Friday, January 20, 2017

Wishing You A Lovely Weekend.

Berthe Morisot, The Artist's Sister at a Window, 1869
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

Last year, I participated in Reading New England over at Emerald City Book Review. Two of the books I read for the challenge, Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne and American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever, had a connection to Margaret Fuller  (1810-1850) that made me want to know more about this writer and early women's' rights activist. Megan Marshall's Pulitzer Prize winning biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (2013) took me right into Fuller's tumultuous, complex and ultimately tragic life.

Margaret Fuller had an unconventional childhood. Her father, an attorney, wanted Margaret to have the same education as a man. She spoke Latin at the age of 6. Her brilliant mind made her different from other people, and Megan Marshall does a great job of illustrating throughout the book the many ways in which Fuller tried to find her place in a society that didn't really value her contribution as an intelligent woman. 

Not wanting to take the traditional route to marriage, Fuller wanted to be a writer. To finance this endeavor, she worked for a time as a teacher at one of Bronson Alcott's schools. She was a confidante of Ralph Waldo Emerson and served as editor for his journal, The Dial, which showcased many of her writings. She also edited some of Henry David Thoreau's early work. She supported her mother and her siblings after her father died.  

What interested her was the role of women, and she hosted several events for women in which she led discussions about the plight of women. This led to Fuller's writing of her famous yet controversial work about equality for women, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1846).

Fuller didn't make the best decisions when it came to her love life. Although she moved to New York City and had a successful career as a newspaper reporter, she decided to follow a man who was her love interest to Europe. The love affair didn't last, but Fuller found the intellectual fulfillment she wanted in the artists and writers that she met. She felt a freedom she'd never known to live the artist's life that she wanted. 

In 1847, Fuller, now 37 years old, went to Rome where she became the first woman reporter to cover a war when she wrote about the conflict between Italy and Austria. It was in Rome that she met a handsome younger man, Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, and became pregnant. With Ossoli involved in the war, Fuller moved to a village in the mountains away from the war where she awaited the birth of the baby. She had a boy, Nino, but left him in the care of a village woman and soon returned to the action to cover the end of the war.

Fuller decided to return to America in 1850 with Ossoli and Nino. She brought a manuscript about the Italian Republic which she deemed to be her best work. Emerson along with her other friends and family were not happy about Fuller's return because of her unconventional lifestyle. Unfortunately, Fuller, Ossoli, and Nino died in a shipwreck during a violent storm off the shore of Fire Island, New York, on July 19, 1850. Her manuscript was never found.

Megan Marshall uses Margaret Fuller's letters, journals and writings to bring Fuller to life. I loved Marshall's writing and Fuller's writing as well. Fuller had a dynamic, larger than life personality and was so much more than one of the Transcendentalists. 

I find myself wondering sometimes what Fuller's life would have been like if she'd lived. Would she have been accepted back into the fold of her friends and family? Would she have stayed with Ossoli, described by friends as a charming man but one who'd never read a book? Was the manuscript she brought back her best writing? 

I highly recommend Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: This Sweet Sickness

Happy Tuesday to you! I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, in which bloggers share a bit about what they're reading or planning to read soon. 

Over the weekend, I picked up This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith and found this psychological thriller hard to put down.

From the back cover:

"David Kelsey has an unswerving conviction that life is going to work out exactly as he planned it. He just needs to fix 'the Situation': his one true love, Annabelle, is married to another man. Under an alias, David sets up a dream home for the two of them in a nearby town. Even though she is pregnant with her husband's child, Annabelle will take him back, of that he is certain. David will win her over--whatever it takes."

The opening:

"It was jealousy that kept David from sleeping, drove him from a tousled bed out of the dark and silent boardinghouse to walk the streets.

He had so long lived with his jealousy, however, that the usual images and words, with their direct and obvious impact on the heart, no longer came to the surface of his mind. It was now just the Situation. The Situation was the way it was and had been for nearly two years No use bothering with the details. The Situation was like a rock, say a five-pound rock, that he carried around around in his chest day and night. The evenings and the nights, when he wasn't working, were a little bit worse than the daytime, that was all."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Happy New Year! Today, I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, in which bloggers share the first paragraph of a book they're reading or thinking of reading soon.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2015) was a Christmas present and a book that I'm planning to read soon.

First paragraph of the Prologue:

"It was the first day of my humiliation. Put on a plane, sent back home, to England, set up with a temporary rental in St. John's Wood. The flat was on the eighth floor, the windows looked over the cricket ground. It had been chosen, I think, because of the doorman, who blocked all inquiries. I stayed indoors. The phone on the kitchen wall rang and rang, but I was warned not to answer it and to keep my own phone switched off. I watched the cricket being  played, a game I don't understand, it offered no real distraction, but still it was better than looking at the interior of the that apartment, a luxury condo, in which everything had been designed to be perfectly neutral, with all significant corners rounded, like an iPhone. When the cricket finished I stared at the sleek coffee machine embedded in the wall, and at two photos of the Buddha--one a brass Buddha, the other wood--and at a photo of an elephant kneeling next to a little Indian boy, who was also kneeling. The rooms were tasteful and gray, linked by a pristine hallway of tan wool cord. I stared at the ridges in the cord."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?