Saturday, February 28, 2015

Part 2 - Stories From the 1870's

Difficult to believe I got through all these years without reading Robert Louis Stevenson. Perhaps after my experience of reading his narrative of his walking journey in 1878, "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes", I'll try one of his novels.  I did not realize that Stevenson was considered, in his day, one of the very finest, most popular writers; his early demise in 1894 stunned the world, especially his fellow writers. He was a world famous, popular and likeable personality. I always thought of him as a sickly little boy who grew up in his sick room and wrote stories to amuse himself. In his "Travels", he is a hearty, callow young fellow who sets off on a solo expedition in a remote, rugged and wild corner of southern France, with money, food and an interesting, early version of a sleeping bag, (no tent, since he feared this would attract attention of thieves, marking the fact that he planned to camp out alone) and of course, Modestine. The book would be dry without the playful antics of his little donkey, about the size of a large dog. She totally exploits the young gentleman's ignorance of how to manage a beast of burden, until someone makes for him a goad to prod her with. As a skilled author for young people's stories, he understood how to enliven the action by relating the animal's endearing traits---like Disney. I also learned of the harrowing history of the religious wars in France and the rebellions of the Camisards, French Protestants who had to either leave France or fight for their religious freedeom in the 17th-18th Centuries. The book is as much a "time travel" as a travel, since the narrative is feels fresh and current after nearly a 140 years.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Two Stories from the 1870's (part 1)

Several times in my adult life, I tried to read a novel by Henry James; for one reason or another all failed. I tried again with one of his earlier and shorter works, "The Europeans". My Mother and Grandmother before her enjoyed the various novels of James; now at 66 years old, I have the life experience finally to glide through his complex literary composition (and enjoy it, even). Frankly, such dramatic works as "Downton Abbey" have given me a somewhat better understanding of the social world of upper class society people of the 19th and early 20th century.   The story is in  the style of a "drawing room comedy"; a pair of European adventurers, 33year old Baroness Eugenia
(about to be put aside by the family of her German princeling husband so he will make a better match) and her younger brother Felix (a talented and personable painter, sure of his ability to survive on his attributes) have arrived in Boston in the 1840's to introduce themselves to their distant American cousins, the Wentworths (a wealthy but complicated New England family) in hopes of increasing their fortunes. Eugenia plans to seek a better marriage for herself, Felix plans to paint the portraits of the family's rich American contacts at $100.00 a pop. Naturally, it's not as simple as that, though Felix, with his calm, laid-back attitude and youth, performs better than Eugenia, who can't seem to calm down and accept a match that appears just what she wants. I enjoyed Henry James' long winded but melodious composition-sentences as long as paragraphs and crafted beautifully with just the right edge-better than the plot. Some characters, like Felix, jump out of the pages with life; others like the Charlotte Wentworth seem "stick figures". But I will try another James novel if the right one comes along.

The Butterfly Hotel is open for business--and packed!

We started, several years ago, to assist the butterfly population by nurturing the young specimens indoors. It was slow going. But this...