Saturday, June 23, 2012

The source of Mr. Collins's "little delicate compliments." From Pride & Prejudice

"You may imagine that I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine, that her charming daughter seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence, would be adorned by her. These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay."

"You judge very properly, " said Mr. Bennet, "and it is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?"

"They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible."

Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.

From Pride and Prejudice, chapter 14.

Alright, I couldn't find this wonderful scene from the 1995 version on YouTube so instead here's a spoofy David Bamber video that will certainly bring a smile if not a chuckle:

The piano scene from "Pride and Prejudice": intro and compilation video

When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to the instrument. He drew a chair near her. Lady Catherine listened to half a song, and then talked, as before. to her other nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and making with his usual deliberation towards the pianoforte, stationed himself so as to command a full view of the fair performer's countenance. Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first convenient pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book-to-film review: "Finding Neverland"

I was recently in a bookshop whose owner was playing some hauntingly familiar music. After enquiring I discovered that it was the soundtrack to "Finding Neverland," a film I'd found absolutely entrancing, having read the original Barrie tale a few years earlier. 

I love doing book-to-film reviews and here's one on "Finding Neverland" that I wrote a few years ago:

Tinkerbell was about to die. Peter Pan, in desperation, turned to his 1903 opening night audience and cried: “If you believe in fairies, clap your hands!” The response was thunderous and Tink was saved. “All children, except one, grow up,” but if they loose their child-like faith in make-believe, all is lost. So goes the theme of the enchanting film “Finding Neverland.”

The film’s central tension, between the child and the grown-up, between belief and unbelief, is led by the story’s quintessential child, playwright James Barrie (Johnny Depp). When he meets widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four rambunctious boys, Barrie creates imaginative worlds for them all to play about in, much to the chagrin of the film’s arch adults, Sylvia’s mother, Emma Du Marier (Julie Christie) and Barrie’s wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell). Despite grown-up disapproval, the friendship between Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family continues and their inventive Indian and Pirate worlds begin to expand the Peter Pan story forming in Barrie’s mind..

All the boys join in the make-believe but one: Peter Llewelyn Davies (Freddie Highmore) refuses to play at play. He is grieving over his father’s recent death; perhaps if he grows up, he won’t hurt anymore. Perhaps if he had been already grown-up, the adults in his life wouldn’t have lied to him about his father’s condition. Now he will only engage in dry truth, nothing pretend. While Barrie patiently coaxes Peter into the land of make-believe, (going so far as to give his forthcoming protagonist Peter’s name) we too find ourselves longing to go to Neverland. Where is it? How do we get there? In a word: imagination.

Director Marc Forster gloriously brings imagination, and the play, “Peter Pan,” to life by letting us inside Barrie’s mind; we watch ordinary things turn magical until we (and Barrie’s Edwardian audience) find ourselves in a place where “happy thoughts” and fairy dust defy gravity and adventures abound. Was Neverland a set on a London stage with actors dressed as dogs, pirates and crocodiles? Or is “Neverland” something more, something intangible? The play debuted over one hundred years ago and we still don’t know the answer to that question nor has the story has ever lost its grip on our consciousness.

This most recent and enchanting effort to grapple with the story of the boy who would never grow old boasts a magnificent cast. Depp gives a marvelous understated performance. Winslet’s character magically combines pragmatic motherhood with childlike wonder, and her “boys” bring an extremely winning piece of ensemble work to the screen. Particularly compelling is Freddie Highmore, who plays the grieving Peter with heartbreaking realism. Radha Mitchell and Julie Christie are Neverland’s arch enemies, but their performances never descend into two-dimensionality. Dustin Hoffman is enjoyable as Barrie’s skeptical American producer, Charles Frohman (Frohman actually had tremendous faith in “Peter Pan” from the start but depicting him as initially unbelieving adds interesting dramatic tension).

Where or what is Neverland? This film doesn’t tell us exactly. It comes close to showing the genesis of “Peter Pan,” but tinkers too much with the actual Barrie-Llewelyn Davies story to approximate a docudrama, which was never the film’s purpose. It seeks instead to rekindle the wonder and rapture of Neverland for a 21st Century audience with the same power that it did for its first Edwardian theater-goers. On that level, it is an astounding success. “Finding Neverland” takes us on a journey so magical and touches us so deeply that by the film’s end, we are yearning for a sprinkling of fairy dust so that we too can follow the call, “second [star] to the right, and straight on till morning.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Snowed Up" by Rosalie K. Fry

I’m on a quest – limited only by my bank account -- to discover the works of Rosalie K. Fry, book by book.  Ever since encountering the hauntingly beautiful “The Secret of Roan Inish,” a film based on a children’s book by Fry, I’ve been wanting know more about the story’s creator that can be supplied by her few sketchy, Google-able biographical facts.  So I’m making an attempt to discover the artist through her art.

The book I pulled off the top of my stack of three was Snowed Up. As the title suggests, the tale’s young protagonists find themselves in the midst of an adventure caused by a blizzard. And some disturbingly myopic adults. I suppose if the children had remained in safety they wouldn’t have been allowed to become part of this sweet adventure but still, did Fry have to create adults with such weirdly dense priorities in order to set off the story’s chain of events?

Those events include a fair amount of danger which forces the children to – cheerfully, always cheerfully -- reach inside themselves to discover hidden stores of resourcefulness.  They encounter an abandoned house whose name – Pen Mynydd (not quite as magical as Roan Inish but still lovely in a British Isles sort of way) -- they find carved in stone above one of the doors. Instead of magical seals, Snowed Up contains hungry sheep and an edible called a “swede,” ingested gratefully by both human and ovines (the S in “swede” is not capitalized so no, they don’t become so desperate as to develop a taste for Scandinavians). 

Aside from one dreamy Christmas-inspired moment towards the end, the magical quotient in the book isn’t quite as high as that found in Roan Inish. And for all the danger the Snowed Up children face, the basic tenor of the book is as bright as the sun sparkling on the snow that reaches all the way up to the second floor windows of Pen Mynydd.  Snowed Up was published in 1970 when I was 10, and although I didn’t read anything British outside of The Chronicles of Narnia when I was around that age, this book seemed somehow vaguely familiar: I don’t recall reading anything darker. Perhaps tragedy-as-children’s-story might have been introduced a few years later, in 1977 with Bridge to Terebithia. Current 10 year-olds devour dystopian novels like The Hunger Games  (and the Harry Potter series had plenty of dark moments) but back in 1970, adventure books – at least those that flowed from the lovely pen of Rosalie K. Fry – weren’t all that scary.

All told, Snowed Up is a sweet little tale and I’m looking forward to reading my next Fry book in April.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Odes to the Pen

"The pen is the tongue of the mind."
Horace, Roman Poet 8BC

"I am no Poet here; my pen is the spout where the rain water of my eyes run out." 
John Cleveland (1613-1658). English poet.

A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.
Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962). French philosopher and poet.

What has any poet to trust more than the feel of the thing? Theory concerns him only until he picks up his pen, and it begins to concern him again as soon as he lays it down. 
John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, translator, and etymologist. 

In a mood of faith and hope my work goes on. A ream of fresh paper lies on my desk waiting for the next book. I am a writer and I take up my pen to write. 
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) Pulitzer prize winning American author.

"I wear my pen as others do their sword."
John Oldham, poet and novelist, English immigrant to Plymouth, 1623.

My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.
Graham Greene (1904-1991) English playwright, storyteller, novelist, and critic. 

The material came bubbling up inside like a geyser or an oil gusher. It streamed up of its own accord, down my arm and out of my fountain pen in a torrent of six thousand words a day. 
C. S. Forester (1899-1966), writer. 

"Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul."
Joseph Brodsky, Russian born American poet.

Inflated descriptions by the pen are exaggerated illustrations by the pencil.
Grace Darling (1815 –1842) One of England's best loved Victorian heroines.

The pen wherewith thou dost so heavenly sing made of a quill from an angel's wing.
Henry Constable (1562-1613). English poet most famous for Diana, a collection of sonnets.

(compiled by Victorian Trading Co. -- they have a special on pens this month!)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who was Rosalie K. Fry?

I’ve wanted to write a blog post on Ms. Fry, the author of the achingly beautiful story The Secret of Roan Inish ever since I realized that the lovely film was based on a book.  Try Googling her, though, and nothing comes up but the titles of her books.  For some odd reason the University of Southern Mississippi has her “papers” and their website condenses her biographical facts into two short sentences: “Rosalie K. Fry was born in Vancouver, Canada, and lived as an adult in England and Wales. She attended school in Wales and in London at the Central School of Arts.”

The Wales thing and the art school thing explain a lot but only through inference.  I thought perhaps purchasing a collection of her books might shed some light but some of those little gems are pricey and I ended up with only two, A Bell for Ringblume and Snowed Up.  I haven’t read them yet – three time-heavy non-fiction projects got in the way; plus I’d like to purchase more before jumping headfirst into Fry’s world – but the back cover of Ringblume, copyrighted 1957, offers some interesting info:

“This author was born on Vancouver Island.  She makes her home in Swansea, South Wales.  During World War II she was stationed in the Orkney Islands, where she was employed as a Cypher Officer in the Women’s Royal Service.  She has written many stories and executed many drawings for a variety of children’s magazines in Great Britain.  She is also known as a maker of children’s toys.  Her books, which she has also illustrated, have included: Bumblebuzz; Lady Bug! Lady Bug!; Bandy Boy’s Treasure Island; Pipkin Sees the World; Cinderella’s Mouse and other Fairy Tales; and The Wind Call.”

My non-fiction young adult book, published last year, features heroic WWII women so when I read of Fry's wartime work I immediately gave a hearty huzzah for her. Like so many other women of the time, she obviously put her immediate endeavors on hold indefinitely in order to do battle with Fascism.

Also interesting is that some of these books listed on the back of Ringblume are not included in the official box of “papers.” What happened to them?  I will have to wait another day to find out because though my interest in Ms. Fry has not diminished, additional non-fiction projects have found their way to my plate so it will be a while before I can return to my search for the person who set aside the creation of lovely worlds in order to decode for king and country.,rosalie.htm