Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I hate blogger. I have MOVED.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blithe spirit

Have I mentioned that I'm annoyed that someone else has written the YA novel about Spiritualism? Perhaps this is why I've been in a bad mood of late. Stop writing YA novels about Spiritualism, people! I want to do this! Eventually!

And yet I'm told that the person who wrote the YA novel about Spiritualism wrote another novel that was crap, so maybe it isn't the YANAS. Ok, better mood now.

Anyway, Spiritualism. So I'm reading this book on Spiritualism and the interwar period, and one of the themes is how mediumship was a feminist move in some ways, giving women a sense of control and leadership in an unexpected route.

But that's not what this excerpt is about. I just liked this ideal medium-producing childhood:
Let us begin with some childhood experiences of Eileen Garrett, a celebrated medium in the 1930s. Garrett grew up with her Protestant aunt and uncle in County Meath, Ireland. In her autobiography, Many Voices, she recalled a turn-of-the-century childhood steeped in a mysticism and theological heterodoxy that extended to her staid and otherwise conventional aunt and uncle. Her uncle, generally regarded as a 'good Christian man', thoroughly believed in the wailing spirit of the banshee. So did her aunt, for she heard them talking about this wailing wraith on several occasions: ' "I heard the banshee last night—the time is not far away for someone to depart", they would say, with a certain poetic melancholy, but at the same time with a kind of gentle, objective acceptance.' According to Garrett, the banshee was part of fairy lore, 'which was regarded by the country folk as more potent than their religious practices'. Eileen became deeply involved with the magical powers which, she felt, 'lay hidden all around'. On her way to school she made primrose and cowslip wreaths, and left messages to reassure the spirits of her goodwill. She listened in the evenings to the stories of her neighbours, who believed in creatures who 'surpassed human beings in knowledge and power'—creatures who liked music, dancing and bright colours, and came and went oblivious of time.


I decided not to post the last two entries I wrote. Not quite sure what I want to talk about, apparently.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The first part of the Nietzschean aphorism I alluded to here would seem to come in handy a lot:
When dealing with people who are bashful about their feelings, one has to be able to dissimulate; they feel a sudden hatred towards anyone who catches them in a tender or enthusiastic or elevated feeling, as if he had seen their secrets. If one wants to do them good in such moments, one should make them laugh or utter some cold, jocular sarcasm: then their feeling freezes and they regain power over themselves.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

One reason

I was mentioning Sarah Waters below (in the Llangollen comments) was that I'm reading this at the moment. It seems more understated than her Victorian novels, and I'm more fond of it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Crossing over

I just got an email from an old friend who is getting married in May. This is also a second marriage. Kat's first husband was her Arabic instructor, in Jordan. He was a very funny, very sweet guy—I believe I mentioned somewhere that he learned English by watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice about 500 times, and therefore sounded amusingly old-fashioned, often exclaiming, "This is so very vexing!" Or, "I can only think of that with abhorrence!" Once he came over to the States they were both graduate students, and broke all the time. When I was visiting them once, they had an argument about Kat's purchase of a $4 cup of coffee that morning. He was also still angry from the night before, when she had worn a skirt short enough to flash her underwear at one of his Middle Eastern friends. So I had a sense, even then, that it was doomed.

She remains very much an Arabist, fond of supporting Palestinian causes. This time she's marrying a Jewish guy who is very pro-Israel, and is looking forward to having lots of intellectual arguments, and very few domestic ones. However, one of her demands in advance of marriage is that she gets to control the political educations of any children resulting from the union.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The forgotten idiom: a series

Continuing the theme:

I came across the phrase "don't be a Lady of Llangollen" and cannot work out what it would mean, even after looking it up. Is the objection that she was a recluse or that she was gay? Or, indeed, Irish?

Update: Aha!
Update ii: I'm pretty sure I've come across a reference to them before, and I think I love them a little.
Update iii: This doesn't sound very fun:
The Honourable Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831) lived with relatives in Woodstock, Ireland. Her host, Sir William Fownes, tried to force himself on her on various occasions.
Update iv: Doesn't something about them scream, make us into a BBC miniseries?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


When out at dinner just now, the server who took away my plate had a splint on her arm. The plate looking a bit wobbly, I asked, "Are you okay?" She said she was fine and added, "One of the hardest things about wearing this thing is that everybody asks how it happened." Quincy said, "We won't, then." She then leaned in and warned, "Believe me, you don't want to know."

We let her go, looking after her with great pangs of curiosity.


Tia's latest reminds me: life made a lot more sense after I read Humiliation by William Ian Miller. It's possibly superstitious at this point, but I think most bad social interactions I have can be explained by my failure to respect the mysteries of the gift.