Saturday, May 29, 2010

Come Again by John Dowland (published 1597)

This Renaissance song was redone by Sting on his album "Songs from a Labyrinth":

Come again,
Sweet love doth now invite,
Thy graces that refrain
To do me due delight.
To see, to hear,
To touch, to kiss,
To die with thee again
In sweetest sympathy

Come again,
That I may cease to mourn
Through thy unkind disdain
For now left and forlorn.

I sit, I sigh,
I weep, I faint,
I die, in deadly pain
And endless misery

Gentle love,
Draw forth thy wounding dart:
Thou canst not pierce her heart;
For I that do approve.
By sighs and tears
More hot than are
Thy shafts, did tempt while she
For scanty tryumphs laughs.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Another Quote of the Day

"I have been astonished that men could die martyrs
for their religion--
I have shuddered at it,
I shudder no more.
I could be martyred for my religion.
Love is my religion
and I could die for that.
I could die for you."
John Keats

Quote of the Day

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

Dead Poet's Society"
John Keating

What I am Reading, or What Did I Get Myself Into?!

I am currently reading five books and have only a month before vacation to complete them! I am a glutton for punishment, I tell ya!
Here they are:
Vanity Fair by Thackeray---I am joining the discussion at the Victorians! group on Goodreads

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk---against my better judgment ;) Thanks, Holly! I keep wanting to put it down, but don't for some reason. I even skipped the infamous short story, Guts!

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, for the Cranford Read Along

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, for the Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies Read-along

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian for the Jane Austen group on Goodreads

I did start Becoming Jane Austen, but quickly put it aside for better things. It's a pretty boring biography of Austen. I'll save this for our tundra-like winters...

I am hoping to fit in some writing too, in the midst of all this craziness. Stay tuned. I am working on something I am calling "Venice: A Reuniting" in preparation for our second journey to Venice....

Also, the topic for our writing group next week is Humor, so the first thing that comes to mind is Children's Lit! The best humor in my book! I'll be sharing The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, and Solomon the Rusty Nail by William Steig. All three of these books are pretty pertinent to the title of this post: What did I get myself into!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Jane Austen Read Along:

I will be joining Austenprose in a read-along:

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’

June 15th – July 17th, 2010 at Austenprose

In honor of reclaiming Jane Austen’s classic novel

Pride and Prejudice back from the living dead

If you wish to join, check out for more info. The Event Preview begins on June 9th. You need to RSVP by June 14th.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Poem for Summer by Emily Dickinson

I just stumbled across this poem by Emily Dickinson. I thought it was perfect since summer has already begun! It is very beautiful too...

A something in a summer's Day

A something in a summer's Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer's noon—
A depth—an Azure—a perfume—
Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer's night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see—

Then veil my too inspecting face
Lets such a subtle—shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me—

The wizard fingers never rest—
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes it narrow bed—

Still rears the East her amber Flag—
Guides still the sun along the Crag
His Caravan of Red—

So looking on—the night—the morn
Conclude the wonder gay—
And I meet, coming thro' the dews
Another summer's Day!

Why I Write: A List

1. the first and most important reason why I both write and read is the search for that moment of complete transcendence, where nothing else matters, but a certain truth. It is that point in a piece of creative writing in which the reader gets past the words and letters, and forgets that he or she is reading.
2. because I love words. how they look, feel, sound, how they feel when read out loud, how they make me feel, how they react to the words around them. I love when a certain word sticks around, resonating with me as I go about my day.
3. because of the act of writing and how it feels to physically write, depending on the tool. I recently acquired a typewriter, given to me by a neighbor. I love how writing changes with the tool used: whether it is the very physical action of typing on the typewriter, the speed and effortlessness of a laptop (almost like the fingers are directly connected to the brain's current), the graceful, sweeping movement of a pen, or the more rustic, earthy feel of pencil to paper. Different emotions, mood, motions for each tool...Will the writing follow? I hope to try them all and see what develops.
4. because I love the blank page, whether in a fancy journal that will be around for a while or a scrap paper lying around in my purse. (look inside my purse and you will see such papers covered with jumbles of writing written at that "light bulb" moment)
5. because I have a definite need for an arena to explore my crazy, ever-changing emotions-getting my feelings down on paper in order to sort through them into a sort of coherence, and discard those that are irrelevant (probably the majority). I've found that a typewriter can be very helpful in this process. Its very physical, rough kind of motion allows for the tumultuous emotions to surge out of my mind into my hands.
6. because writing transcends all works of art. Nothing is required of it. Memory is the minimal means of recording. Also, a handy hand to be written upon, a scrap receipt and a loose crayon on the carpet, or the digital world and its never-ending means of dissemination. To me, its the most perfect art form because it requires only our thoughts and some necessary practice.
7. because after 41 years of searching, I have found that it is the one thing I have always done, the one thing I feel I am meant to do, and the one thing I am comfortable doing. I still need to find a way to summon up the self-confidence to let my writing go out into the world without regret.
8. because of the body's inevitable demise (this is for you, John!) and how we all wish we could stick around longer. You can leave behind your shoes and a worn out old chair, but in order for someone to truly remember you, who you are deep inside, you need to leave a piece of yourself behind-your thoughts, feelings, aggravations, triumphs, ideals, teachings, or just some ramblings jotted every once in while in a journal. I would love to make a stamp in the world while I am here, but it would be nice if I am remembered too, even if only by my loved ones.
9. because I want to record those moods or moments that are so very fleeting before they pass by and are gone. They seem memorable at the time, yet they are eventually forgotten if enough time goes by.
10. because i enjoy being a writer. It "fits" me. I have always been an observer, a reader of both words and people, someone on the sidelines. In our society, where extroversion and assertiveness are valued above everything, it is nice to know there are still vocations out there for people like us. I heard someone say once that one should only be a writer after trying everything else. Well, believe me, I have tried out many things, but writing seems to be the only thing that really works.
11. because I can write anywhere and the writing will always be with me anywhere I happen to find myself. It isn't that I am a nomad, but it is nice to know I am never tied down by my career.
12. because writing makes me proud. Not in a negative way, but in a "hold my head up with confidence " way. I think it must be because I feel I am doing the right thing for me. Writing is a noble profession with limitless rewards (if you don't mind the rewards not being monetary) and limitless aspirations.
13. because I love knowing that I am now part of the ongoing conversation, like I have finally been invited to that dream party with all the right people, people who I have everything in common with--this group of writers, alive or dead, who have found a way to express themselves through words.
14. because technology has now opened long-closed doors, enabling all of us solitary writers to be heard at last.
15. And, finally, almost as important a reason as my first, because I love people. I love their struggles, their facets, their shared humanity, and I love, and have faith, that no matter what happens, we will all be there for each other.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: The Finale and What I Thought

Spoiler Alert!!: if you have not watched the finale yet, do not read on!

Let me say first off that I think the writers of LOST truly kept up the pace until the bitter end. They managed to maintain supreme quality writing from the first time we see Jack open his eye, until the very end, when his eye closes at his natural death. Secondly, an analysis of this 120 episode show can only really be accomplished by looking at it in a very general, universal way. If we try to arrange the details to fit like a puzzle, it just doesn't work. That said, I really don't think arranging the details is really necessary. The writers obviously kept the plot very open-ended, as all good writers do. Any great work of writing inevitably creates a conversation, and better yet, one without any closure whatsoever. It allows the piece to live on indefinitely, as LOST will. I think having a television show of this caliber with this wide of a scope should tell us a lot about where we are going as a society. Television isn't merely a form of mind-numbing pleasure anymore. Television has the same sort of capacity for change and transcendence as literature has always had. Technology is giving humanity new forms of communication and ways of relating, probably on a bigger scale than we have ever seen up until now.

So, now to try to decipher what this show has really meant, or at least my opinion of its meaning. I think the best place to start is with the characters. It seems that the most important, crucial characters have names that are symbolic of something:
First character that we see is Jack Shephard. He is the Everyman Jack (see second Footnote) trying to make his way in the world, but it is obvious he begins life with more than most of us have: wealth, intelligence, a father who is an MD and a brain surgeon, confidence, his own MD in brain surgery, and a God complex (which all or most doctors probably need to have in order to do what they do). So, in reality, he really isn't an Everyman Jack after all (on the other hand, see first Footnote). He is exceptional in many ways and, to add to this, he is also a born leader and takes the lead in every endeavor he attempts, not to mention always needing to be the one to "fix" things. This is where the name Shephard comes in, not spelled the same as the protector of sheep, but we get the picture. His father's name is even more perfect, Christian Shephard, which we see the meaning of why he has this name at the end. Christian is the first one through the doors to the light. Jack also spends his time either looking for his father or trying to find his father's lost body. Jack will eventually lead his own "flock" through those doors (they loyally wait for him to remember and join them), following his father, Christian, a play on the name of Christ who is the first to open the gates of heaven.

The next character of importance is John Locke. John and Jack clash over the question of faith vs. science and I think what is significant is that they are both leaders. They seem, as the series progresses, to each take one side over the other. John Locke believed that the island has a higher purpose, and Jack had trouble believing this. Jack desperately wanted to find every means for escape and try to get everyone to follow. In the end, John Locke is right, but Jack, ever since he returned to the island after having left it, has acquired this faith. At the same time, Locke begins to doubt his own faith due to lack of proof or signs. His doubt almost leads to his own suicide (if Ben hadn't interrupted and killed Locke himself). Jack tries life away from the island, but the island kept drawing him back with a very powerful unseen force. John Locke is named after the 18th century English philosopher who very curiously believed that all knowledge begins with what comes to the mind from the senses. Only then can people begin to organize this information through reason. His symbolic name echoes the reason why he kept waiting for the island to give him some kind of sign. At the time, he felt that the hatch was that sign. To Locke, the hatch represented the island and its higher purpose, and he wasn't exactly wrong about that, as we now know. It is pretty fitting that the smoke monster used Locke's body as his vehicle to influence people to follow him. Locke is not only a born-leader, but one whose sincerity and optimism wins over most people he comes across. He seems to look at you like he knows you and has complete trust and confidence in you. People are at ease and open with him, and this allows the smoke monster to win over many to his side. Locke, like Jack, has a troubled relationship with his own father, and we can contrast this struggle with Jack's attempt to deal with his own father's death.

Desmond Hume is the next most significant character. His name also means something. David Hume was an 18th century philosopher, and Scottish to boot. He wanted to bring philosophy to its senses, and he scoffed at the idea of human reason. He believed that what people knew of the world began with the senses. I find it ironic that the philosopher Hume did not believe in god or science, but Desmond Hume has so much faith. He pressed that darn button for how many years? Hume the philosopher did not put any faith in either science or religion because people can only have the ability to see these ideas from a limited perspective. Desmond is not limited at all in that he is a kind of all-experiencing character. He is able to withstand the power of the island and is able to travel over the alternate realities. He maintains multiple perspectives, to override Hume's insistence on "tunnel vision" in human reasoning. Desmond ultimately is the coordinator of this reunion at the church at the end. His faith is real in that he can prove it through his own experience.

And, let's not forget Hugo Hurley, the lovable guy who inherits the island after Jack's death. Hurley's favorite word is "dude", and one can't help but feel at ease around such a casual, fun-loving individual. Hugo is unique in that he was perpetually haunted by the six numbers he used to win the lottery back home. (I'd list them, but I don't want to jinx myself.) Everywhere he goes, the numbers pop up. And these numbers always cause bad things to happen. For instance, the numbers that Desmond had to enter into the hatch's computer so that it wouldn't implode were Hurley's numbers. The only time that Desmond neglected to enter them caused Oceanic Flight 815 to crash! I suppose it is possible that Hugo was named after Victor Hugo, the French writer who was the champion of those less fortunate and social injustice. Hugo himself is obese, and Sawyer creates new and more demeaning names early on in the series to comment on his appearance, an unfortunate casualty of his obsession with food. To me, Hugo is the sweetest , most down-to-earth, and accepting character of the bunch. It is perfect that he is chosen to nurture the island after it has been restored by Jack. And, it is even more perfect that he chooses a partner, Benjamin Linus, to help him. Hurley forgets Benjamin's faults and outsider status and welcomes him in with open arms.

Benjamin Linus is one truly damaged, "lost" character. When we first meet him, he is the leader of the Others. This fact is significant in that Benjamin never belongs anywhere,(he is always an "other"), whether this is due to his own fault is beside the point. He maintains this status as outsider because of his ambition. His self-esteem is seriously deficient, and he spends most of his time trying to restore it. It is quite possible that Benjamin's last name "Linus" is a play on the word "lie" in that this is what Benjamin does best. Unfortunately, he uses deceit and manipulation as his means, but if we examine him closely , we see the incredible scars he has had to live with and can somewhat forgive him for his actions. But because he kills John Locke, the only one who can offer him forgiveness is John himself, which of course he does. Benjamin chooses to remain in the alternate reality in the end, remaining the perpetual outsider, to work out his mistakes and selfish tendencies. At the end, he is a symbol of humility, which for him, is huge! He does not allow himself to join the group, even though he is invited by Hurley to do so. Benjamin was obviously a good second in command to Hurley, and this fact shows that he is headed in the right direction.

Sawyer is significant in that he is known by the name of his sworn enemy. He is the rebel of the group, and the guy who grows the most. Sawyer starts out as bitter, negative, and suspicious of others, and he learns to love and make friends by the end of the series. He opposes Jack in many ways. They both love Kate and Juliet at different points in the series, but Sawyer's true love is Juliet. Sawyer is as lovable as Hurley by the final episode, and he learns to live by integrity alone, instead of merely his desire for revenge.

I am not sure whether this is a good or bad thing, but it seems all the female characters are defined by their roles as mothers. Kate is crossed out from the list of candidates due to her becoming an adoptive mother to Aaron. Sun is disqualified after becoming a mother. Claire is the mother who goes insane and neglects her child. Juliet is a fertility expert, who is the mother of Jack's son in the alternate reality. And, it seems there are an awful lot of female characters who have died: Juliet, Charlotte, Libby, Shannon, the foster mother of Jacob and the Man in Black etc. I'm really not sure how to interpret this lack of female strength, but it is what it is. Any female who asserts herself in a too-masculine way, gets gunned down eventually. It is possible though that motherhood is considered to be of primary importance, even more important than the "source". Therefore, females would be considered the sole protectors of creation and so would be disqualified to be protectors of the island. And, let's not forget that it was Kate who ultimate killed the smoke monster in the end. She was helped out by Desmond, who shut off the source and made him immortal, but it was Kate who shot that last bullet. So, maybe after all, femininity is the ultimate power here in LOST world.

OK, so now let's get down to what I thought about what actually happened in this crazy TV series, what the ending tells us about what happens beforehand, and what we will take away with us now that it is ended. So, after seeing the finale, it is apparent that we were seeing this whole thing through Jack's perspective and experience. I found this surprising because most of the time, I had trouble relating to him. He is the kind of guy that you love to hate--hyper-successful, effortlessly rises to the top, who everyone appears to adore i.e. too proud in my book. These last episodes showed a Jack who is just as flawed, lost, and terrified of the future as the others. Jack is inevitably the glue that binds everyone together, not because of his perfection, but because of his own very human flaws and tendencies. He is the last to show up, the last to "let go and remember". He is true to himself until the end in that he is the last to let go of reason and embrace faith completely. Jack tries to love Kate, but he can't. He isn't allowed to love her like the other "lovers" in the series, but like he loves everyone else in the church---with a universal, binding love, full of compassion and togetherness, bound by human weaknesses and human potential. Jack saves the world and is the true hero, but he remains somewhat isolated within this heroism. Jack as a character is the embodiment of the lone hero, therefore he cannot truly bind to Kate completely. The ending of LOST serves to circumvent and "correct" this quite burdensome archetype of Jack's. The ending emphasizes that, in the words of Jack himself, "We can live together, or die alone." No one from "Jack's flock" dies alone in LOST. They are bound together by this togetherness that they have fostered throughout the six seasons of ups and downs. Let's face it. Most of these characters had gone through horrific circumstances, so why wouldn't their time together be the defining time of their life? Who can really top this? The ending was not corny, or overly simplified. Everyone seemed natural and accepting at the end. What we hope to all be.

So, let's get to all the complicated stuff that happened before Jack died. What is this source? Who are Jacob and the Man in Black? What about Eloise and all this talk of time travel, coordinates, the pendulum etc.? What about the Dharma initiative and their move to the island? Who is Charles Widmore? Is he bad or good? Well, I see it pretty simply. I am going to call it "anti-agnosticism". LOST is commenting on the point our world has come to: the advancement of science so far that the reason for our existence has been proven (or in the real world, quite possibly about to be proven). Within LOST, the human race has started to discover this "source". Charles Widmore merely represents to me a kind of scientific explorer, for good or evil depending on your perspective. He and his team have found proof of the source's existence and now wish to use it for human benefit. We can compare him to Christopher Columbus discovering the New World. I am sure the consequences would be similar if no one was protecting the island. The "source" would be raped and pillaged for all it has, like the Native Americans and their land was. Eloise symbolizes the opposite of this scientific discovery: intuition. She is able to sense things that go beyond reason, so combined with Widmore's powers, they are a formidable force. I found it very interesting that they were married in the alternate reality. Daniel Faraday (Widmore) was their tool (and it is quite fitting that he was their son in the flash sideways). He was the idealistic scientist searching for the ultimate truth. His goal was idealistic, as are all ideas when they are created. It is only when these ideas get into the wrong hands that they are twisted around and abused. The Dharma folks were others who wished to harness the power of the island, but in a more benevolent fashion. Linus breaks off from the Dharma because he was much more ambitious than them, and thirsted for power.

No child could be conceived on the island. So the mysterious original protector of the island (the unnamed woman) needed to steal Jacob and the Man in Black, so that she would have someone to take over when if she were ever killed. The water that these new protectors drink is symbolic for the source and its strength. If you drink the water handed to you by the previous protector, you become one with your predecessor and one with the source. This is reminiscent of the process of transubstantiation that we see in the Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion. The protectors have one goal: to protect the source and as we can see, not everything they do is pure and good for the sake of the island. The protectors are all humans, and humans are destined to be flawed in their humanity, as both Jacob and the Man in Black were.

So, at the end, we are really left with two things: the restoration of the source, and thus the salvation of the island, and the salvation of Jack and his "flock". As I said in the beginning, in order to understand LOST, you must simplify down to its essence and universality. Within LOST itself, the characters undergo this same purification process. They too let go of everything at the end, and they are brought down to just the essence of who they are and how they relate to the group. To me, this ending symbolizes the compassion required of all of us to achieve the ultimate spiritual transcendence. The source has been restored and the survivors of Flight 815 (and a few others) can move on. The island and its mysterious source are real, the survivors were alive until their individual deaths, and the alternate reality was just a purification process of remembering the joy, heartache, and compassion that they collectively experienced before they were able to leave this world.

The penultimate meeting at the church at the end was arranged by Desmond in order for their lives to be celebrated and remembered before they "move on", kind of like a funeral where only the dead are invited. LOST's final episode is a type of funeral within a funeral because LOST itself will no longer be with us and we will all move on with our lives. We will eventually find something else to fill our Tuesday evenings, but LOST's memory will live on in our hearts, and in our conversations, for a long, long time.


From Columbia Encyclopedia:
Everyman, late-15th-century English morality play. It is the counterpart of the Dutch play Elckerlijk; which of these anonymous plays is the original has been the subject of controversy. When Everyman is summoned by Death, he can persuade none of his friends-Beauty, Kindred, Worldly Goods-to go with him, except Good Deeds. This allegory has been used as the basis of plays by later writers and has remained popular in modern times.

From online dictionary:
every man jack
n. Informal Every single person of a group

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cranford Read-along

Starting on June 1st, I'll be joining in on a Cranford Read Along. I have been wanting to start this novel, and this will give me the motivation I need! If you're interested, check out A Literary Odyssey Blog at for more info.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review: Les Particules (The Elementary Particles) by Michel Houellebecq

This is a truly ugly book with little bits of beauty hidden within its hatred. The author is a French novelist who was highly acclaimed by reviewers when this novel was published in 2000, at the turn of the millennium. If I hadn't been so sure of the author's satirical commentary on modern society and its danger of decline, I would have been tempted to push myself down the stairs in a wheelchair, like one of his characters, after reading it! I would not recommend this book to those who are faint of heart, or in a fragile mental state. That said, I believe Houellebecq has a lot to say in this book, and, for those with an open-minded global understanding of the world since the turn of the millennium, this book is a must-read. I personally am not fond of post-modern literature because of its gloom and doom, but for some reason this book really resonated with me. Out of all its despair and hatred, I found that I emerged from the reading with an unexpected hope for mankind and its future. In the words of Chuck Palahniuk: "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." . Engaging in this text allows the reader to start anew, after all of this dreadful post-modern angst has finally ceased.

Quote of the Day

"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
William Shakespeare (All's Well That Ends Well)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What I am Pondering...

My thoughts have been trying to get wrapped around three books and/or philosophies lately:
Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, which supposedly has been gaining popularity recently (unfortunately for our country I might add), Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, and D.H Lawrence's Women in Love. I've been trying to sort out their basic ideas and philosophies and will be bringing my thoughts to writing group tomorrow. All three works touch on many of the same things, but not all lead to a happy conclusion...more later.