Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Investing In the Generations

This article is cross-posted from this blog, but since I wrote the post over there, I figure I have the right to steal from myself! My school’s English Club goes once a month to a senior community, reads a short story or two, and then leads a short discussion loosely based on what we read. It’s really great, and I enjoy it a lot.

For the past week I’ve been trying to put together a nice, formal write-up of our experiences reading at Chesapeake Place’s senior community.

I realized today though, that our times with these lovely people are not formal. Rather, they are an amazing chance to interact with some wonderful people with entertaining life stories and experiences. Our part in the interaction is minimal- all we do is bring a story, read it aloud to them, and ask some interactive questions. Their answers make each meeting priceless.

These people all come from different lives, different backgrounds, and different countries. One woman immigrated from the political unrest in Germany in between the two world wars. Another woman told us what it was like growing up in a large family with a deceased mother and a workaholic father. Yet another woman shared her childhood experiences of living in a Catholic boarding school in Canada.

Our printed, polished, literary short stories by Doyle, O. Henry, and Capote truly pale in comparison to the living, breathing epistles these people share with us. At the same time, it’s heartwarming to watch them listen to what we read- the peaceful, thoughtful expressions on their faces, and the way smiles creep onto their faces during humorous parts. They are so appreciative of us coming once a month to spend time with them, but really, I’m grateful to them for their willingness to open up about their lives.

I never leave Chesapeake Place without a feeling of regret- regret that I can’t spend more time talking with them, and regret that so many people are missing out on opportunities to interact with people like this. Local senior communities are a wealth of stories and experiences just waiting for an audience- why don’t you take an hour or two and invest in these wonderful people? You will never regret it!

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Rambling On

I was reading excerpts of Samuel Johnson’s Rambler tonight for school, so I thought I’d pass on some thought-provoking quotes. I’ve totally undervalued Johnson’s writing out of ignorance- this must change! He’s really an interesting person.

On Fiction:

It is justly considered as the greatest excellency of art, to imitate nature; but it is necessary to distinguish those parts of nature, which are most proper for imitation; greater care is still required in representing life…” In other words, we can’t just imitate something because it is there. We should be careful to evaluate what we are copying.

Vice, for vice is necessary to be shown, should always disgust; nor should the graces of gaiety, or the dignity of courage, be so united with it, as to reconcile it to the mind.” This is really good. Fiction is good way to teach the evils of vices, as long as we don’t make it look so appealing in the process that the lines between good and evil are blurred.

Hollywood, by the way, apparently doesn’t read Johnson either.

Moving on….

On Spring:

We solace ourselves with some new prospect, and press forward again with equal eagerness.” Oh, I really love this quote! What a wonderful way to think about spring, as a fresh start for both the world and for ourselves.

It may be laid down as a position that will seldom deceive, that when a man cannot bear his own company there is something wrong.” This is the 18th century version of an insult upon mankind. What a great comment! Basically, if you can’t just sit back and enjoy everything that’s happening around you, then something is amazingly awry in your life.

So there you have it!

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The Write Motivation

Moment of truth; my brain is still fried, and I have a paper and a test to finish by midnight. Spell this: R-E-P-O-S-T!  I originally wrote this for my English Club’s blog (see sidebar for link), and it holds massively true today. In fact, I think that I was in week five or six of last session when I wrote it (it’s week six of this session). So, enjoy!

I’ll be honest here- I don’t always like to write. Correction: I don’t always like to write what I am assigned. Take now for instance. I have six major writing assignments due in the next three weeks (in addition to the little writing assignments), and I’m sitting in the library all ready to do research for them, yet I’m writing this post instead.

Shocking, I know.

I mean, what normal student would rather write a personal, conversational, no-rules-or-minimum-word-count blog post instead of scholarly research projects? Rest assured; I am being sarcastic here. Please don’t get me wrong, I love writing for school. Little feels more satisfying to me then looking at a well-completed paper neatly typed, printed, and stapled for handing in. However, my motivation is lacking at this moment.

So, I turn to my secret weapon, the one thing (the only thing) I have found to help me over this lethargy. It is a quote I found by the author Barbra Kingsolver: “There is no perfect time to write, there’s only now.” If that doesn’t snap you into action, nothing will. Tomorrow is not the right time to do my bibliography, now is. The weekend is not the time to catch up on my notes, now is. Next week is not the perfect time to write my introduction, now is.

Does this mean I will stop periodically checking my various message centers to see if there’s anyone who needs me, in hopes of getting a moment or two of a brain break? By no means. Does this mean that I’m going to stop writing this post now? ….apparently…

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A Plea

I know that this isn’t exactly a “book blog”, but I did include the word “everything” in my subheading (see above) so please indulge me.

As many of you know, I’m addicted to a great book cataloging site called LibraryThing (see sidebar for a link!). More than just a place to keep a list of my books (815 and counting…), LibraryThing looks at reading trends, the connections between various authors and books, and stays on the cutting edge of cataloging technology. Last night, they rolled out some amazing new features and updates to the site.

LibraryThing, by necessity, uses Amazon as their primary source of information from book cover images to publication information. Additionally, they integrate dozens of other online book-related databases from Abe books to Barnes and Noble. One of the new features they rolled out includes a way to connect automatically from a book page on LibraryThing to a bookstore near you to see right then if the book you want is in stock at that particular store.

Unfortunately, this feature will only serve to bring more business to chain bookstores because indies don’t, as a rule, keep online records of what they have in stock. LibraryThing doesn’t like being forced to show preference to national bookstores- their goal is not to assist chains in burying indies, but at the same time their users would like to be able to know where they can purchase the books in which they are interested.

Personally, I would love it if we still had indie bookstores in our area. A friend used to own an indie, a children’s bookstore somewhat reminiscent of the one in You’ve Got Mail. She stocked a great selection of books, had fun merchandise related to books and stories, and hosted book related events as well. Then, Barnes and Noble and Zainy-Brainy both set up shop within a block of her store. As cute as her place was, she couldn’t compete with the bargain prices of these two chains, or their high-profile customer draw. Within a very short period of time, her little shop closed its doors forever.

I don’t want this to keep happening to indie bookstores around the country. So, at the request of Tim (founder of LibraryThing and seemingly a really neat and scarily over-educated guy), please help me spread the word to encourage indies to create an online, accessible inventory. Technology drives the world- it’s sad, but very true. The idea of going digital might well be distasteful, but it can’t be as horrible a fate as having to close your doors.

So, if by any chance some indie bookstore owners/employees run across this (or if any of you readers frequent an indie store), please be encouraged to check out the links at the bottom and take appropriate action. Enough customers out there are disillusioned with chain bookstores that they would come to you if they could know that it would be worth their time.

Thanks for your indulgence. I just want to do whatever little thing I can to keep those little indie shops open. Happy Reading!

Links:

Blog post about what’s going on and what to do about it.

Request from Tim to help spread the word.

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That Thing’s A Play?

I recently attended a play, which for reasons that shall become more obvious later on shall go unnamed. Allow me to preface my remarks with the disclaimer that nothing I say is meant in any way to be a criticism of the actors involved- I have seen them all in other roles where they have spellbound me for hours on end. This is directly related to the content of the play itself.

The play is told in retrospect, and is heavily autobiographical. Perhaps it has worth, and perhaps there are messages within its layers that I missed. Overall though, I found little to recommend it. There was no meat, no substance. Every line that was meant to be poignant fell flat. Things that could have been expounded upon were treated in the sketchiest of ways, and things that were painfully self-evident were nonetheless harped upon for minutes at a time.

We left at intermission. I don’t think that ever before in my life have I been lured away from a play before its end…especially not tempted by the promise of IHOP like I was that night. I don’t even really like IHOP all that much. Desperation I say.

Later that night I looked up the plot of the last act of the play. Nothing different happened in the act we missed; nothing new was introduced or discussed. All the startling revelations that would have made the second act great were given away in the last speech of the first act. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time- it wasn’t worth it.

What makes writers think that just because their play purports to be “introspective” that they are exempt from the rules of plot and character development? Significant words do not inspiration make. There must be tangible meaning, deep introspection, and a reason to look at humanity in a new light. Those criterions are what make certain plays enduring- for their ability to transcend time, setting, and situation and get to the heart of the human condition. It doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom either. Sometimes the funniest of lines can underscore perfectly the condition of the human soul.

On the other hand, I did get pancakes out of the deal….

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A Very Good Place To Start

The best place to start sharing your thoughts is at the beginning, so here goes. Feel free to ignore this post if you wish, but do realize this will start to explain some things I say later on:

Firstly, I am not legally Miss Emma Woodhouse, but I might as well be! I really am a “Miss Emma”, and a Jane Austen addict before it was even “cool” to be a fan of her books. I blame it on a mother who is interested in British Literature. Thanks Mom! Having used Emma Woodhouse for so many groups and websites, there are a great many people who don’t know what my real name even is. I am fine with that.

What else should you know? I am a Christian of 16 years and counting, a daughter and sister, a full-time university student, an avid reader, reluctant writer, “weekend” photographer, part-time music teacher, occasional substitute teacher, a barista for Starbucks, a movie lover, and a technology geek.

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