shouldn’t have to debate what’s real, but rather debate what’s the strategy to make life better.
The United States is a great place. And one of the things that makes us great is a search for truth. Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani recently said, “America’s enemies feared it for dealing in facts while they offered disinformation and conspiracy theories. All that changes when the White House embraces the notion of ‘alternative facts.'”
Facts, as Le Guin says, are hard won. They are discovered and uncovered. They are precious. Our press helps to keep us honest and accountable while our scientists help us move forward and learn more about the world around us. I think it’s so essential that we support good investigative journalism and remember that bad news, news we don’t want to hear, is not necessarily false or fake. We need to remember that getting multiple perspectives, that debate and discussion, are essential to democracy.
If we don’t demand truth and honesty, we can’t say anything when it’s not given to us.
As readers, we’re already primed to take in lots of information and keep open minds. We’re always using our skills to make judgments on whether a narrator is reliable or a story is true. Those same skills can be applied to everyday life, and I think those skills are more essential than they have been in a long time. Even if you’re not very interested in politics, I think it’s important to know what’s going on. That’s how we keep a democracy going–active involvement.
Where do you get your news? My favorite TV news program is PBS News Hour, which does a really good job looking at multiple sides of an issue, and my favorite print sources are The New York Times, The Washington Post, and BBC. Let me know your favorite places to get news in the comments!
Hamlette is hosting a Jane Austen week, where lots of bloggers are posting on one of our favorite authors. There are discussions of her books and the various adaptations they’ve spawned in film and further. You can find all of the other posts here!
I chose to write about Northanger Abbey, one of the more overlooked Jane Austen books. It’s quite different in tone from Pride & Prejudice, Emma, or Sense & Sensibility. The heroine is a bit more naive, easily excited and frightened, and in the end learns that life isn’t like the Gothic novels she loves to read. It’s still social commentary, but in a very different way. Instead of being a novel of manners and conversation, it tends towards the meta-fictional; it’s a discussion about the nature of writing itself and how the novel and its author fit into the shape of the culture.
Northanger Abbey was the first book Jane Austen completed for publication, but it was not actually published until after she died. She sold the manuscript under a different title to the London bookseller Crosby & Co. They never published it, and eventually sold it back to Jane Austen’s brother. She ended up changing the main character’s name from Susan to Catherine and did some more revision, but ultimately it wasn’t published until six months after her death in 1817.
The story is a fairly simple one. Catherine is invited to stay in Bath with some friends of the family. While she is there she makes some friends, and is ultimately invited to Northanger in the days when “visits” lasted for weeks on end. She has a few anti-climatic adventures, and then is asked to leave, but this is Jane Austen so in the end everyone ends up happily.
At its core, Northanger Abbey is a satire of and confrontation with the popular Gothic novel. These novels, which had very little in them except for the macabre and the sensational, were designed to thrill and titillate. Jane Austen, through this work and her others, sees literature fulfilling a different purpose–that of entertainment and instruction. This goes against the more “serious” writing at the time, which suggested that anything written for entertainment at all was not worth the paper it was written on and was meant for less serious people. In other words, it was meant for women. Austen pushes back against this idea to straddle the line between the two extremes, and by doing so makes her own monumental contribution to literature.
It’s also a novel about a women who learns how to read, not just the books that she so fancies, but the world around her as well. She has to see through what people say and learn to read their motivations. It’s about a young woman learning that life isn’t as lurid as books would suggest, and that the truth or core of something is usually more mundane than it looks as well as much less good-natured. Austen suggests that this is a good thing–imagination has its place but being realistic means that you won’t be taken advantage of. This is pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that this is a lesson Austen herself had to learn as a writer and a young woman. The fact that this novel was ready for publication first suggests that it might be something of a manifesto for what Austen would attempt to do as a writer in the future.
Catherine Morland is not exactly the picture of a Gothic heroine, which Jane Austen makes clear from the opening sentence, “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her to be born an heroine.” She is missing some of the more essential attributes, namely a dark and dismal past (her family being squarely middle class and still living and her childhood pleasant), a beautiful face (hers is only so-so), and intuition or a sense of fate. In short, she’s exactly the kind of girl who might be fascinated by Gothic novels because they represent the exotic and adventure. As Mr. Tilney tells her, she’s more likely to judge people based on her own good intentions and positive motivations, leaving her unable to understand or sniff out malice or even a lack of candor.
Mr. Tilney is an interesting character who is quite clever and observant. He’s not my favorite Austen leading man because his relationship with Catherine never feels quite as equal as Emma’s and Knightley’s for example or Lizzie’s and Darcy’s. However, he does his best to try and teach Catherine about herself and the world.
Northanger Abbey itself is a particularly intriguing setting for Austen. She often uses great houses as her settings (all of her heroines, no matter their sometimes precarious financial circumstances, live in what I would term a large house and have plenty of servants), but very few of them have the kind of historical weight or Gothic atmosphere that the Abbey does. But Austen does not allow the reader to bask in the romance of the setting, instead she focuses on the prosaic details. Even if Catherine doesn’t realize it at first, Northanger is nothing more than a big house, and is nothing to be in awe of or swoon over.
Catherine Morland wants to find adventures, and surely there is no better way to do so than uncovering secret letters and ancient mysteries. She’s caught spying around the house, of course, invading Mr. Tilney’s deceased mother’s rooms, but the most iconic episode of the book is her discovery of the lists. Catherine gets herself in a tizzy one stormy night and her eyes fall on a cabinet. She simply has to explore it, and she does while the wind howls. Conveniently, the key is in the cabinet, though it takes her several attempts to open the door. She searches every cranny (leaving the locked middle drawer for last)–remembering to check for false bottoms. Then she opens the last drawer and there at the back is a rolled up piece of paper. Before she can read a single word, her candle is promptly extinguished by the wind and she hops into bed, dropping the papers to the floor in her fright. She reads it in the morning, sure that it will contain all kinds of hidden secrets, and find that it contains…a few bills for the laundry and farrier. No episode could more clearly illustrate Austen’s feelings about Gothic novels. After being so scared, after building the episode in her mind up so much, there was nothing there but the trappings of economic privilege.
While Northanger Abbey is not my favorite Jane Austen novel, I think it’s a great one–especially to learn about Austen’s place in the literature of the era and to understand her opinions on novels. Although she’s often lumped together with the Bronte sisters, her goals in writing were very different. She presents herself in this first offering as a witty and independent mind whose goal is to reflect society back to itself, showing how the world has shaped the lives of the women living in it. Catherine may be one of her sillier protagonists, but she still shows the pressures of growing up into womanhood. If you haven’t read this one before, or you haven’t read it in a while, it may be time to pick this book up.
I hope you are feeling the love today. Valentine’s Day has never been a really big deal to me. My fiance and I tend to do little things. He usually picks up flowers for me, usually some colorful daisies or pretty mums–something cheery–several days early so that I can enjoy them for a while. We like to go pick out chocolates at one of the places around town. Here in Boise our favorite spot to do that is Chocolat Bar, which makes the most amazing truffles. We also cook dinner together. It’s very mellow. Let me know if you have special plans for today in the comments!
Today’s topic is all about romance. So I thought I would share some of my favorite couples with you from literature and film. Here they are:
Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen’s Emma: ” I cannot make speeches, Emma. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.”
Why they’re great: Knightley calls Emma out when she’s behaving selfishly and forces her to acknowledge what she’s doing. He’s also quick to praise when he approves, and he’s always acting on behalf of others. Emma meanwhile never just accepts Knightley’s opinions at face value and challenges him. This is a couple that will challenge each other to do good for other people. They have good communication established, and their relationship is founded on friendship and mutual respect.
Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter: “Just because it’s taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn’t mean no one else has spotted I’m a girl!”
Why they’re great: What makes Ron and Hermione good people is what helps to make them a good couple. Ron is loyal, brave, and true, while Hermione is strong, idealistic, and clever. Together they challenge each other. Ron tries to get Hermione to think outside the box and she helps bring him down to earth again. Even though they argue, their relationship is ultimately based on years of friendship that have been strengthened through the trials they’ve gone through together.
Arthur and Molly Weasley from Harry Potter: “What do you like me to call you when we’re alone together?…Mollywobbles.”
Why they’re great: Arthur and Molly may not have much money, but that hasn’t interfered all that much with their relationship. Each is always concerned with the other’s welfare and takes their thoughts and feelings to heart. They don’t always agree or always understand each other’s position, but they are a united team.
Benedict and Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing: “I do love nothing in the world so well as you- is not that strange?”
Why they’re great: It takes them a while to figure out they’re the perfect couple, but it’s obvious to everyone else. No one can keep up with their wit and intelligence; they’re the best sparring partners. They keep each other on their toes. And in the end, Benedict is able to go beyond talking about his feelings and proves his love, challenging his dearest friend to a duel.
Cyrano de Bergerac and Roxanne from Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac: “And what is a kiss, specifically? A pledge properly sealed, a promise seasoned to taste, a vow stamped with the immediacy of a lip, a rosy circle drawn around the verb ‘to love.’ A kiss is a message too intimate for the ear, infinity captured in the bee’s brief visit to a flower, secular communication with an aftertaste of heaven, the pulse rising from the heart to utter its name on a lover’s lip: ‘Forever.’”
Why they’re great: Roxanne longs to hear beautiful words and Cyrano longs to tell her them. Though I have to admit the fact that they’re cousins kind of weirds me out, their devotion and intelligence carries them through. The ending is tragic, but it’s so poignant.
Lucky Garnett and Penny Carroll in Swing Time: “Listen. No one could teach you to dance in a million years. Take my advice and save your money!”
Why they’re great: They’re sometimes at cross purposes, but you know they’re going to get together, which means plenty of dancing and singing. I don’t know of a more wonderful couple than Fred and Ginger in whatever movie they did together. Astaire is full of grace and Rogers is full of fun and together they are amazing.
*I do think that as much as I really like this film I find the “bojangles” scene really racist and disturbing, and I think that’s really important to acknowledge. Even though it was the 1930s, and times were “different,” the caricature is prejudiced and unnecessary.*
Wesley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride: “This is true love–you think this happens every day?”
Why they’re great: True love. Love deep enough and true enough to never be stopped by anything–not death, not distance, not time, not kings and queens and princes. Nothing.
Hubert Hawkins and Jean in The Court Jester: “The real king is on the throne, Jean is my very own, and life couldn’t possibly better be.”
Why they’re great: They’re relationship turns traditional gender roles on their head. Hawkins minds the child, the future King of England, and the Captain is off rallying new recruits, training, and leading them. She’s sharp and warm, he’s eager and funny. Together they show huge amounts of bravery and devotion, both to each other and their cause.
Don Lockwood and Cathy Seldon in Singin’ in the Rain: “You were meant for me/ and I was meant for you/ nature patterned you/ and when she was done/ you were all the sweet things/ rolled up in one”
Why they’re great: It may have started off in desperation (Lockwood fleeing from his over-eager fans), but it ends in love. Cathy’s talent, beauty, charisma, and good nature can’t help but win Don over and I think the same qualities are what let her put down her walls and fall for him.
Han Solo and Princess Leia in Star Wars: “I love you. I know.”
Why they’re great: Both of them are strong characters in their own right, and together they make a pretty impressive pair. These rebels are meant to be together.
Today’s topic is a freebie, so I thought I’d address a topic that I missed last year–my favorite historical periods to read and learn about. But it turned out to be very difficult to narrow these down, and I really like to read about almost everything. But these are the eras that I have a harder time reading, especially in historical fiction (but not including fantasy). Here they are in chronological order:
Classical era–Ancient Greece and Rome:
This is an interesting one for me–a really interesting time to read about in nonfiction contexts, but in fictional ones it becomes a little difficult. I think part of the problem is being so removed from the time frame. I can picture what somebody might speak like in the Renaissance or even the Middle Ages because we have the documentation, but with the separation of time and the language barrier, something about this fiction doesn’t quite ring true.
Middle Ages/Dark Ages
The problem with the dismantling of art and the limited spread of information during this period is that it’s all very…dark. On the whole, I find this era to be oppressive and brutish, at least in Europe. So much was lost during this time that would have to be rediscovered hundreds of years later. The extreme piety and religiosity of this time is also a little outside of my comfort zone.
War of the Roses
Don’t get me wrong–there are some very interesting moments before England descends into the hands of the Tudor family, but by and large I just don’t care about keeping it all straight.
World War I
The periods directly before and after this (the Belle Epoque/Victorian era on one hand and the Jazz age on the other) are some of my absolute favorites, but in general the movements of troops and armies is not all that fun for me, and combined with new advancements in warfare this war was absolutely brutal–so much suffering and loss of life.
Recent Past: 1970s-1990s
Suez Canal? Watergate? Gulf War? I just…don’t want to read about it. Now the early 70s are interesting enough, but let’s be real, as soon as the decade hit, Mad Men got weird, and everything got grimy and dirty. Not that history isn’t grimy–it’s just that the 1960s polished everything up and hid it under all that nice chrome and those pastel colors. I don’t know what it is–it just puts me to sleep.
Of course every time period has exceptions–especially when it’s fantasy we’re talking about. After all, most of Harry Potter is set in the 1980s, and Game of Thrones is Medieval with some War of the Roses inspiration. There are periods that I love that have produced books I hate and vice versa.
What are your least favorite time periods? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you have a book that you think will challenge my feelings about an era, let me know! I’d love to give it a try.