Sunday, July 23, 2017

Jane Austen At Home by Lucy Worsley

I have been reading Jane and about Jane for thirty-nine years. I found Jane Austen at Home to be revealing and thoughtful, expanding my understanding, and bringing Jane to life as a living, breathing woman. I so enjoyed every bit of Jane Austen at Home.

"Miss Austen's merits have long been established beyond a question: she is, emphatically, the novelist of home."Richard Bentley, publishing Jane Austen's novels in 1833

Worsley offers this quotation at the beginning of her Introduction. The search for home is central to Austen's fiction, Worsley contends. Jane herself lost her first home, the Stevenson parsonage, upon her father's retirement. She moved from rental to rental before her eldest brother Edward, adopted into a wealthy family, offered his mother and sisters Chawton Cottage.

Austen's characters are in need of a home, have lost a home, are concerned about home in some way. Charlotte even enters a loveless marriage with Rev. Collins to have a home. And yet Jane turned down the opportunity to be a woman with a substantial home with the brother of her dear friends.

The book is about the importance of 'home' and how Jane was impacted by her homes. It is also about family, and friendships, and love affairs, and the greater world, and most of all, Jane's dedication to her novels and how she used the world she knew to create her fictional worlds.

The book appears in four acts, a nod to Jane's love of theater and plays.

  • Act One: A Sunday Morning at the Rectory presents Jane's childhood home and younger years, including her teenage trip to the Bath "marriage mart."
  • Act Two: A Sojourner in a Strange Land follows Jane and her family into the series of rental homes, vacations, and visits after her father's retirement from ministry: Bath, Southampton, Lyme Regis, and their Bigg's friend's home Manydown. All of these locations appear in her novels.
  • Act Three: A Real Home finds Jane, Cassandra, their mother and Martha Lloyd living in a gifted home provided by Edward (nee' Austen now Knight).
  • Act Four: The End, and After concerns Jane's later years, last novels, and illness and death.

It was interesting to read that, based on a pelisse Jane may have worn, her measurements were 33-24-33 and that she was a stately 5'7" tall. The small waist would have been from wearing stays as a girl. She had high cheek bones and full cheeks with good color, and long light brown hair with a natural curl.

Jane had many suitors over her life; those who perhaps she wished would make an offer did not, and those who showed interest or did offer she turned down. As Worsley remarks, consider the novels that would never have been born had Jane wed! Had she married she may have ended up like her niece Anna, worn out by age thirty from successive pregnancies.

Jane died two hundred years ago. Her family lived into the Victorian Age and endeavored to make Jane palatable to the new era by presenting a pious and loving Aunt Jane who excelled at spillikins. The real woman had a sharp wit and acerbic pen which she employed to earn money to live on. And Mrs. Austen, for all her ailments, loved to put dig her own potatoes and muck about in the kitchen garden! No wonder this Austen family seemed lacking in sophistication by Victorian standards.

The impact of slavery, plantations in the Caribbean, and the Napoleonic Wars on Jane's world and her family are also shown. With brothers in the navy, relatives invested in slave plantations, the bank failure of one brother and an aunt who was charged with shoplifting, Jane's life was anything but sheltered!

I am asking for this book as a birthday present, to sit on my shelf with my Jane Austen sets.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Jane Austen at Home
Lucy Worsley
St. Martin's Press
Publication July 11, 2017
Hardcover $29.99
ISBN: 9781250131607

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Nancy Writes Junk Mail for Ministers

One of the artists I worked with, Vic, made this impression of me for my birthday.
I am wearing a Brooks Brothers dress I had bought when I was in sales.
In seminary, I knew the address 2900 Queen Lane as the home of Fortress Press. Now I had a job working there, working for the Board of Publication (BOP) as a copywriter/copyeditor.

The interview was quite strange. The head of Promotion looked over my resume and noted I had worked for the Lutheran pastor who once was an editor at Fortress. She decided I had to be OK because my old boss had high standards. And that pretty much ended the interview.

I discovered that my coworker was another United Methodist pastor's wife, a younger woman whose husband was serving at the Providence/Mt. Pisgah charge! I discovered we were very different, and also that I was totally unprepared for my job.

My coworker was an English major who had interned at the American Poetry Review, to which I had subscribed to since it began. I had a sales background and had loved advertising since a teenager. If the arts--literature, music, and painting--influenced people's thinking and feeling, I saw advertising as another form of influence. The power of the word, whether in fiction or a print ad, fascinated me.

At my desk I had my Stunk & White and a good grammar book. And learned on the job how to write, edit, and prepare manuscripts. 

Everything was old-school, pre-computers. We used an IBM Selectric typewriter and cut and pasted changes with scissors and mucilage glue. 
A brochure and a print ad I wrote
We wrote ad copy for display ads in Lutheran publications, flyers and brochures, catalog copy, and letters for mass mailings. The in-house graphic artists did the layout and art. I took several evening classes on graphic design at the Abington Art Center, reimbursed by the BOP.

Book promotion copy ad I wrote
I had to learn about the new software that was being developed to write a display ad and an article that appeared in the Lutheran paper.

 I had challenges such as how to make a boring history of Christianity exciting....

 Vic did the art for this catalog I worked on.
After our boss red penned our manuscript, we would cut and paste, and then it went to the in-house artists for the graphic design aspect. I loved working with the artists. Vic was an older gentleman who had worked for Theodore Presser Music for years. Wendy had joined the army to get her art school education. They were later joined by a young Hispanic artist.
A drawing Vic presented to me.
Wendy's sketch in response to the Ethiopian famine.
It was the first full-time desk job I had ever had. After a few weeks, I started joining my coworkers at coffee breaks and lunch. I got to know people from other departments as we sat in large groups at long tables in the cafeteria. The job had its drawbacks; I gained twenty pounds the first year and another twenty pounds the second year. Regular lunches and sitting all day took its toll after years of skipping meals and being on the go. Plus, I drove to work as there was no direct mass transit route.

A woman we met through the Kensington Area Group Ministry worked there. Jane also was into clowning and Gary joined her, becoming a mime.

Gary in his mime costume
Jane had joined a new choir, The Choral Arts Society directed by Sean Diebler. Gary and I auditioned and were accepted. The choir had four performances a year.

Here I am at a Halloween party dressed as a witch
with Jane in her clown costume 
Sean was a demanding director, whipping us into a 200 voice choir that would sing with the Philadelphia Orchestra in several venues.

In 1984 we performed the magnificent A Sea Symphony by Vaughn Williams. That July we were at the Mann Music Center, an outdoor venue, for An Evening with Rogers and Hammerstein with Erich Kunzel directing The Philadelphia Orchestra. In November the choir participated in the second Concert for Humanity, with Ricardo Muti and Emmanuel Ax. And in December we sang the Messiah by Handel with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music. In 1985 we performed the Neue Liebeslieder by Brahms, the Gloria by Vivaldi, Sea Drift by Delius, and other pieces.

Gary's work took him to San Francisco for two back to back conferences over two weeks. I saved up money and flew out to join him for the weekend between conferences. We ate in Chinatown, went to the Warf and walked around the city, drove across the San Francisco bridge to see the John Muir Redwoods National Monument and Napa Valley. We even had time to stop at some famous wineries.
I was enchanted. I knew the geological history of the area and had read about the Redwoods. The very flora and fauna were so different. I did fall in love with the city and area and would have moved there in a heartbeat had it been possible.
Company picnic

The BOP was a real community with were social events and trips. We went to the Baltimore Inner Harbor to see the opening of their new Aquarium. I wrote this poem.

Baltimore, 1986

Room walled round with water
and fishes flashing, weaving
or slowly spiraling downwards
like drugged dancers
in weightless pirouette.
Some paired, some schooled, some
silver racers in revolution, some
enacting most ancient rituals.

Most primal and original of creatures!

And into these, with regal entrance
the stately ray wings effortlessly;
mottled brown back, wing tips
upturned, tail properly level.
Majestic, even to the cream underbelly
and smooth-lipped gills elegant rhythm,

proving humanity's simplicity
with a sting.

On Halloween, we wore costumes to work. I remade an old choir dress. wore a long blond wig, made a hat, and carried a real vintage ostrich feather fan, channeling Mae West. I am at the center arrow in the photo below.
Halloween at 2900 Queen Lane

My coworker left for another position in the building and a new woman was hired. We became friends and one weekend when Gary was away she invited me to her mother's cabin in the Poconos.

I enjoyed writing but my editing was not consistent. When the Lutheran pastor I had worked for offered to help me get a job at the Board of Pub I had declined. I knew my failings ever since my Kimball High writing class. My mechanics were not great, and I was not a perfectionist.

Right before my boss went on vacation she told me I was in charge of overseeing all the projects in process. She did not prepare me in any way. I neglected to notice my own copy was missing the all-important order form. I went on vacation and came back to learn that my coworker had been promoted instead of me.

My boss Mr. Lilyers
When Jane changed jobs I applied for her old job, working for Len Lilyers who managed the periodical and music departments. I did secretarial work and helped drum up advertising for a publication for organists. In my spare time, I helped at the in-house house retail shop, the St. Nicholas Shop, and the customer service gals with whom I shared office space.

 Another birthday came with another card from Vic.

At the BOP I was surrounded by people gifted in music, art, and writing. In my department alone there was Larry, a church organist who brought me in as a 'ringer' when his choir had special performances; Kent who was a wonderful pianist who had built his own harpsichord; Jane who sang in the Choral Arts Society;and Andy, editor of a periodical and a church organist, and his wife Jane who sang and played recorder.
Jane, Kent, and Larry were dear friends at work
My sketch of Kent, Jane, and Larry
Mt. Zion in Darby celebrated an anniversary and all the previous pastors were invited back.
Gary and I at the Darby anniversary celebration
Gary's job at UMCOR meant he was away long hours and many weeks. He left the house by 5:00 am, taking the subway to the North Philadelphia station, riding the train to Pennsylvania Station in New York City, then catching a subway to Riverside Drive. Depending on transit delays he was home about 7:30 at night. He traveled across the country and out of the country, sometimes being away two weeks a month. So my friends at the BOP were a Godsend.

When Christmas came I still worked a second job. In 1985 I was a sales clerk at the Lord and Taylor store in Elkins Park. I worked in the sweater department, back in the ugly sweater era, and spent my free time refolding them. I found notes for a poem on the back of their mimeographed employee instructions

Lights Out at Lord & Taylor, Xmas 1985

Hating things, yet loving, caught in the world's trap
desiring this man's gifts but despising his scope,
at night when the lights are out and the empty sterile hall
sends back my solitary steps upon the linoleum floor
the stony models' cold gaze diminishes all to its material form
the essence of breath and spirit flushed out, purged;
no longer do the clocks carol around the upright
nor muzak's mild assault reverberate. All is silent night and dearly still.

Oh! But were it not for beauty that money can purchase!
Cold change and worn paper rule our senses.
The richness of fine things, well-wrought artifacts
which enchant us, entrap us. Where it not for beauty
how content I would be to remain poor.

Who has turned us around this way, senses tutored
to delight in the lovely, who cannot pay the admission fee.
I have come to disdain the wealthy who take their wealth
so carelessly, who cannot understand those who live
not by their desires but by necessity.

 At night the gold chains, leather purses, silk shirts
all turn drab, seen for what they are, apart
from the value we award them. Then our petty desires
shrink, flimsy and hollow.

In 1986 I worked at the holiday St. Nicholas shop in a mall. That was fun because everyone working there was from the BOP.

I had not been a television watcher since Ninth Grade when I decided to give it up. (Except for Star Trek!) We only had a 13" black and white portable television. But with Gary away so much I was watching more tv. In 1985 we bought a 20" color tv.

I would come home from work and walk P.J. Because of the mass transit hubs, there were a lot of outsiders in the area. People made wide arcs passing us and when someone asked, "Yo-is that a miniature Doberman?" I would reply "Yes." No one wanted to mess with a Doberman. When we got home I had to play fetch with P.J. for an hour, and then I made a light meal to watch in front of the tv. I also took up working on Gary's stamp albums.

I had to deal with house problems on my own, too. One morning when I turned on our vintage torchiere lamp I heard a mad squeaking. I found a bat nestled around the now hot

When the water heater died and leaked all over the floor I had to clean it up and have a new one installed. Another morning I discovered I had forgotten to close the front window behind the couch and found the screen halfway pulled out. I realized someone in the process of breaking in must have met P.J. face to face. Thankfully, our 'miniature Doberman' scared the intruder away. P.J. also twice alerted me when people tried to steal our new Toyota Corolla when it was parked in the driveway behind the house.
Remember those big glasses of the late 1980s? 

Gary helping out in the kitchen.
Since turning thirty I had been thinking about a child. I had never before considered having a child. But now I saw the child with us, and I was constantly thinking about our actions and how they would impact a child.

Maternal Instincts

I am the one who always
comes when called, closing
windows at the first sound of rain,
opening the door
for the dog at night.

I caress children, sympathetic
to their fragile questionings,
fond of their games.

And the small animals
of the suburban malls gather
a great indignation in my breast,
a longing to set all creatures free.

Suffering from the hollowness
of my womb, my Antarctic breasts,
I am the woman born for loving
who has not the luck to love.
Another birthday, another card from Vic!

I had no idea back then how a woman's fertility drops after age 30. Every month I would dream that I was not pregnant. But one day I just knew. Gary and I bought a test. It was positive! I made an appointment at the HMO and told the intern I was two weeks pregnant. I was 34 years old and the biggest adventure of our lives was just beginning.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Works in Progress and What's New

1857 Album blocks
Sentimental Stitches has released the last patterns for the 1857 Album Quilt. I've been catching up with June blocks. And finding alternative blocks for some that I did not relate to or were too difficult for my talents. I have also been adding the embroidery to the completed blocks.
The broderie perse block in the lower right corner in the photo above is one of my additions.

I also added the upper left block with the bird, which is from the John Hewson reproduction fabric line that was available a while back.
I added the presidents who served in 1857, cut from a printed fabric of presidents. There is an applique border to be added as well! I may turn it into two quilts! It is already huge, as you can see in the photo below.

Last week a huge box of books arrived won from The Quivering Pen blog by author David Abrams! He has a giveaway every Friday. Included is an ARC of Abram's upcoming book, Brave Deeds.
There were some books I wanted to read, some I had not heard of but look interesting, and others that my son or husband will read.
 I have quite a pile of Goodreads giveaways and ARC wins, too. And my Blogging for Books choice, The Heirs, is also waiting.

The cheerful cover on Hello, Sunshine was welcomed, as it arrived on a rainy day. 
I am enjoying working on this new project from A Batch of Quilt Soup.
It is the antithesis of my 1857's controlled palette with lots of clashing prints and colors that somehow go together just right.
 The original quilt is shown below.
 My bottom panel looks like this:

One of my friends from the weekly quilt group made this fairy quilt. Margaret used a fairy coloring book illustration, embroidered and crayon tinted it and covered the quilt with sparkly sheer fabric with a floral print.

I also added two handkerchiefs to my collection. They were part of a stash of supplies and linens donated to my weekly group. Both are designer hankies from the 1960s. The first by Monique and the second by Shelly.

My home office floor was refinished and we are ready to put the rug back in. I am enjoying my new work space. I found a great table, which as you can see is being well used! I have lots of space to spread out while researching and writing my memoirs, blog, and quilt projects. We will add a comfy chair. I will be able to use the table for quilt related work as well.
 One of my mother's oil paintings is above my computer desk.
Two more of her paintings are also hanging my my office.
The one above Mom painted for her living room which was decorated in beige and burnt orange in the 1970s. The painting in the photo below was painted for me. It hangs above a bookcase that belonged to my in-laws. The Anniversary clock also belonged to my in-laws.
The bookcase holds my Jane Austen set, books by Rumer Godden and Barbara Pym, Samuel Pepys Diary, a set of Mark Twain's book owned by Gary's grandmother, a Sinclair Lewis set, a complete antique set of 1001 Arabian Nights by Sir Richard Burton, and some vintage volumes of Lady Godey's and Graham's magazines.

I have lots of bookshelves available. Right now this one holds my poetry books, hardbound copies of books I've reviewed--some signed by the author, more books from my giveaway pile, and CDs.
The oak barrister bookcase belonged to my Grandpa Ramer. He bought it while at Susquehanna University, and Mom gave it to me and Gary when we married. So, this bookcase has been to seminary twice! It holds complete sets of Dickens and Balzac and my piano music books.

Last of all, since we lost our dear Suki early we have only our Kamikaze. She misses her best friend, especially since they were both blind and did everything together. We cherish her and enjoy her company.
Kamikaze has the big bed all to herself now.
We are pleased that Kaze is doing great on her new heart medicine, The last medication left her dizzy and loopy. She couldn't walk a straight line and stumbled and fell. Now she is eating well and loves her walks.

What are you working on? What's new with you?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hook's Tale: The Real Captain Hook, Demythologized?

I fell in love with Peter Pan as a girl watching the 1953 televised version starring Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook. In Sixth Grade I found out that before the Broadway musical and the Disney cartoon, Peter Pan had been a book!

I read Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie and then set to read all of Barrie, including The Little White Bird and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

I felt the book was very 'grown up' in its understanding. I loved how Wendy's heart cried, 'Woman, woman, let go of me," as she wished she could return to Neverland with Peter. I understood; I did not want to grow up and pitied her womanhood. And I loved Peter facing the rising water on Marooner's Rock, thinking "To die will be an awfully big adventure." What a paragon of bravery!
illustration from Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
In Hook's Tale, author John Leonard Pielmeier views the wicked pirate character of Captain Hook as a legend and warped history. He offers instead James Cook, a teenager pressed into service. James has his father's treasure map and the ship's captain follows it to Neverland where they become trapped. Things turn ugly for James, but at the last minute, he is rescued by Peter, and he becomes Peter's first and best friend.

Tiger Lily tells James she knows he is new to Neverland, for "too many people here...forget that there is more to life than the Now." Peter and the bear wrestle and kill each other daily, only to be resurrected the next day. Their actions have no consequences. Peter hates change, so he is very able to forget the past.

There is a crocodile, but one named Daisy, and a pocket watch. James does lose his hand. We meet Starkey and Smee and the pirates. Tiger Lily and the mermaids appear, and James meets Wendy Darling. Tinker Bell is one of the last living fairies, and there is a cache of magic sand.

But this tale is very different from the one 'that over imaginative Scotsman' left us. James rescues a marooned sailor, Arthur Raleigh, whose identity will greatly impact his life.

James wants us to know his 'true' story, as opposed to the popular image of him set in literature and on the stage.

"Why, dear reader, do you always insist on believing that sad little Scotsman, who only heard the story third-hand, instead of believing one who lived it? "
Barrie's words, characters, and scenes crop up, but altered. "To die will be an awfully big adventure," James remarks, "was becoming something of an annoying cliche."

The story is told in the first person and has the feel of a 19th c tale. Readers who enjoy the fractured fairy tale versions of Once Upon A Time and Wicked will enjoy Hook's Tale.
"And for some inexplicable reason, possibly having to do with the unbearably pompous actor who first portrayed me professionally, I will always be depicted as bearing an unfortunate likeness to King Charles II."
Mary Martin as Peter Pan and
Cyril Ritchard as Capt. Hook

In the Acknowledgements, Pielmeier admits his lifelong love of Peter and J. M. Barrie. He believes that Peter is misunderstood: "He was not a boy who refused to grow up he was a boy who grew up too quickly."

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

John Pielmeier is a three-time Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated playwright and screenwriter. His successful plays, television movies, and miniseries include Agnes of God, Gifted Hands, Choices of the Heart, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and successful screen adaption of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. He has received the Humanitas Award (plus two nominations), five Writers’ Guild Award nominations, a Gemini nomination, an Edgar Award, the Camie Award, and a Christopher Award. He is married to writer Irene O’Garden and lives in upstate New York. Hook’s Tale is his first novel.
Hook's Tale, Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself. By John Leonard Pielmeier
Simon & Schuster
Publication July 18, 2017
Hardcover $34.00
ISBN: 9781501161056