I had hoped to have more content to post this week… or more meaningful content, at any rate. I’m really good at holding to schedules that other people put on me. Once I’m off the clock, my time is my own, and it moves at the speed of my flighty, genderbent mind. Which is to say, it moves at any speed it feels like in the moment. No more, no less, and at no consistent speed. And so, I have no books to review today. I have no Star Trek episodes to discuss. I can’t even shape my words into something that might sense of the music I’m feeling. I spent some time last night reading from Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic… and it lined up, metaphorically speaking, with my life experiences in ways I can’t possibly describe to you. It made sense in the moment. That’s weird enough.
But the nature of being me is that I still feel the need to reach out and connect somehow. Blogging helps me to focus. A friend of mine asked me yesterday, what I have lined up for my next reads. Since so many of you are fellow book bloggers, maybe that would be of interest? I’m always working on Tolkien, that’s a given. The next Sherlock Holmes adventure is the final of the four novels in the canon, The Valley of Fear. I’ll post all about that on Friday. Let’s see… what else is in the hopper right now?
I’ve been chipping away at a biography of Sarah Bernhardt, simply titled Sarah by Robert Gottlieb, part of the Jewish Lives series of biographies. I can think of few subjects that are more challenging, what with the sheer amount of contradictory accounts between those of Sarah’s family, friends, enemies, and even Sarah herself. I’m rather impressed with this so far. Gottlieb has a deft hand in sifting through it. He calls Sarah out on her narcissistic BS, but he does it with such respect. Fascinating woman. I admire her and loathe her in turns, as I imagine most people did. Not unlike how I felt about Theodore Roosevelt when I was reading about him. Funny how connections like that can come up. But unlike Teddy, I feel like there’s a part of me that is drawn to Sarah. The woman was fearless for being such a discarded, emotional wreck. I truly don’t know how she did it. It’s like reality bent to her whim instead of the other way around. There’s a small part of me that wishes I could be like her, so open and free. If I tried even half of the things she pulled, it would end so very badly for me. Of course, I don’t have rich nobles and the likes of Victor Hugo in my corner.
Then again, I also don’t sleep in a coffin either. I should call that a win.
I’ve only read the introduction so far to this book of poetry by Renaissance era women. I picked it up from the Kimbell Art Museum shop after running across it by accident, sandwiched between far larger coffee table books of art. I’d almost swear someone was hiding it, maybe so as to get it for themselves next time? Whatever, it’s mine now. It’s been silently waiting on my shelf ever since to be rediscovered… like so many women of that time, or of any time. It makes me feel bad. Even so, the introduction by editor Danielle Clarke gives me something new to think about. There’s this notion that women’s lit is, by nature, different from that of men. By putting these women together in a single volume, we can somehow draw a circle around them and treat them as though they represent some kind of unified, holistic means by which we can view the Renaissance through their poetry. Clarke spends the rest of the introduction musing through this idea and summarily busting it apart, calling into question the similarities and differences between the women, between their styles, between their works and the works of men in the Renaissance, and so forth. My takeaway is that history, having largely been painted in broad strokes by men, treats anything that is not by them as “the other.” It’s a perception that lingers into the present when we should all know better, which can naturally be extrapolated down the line to race, nationality, culture, and so forth as opposed to simply being part of the human experience. Being trans, I have no idea what that’s like at all. *cough, cough* The invitation, then, is to treat these women, and their works, as more than products of their time and place, to see them as individuals within that time and place that have something to offer. I like to think that’s my approach to everything I read, but it was interesting to read an essay about the idea by way of introducing these three particular poets.
In any case, I’m trying to read more poetry from a variety of eras. I circled around to this because I’ve still got Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene in my longer list, and… I think I’m actually starting to be intimidated a bit by it. I have no idea why that should be after all the confidence I’ve built in learning to read and appreciate such works. It’s like my mind is just wired for all the drama. At least that drama llama can be tamed and ridden when I get to it. In the meantime… let it starve or find a new pasture to graze in.
Work has begun on the next of the Bard’s tragedies on the “chronological by setting” list: Coriolanus.
I don’t know this play. I have no preconceived notions, which is rather refreshing after King Lear. We’ll see how it goes. No matter how it turns out, there are some truly heavy-hitting winners I’m chomping at the bit to revisit when I get to them.
Being honest, right now my problem is a lack of focus. Ok, my problem is usually a lack of focus. I suppose that’s obvious to anyone who sees how many books are on this post.
After all that back there with the completely misnamed The Imitation of Christ, I decided that I needed to harness the emotional maelstrom that it delivered to me and use that as a springboard to push me out of the tailspin and back into some kind of flight path. I love me some Medieval books, but, but they usually don’t send me spiraling like that. Made me take another hard look at the issues I still have to resolve. I’ve had Brach’s Radical Acceptance in my queue for a while (seriously, that’s such a repeated meme, isn’t it?). Hers is a Buddhist approach that appeals to me (she spent years in an ashram), even though I’m in no danger of becoming Buddhist as much as I am of dedicating to any other religion. All I know is when the chips are down, I find the teachings of the Buddha to be the least judgmental and most helpful. Eastern philosophy as a whole has that effect on me, really. Maybe it’s that idea of it being outside the norms of accepted Western culture… sort of like me. Maybe it’s this notion that we don’t have to be perfect to find peace, and the idea of spiritual perfection is a goal worth striving towards. Or maybe it’s the complete lack of doom and gloom and hellfire.
What I can say so far about this book is that Dr. Brach is clearly not transgender, which is no surprise since most people aren’t. That’s why I have to draw so much from a variety of resources to find a working conglomerate that can speak to my needs. As much honesty and goodwill as this book has going for it, the one thing transgender people have the most trouble with is acceptance of self. It’s also the big flaw I have with Buddhism, that we experience the world through our bodies, and that experience is supposed to be a normalization through which we can attain greater spirituality. There’s nothing normal about dysphoria. Nothing. Even so, being an offshoot of the Hindu teachings, Buddhism offers an acceptance of a reality that I experience that the Western trifecta simply doesn’t get. I guess what I’m saying is that this book is so far incredibly well-meaning, but it’s not addressing the elephant in my room. That elephant really wants some peanuts right about now. Mmm… peanuts…
So, for myself, I find that what works most is a bit of Buddhism, a dash of Hinduism, a big old bucket of angelic studies and mysticism from various sects, and a healthy mix of the far more accepting — and often self-identifying — pagan circles where the LGBTQIA+ experience is not only recognized, it’s welcoming. But that seems to work better in smaller groups. Larger groups become dysfunctional way too quickly due to such diversity, and mostly due to internal power struggles. What marginalized person doesn’t want to find recognition and validation among their own kind, right? Multiply that by a factor of fabulous diva. *eyeroll* Still, there are plenty of voices in that community that I’m discovering through various essays like the ones found in the iPagan book I stumbled across last week. I truly hate the title. I get it, but it makes it feel like it’s supposed to be part of Apple’s iZombie culture. Whatever. Not my monkeys, not my circus. Title aside, so far this is a thought-provoking collection from some of the different walks of life under the pagan umbrella. As with anything spiritually inclined, I don’t necessarily have to buy what anyone’s selling in order to appreciate why it should work. It just happens that more of it aligns with me because of the greater acceptance in the philosophies in play. Gee, funny how that works. Much like with that Sarah Bernhardt bio, I’m chipping away at this little by little. Some books need a little extra time.
The next Brontë read, which I hope to start (and even finish) this coming week, is Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Apparently this is the quiet gem of the Brontë world, the treasure worth discovering. I’ve been told it meets and even exceeds the expectations of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. That’s some high praise, and even if it doesn’t do that, it still keeps Anne in the same vortex as her sisters for the right reasons. Some readers seem to put the sisters into some kind of competition. I see them more as complimentary souls, parts of a more complete whole.
After this, I’ve got some other authors I want to introduce into the mix between Brontë books, specifically Daphne du Maurier, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ann Radcliffe. And I want to come back to Edith Wharton in there somewhere. But that’s just getting ahead of myself.
Looking at the clock, I see I’ve somehow spent my entire morning on this post. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean I need to go forth and live life for a while. Errands to run, people to bother… you know how it is. I’ll check in later when I can get back online. For those of you who hang with me, I know I’ve got a lot of dramatic ups and downs sometimes. I don’t say it enough, but I’m trying to get better about that too: thank you, for everything. ♥