Catch Up Time

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Just wanted to do a catch-up post so that I could mention some things that I’ve been reading. These are still good reads, but just didn’t merit a huge detailed review of the experience. As I mentioned, they’re still good (for the most part).

The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide (2014)book366

Slightly strange slight novel about a young couple who live in a house where a neighborhood cat drops by with some regularity. As the (glacial) pace of the narrative continues, the couple become fond of their guest cat, but the whole thing is written with such surgical distance that it was rather difficult for me to become glued to the story. I’m not sure if it was me or the book, but this was a toughie to enjoy.

Leaf – Daishu Ma (2015)

book367A wordless graphic novel that has a narrative that’s very open to interpretation. The arc follows a young person who lives in a rather stark black and white world (illustrations are great, btw) where the only color comes from a few blue lights that stand out in the darkness. And then one day, he finds a large yellow glowing leaf and the remainder of the narrative is focused on trying to find out more about the leaf.

It’s a fairly simple message and yet so open to interpretation that the meaning could be different from one reader to the next. I’m on the edge about books with a message this diluted: does that narrative have enough meaning in the end or is the author/artist expecting the reader to do much (too much?) of the heavy lifting? It’s an interesting thought to pursue.

I’m probably making much more of it than it’s intended, but it would be interesting to read this and then hear how others from very different backgrounds (socio-economic, cultural, heritage, age) may interpret it. Is it a message similar to The Lorax (Seuss) or is it something else?

book363And I really enjoyed Oliver Twist, but didn’t have enough time in the end to get a proper post about it. However, don’t let that deter you. It’s a brick of a book (go me!) and is worth every page. I just adore Dickens’ writing and sense of humor.

And now I’m back at work which is a mixed bag of blessings: I enjoy it and yet it’s hard to beat three weeks of total messing around. But you know – at least I have a job I enjoy so if I do need to spend a lot of my time doing something, this ain’t too bad. 🙂

Swabbing the decks…

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In a vague effort to clear the decks, so to speak, here is a quick review of some of my more recent reads…

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So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why it Endures – Maureen Corrigan (2015). This was such a good nerdy lit crit read especially if you’re a fan of The Great Gatsby. (Actually, as I think about it, I would think that those people would be the only readers who would choose to read such a book…) I am such a person (see the gushing review here) and I just loved this read and gobbled it down in one weekend. I took rather sparse notes during my read though, so you might just have to take my word for it being so good. But trust me – it was.

I did learn about a theater company in NYC called the Elevator Repair Service group who do a 7-hour reading of the text of the GG every now and then. (I don’t know that I’d attend all seven hours, but I would definitely pop along to see some of it.)

I also learned so much about Fitzgerald and his rather sad life, about how the GG was received critically (mostly on the US shore), and then about how the GG slowly resuscitated itself after Fitzgerald died, mostly through the efforts of his friends, and then continuing on over the years on its own merits. Just how did it get on to so many high school and college reading lists?

”So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past…”

FITZGERALD/The Great Gatsby.

(Love that quote. Sort of sums up the Lost Generation time period for me.)

Now I’m searching through my TBR to see what would be a good follow-up to that…

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Finally, an ILL arrived – a graphic novel this time, from Lucy Knisley (she who wrote Relish which was a great read). This one, The Age of License, was also a GN but about the author’s coming-of-age holiday when she traveled through several European countries trying to get over heart-ache and fulfill her book tour travels… Loved it.

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The Railway Children (by Edith Nesbitt) was another good read (although totally different from Corrigan’s). I must have seen the BBC TV adaptation when I was a kid as I remember the waving of the red petticoats incident, but that was all I could recall so this was basically a new read for me. Lashings of ginger ale and no contractions in the writing, and reminded me a lot of the narrative style of the wonderful Paddington the Bear books. (Stick with the books with Paddington. The film is not worth its name, TBH.)

And then I did spend quite some time trudging through the first half of Jack London’s The Sea Wolf, but then I couldn’t take the over-writing and endless descriptions of the sea storms, that I had to put it down. Now noodling which other classic to pick up to fill in that year (1904) in the Century of Books project I’ve got going on right now. Any ideas?

Reading Review – October 2015

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In the past month, work has slowed down (thank goodness), and thus my head space has expanded so that I can read things that aren’t work-related. This is a big relief in many ways, and I’m happy to report that I’ve been really enjoying what I’ve been reading over the past few months. 🙂

Future plans: Work on completing my so-far under-the-radar Century of Books project. This is an on-going reading focus where I am reading a different book/different author (no repeats) published in each year of the twentieth century (so any titles published within 1900-2000). It’s very casual and rather fun – it’s also expanded my reading as there are some years which are not as bountiful as others, publishing-wise so I have been stretching my reading muscles. I’ve pretty much done 1900-1940, but then have quite a few gaps in the later years. Anyway, quite a fun reading casual thing…)

Anyway, back to reviewing. In October 2015, I read the following:

Total number of books read in October: 8 (hooray! Reading slump over and more free time to boot.)

Total number of pages read: 1837 pages (av. 230 pages)

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 F and 4 NF.

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 5 library books and 3 owned books. 1 e-books this month. (Total of 26 books off TBR this year.)

Speaking of the TBR pile, I had started a low-key book buying ban a few weeks ago, but I’ve fallen way off that track lately. I have got some new corkers though – expect a post of my new titles to come in the near future.

“I shall read all night and day. I’m a book-drunkard, sad to say.” – L. M. Montgomery.

Modern American Short Stories – Philip Van Doren Stern (ed.) (1943)

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In this short story collection first published in 1943, there were 19 stories from the 1920s and 1930s by authors with whom I was familiar (Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Steinbeck), some with whom I had only a name familiarity (Ring Lardner [one of Fitzgerald’s buddies], Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, Katherine Ann Porter) and then some who were new to me (Jerome Weidman, Sally Benson et al.) and one whose story I just couldn’t finish.

(You get three guesses. Oh, OK: it’s you, Hemingway with your Snows of Kilimanjaro).

Specifically, I enjoyed the following, most of which are available on-line if you’re so inclined:

  • Profession, Housewife – Sally Benson (1938)
  • You were Perfectly Fine – Dorothy Parker (1929)
  • Babylon Revisited – F. Scott Fitzgerald (1931)
  • The Happiest Man on Earth – Albert Maltz (1938)
  • Going Home – William Saroyan (couldn’t find the date published)
  • The Night the Ghost Got In – James Thurber (1933)
  • Young Man Axelrod – Sinclair Lewis (1917)

Published towards the end of WWII, this collection of short stories seems to be poignant and innocent in some ways. (Not surprising when you realize that some of them were written not too long after the carnage of WWI or within view of the outbreak of WWII). Several of the stories seemed to be rather sad in some ways — as though the authors had seen too much or experienced too much — and there’s a general feeling of this lost innocence. However, there’s also an edge that seems to warn readers that these authors are not to be taken advantage of, either.

After reading a great book of lit crit on The Great Gatsby, I especially liked reading something from Ring Lardner (friend of F. Scott’s) and a few of his other writing friends, although Hemingway (never my favorite at the best of times) was not a good addition, not only as I happen to find him annoying as a human being and as a writer but also because he was mean to Fitzgerald during his lifetime. Fitzgerald may have had his issues, but overall he seemed to be a pretty sensitive and gentle writer so I see no reason for Hemingway to be so shitty towards him. No need to be mean, is there?

Some good quotes for you:

There were a few Tommies that showed minute and white against the yellow, and far off, he saw a herd of zebra, white against the green of the bush.”

(HEMINGWAY/Snows of Kilimanjaro)

(Disclaimer: This was the one sentence of the few that I read and really enjoyed. Just sayin’.)

 It had been given, even the most mildly squandered sum, things most worth remembering, the thing that now he would always remember – his child taken from his control, his wife escaped to a grave in Vermont. (FITZGERALD/Babylon Revisited)

The Ghost that got in our house on the night of November 17, 1915, raised such a hullabaloo of misunderstandings that I am sorry that I didn’t just let it keep on walking                  and go to bed.                                                                    (THURBER/The Night the Ghost Came.)

American Notes for General Circulation – Charles Dickens (1842)

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This volume does not seem as well-known as Dickens’ other works, but despite its low profile, this was one of the funniest and most enjoyable reads that I’ve had this summer (and certainly from amongst my reads of other Dickens’ titles). (Not that I am a Dickens scholar of any kind…)

Dickens had already become a publishing sensation when he arrived on American shores, having successfully published The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickelby, and then immediately upon his return to England, the release of A Christmas Carol. And so, in terms of the times, Dickens was a publisher’s dream and somewhat of a superstar. His trip was not going to be unnoticed by any means, despite what he writes in the pages of American Notes. (There is extremely little mention of crowds or readings or any of the other trappings of a celebrity visit, although in other sources, he does mention getting tired of the crowds around him at times and not being able to blend in when he travels.)

Dickens at his desk in 1858.

Dickens at his desk in 1858.

So – to the trip. It was Dickens’ first trip to America and he travels across the Atlantic by boat (along with his wife and probably some unmentioned servants). As the sea goes by, Dickens writes some of the most entertaining descriptions of the other passengers and the significant travail it was to remain in good spirits during this slow progress. (Brownie Guide’s honor: His writing is as entertaining as Bill Bryson during this step of the voyage.) (Compare this to his description of the ship journey on the way home at the end of the trip: like horses heading back to the stables, my friend.)

Once reaching land, Dickens and his entourage embarked at Boston to large crowds and then traveled mostly down the East Coast with an occasional foray into the Great Lakes area of both the U.S. and Canada. (Dickens adored Niagara Falls, btw, calling it (poor paraphrase here) the closest place on Earth to heaven. Along the way, he made a point of visiting public institutions such as prisons, mental hospitals, and hospitals for the disabled (including the Perkins Institute where Helen Keller went later on).

Due to Dickens’ hard childhood, he was passionate about the underclass and was continually on the hunt for any institutions that were effective and kind (such as the Perkins Institute above). However, for the majority of his visits, he found the prisons and mental hospitals to be inhuman, filthy and cruel. Additionally, he was very critical of how absolutely filthy many of the large cities were, and gives an extremely entertaining description of Washington D.C.:

As Washington may be called the headquarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise, that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable, and soon became most offensive and sickening.

Americannotes-title_pageHis description of the U.S. Congress meeting that he attended (and the numerous other gatherings) where the gentlemen in the building were spitting their tobacco juices (right word?) all over the floor whether there was a lovely carpet down there or a spittoon available two inches away, was both very funny and disgusting (perhaps because people still do this to an extent in Texas and other places and it’s still vile.)

However, it’s not all fun and games as Dickens writes seriously at times about the issues that he cares about – the justice system, slavery, poverty et al. Although some of these more serious chapters may be pretty heavy-handed, that was the Victorian way and Dickens was slap in the middle of Queen Victoria’s reign. (According to Wiki, the young Queen Victoria apparently stayed up until midnight reading Oliver Twist and then kept some of her staff up as she wanted to discuss it further with someone! Just an FYI for ya.)

The book ends with a passionate call against slavery, and includes heart-rending excerpts from various American newspapers that Dickens had gathered on his travels, all detailing some of the horrible ways that slaves had been (and were treated). This trip to the U.S. was slap in the middle of slavery (especially in the lower states). The slave literature of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Twelve Years a Slave was published just a few years before whilst The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was released only a few years later, so Dickens was hitting the cause right as it was building up in the U.S.. (U.K. abolished slavery in 1833 whilst America sort of dragged its feet and didn’t do any real anti-slavery legislation until 1863 (with the Emancipation Proclamation) and 1865 with the 13th Amendment ending slavery in the U.S..) So — it would be a several decades until substantial legal change would be made for those who were victims of the slave trade.

What Dickens saw was the real thing with regard to slavery and he hated it. This last chapter is so full of passion to what something that Dickens sees as incredibly wrong that by the time you get to the end, you feel the power of his anger as well.

What was slightly weird was that the chapter before this one was a nice gentle round-up of his boat journey arriving back at Liverpool and how happy he was to see England again. I was all English summer roses and green rolling hills, and then BAM! There is a final chapter detailing quite a few reports of the heinous that individual slaves had suffered. So this anti-slavery chapter rather took me by surprise as I had thought the book was finished. Very powerful chapter though.

So this was a really good read and I found it to be an honest but respectful description of a fairly young nation and the people who lived in it. (It’s not all complimentary, but after having lived here for oodles of years, I would say that some of both the good and the bad still ring true in some cases and places — as they would anywhere, really.)

I enjoyed this travelogue immensely. It was also pretty interesting that I’d only just finished the 1939 book Saddlebags to Suitcases by Mary Bosanquet, also a travelogue by a Brit who travels across Canada on horseback. (More to come in the future on that one.) Both pretty funny looks at this side of the ocean and the Dickens especially is highly recommended. Truly funny.

Playing Catch-Up….

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So – time for a general catch-up with reading and life in general. Work continues at warp speed and so I’m still not quite back to full-tilt reading, but I’m reading when I can.

I’m in the middle of a fantastic read by Gerard Woodward (whose book August I loved and reviewed a while back). His publisher got in touch with me about his newer title, Vanishing, which is great and I am finding that I look forward to every moment that I can find to read that story. More in-depth review to come, but suffice to say, Woodward is a great author!

book450I wanted to read another classic (specifically by Dickens), so I picked his non-fiction travel writing about his first visit to America called (strangely enough) American Notes. Well, I’ve heard Dickens’ writing called a lot of things, but truth be told, this book is actually very very funny in parts and has frequently made me laugh out loud when I’m reading it at the gym. I had no idea that Dickens had this dry sly sense of humor, but he does and there’s plenty of it in this book. There are, I admit, a couple of chapters which are heavy-handed (typical Victorian) writing about the state of prisons in the U.S., prison reform, slavery and disability rights, but they’re not too long and he did have a point. (The prisons were dreadful at the time and Dickens was a big advocate for changing that – especially solitary confinement – and the justice system in general.) However, once he returns to the world of travel, the tone returns to very witty commentary about his journeys. (Honestly, if I was a betting person, I would bet that Bill Bryson has read this Dickens book at some point because they both take the same tone about traveling around. If you like Bryson, you’ll like this particular Dickens. Just don’t be put off by the prison reform bits. The rest of it is really pretty funny for the most part.) Anyway, longer review to follow, but this is a good travelogue of early American life. (WARNING: It’s not always complimentary towards America/Americans but it does have grains of truth to it.)

book451Did a quick read of the graphic novel bestseller called Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. Not one of my favorite reads as both of the two lead characters are hard to like, swear like sailors and have an extremely jaded approach at life. I know a lot of people really like this read of these two disaffected teenaged friends, but I rather wish that I could take that hour of reading time back to use on something else. But it’s good to know what people are talking about when they mention Ghost World now.

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When I haven’t been reading, we’ve caught a couple of really good movies. “This is Where I Leave You” is a movie adaptation of a novel of the same name by Jonathon Tropper (both good). (My book review is right here.) The plot focuses around a family of adult children and mother who all share close quarters for a week as was the final wish for their newly deceased father. It’s poignant and funny, and I think it’s one of the most honest representations of what life would probably be like if grown-up siblings were forced to spend a whole week together after years of having their own independent lives. Bitter-sweet and an overall really good movie.

movie2Another movie we viewed was an indie flick called “In a World”, fictional drama about the world of high-level voice-over artists vying for a gig doing the voice-over for the trailer of a huge blockbuster trailer about to be released. Again, grown-up siblings closely interacting, their lives not running according to plan (because whose does, really?) and some very sly humor. Not a comedy, but more of a poignant drama which was extremely satisfying and will be added to my list of top ten fav movies. (As will the Tropper movie above.)

Still watching the fantastic series, “The Wire” – wow. Talk about unpredictable plot twists and now we’re in Season Three, we’ve got a strong background in the characters and who they are etc., so it’s always a good watch. Good for when you want a serious hard-hitting drama and a nice replacement for House of Cards (although a very different take on the world).

And it’s been raining, raining, raining a lot for this semi-arid place we live in. It is the rainy season, that’s true, but this has been a chilly and wet start to summer for these parts. Next stop: Home Depot for ark-building materials. (Certainly not complaining about the rain though. We need the moisture in these here parts.)

www,photostock.am (Fotolia.com)

www,photostock.am (Fotolia.com)

Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White (1952)

book321Having heard endless references to Charlotte’s Web over the years (without actually having read it), I was looking forward to this book but also dreading it in some ways – some people had said it was tragically sad. So I knew it was going to be a sweet story written by the masterly E. B. White, but who would kick the bucket? Would it be Wilbur? Templeton? Fern? (Don’t worry. This is a spoiler-free review.)

E. B. White and his dog Minnie.

E. B. White and his dog Minnie.

This is the story of Wilbur the Pig who is scheduled to be killed for meat unless someone can come to his rescue – but who will do that? (No spoilers here, although you may well hear it from someone else!) Charlotte is the titular character in this children’s novel, and it is she who becomes Wilbur’s closest friend even when he doesn’t realize it at the time.

So, not only is the story great and real-life, but White, as its author, is superb (of course) and tells the tale in a dry and very grown-up way which I thought was impressive. (I think a lot of kids’ books sometimes don’t challenge the child readers enough in terms of vocabulary and expectations. White uses this volume as a springboard for kid readers (and their adults) to acquire new words and to learn about the world of Wilbur and Charlotte at the same time.)

For example, White really did base Charlotte (the spider of the web) on a real meeting of a barn spider which he originally called Charlotte Epeira (after Epeira sclopeteria, the Grey Cross spider that is now known as Aranea sericata). In the novel, when Charlotte first meets Wilbur, she gives her name as “Charlotte A. Cavatica” from the Latin name for the orb-weaver spider (Araneaus cavaticus). Later in the story, Charlotte is explaining some of her arachnid body in anatomical terms, which actually (according to Wiki) came from a couple of serious scientific books about spiders. And then Charlotte’s spider children end up with spider-y names such as Joy, Nellie and Aranea. (Huh. Who woulda thunk?)

Garth_williamsAnd I don’t want to talk about White’s charming story without mentioning the *perfect* illustrations done by Garth Williams, an American artist who lived from 1912-1996. He drew illustrations for both White’s Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, and also for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. (I bet you would recognize his drawings if you saw them.) Williams’ father was an illustrator for Punch and his mother was a landscape painter and the family moved from the East Coast to UK in 1922 where he received most of his education. When WWII broke out, Williams and his family moved back to the US where he worked for a while as a camouflage artist (seeing as it was wartime) and then serendipitously received his first commission from Harper’s in 1945, that of Stuart Little. (White had burned through eight other illustrators at this point, but I’m not sure why.) Williams went on to illustrate more than 95 children’s books in the future.

So a lovely read and not quite the carnage that I had expected from the narrative. White is a very good writer (as would be the case from one of the co-authors of The Elements of Style [1959], a writing guidebook for so many students in the U.S.)

General Catch-Up Time (again!)

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So – you know how it is… When you’re having people to stay AND go out of town AND reach a stopping point at work, that’s when things pile up. And thus it was with me, so in order to clear the decks a bit, I thought I’d do some mini-reviews on some of my reading lately.

book313A lot of my reading time was recently spent on finishing up Wilkie Collins’ “The Moonstone”, a Victorian sensation novel which was brilliant. One of the first recognized detective novels of the time, I’ve enjoyed some of Collins’ earlier work and this was another enjoyable read. (And a monster read, page-count wise, but as it was an e-copy it was ok.)

It’s written in an epistolary style and is structured from several different viewpoints of various characters, all of whom have been involved with the mystery of the disappearing Moonstone, a valuable jewel with a long history starting in ancient India. It’s such a good read (shaggy dog story though it is), that I loved it and despite the never-ending page count (and my aversion to such), as it was on Kindle, it worked out fine.

If you’re in for a gothic sensation novel full of mystery and suspense, this will be a good read for you.

christieAnd then I blitzed through another Agatha Christie – “The ABC Murders”. Not much to say about this, except it was the usual quick read with the expected red herrings etc. Good though and how Dame Christie managed to churn out the amount of writing (and most of it well done) continues to amaze me.

All in all, some good reading going on. Just been rather too busy to make any detailed posts. However, I think I’m back on schedule now. Hooray!~

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton (1911)

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“Oh, as to that, I guess it’s always Ethan done the caring.”

This re-read of Ethan Frome was, to be honest, a perfect read – one of those titles that you pick up and everything about the story blows you away. As mentioned, this was a re-read, and this was a   completely different experience than before. I even immediately started to read it again after I had finished the first time as I wanted to see all the foreshadowing that I’d missed the first time around.  (I would compare it to the re-read experience of The Great Gatsby in terms of how different this time around was.)

Checking on-line, it seems that Ethan Frome can be rather polarizing for reviews, the majority of whom (depending on the site you visit) tending to be pretty negative about it which is a big shame. I do think that age (and life experience) can play a determining role in how you perceive this story, and I would argue that this book is one to read when you’re slightly older (as opposed to high school or junior high school).

I happen to love the writing of Wharton (as seen here and here) as she is an expert at describing people and locations and at how she pulls phrases together. As I think a lot of people have already read Ethan Frome, I’m going to jump straight into some thoughts that I put together during my own read.

Quite early in the story, Wharton describes the farm house where Ethan has spent his life and she mentions that the “L” part of the house (joining the stable etc. with the main house) had been demolished earlier. The “L” part is called the “center of New England farm life”, “itself the chief sources the sources of warmth and nourishment” and the “actual hearth-stone of the New England farm”, and yet in recent years, Ethan had knocked this integral piece of farming life down. Why, if it was so important to people in that region? Wharton doesn’t actually specify why (or at least I didn’t spot it), which led me to speculating why it was mentioned.

This shows the L part in a New England regional style similar, perhaps, to the house mentioned in Ethan Frome.

This shows the L part in a New England regional style similar, perhaps, to the house mentioned in Ethan Frome.

The “L” part of the house is linked with warmth and safety. Perhaps after his mother died, the demolishing reflects how his feeling of safety was eroded once he was alone in his family. The missing “L” not only represented a missing link between his house and his stables (protection for the inhabitants during the harsh winters as they went from hearth to work), but also is an image of the hole in his life (perhaps his heart?) after his mother dies. His old comfortable way of life has ended, and this space represents the gap he feels between his old life and his new, his home and the outside, which suddenly seems unstable and fraught with difficulty now that his mother (his anchor) has gone. (I don’t know – just making this bit up but seems to fit.)

Another reason why it’s referred to as an “L” (aside from its architectural significance) could be that the “L” also refers to “Love” – a comfortable and safe feeling that is forever gone now his parent has died.

There are numerous references and imagery associated with the dichotomy of interior/exterior, inside/outside, insider/outsider relationship. Ethan’s sticky relationship with Zeena: he spends time working (and feeling most comfortable) outside the house in the fields, whilst she (Zeena) spends her time indoors being “sick” and waiting for him to return to pounce on him with demands and questions.

thresholdThe threshold (i.e. the crossover point between inside/outside) plays a large role as several sentinel events occur over it: the time that Zeena locks Ethan and Maddie outside when they return late from the church dance, for example, and how both Ethan and Maddie can only be authentic with each other when they are outside the confines of the home, out in the fields or walking along lanes. (There’s also this idea of domesticity vs. agriculture/nature and the natural order of things.) This imagery continues when Zeena leaves to visit the out-of-town doctor (so she leaves the interior to enter the exterior) which allows Ethan and Maddie to enter the formerly hostile interior of the house as it’s now safe.

The threshold (interior/exterior) also plays a role when Ethan and Maddie return from a snowy walk, and enter the house where Zeena is (as always) grumpy. It’s a drafty old house, with the cold continually coming in through the ill-fitting windows and doors (sneaking inside, in a way) and when the couple cross the threshold (to interior) after their walk (exterior), Ethan accidentally brings in some snow that rapidly melts in the dining room and gets scolded by Zeena for making a mess.  It could be argued that nature/exterior (the snow) is overcome by domesticity/interior (heat in the house) in this situation. (Another case of the interplay between interior and exterior, and the reversal of what is usually a haven (inside the house) vs. outside.)

And this balance continues when you consider that most of Ethan’s thoughts are reported (his interior mind) as he keeps the harsh exterior of Zeena in the dark about his real attitude to her and to the marriage.

Another clever image using this dual imagery, this relationship of freedom vs. confinement (interior/exterior), is when Wharton describes the evening when Ethan turns up to escort Maddie home after a church dance. Again, it’s outside (Ethan watching through the windows) whilst Maddie is inside in the warm, and even the church window shadows are described as “bars” on the snow (referring to prison bars) that provide a barrier between Ethan and happiness, between him being included vs him excluded, as an insider vs. outsider…

So, lots to think about here, and I’m so glad that I reread this gem of a novel (or novella). Highly recommended that you undertake another read if you were forced to study this in school.

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