A new WOTD from a new source: Mellifluous from Cyranny’s Cove. I have just moved into a new home so all my books are in boxes. It took me a while to find the book that would provide a quote on the WOTD, but I got it. After much huntering and gathering, I found the word in my old reliable friend, Anthony Trollope. In the scene below, a rich widow has been accused of absconding with the family jewels.
It must be owned that poor Lizzie did receive from Mr. Benjamin’s hands some of that punishment which she certainly deserved. This acute and learned gentleman seemed to possess for the occasion the blandest and most dulcet voice that was ever bestowed upon an English barrister. He addressed Lady Eustace with the softest words, as though he hardly dared to speak to a woman so eminent for wealth, rank, and beauty; but nevertheless he asked her some very disagreeable questions.
“Was he to understand that she went of her own will before the bench of the magistrates at Carlisle, with the view of enabling the police to capture certain persons for stealing certain jewels, when she knew that the jewels were in her own possession?”
Lizzie, confounded by the softness of his voice joined to the harshness of the question, could hardly understand him, and he repeated it thrice, becoming more and more mellifluous.
“Yes, said Lizzie at last.
Anthony Trollope ~ Can You Forgive Her?
It’s popular in movies and television to show lawyers going after people on the witness stand, busting their chops in all manner of righteous indignation. It’s become so formulaic (“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”) that a little mellow cross-examining is practically unheard-of. But wouldn’t that be refreshing for once?
“Rabbits…are like human beings in many ways. One of these is certainly their staunch ability to withstand disaster and to let the stream of their life carry them along, past beaches of terror and loss.
“They have a certain quality which would not be accurate to describe as callousness or indifference. It is, rather, a blessedly circumscribed imagination and an intuitive feeling that Life is Now.”
Richard Adams ~ Watership Down
(Painting by Alphonse Mucha)
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.
Dylan Thomas ~ Poem in October
Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the wavering, trembling unresisting sail below is fairer still.
Flights of fancy are random acts of kindness from the heart to the mind.
(Painting by James Christensen)
I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.
Jane Austen ~ Pride and Prejudice
“If you had to be a character in a novel, would you rather be you or me?”
Oh, those unintentional character flaws! How they distract me! They make me laugh when I should be crying. I weep in frustration.
To Flaw or Not to Flaw
Innocent writer: Why should my character have a flaw?
Experienced author: Because.
IW: Because why?
EA: To make her more interesting.
IW: My character is a man.
EA: See? Already she is flawed.
Once Flawed, Twice Shy
IW: Okay, I concede that my character must have a flaw. What kind of flaw?
EA: A character flaw.
IW: What kind of character flaw?
EA: One that will make your readers grab your character by the throat and throttle him.
IW: Her. But my readers, however much they desire to massage my character’s non-existent Adam’s apple, cannot do so literally. Won’t that frustrate them instead?
EA: No. They can do so literaturally, which means they will rewrite your story in the name of fan fiction.
IW: They can do that?
EA: Yes. Fan fiction covers a multitude of sins.
A Flaw in Hand is Worth Two in the Book.
IW: So my female character is a male which gives her an initial flaw out the gate. Should she have a second flaw?
IW: Such as…
EA: I wouldn’t be too fussed about it. Just keep writing, and one will no doubt crop up.
IW: Are you saying I should just leave a second character flaw to chance?
EA: Not entirely. If your book is serious fiction, I can almost guarantee a secondary character flaw that will have your readers in stitches.
IW: I thought you said they would throttle my character by the throat.
EA: Well, yes, but they will die laughing doing it.
Now I am carried beyond all bounds.
My tears will not be checked.
I see Antigone depart to the chamber where all men sleep.
Sophocles ~ Antigone
Despite out gifts, talents, and best intentions, we cannot control Life; we can only love it.
The Book of Rhino
H. L. Mencken wrote: “I believe that an artist, fashioning his imaginary worlds out of his own agony and ecstasy, is a benefactor to us all, but the worst error we can commit is to mistake his imaginary worlds for the real one.”
What about when the real world intrudes on the imaginary one? I don’t know why it does that.
Nature, with equal mind,
Sees all her sons at play,
Sees man control the wind,
The wind sweep man away.
Matthew Arnold ~ Empedocles on Etna Scene II
Legend has it that Empedocles, a fifth century Greek philosopher, died by throwing himself into Mount Etna. He wanted people to believe his body had vanished and that he had turned into a god. However, one of his sandals survived the volcano’s fire, dispelling the myth Empedocles hoped to create.
(Note to self: Remember this for those times when it seems otherwise. The sandal survived.)
Painting by William Waterhouse
“Chaos resolves into a pattern if viewed from the right distance.”
The Book of Rhino
I recently read The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. About halfway through, I decided that Captain Queeg and Donald Trump were remarkably similar in their behavior. I wondered how Herman Wouk could so accurately paint a portrait of the current president. Did he somehow get on board a time machine and travel to 2016? A more realistic possibility is that Wouk met or knew of someone like Donald Trump and used him for the character of Captain Queeg; perhaps Queegs and Trumps pop up in every generation.
(Note to self: If that is the case, then I think our current ship of state will make it to safe harbor.)
The Caine Mutiny won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952. I wonder what the members of the Pulitzer committee saw in the novel. Did one or two of them encounter their own versions of Captain Queeg and so awarded Wouk for his accurate depiction of American life? It’s possible. After all, the novels that achieve greatness are not about people we don’t know but about people that we do.
Novelists who write about their own time periods reveal the culture of their world in a way that history books do not. For example, one of the fascinating aspects of The Age of Innocence and Bonfire of the Vanities is the culture they both reveal about New York City and its society. It runs like a connecting thread through the transient tastes in style, language, and status. Even though the novels are set roughly one hundred years apart, Edith Wharton and Tom Wolfe knew the same types of people.
The fictional works of authors who write contemporary novels bridge the gap in time for later generations of readers, enabling them to trace patterns in human behavior. These books are “wrinkles in time.” It’s no wonder that all my favorite authors are dead! In their novels, I can travel through time—not as a voyeur who is merely nosy about the past—but as an Observer and a mathematician who is always searching for patterns. Patterns help me make sense of real world phenomena, including human relationships. In a world of reactive effects, patterns help me see causes. Novels of the past smooth out the wrinkles of the present.
Daily Post WOTD:Wrinkle
There are trees in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
Excerpt from The Wild Swans at Coole by William Butler Yeats
Painting by Joseph Kleitsch
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless see.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearig tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge ~ Kubla Khan
The world of the insensible appreciates the benefits of peace.
Erasmus ~ The Complaint of Peace
As interesting as I find speculation, I do not invest my emotions in it. It makes for a poor return.
The Book of Rhino