Today, Audible.com asked the question, “If you could read only one author’s work for the rest of your life, who would it be?” They also said that it could “easily be the toughest question of the day.”
Probably, if one had many authors to choose from – Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens all the way to the contemporaries like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, and so many more. However, it didn’t take me long to pick one author I wouldn’t mind reading for the rest of my life.
In November 1865, when reporting her death, The Athenaeum rated Gaskell as “if not the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished female novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists.” Today Gaskell is generally considered a lesser figure in English letters remembered chiefly for her minor classics “Cranford” and “Wives and Daughters: An Every-day Story.”
Gaskell’s early fame as a social novelist began with the 1848 publication of “Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life,” in which she pricked the conscience of industrial England through her depiction and analysis of the working classes. Many critics were hostile to the novel because of its open sympathy for the workers in their relations with the masters, but the high quality of writing and characterization were undeniable, and critics have compared “Mary Barton” to the work of Friedrich Engels and other contemporaries in terms of its accuracy in social observation.
The later publication of “North and South,” also dealing with the relationship of workers and masters, strengthened Gaskell’s status as a leader in social fiction.
I bought the complete works of Gaskell for my e-reader and I’m taking my time reading her stories, beginning with the obscure ones. I’ve already read North and South, but I can’t wait to read Mary Barton, as well as Cranford. I loved how astute she was about the social changes around her, the plight of the poor workers, even if it put her at odds with the general thinking of the time.
So, yes, for the rest of my life, Elizabeth Gaskell would be perfect.
It’s time to share my world again! My full month of vacation of teaching is winding down and I’m feeling a bit sad about that – but at the same time, it’s nice to get to teach topics I actually enjoy teaching. I was actually hoping to finish a novel that I started writing, but I guess it was too ambitious of me to think I could finish it in a month. But I have 5 days more to go, so you never know!
So anyway, here we go!
If you could go back and visit any time period, what time would you travel to and why?
I’d like to travel back to the time of the industrial revolution, to see how northern England changed to become this hub of mills and other manufacturing towns. It has to do with my reading of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South as well as her other books set in that time period, where her husband ministered to the working masses and she got to see first-hand the effects of industrialization upon the people. I wrote about Gaskell on my everything-else blog here.
If you could have three wishes granted for you alone, what would they be? This is a time for you to dream and have fun.
This must be a trick question – don’t mind the seriousness of the first wish though. Or better yet, just skip to the third question.
But let’s see, if I had three wishes granted for me alone – here they are:
I wish to have been born among the race of colonizers (Spain, which colonized the Philippines and Mexico; England, which colonized India, etc.) – just so I could see how it feels to be one of that skin color.
I wish for a world where people were kinder, countries were more mindful and no one was better than the other.
I wish I were a better mother.
Wanting something to quench your thirst, what would you drink?
Just water, thank you very much. I fear a world where water will be difficult to come by. In fact, for my birthday in a few days (which Mr. M will forget for the 7th year in a row), my wish is to raise money for charity:water. I had set up the giving page last month and unfortunately forgot to link it to anything on this blog (bad bad me!).
So since this question came at just the right time (and reminded me of the page I had set up!), if you’ve got a few pennies to help provide safe drinking water in countries like Mozambique, Haiti, Malawi, Bangladesh and Cambodia (to name just a few), here’s the link to learn more about charity:water and how you can help.
If you watch TV what are your favorite three television shows?
HANNIBAL. I am crazy for this show. I am mad for Mads Mikkelsen and the writing is impeccable, so complicated at times and I like the horror aspect of it. When this show comes, I shoo everyone out of the living room and watch it with hands covering my eyes. I love how they have a food stylist who fashions all these interesting human-looking meals that actually look so good and blogs about it here. Tonight is the season finale, too, so I suspect I will be suffering from withdrawals.
GAME OF THRONES – I have a confession. I’ve only watched this in bits here and there from the beginning but I am not offended by spoilers, so I got caught up really quickly in time for season 4 – which unfortunately has its finale next week. I love George R.R. Martin’s writing and it’s interesting to see how his work is adapted for TV. I am strangely attracted to Lord Oberyn Martell and love the scheming Petyr Baelish (may you never turn your back on this man if you value your life) and of course, Peter Dinklage’s Tryrion Lannister.
PUSHING DAISIES – Sorry, this is an oldie for me. It’s no longer on the air but I have fond memories of Ned, the piemaker, Chuck, his once-dead-now-alive childhood crush, Emerson Cod, the private eye who knits when he’s stressed (he knits gun cosies), and Olive Snook, next-door-neighbor and waitress at the Pie Hole. It’s also narrated by Jim Dale, US narrator for the Harry Potter series. If you’ve never seen this show, watch it – even though it will never come back again, like another favorite show that I LOVED – HBO’s Carnivale *sob*
I never considered myself a romantic,
at least not out in the open
till the day I felt a lover’s kiss
and realized just how I was so broken,
that deep inside –
I was just trying to survive
each day as it came, each moment lived in fear
I’d forgotten how to smile, so used I was to the tears
that danced upon my heart, like claws digging into bone
Till I saw something in his eyes, something that I used to know –
that love really is there, if I could only see it
it’s always been there, just waiting for me to believe in it
that deep within this ocean of fears, so deep that I could drown
A lover’s kiss broke the spell, dragging the shadows
revealing the light that lay beneath,
tearing past gnashing teeth
no longer hurt nor maimed,
the power of love reclaimed –
a kiss so soft, like butterfly wings
I close my eyes, and let my soul sing.
Tell us about the last book you read (Why did you choose it? Would you recommend it?). To go further, write a post based on its subject matter.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us WORDS.
The last book I read and finished was Chrissie Elmore’s Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues. This book starts off from the chapter-before-the-last-chapter of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, or Chapter LI (51 as 52 would be the final chapter).
Besides continuing from the book, it is also loosely based on the 2004 BBC adaptation starring Daniella Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage, without the ending the mini-series opted to use which, during that time, would have left both their reputations in ruins. Unmapped Country also uses some of the characters introduced in the series, like Mr. Latimer, the banker, and his daughter, Miss Latimer. Elmore writes the book close to the way Gaskell wrote it, which means it was written in the vein of the time. You could literally read Gaskell’s book, skip the final chapter and continue with Elmore’s book without missing a beat.
Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues follows the travails of two characters – Margaret Hale, now a wealthy heiress, and John Thornton, a mill owner who has recently been forced to shut down his own cotton mill due to the economic climate. It follows each character’s journey to certain realizations about life and each other, despite a proud mother unwilling to let go of her son to someone as spirited as the very woman who saves her son’s business, and a society stuck on how this class or that class of people should act and what rightly deserve.
Oh, the many missteps they encounter just to get to first base were so frustrating yet charming at times, but it built up the excitement as I continued to read the book.
It was also nice to read the growing awareness Margaret develops in the struggle to pair her moral ethics with the decisions she has to make regarding her investments and there were a few instances where I found myself saying, “you can’t save the world and stay wealthy at the same time!” – something I’m sure Bill and Belinda Gates are often faced with themselves (on second thought – probably not).
It is a well-researched book about the Industrial Revolution, one that got me digging into my garage for my own book on the Industrial Revolution – only to realize that I may have given it away to the local library by accident. I like books that do give me enough background of the times, especially if I’m unfamiliar with said times. And though the narrative often gets bogged down by the research Elmore has made, the events flow from one to the other, eventually culminating in an event that brought tears to my eyes (quite unexpectedly) and gave me goosebumps (again, unexpectedly) and finally to its charming, much-awaited conclusion.
I discovered North and South by accident, while killing time on Youtube. And when I watched the miniseries the first time, I could not figure out why the main characters were having so many problems. So she is from the south and he from the north?So what? I thought.
It’s not like the American mini-series North and South, which involved brothers separated by a civil war.
So she’s some clergyman’s daughter and he a mill owner? What the heck was the problem? And then there was the issue with the union dispute and the strike and the Irish workers imported in (would they be called scabs then?).
Unfortunately my knowledge of period stories was based primarily on Jane Austen, which I realized now, focused only on a certain part of society (except for Mansfield Park, but then it still focused much on the upper crust of society). So I had to watch North & South the second time to fully understand it. Not only that, I picked up the book by Gaskell and read it before I finally really understood what was at the heart of the story besides a tender love story between two fiery individuals.
Bear with me here – you see, my latest list of read books have been about fallen angels (Angelfall) and chimaeras (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) – so my mind wasn’t exactly into social and economical issues of 1800’s England and the disparity between the industrial north and class-centric south. I had to first extricate myself from the fantastic storylines I was lost in, but when I finally understood what North and South, both the book and the mini-series, were about, I was hooked.
Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues was one of the many North & South themed books I found on Amazon, written mostly by fans of the BBC miniseries and Richard Armitage. While some of the books focused primarily on marital relations or as some reviewers described as “soft porn”, I picked this book because the reviewers said it was the one closest to Gaskell’s vision and way of writing – which worked for me.
Now I’m not going to be hypocritical and say that I never read soft porn (heck, I write it) or have no curiosity about the many scenarios of Margaret and John’s marital relations, or how such things happened during that time (Did they shave? Brazilian blowout? Keep their clothes on? Keep separate beds?), but after just having finished a second reading of Gaskell’s book, I was looking for something that was more loyal to her style – and I was glad I found it in Elmore’s book.
After all, if I really wanted an answer to my questions, there are other books on the list and I do plan to work my way through all of them – eventually.
For now, I’m getting ready to continue reading the saga of the chimaera, Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) and lose myself into another world so far removed from Industrial England.
A few weeks ago, a few friends on Twitter were talking about how a certain actor had made their lives so much better, especially during difficult times in their lives – how he served as a beacon of light during dark times, a light at the end of a tunnel that never seemed to end. My words, not theirs as I only managed to glance at the conversation in passing…
I remember reading their tweets and then moving on to other things in my life. Beacon of light, my ass, I scoffed (sorry!). Light at the end of the tunnel, I laughed (sorry again – this is after all, a confession!). Some people…
Then it happened. A few days ago, I must have been in a foul mood because my 3-year old son came up to me and tried to cheer me up. You can never deny how astute children are, because they know exactly what makes you happy. It could be saying “shopping, mama” when you’re grumpy while driving around town running errands when you’d rather be, yes, you guessed it, shopping, mama! Or when you’re lamenting about your boring diet of greens and he comes up to you and says exactly what you’re secretly wishing for instead – “Cake, mama! Chocolate cake!”
This time, my son said one thing that he knew always made me happy (other than shopping and chocolate cake, that is) though I think I’d been in denial about it for, like, the past seven months.
“Richard!” he screeched happily before dissolving into fits of laughter and giggles. When I only made a face, he said it again – “Richard!” – and giggled the way only toddlers can giggle and break down the strongest and meanest of bad moods.
That’s when it hit me. Unlike my Twitter friends who were brave enough to share how one actor had brought them out of the darkness, I’d been in total denial about that one thing. One person did help me drift out of a darkness that lasted almost six months. I just didn’t want to admit it.
You see, in March of last year, my son was diagnosed with autism. And for six months, I descended into a sort of despair that most parents of newly diagnosed children of autism or any type of disorder (I think) fall into (again, I think). My life suddenly revolved around nothing but autism diagnoses, early intervention, traditional therapies, nontraditional therapies, gluten-free, casein-free diets, controversial therapies, sensory integration therapies, and so much more.
It made my head spin, and before long, my library was filled with all books that had to do with autism or sensory processing disorders and their treatments. My Goodreads library made me look like I was either a) a nonfiction addict b) a professional on autism and sensory processing disorders or c) a parent of a child with autism or sensory diagnosis and to be honest, I’d become all three. Even my movie choices had to do only with things that featured information about autism and their corresponding therapies.
I was a fun person to be with those six months, I guarantee you that.
Whenever I sat down to write, I wrote about the darkness and confusion that surrounded me about my son’s diagnosis, or nothing at all – which turned out to be my default setting. I was without words to describe how I felt. I was without pictures to draw. I simply had nothing to write about regarding my beautiful son at all. I simply had nothing to write about, period.
Even after he began to speak more words, and engage me and everyone else in conversation and socialize with adults and the children at the daycare, I hardly noticed. I barely noticed that in time my beautiful son was growing up, following his own timeline and not the timeline as dictated by books.
He was talking, playing, socializing, counting and doing whatever three-year olds did. I just wasn’t seeing it.
I was still sitting in the darkness. Or so I thought.
After eavesdropping on that Twitter conversation, it dawned on me that since September of last year, seven months after my son’s diagnosis – since my world turned dark – something happened. My life did turn brighter after August, when I discovered North and South and found myself inspired by its lead actor, and the messages he wrote to his fans since 2002 or so.*
I began to watch shows and movies, even if I had to go alone. I began to read books that didn’t have anything to do with autism or sensory processing disorders, or their treatments. Most of all, I began to write again, and this time I really wrote. It didn’t matter that I chose to warm up my writing chops by writing fan fiction involving characters that this actor played. It was still writing. And I wasn’t stopping.
As I wrote, and continue to write, stories that include a favorite character this actor has played in the past, my original characters were slowly coming back to life inside my head. Something had been awoken and it wasn’t about to fall asleep and fall into the darkness again.
I know this post has meandered long enough. I never realized how difficult it was to write about this, constantly editing as I go afraid to reveal more than I’d want to reveal to strangers and friends, how hard it is to go back there to that dark time and write about how it all began without realizing how long ago the darkness had actually lifted.
But because my son is astute enough and smart enough (for his own good sometimes) to point out the one thing that his mother has been in denial about, I’m finally going to admit it: my life did change just like my friends’ lives did when they discovered this man’s work.
Like a beacon of light in the darkness (riiiight), like the light at the end of that dark and lonely tunnel (right, right – get on with it), his work and his character did show me the way out. And I never even knew it till then.
But aren’t you glad that now I do. And that I can finally admit it. Sort of. I’ll get around to it. Like this year.
So this is my confession.
Like the lapsed Catholic that I am sitting behind that screen and wondering what else can I say that will shock that poor priest over there and make him squirm at night as he lays his head down to rest, can I just take that one last minute of your time and patience to confess that I discovered Richard Armitage in August 2012, and in doing so, discovered the beauty, grace and marvel that is my son and the strength and wisdom that is in me.
I’ve recently discovered a gem of a period drama called “North and South” on BBC while browsing through fan videos on Youtube featuring, well, period dramas. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to see clips of movies I’ve yet to see like “Becoming Jane” and “Wives and Daughters” or even movies that I have seen, like “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen.
It was actually during this time a few years ago that I first discovered fan videos of Matthew that led me to other pieces of his work like “Spooks/MI5” and “Little Dorrit”.
And so about two months ago, I found myself looking for the dance scene from “Becoming Jane” where a sad-looking Anne Hathaway dances with some sad-looking bloke, and then her face lights up when James McAvoy dances right next to her (honestly, if James McAvoy started dancing next to me, and then with me, my face would light up, too – hubby be damned).
Then I clicked on a ‘related video’ entitled “North and South train ending” and was so riveted by the exchange between a magnificent man named John Thornton and a beautiful woman named Margaret Hale that their kiss at the end totally took my breath away. Really.
That same evening, I watched all four hours of the BBC drama on Youtube, even though North & South was actually on my Netflix queue already, and lucky for me, I got to see the unedited US version, which I much prefer anyway.
The next evening, I told hubby all about it and he proceeded to watch it on Youtube (on the big screen this time as we have Youtube streaming on our Blu-ray player) till about one in the morning. The next morning, he told me that he had gotten only to the part of the train scene when they kissed and he couldn’t find the rest of it.
“I didn’t get to see them going back to the mill and all that,” he said. I had the unfortunate job of informing him that what he had seen was actually the end of the mini-series, and after hearing that, he was quite disappointed, poor chap.
But I was quite happy he liked it. He’s a union type of man and loved the parts of the cotton gin and the mill and how it showed real people with real jobs and real problems.
Anyway, I digress. What I’m trying to say is that my return to writing again has been prompted by this character named John Thornton, and while I am not tackling any sequels to Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South” (which, by the way, is a wonderful book!), it’s the characterization of the actor, Richard Armitage, that’s to blame for my return to my pen, or in this case, to my keyboard, to write out the stories that have been populating inside my head for years.
And for that, Mr. Armitage, I am eternally grateful. Writing, after all, has kept me out of trouble since high school (after that unfortunate incident with the floating papers that made its way into the hands of a single, ultra religious and conservative teacher that led to me being taken to the guidance counselor and to the principal, who proceeded to remove me from drama club and personally dropped me off at the writers club, thank you very much!) and at present as well.
I’ve probably seen this mini-series about three times now to fully understand the story and even though I’ve read the book as well (the comic strip incorporates Gaskell’s words with the final caption) I still cry when I see this ending. When she takes his hand, her index finger slipping around his and then she brings his hand to her lips, yes, I cry every fricking time it’s ridiculous.