I’m reporting in on my first week of reading. Recall that I am reading I Promessi Sposi, or The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni. This is a historical novel set in the 17thC, written in the 19thC, and considered the Great Italian Novel. Verdi’s Requiem was written in honor of Manzoni shortly after his death (I did not know this until I started reading about the book). Manzoni is also considered an important figure in the unification of Italy and the book is a major factor in the development of a common Italian language.
All this sounds very highbrow and intimidating. Don’t be fooled. The book is really enjoyable. From the very first chapter I knew I was in good hands, and I remembered why I spent so much of my teens and twenties reading 19thC literature. There’s an omniscient narrator, a huge cast of characters (all with their own backstories), lots of description, and enough plot to choke a horse. Here is a quintessential example of two paragraphs in the middle of a major scene:
In the first room all was confusion; Renzo, groping about with his hands, trying to stop the priest, as if he was playing at blindman’s bluff, had found the door, and was knocking on it, shouting. ‘Open up! Open up! Don’t make such a row!’ Lucia was calling Renzo in a feeble voice, and begging. ‘Let’s go; let’s go! For the love of God.’ Tonio was crawling about on all fours, scouring the floor with his hands, to try and find his receipt. Gervaso was screaming and jumping about like one possessed, looking for the door on to the stairs to get out to safety.
We cannot forbear pausing a moment to make a reflection in the midst of all this uproar. Renzo, who had raised all this noise in someone else’s house, who had got in by a trick, and was now keeping the master of the house himself besieged in a room, has all the appearance of being the aggressor; and yet, if one thinks it out, he was the injured party. Don Abbondio, surprised, terrified, and put to flight while peacefully attending to his own affairs, might seem the victim, and yet, in reality, it was he who was doing the wrong. Such is often the way the world goes .. I mean, that’s the way it went in the seventeenth century.
I love that Manzoni “cannot forbear …” He really can’t. But the asides and ruminations are a big part of the attraction.
[Note: I accidentally uploaded a rough draft of this post earlier today, complete with typo in the title. This is the version I meant to post.]
Love sees no color. Well yes, I suppose that is strictly true. Love is an emotion, after all. It doesn’t exist without embodiment in a sentient being. But people, unless they have vision impairments, do see color, with their eyes and their brains and their hearts.
We’ve taken the phrase “love is blind,” which is a lovely poetic conceit (Shakespeare used it in several different plays), and run wild with applications to places it doesn’t belong. It’s neither a real condition nor something to which we want to aspire.
Every human has a color, but in the western world (and far too much of the non-western one too, for historical reasons) we only take note of the color of non-white people. More than that, not noticing a group’s color is a sign that it’s been incorporated into the default, “white,” group. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people now considered white in the US, e.g., Italians and Slavs, were not considered white. Now if you called them POC, you’d get a lot of strange looks.
When we read and write love stories we’re looking for stories that make us feel good about the characters’ future lives together. The stories may take us on a rocky road to get there, but we always get there in the romance genre. So if the couple have differing class, race, or ethnic backgrounds, the differences have to be shown to be ultimately unimportant in shaping their futures. At the same time, the differences make for great (and realistic) external and internal conflict. It’s a tricky line to manage, and it is susceptible to stereotyping and shortcuts.
Two weeks to our spring break. The students are tired, the faculty are tired, and winter is apparently going to last forever. Or at least until summer arrives all at once. I did manage to plug along and get a bunch of things done that had been haunting me. So I’m halfway through the I-can’t-stand-to-look ToDo list, I think!
I have to make a confession: I wrote down my Pomodoro sessions from Monday to Friday, but then I forgot on Saturday and the Sunday post at DA exploded (combined with exams this week and MORE WINTER) and my brain has essentially turned to mush. So I don’t really remember the week very well at all. But I want to keep to my weekly reporting schedule. So here’s what I have.
Monday: No Poms. But you knew that already.
Tuesday: 6 Poms. Really! I just sat down and did one after the other a few times and there I was. It was clean-out-the-ToDo list day. Some research, lots of writing of various kinds.
Wednesday: 1 Pom. Faculty meeting, plus usual teaching, but I managed to set the timer once.
At last, February is over. Of course, March isn’t looking that much better, weather-wise, but it has to be, right? Right? Spring officially starts in March. I keep telling myself that, while I prepare for snow and ice pellets starting tonight (up to 9 inches! Lucky us.).
Where was I? Oh yes, a readalong. Keishon and I were talking last month about wanting to read various books, and she decided to go for broke and bought Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker prize winner, The Luminaries. It weighs in at a hefty 848 pages, according to Amazon.
I was envious. I’ve been wanting to read a Big Fat Book, and I have several on my “To Read in 2014″ list. I decided I would join her, and I chose I Promessi Sposi, translated as The Betrothed in English, by Alessandro Manzoni. It was recommended to me last fall by an academic acquaintance because it’s a novel that features some really well depicted scenes of violent collective action. I am finishing a book on riots and writing a couple of papers as well, and he thought I might find it interesting. It’s apparently required reading in Italian schools, and some schoolchildren wind up reading it numerous times. The Goodreads reviews are hilarious. The first review, by Lorenzo, begins with the following sentence:
This novel is hated by many generations of Italians.
How could I resist?
Oh man, what a week. I knew I’d pay for last week’s nice empty weekday. Some of it was fun (a Richard Thompson-Teddy Thompson concert), some was intellectually stimulating (a terrific seminar on work in progress by a brilliant colleague), some was the usual teaching and advising. And some was just the public goods provision that is part of ordinary academic life. By the weekend I was seriously burnt out, but before that I managed to get some research work done and make a couple of necessary decisions (e.g., no, VM, you will not finish the research and writing of two conference papers in the next 6 weeks, even at the level of shitty first drafts, so withdraw one and do the other halfway decently).
Monday: No Poms. Usual reasons, usual outcome.
Tuesday: 3 Poms. Despite a lunchtime grad paper presentation, I managed to get some stuff done. Don’t ask me what, please.
Wednesday: 0 Poms. Classes. Meetings with grad students. Another lunchtime presentation. Left the house around 9 am, got home around 11:30 pm. But I got to see Richard Thompson do an acoustic concert, which is always great, and for the first time I saw him play together with his son, Teddy. I’ve seen Richard many times and Teddy a couple, so this was a huge treat.