On the walk to OS I meet a blond woman of a certain age walking a happy but overweight dog of uncertain kind, a sturdy mix. The woman’s Southern accent is so thick that it takes me three tries to understand and to call the dog by its name, Molly. The owner thinks Molly’s five years old; Molly has had puppies, one of which the owner has kept. The woman says that Molly likes to walk from one side of the road to the other. I continue down the road and when I get to OS and turn to go home, I see them in the distance, going zig-zag from one side of the road to the other, just as Molly likes to do.
A Story of Two Cats.
Three friendly men arrived to install the new heating and air system. One, whom I’ll call Nick, told me a story of his mother and two cats. I think Nick is in his early 50’s, and he keeps the Southern tradition of calling his mother, “My momma.”
“My momma,” he said, “she had this old cat. Kept it for eighteen years. Cat’s name was Beaney. He was a scraggly, old, ugly cat, like something you’d see in a scary movie. I saw that old cat walking across the yard one late afternoon and said to my momma, “Momma, look at your old cat. He looks awful. She answered, ‘You shush. That cat’s been through a lot. Why, you remember that younger cat I had about three years ago? Named Eli? Well, Eli used to jump on Beaney, just for fun, for sport, you know, but Beaney just wasn’t up to play by that time, and I decided to help out. What I did was get that Eli and held his head under a spicket and turned the water on. I dunked him under that spicket three times and wet his head three times, all the time saying, Water! Water! Water! / Water! Water! Water! / Water! Water! Water! I wanted him to get the idea of water. And so after than when I saw Eli about to jump on Beaney, I shouted out loud, Water! Water! Water! and that Eli would stop and scat! Just run away as fast as he feet could carry him.'”
As Nick told that part of the story, he made a big motion with his right hand up his left arm and then threw it in a broad gesture over his right shoulder.
“And later on,” Nick said, “I saw her do it. And I saw that Eli fly away for all he was worth!”
“I guess that shoes you can train a cat,” I said.
“My momma, she was something else,” said Nick.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Gifts,” “Character,” and “Manners” from Essays: Second Series (1844) in Emerson: Essays and Lectures, The Library of America, 1983.
It is interesting and inspiring to read essays in which humans are held in high regard, that the author’s high expectations in philosophy and practice lead to a higher life for self and others. As I’ve written earlier in these writings, we should read–and believe–Emerson.
Notes on Reading. Fiction. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849-50), Chapters I – XVI.
This re-reading, the first since 1974, will determine whether the book is still one of my favorites novels or not.
I dislike the sentimentality, especially the feelings between young David and his mother and David for Little Emily, the childhood affection. Such scenes wold have been popular in Dickens’s day.
I have enjoyed the minor characters, rapscallions and n’er-do-wells, who are ever read to take advantages of others, especially the waiter who tricks David out of his dinner at the inn and the carrier who steals David’s money and box of clothes (the latter malicious; the former humorous).
Here are memorable characters: Mr. Murdstone and Miss Murdstone, the evil and controlling step-father and step-aunt; the sadistic, stupid schoolmaster Mr. Creakle; the loving servant Peggoty; the eccentric and good Miss Betsy Trotwood; the likable, alcoholic Mr. Wickfield; the handsome, perfidious Steerforth; the creepy Uriah Heep; the humorous kindly lunatic Mr. Dick; the indigent Mr. Micawber. Dickens creates memorable names for memorable characters.
The set piece of little Davy’s visit to Yarmouth, to the home of Peggoty’s family is a well-done, memorable narrative.
The presentation of the relationship between Dr. Strong, his young wife Annie, and Mr. Jack Maldon, from the point of view of young David, is a well-done piece of writing, showing mastery of psychology and point of view in narration.
The short paragraph introducing Miss Jane Murdstone is a first-rate characterization in which all of the details present a memorable, unpleasant personality.
Quotations from Readings.
“. . . a beautiful behavior is better than a beautiful form . . . it is the finest of the fine arts.” (Emerson, “Manners”)
“The gentleman is a man of truth, lord of his own actions, and expressing that lordship in his behavior, not in any manner dependent and servile either on persons or opinions, or possessions.” (Emerson, “Manners”)
“There is ever some admirable person in plain clothes, standing on the wharf, who jumps in to rescue a drowning man . . . some guide and comforter of runaway slaves . . . some fanatic who plants shade trees for second and third generations, and orchards, when he is grown old . . . And these are the centres of society, on which it returns for fresh impulses” (Emerson, “Manners”)