The Hill We Climb — Amanda Gorman, January 20, 2021.

“We will never again sow division…” 

“Loves becomes our legacy in change…”

“For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Link to her performance today in Washington, DC–You Tube/PSB News Hour.

Reading Jane Austen in the Pacific Northwest: “Perfect Happiness.” — February 6, 2021

Via Mass. Jasna email blast:

“Join the seven JASNA regions in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia for a day of talks, games, and socializing on Zoom! FREE for JASNA members, $10 for the general public. You can also buy a souvenir T-shirt! Everything is here: https://jasnaewanid.org/pacific-northwest-gathering

We also have a Facebook event. Feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested: https://www.facebook.com/events/406560780623232/

Schedule (times approximate, will include breaks):

11:00 Keynote address by JASNA President Liz Philosophos Cooper:

Jane Austen: Working Woman, “I must keep to my own style & go on in my own Way.”

12:45 What’s in a Regency Picnic Basket?

(Michelle Siu, JASNA Vancouver, BC, Regional Coordinator)

1:15 The East India Company: Its Origins, History, and Impact
(Collins Hemingway, JASNA Southern Oregon member)

2:45 The 2022 AGM in Victoria, BC, the City of Gardens!
(Alison Dacia Brown, JASNA Victoria, BC, Regional Coordinator and 2022 JASNA AGM Coordinator)

3:15 Education of Young Women and Girls in the Regency
(Marcia Hamley, JASNA Oregon & SW Washington Regional Co-Coordinator)

4:15 Jane Austen Trivia!
(McLean Sloughter, JASNA Puget Sound Communications Committee Chair)

5:30 Close

 

We’d love to see you there!”

 

Jane Austen Society of North America

Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho
Oregon & SW Washington
Puget Sound
Southern Idaho
Southern Oregon
Vancouver, BC
Victoria, BC

 

Book Review–Room by Emma Donoghue.

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I’ve found reading, specifically concentrating difficult. This book has been on my reading list for awhile and a kind Bookcrossing friend sent it to me. But I read the novel Room by Emma Donoghue in practically one sitting. This is the second novel I’ve read by Donoghue and she has an exceptional style that pulls you into the narrative. Some spoilers follow.

This is a fictional book but it is a very similar narrative to real life, non-fiction events including the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart and other abductees — especially J.C. Dugard — kidnapped at 11 years, held in a backyard shed/tent/compound, that tragically authorities never found on site visits to her captor’s house because apparently case workers and various law enforcement agencies never went into the back yard or did a thorough search/investigation on her captor despite calls/visits.

The story here is an eerie echo — a teenaged college student kidnapped, while wearing head phones, grabbed on the way to class, and held captive in a backyard shed and raped by her captor “Old Nick.” Jack her son (the result of these actions) is the main narrator of their story — third person but largely from his point of view. Jack details their life — including all their possessions in Room: Rug, Bed, Sink — almost a humanizing in his naming of objects as key members of the only environment he has ever known. Jack is fond of TV but it seems Ma has told him some things are only “TV” and not real in order to perhaps tread time and fend off questions. Jack details their daily exercise routines, games and meals and also when they go up to Skylight and scream. At night Jack sleeps in Wardrobe — on some nights Old Nicks visits and Jack hears Bed squeaking and falls asleep counting — other nights when it is past the appointed hour and Old Nick has not arrived — he is allowed to emerge and join MA in Bed.

Jack is full of questions and the novel starts on the celebration of his birthday — cake a present that is a drawing from Ma and then a belated present from Old Nick a remote control toy, which starts off a chain of events. Ma is making the efforts she can but the situation continues to be dire — it is difficult for her to keep them in food. When Jack uses the remote toy to waken Old Nick he attacks Ma. This prompt a severe depression but when she pulls out of it Ma decides change can no longer wait.

The dynamics shift as Ma tries to explain to Jack that things on TV are outside Room and are real. It is hard for the boy to process — he rebels at first, not believing her but he is devoted to Ma previously his only push backs include trying to keep both a spider and a mouse as pets. Eventually though they come up with a plan to escape Room. There is trial and error as they compose the plan, and the responsibility sits heavily on Jack to escape from Old Nick and bring help to Ma in Room — which does happen although all does not exactly go according to plan. And failure may have ensued if not for a female police officer being patient with Jack asking him questions over and in different ways piercing together the story, and eventually that he escaped from captivity in a shed and his Ma still there. She was also able to get Jack to describe how far he was driven, to narrow down and check the neighborhood.

The book does crest there but does not end. Their story continues as the Jack and Ma go into a private clinic donating their care/services. Jack struggles to figure out the outside world and at some point wishes for the confinement of Room — for peace and quiet and distance from the overwhelming noises and experiences. At the treatment center, there are ups and downs as Ma is reunited with her family and struggles to accepts all the changes, her parents are divorced, her mother remarried and overwhelming realization of years of her life that were stolen.

Donoghue is a careful architect with building this part of the story because even post rescue — Ma is victimized all over again by the medical staff sometimes unintentionally and even her own family. There is a lawyer, bills to worry about and media coverage — all to a woman trying to ground herself and socialize her young son. Jack does struggle deeply with understanding the world outside Room including boundaries. He freaks out his Uncle and his Aunt by inappropriately touching his cousin but they seem to realize he just doesn’t understand proper behavior after another time where he takes a book he recognizes, not understanding it’s from a store and the concept that you have to pay for it. Their frustration and horror though is palpable and Jack as a small young boy — especially without Ma seems continuously adrift with everyone seeming to want him to magically know better without taking the time with him.

And Jack’s step grandfather seems to be the voice of reason and/or a cushion for him many times, especially when he is sent away from the center to live with his grandparents as Ma struggles with a deep depression, and tries to overdose on pills/pain medication. Ma though is able to eventually leave the center for more of a group home/supervised apartment situation. Jack is thrilled when the police return some items from Room — notably Rug. Ma is not happen but concedes to let him keep it as a comfort item. To note, I’m not sure about evidence being returned or being sent to a private mental health treatment center right away — logistically I would think at least a few days in a regular hospital for physical/tests before being cleared to be sent to a mental health facility — and I doubt any psychiatric hospital would let a patient self medicate for insurance reasons alone, but these are some technical points only.

This is beautifully written but a tragic story that does end on a hopeful note.

Mansfield Park — Short Coda of thoughts.

Seems recently, many are examining Jane Austen’s thoughts about slavery.  Her brothers were in the British navy around the time of the War of 1812 — which was a closer call really that the edited/framed U.S. History books I was taught in the 1970’s and 1980’s laid claim.  It would be interesting, and it is probably in process right now, that scholars are examining Austen’s feelings toward Americans, particularly regarding slavery — which from what I’ve read over the years, seems to fall in the category of strong dislike to disgust.  

Supporting these scholarly arguments and theories, Mansfield Park is often cited — and I’m not sure I agree.  After this recent reading, I noted a few mentions of Sir Thomas leaving for business in Antiqua — in the vein of a technical reference or a plot point.  I did not pick up on further commentary between the characters around the nature of the business, except his wanting his eldest son Tom and heir apparent to stop messing around and help him out.

The film adaptation of Mansfield Park in 1999, I believe took several liberties with these references and please note spoilers/somewhat to follow  — along with the rest of the book including a very different version of Fanny — sort of memorializing and drawing on Jane Austen herself, as a lady writer with quips.  The film actually was referenced as being “untoward” in its action in both the novel: The Jane Austen Book Club and its 2007 film — more so in the film, where the characters Prudie and Bernadette meet at the movie theater and become friends after having a discussion about the merits of the film — and it’s diversions away from Austen’s original novel. 

My coda here being that I do agree that Austen was not in favor of slavery and most likely did not care for Americans but I’m waiting to find traces of this in her letters.

Digression: Sedition–Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition, West Group, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1999.

Sedition, n.  An agreement, communication, or other preliminary activity aimed at inciting treason or some lesser commotion against public authority; advocacy aimed at inciting or producing — and likely to incite or produce — imminent lawless action.  At common law, sedition included defaming a member of the royal family or government.  The difference between sedition and treason is the former is committed by preliminary steps, while the latter entails some overt act for carrying out the plan.  But of course, if the plan is merely for some small commotion, even accomplishing the plan does not amount to treason. — seditious, adj. Cf. TREASON.

Sedition — This, perhaps the very vaguest of all offences known to the Criminal Law, is defined as the speaking or writing of words calculated to excite disaffection against the Constitution as by law established, to procure the alteration of it by other than lawful means, or to incite any person to commit a crime to the disturbance of the peace, or to raise discontent or disaffection, or to promote ill-feeling between different classes of the community.  A charge of sedition is, historically, one of the chief means by which Government, especially at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, strove to put down hostile critics.  It is evident that the vagueness of the charge is a danger to the liberty of the subject, especially if the Courts of Justice can be induced to take a view favourable to the Government.”  Edward Jenks, The Book of English Law 136 (P.B. Fairest, ed., 6th ed. 1967).