Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Break, Fall Plans. . .

As I mentioned here not long ago, I've just entered my tenth year of blogging, and in all those years, I don't think I've ever gone a week without posting. I've also mentioned here recently that I've been feeling some blog fatigue, even some ennui, and it seems to me that perhaps those two phenomena are related. . . . I really don't want to stop blogging -- I have so many ideas for conversations we could have here, and I love the opportunity to share my quotidian doings here at home as well as my observations about the wider world when I'm traveling. But for the ideas to come to some fruition, I've got to find a sustainable balance between generating them and writing about them and then facilitating the conversation about them -- while also maintaining my engagement with the wider world, including visiting and commenting on other blogs in the community.

All of which is leading up to say that I am finally, for the first time in over nine years, going to take an extended blogging break. Like so many Parisians, in August, I'm leaving the (metaphorical!) city for a few weeks, and I'm planning to come back refreshed, energy renewed for an exciting fall line-up of posts to coincide with mine and Pater's move into a new home.

Because I can't stand to leave this place looking empty, gathering dust, however, I've put together a series of posts to keep it looking as if someone's home. I don't have a neighbour stopping by to bring in the newspapers and feed the cat, but my Automatic Scheduling feature will be delivering new posts every few days -- so far, I've lined up an interesting quotation I found to nudge our conversation on friendship along. I've also got another post on Croatian Culinary Culture from our favourite guest blogger, Dottoressa. I'm planning to post some of the sketches I've been adding to my sketch-a-day project, and I also have a photo-essay or two in the works.  There are one or two past posts I'm going to link back to, making a brief intro with relevant photo or recent thinking about the topic. In short, I hope there will be enough content to keep you visiting even when I'm not home.

Make yourselves comfy in my absence -- sit on the porch, chat with friends, leave me a note about your visit (imagine I've left a cute little blackboard by the front door on which you might scrawl a message--there's chalk on the ledge nearby). I have your comments forwarded to my email, so I will see them all as they come in. For a true blogging break, I should disable this feature, but I enjoy knowing that you're reading and don't see this being a drain on my energy (although I suppose it could be a distraction from the Real Life I should be focused on). I'm going to do my best to refrain from commenting back, however, but do feel free to chat amongst yourselves.

Finally, if you're interested in joining the ReadAlong I'm going to host over on my reading blog, you'll want to buy or borrow a copy of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend so that you're ready to begin Reading Along in September.

Here's the paragraph I wrote about the novel after first reading it, back in May 2015. It was a quick-and-dirty response under constraints of time, but it will give you a sense of why I think you might want to join our discussion (or at least read the book for yourself:
 As well, I've just finished reading Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, the first in what will apparently be a series of four, three of which are already completed, with the fourth and final novel to be published this fall. I already regret that I purchased My Brilliant Friend as an e-book for my Kobo reader, and I've ordered the second and third books in their print versions -- I'll probably get a print copy of MBF as well. These are books to savour, to make notes in the margins, underline favourite passages, leave comments for my future self and for other readers in the front pages. . . .The descriptions, first of all, of place, of 1950s Naples, its poverty but also its liveliness, intrigues, community, social constrictions -- and particularly the compelling attention to close female friendship. This attention depicts a particular friendship in such a particular time and place -- two young girls whose bond is built of their mutual intelligence and attitude to scholarship, an intelligence and scholarship which mark their difference and their potential escape route from their community while conferring upon them a certain status, but one which must be managed carefully. They support each other, but there is a constant note of competition that denies any possibility of real trust, and questions what friendship might mean for either -- their intense connection is as close as any of them will get to friendship, at least by the time the first novel closes. Despite the particular nature of the friendship, there is so much here that will surely recall to many readers the fraught intensity of girlhood, the confidences betrayed, the peculiar colouring of long-long-ago intimacies, and the way their light and warmth continue to be cast on our later years. . .

And here's a paragraph from Materfamilias Reads, this one from my latest post giving a sense of how we might proceed. We'll be reading a chapter or two at a time, and I will be posing pertinent questions and perhaps offering some background, noting recurrent patterns, imagery, themes, etc., and inviting you to do the same, but I'll do my best to keep the feeling book club rather than grad seminar . . . Promise!

Remember, beginning in September, I'll be hosting a ReadAlong of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend for anyone who'd like to participate. If you've already started reading it in preparation, considering jotting down a few notes as you go -- I'll be very keen for any of you to share your thoughts, and I know I find it easier to remember if I either make notes in the margins (I know! Some book people are aghast at the thought of writing in a book, but it's been a scholarly habit of mine since my first degree and throughout my grad school and then teaching years) or in a notebook that I keep alongside my reading if I'm working with an e-book or a library book. Of course, you might have a much better memory than mine and that's not necessary. And you might not feel comfortable commenting at all -- rest assured that will be just fine as well. This is the first ReadAlong I've attempted and the idea is to keep it fun and inclusive while nonetheless hoping to build, collectively, a stronger understanding of and engagement with a book well worthy of some protracted attention.

That's it for now, then. I'm off.  Until then . . . Happy Summer!



22 comments:

  1. Sigh...but I do understand the need for a break. So glad you will have some posts set up while you're gone, so I will keep checking in. :-) I am off to get a copy of "My Brilliant Friend". PS- Your thoughts and plans for future writing sound great!

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  2. Sigh...but I do understand the need for a break. So glad you will have some posts set up while you're gone, so I will keep checking in. :-) I am off to get a copy of "My Brilliant Friend". PS- Your thoughts and plans for future writing sound great!

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  3. Enjoy your break, and good luck with the move!

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  4. I'd love to join your read along. I started "My Brilliant Friend" a while ago but put it aside. Too much going on in my life at the time to give it the attention it deserves.

    Enjoy your time off. If you are travelling, I hope you'll post pictures (on Instagram maybe?). No travelling for us this year and I'm having withdrawal symptoms!
    Lilibet

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  5. Enjoy your break. I look forward to your September read along B :)

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  6. Enjoy the break. You will come back with new ideas and more energy. We shall still be here.

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  7. Enjoy your break Frances,you deserve it
    I wish you everything well with the move
    Dottoressa

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  8. A real summer holiday! Have fun, 'see' you next month!

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  9. Good for you, Frances. I may do the same in September/October when I will be away several times... although not far from home...still not AT home. I have an image in my head of all of us (readers of this blog) sitting on your porch chatting when you roll up with your suitcase, back from your holiday. Enjoy. We'll feed the cat.

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    1. What a lovely image, Susan. I'll bring the flapjack and I'll water the plants. There'll be such a crowd Mater won't be able to wheel her bags to the door

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  10. We will miss you Frances. Recharge and restore.

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  11. I think I will adopt the Parisian August! And please count me in on the book club.
    Enjoy!

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  12. Happy summer! I took will be taking August off.

    Much love to you and Paul.

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  13. Well I will miss you & the other bloggers but my garden should benefit - less distractions . Have fun
    Wendy in York

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  14. Enjoy your blog break. I love the picture of a little chalk board next to your front walk where we can leave messages. See you in September.

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  15. Love the image of the porch and blackboard ...guessing there's coffee in a cafetiere (french press) and wine chilling :) Have a wonderful break Frances ...relax and refresh! Hope your move goes smoothly.
    Looking forward to hearing all your news when you "return"
    Take care.
    Rosie

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  16. I was listening to, maybe Maureen Corrigan discuss Ferrante on NPR. Shall I give her a try? The book covers did not entice me, and I admit that they are an integral part of my reading pleasure, but maybe I should make my own covers for them. Thick patterned wrapping paper? Brown parcel paper?

    Re: books I did read this summer: Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle (with its eerie hand-drawn cover illustration) was satisfying.

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    1. Oh, do try at least My Brilliant Friend -- I think this series is at least as important as Knausgaard's, and I'm fascinated in their near simultaneity, these big all-encompassing auto-bio fictions. . . .
      That is an eerie cover. I o.d.'d on SJ with myself and then my four, one by one, reading "The Lottery" in high school (my oldest was amused to do very well writing on it in 1st-year English -- by then, she'd studied it in English classes four times!)

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    2. I love the covers, btw -- are they too pretty-bland for you? Or?

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  17. My Brilliant Friend is currently being dramatised and serialised on BBC radio 4. Perhaps you can listen in?

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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