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Monthly Archives: July 2009

On rainy nights in July

I have gone several weeks without an Owl.  Partly this is because I have been writing in a new blog called Emily Glass Notes. Not a very exciting title, but I wanted to dedicate a separate log to my writing thoughts. And since most of my time is consumed with writing thoughts (or at least the interesting thoughts), there is less of a general nature to write here.

Let me, as I listen to the rain outside the window of my basement study, meditate on the death of Frank McCourt.  I confess that I have not read “Angela’s Ashes” or his other works, but his life is interesting and inspiring to a writer.  He worked as a high school teacher much of his life, and only took up writing at the end of his life.  That in itself is encouraging.  At my age, I begin to look ahead and think: How am I going to possibly get everything done before my body wears out.

Frank McCourt wrote out of a childhood of terrible poverty, and I sometimes feel that a writer like myself, born to privilege and affluence, cannot hope to write as well as someone who has struggled and suffered.  But maybe that’s my Christian upbringing.  Suffering builds character and all that.  I can’t escape believing that truism.  Yet I also cannot escape my life as it is.

So, I just follow the muse.

Recently I watched the TV miniseries “The Flame Trees of Thika”  it was originally aired in the ’70s (I think) and I remember it being quite highly praised.  I came on it now because of my Hailey Mills obsession.  The adult Haley Mills plays the mother, Tilly in the screen adaptation of Elspeth Huxley’s memoir.  I liked the mini-series so well that I bought a lovely old hardcover copy of the book and am reading it.  The evocation of Africa in 1913 is marvelous.  That is the sort of world I like to escape into when reading a book.  Both sad and wonderful.

What is interesting in comparing book and screen is that in the former the young girl Elspeth is the narrator, but she narrates as an adultl looking back so that she is not the main character.  Her mother is.  In the screen version, naturally, the young girl who plays Elspeth is the main character, which shifts the emphasis subtly.  I can enthusiastically recommend both book and series.  As always, I notice what the author is doing as I read.  Huxley’s craft is remarkable.  Some of her descriptive passages are sublime.  Africa, after all, is a pretty sublime place.  I’ve seen only South Africa.  Maybe someday we will have the money to visit Kenya.

The vivid creation of a world that is wholly alien to the Western mind is what I enjoy, and the fact that it was a real world, historically, and is stll a real place one could travel to — that adds to the pleasure of the read.

July has been remarkably cool this year.  I’m glad that the rain came tonight.  Our poor garden needed it.

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