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Happy things and laughter

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935), summer flowers, a natural garden scene

Dear Friends,

I've two subjects tonight.  To begin with, happy things.

Today I continued writing the book. I managed to add only a few sentences, perhaps got into a second paragraph, but I am disciplining myself so that I can hope what I write is not something that weeks from now will be rewritten so thoroughly as to be utterly different and in another place in the work altogether. Instead it's closer to a final draft.

I am doing this by thinking ahead first, having a plan of sorts, following it. It goes slow as yet because I have to keep so much in my head and having read through but some of the criticism on S&S for a half a week in mid-May, I've forgotten a lot.  I am you see beginning with the opening of Chapter 2 which is to be a presentation of Austen's book which conveys the tones of the book and its quality, for these are central to any effective, successful film adaptation.  At the same time I have to be moving forward to discussing the 5 movies, and to write two sentences today I had to read part of an article on Christine Edzard's adaptation of Dickens's Little Dorrit, skim-read into the middle of Hutcheon's excellent A Theory of Adaptation.  I also listened very carefully for the first time to the whole of interview Andrew Davies and Anne Pivcevic gave, which is recorded as part of the features material in the British DVD of their 2008 S&S.

Nonetheless, I am feeling this experience as a happy thing. Hours go by and maybe I've hardly written much at all; probably I've allowed myself some distraction by fixing one of my blogs or reading a file, or looking at the stills of these movies -- some of which I seem never to tire of.  And while this is going on I'm feeling happy, happy about what I'm donig, good about the eventual product.

I don't always feel this way about what I'm writing. I didn't over the Clarissa paper as the man running the panel was at first discourteous to me and condescending and then continually pressured me to make sure it wasn't over long.  (And to add frustration to hurt, our panel had one woman who took so long and was so unprepared that there was no discussion afterwards and had I not gone 2nd I doubt I would have been able to give my paper.)  Sometimes I discover I dislike the book I'm asked to review or find the review I write is not appreciated; the work is then an irritant or I become emotionally sore.  Happy things are when I love my subject, and am feeling treated with respect and friendliness.  My half-biography and songs by Anne Finch, "Apollo's Muse" was a happy thing.  Some of the reviews I've done for Jim May have been very happy things. I loved writing the paper on Northanger Abbey as gothic: the three women running the panel were so kind and the whole experience cheering and provided me with a feeling of self-esteem as I gave the paper and because of the congenial discussion afterwards.

Well The Austen Films is turning into a happy thing. I do love these books and these films.

I turn to laughter.  Sometimes when I think about our two cats, Ian, the boy, and Clarissa, the girl, I just laugh and laugh. Especially Clarissa:  she is the most determined, tenacious, stubborn, aggressively affectionate, tenderly loving of cats. Lithe, small, active, she leaps ahead and will try to get what she wants against what she knows to be whatever we are trying to do. We had to shut her and Ian in the back half of the house when the man came to fix the porch. Well when we opened the door to the back part of the house, she sped out like lightning, and then dove under the couch and fought us holding onto the couch feet to stay where she was. She didn't want to be in the back of the house and that's that.  I laugh at her helplessness I suppose, it's an endearing trait I fear -- when accompanied by her others.  Sometimes when I'm swimming in the gym I remember her antics and start to chuckle away irresistibly.

Ian doesn't make me laugh; rather he can touch the heart with his cautious hiding ways.  He scrounches before you to get what he wants. Self-possessed he still comes over for affection and at night in the bed is still my cat lover, stretching his body out alongside mine with his paw gently on my face.  Jim too another photo of him today:  the paperback Clarissa and the whole Richardson section is on a bookcase near JIm's chair in the front so it's easy to take such a photo. Ian likes to lay between the rows of books on top of the bookcase; the books form a very long narrow rectangle inside of which is a long corridor of space.  He lays there hiding and also watching the sky, for it's also on the other end near a window.  He had just got up and was looking at Jim reading or on his computer:

What made us laugh at little is his size.  Clarissa is an enormous paperback of 1500 pages, a folio size.  It barely accommodates his paws.

We compared it to a photo Jim took of Clarissa on Clarissa about 8 months ago when they were both about
5-6 months old.


Her whole body is perched on the book.

We also compared their expressions, hers as usual a kind of yearning, his contemplative, relatively expressionless.  How are these pictures part of a blog dedicated to Reveries under the sign of Austen?  Jane Austen it's said kept a copy of Clarissa in her and Classandra's bedroom, on top of their bureau. We are told that she too found writing her books happy things and would get up from her chair and laugh and walk about and then sit down again. Olivia Williams in Miss Austen Regrets plays the part too nervously to get across this Bachelard-like state of deep-musing reverie, but I prefer its intense seriousness to the insouciance of Anna Hathaway's enactment of a woman at her desk writing:

Olivia Williams as Jane Austen writing (Miss Austen Regrets)

Cheers tonight,


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 10th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
On cats fulfilling this emotional place in us all
From Diana B:

"And I was glad to read in your blog you're feeling optimistic and happy about writing - a nice mood. I *loved* the cat blog! Made me want to say yes! yes! yes! My cats do that too! But it's 7 AM I've been up all night and have to sleep. The fact is that we have been having utterly parallel experiences without writing about them much because one is embarassed to write about "just cats." But the Clarissa pictures, showing how they've grown - we do that too! And what inimical, individual expressions your cats have - ours too, as you'll surely have seen from my blog pictures. And Martial is my little lover, just like Ian is yours: she lies along me and pats my face just like that, or lies in my arms and nuzzles. So sweet. Peter loves and worships Pindar like an only granddaughter. Paul loves Catullus like an only daughter. How is it that cats fulfil such an emotional place in us all? But they do."
Jun. 11th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
i'm glad the book is going so well. And I love the stuff about your cats! They're adorable, solemn animals, and there's something so comical about their sitting in state on Richardson.

People insist that male cats are more affectionate than female - perhaps that accounts for Ian's possessive posture at night. (Actually female cats are very affectionate, too.)
Jun. 11th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)
On the relationship of people to cats in our society nowadays
Dear Diana,

Yes they fill an emotional place and it's hard to say
quite why as after all human beings are selfish creatures and we see the limitations of the cats. It's their affectionate nature and ways and their helplessness at the same time as they are so determined; we feel for them, identify. The faces are frontal with small nose and large eyes -- like a human baby. I think to myself like human beings their natures are also reshaped by environment and circumstance. Until the mid-20th century they were not regularly spayed, much less so young. Litter was invented in the 1920s. So at one time cats were put out during the night; there really was no such thing as a pure house cat. By this time a female like Clary would have had a bunc of kittens and her ties to me would be very different. They are in a sense stunted by the early spaying and made into longterm kittens longing for a mother cat. Perhaps the early separation from the mother does this too. They also have no subtext; they are what they seem and they are not involved in the vexed social business of life.

It's also I'm older -- and so are you. When I was younger, I had a dog (for 12 years) and my relationship with him was shallower in a way. I wasn't as thoughtful about it. I fear now I was not responsible in the way I should have been quite, did not reciprocate his needs, but then I was more ruthless and selfish all round.

Jun. 11th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
Cat photos
From Clare:

"I loved the photos of the cats. I must forward them to Jutta. She has 3 and is crazy about them. She'll love the photos. I hope that's ok.

Jun. 14th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad this seems to be a project of joy. Though I do admit to being a bit confused everytime the cat comes up (we share a name) :-)
Jun. 16th, 2009 10:34 am (UTC)
My younger daughter, Isobel, named the boy, Ian. To her it's an English male name and she's Anglophilic. I like it as a name myself. Very much,
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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