The love story of Elizabeth and Darcy is an immortal classic everyone should be familiar with. This book engaged me thoroughly. There were many times I didn’t want to stop listening because I was invested in finding out what happened next. However, the formalities of the Bennett family’s time period make me go cross-eyed. I find them so unnecessary. The sycophantic, obsequious toady, Mr. Bingley, annoyed me from his first introduction and is the worst example of the formalities I’m referring to. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for proper, polite manners and etiquette and paying respect to position or station when due, but the formalities and guilt and punishment that accompanied them in the story are a bit too much for me. Maybe that’s why I relate to Darcy since he isn’t too fond of them either. Also, the whole must-find-a-good-match-or-else mentality was kind of ridiculous.
I found the characters develop well throughout, and the plot progressed in ways not always predictable. Austen did engage various means I generally find lazy in storytelling. For instance, when one or more party sees or hears something and misunderstands what the other party meant and doesn’t bother to confront the situation to find the truth but rather takes offense to, shuns and actively antagonizes the other party. This is rampant in the chick-flick industry. However, I found that Austen artfully used these techniques very well and that modern romantic narratives just cheaply copy her work.
I guess now it’s time to watch the six-episode BBC mini-series with Colin Firth as Darcy.
This is basically Thoreau’s memoir from his “experiment” living as a squatter in the most simplified life he could. Though he shares some insightful philosophy and ideas about life, I found his overall attitude a little selfish and entitled. Some of the thoughts he espouses would leave mankind living in the dark ages. However, if people were to follow some of what he suggests we’d be freer, higher educated, more self-sufficient individuals and better friends and neighbors.
Walden was of particular interest to me in my current employment as I interpret the work of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West. Wright was deeply influenced by the early American poets and philosophers, the transcendentalists. They informed his organic architecture and design for democracy philosophies. For example, while narrating his life in the woods, Thoreau says that every student should build the place he’ll be living while going to school because he’ll learn more from that exercise than from any class. I wonder if this is where Wright got the idea to have his apprentices build their shelters while studying at Taliesin.
One of the main tenets of Thoreau’s philosophies in Walden is to get closer to nature—to appreciate it and see the miracle in every little bit of it. This I can’t agree with more. I feel like everyone can benefit from a little more meditation in nature. This helps us see we are a part of a greater whole and that there is something more powerful than ourselves.
Words are everything. They have power to influence, to affect lives, to imprison and to make free. More than just compilations of characters, words change the world. This is the premise of Hall’s book in which he expounds on ten words that can help any individual, when he or she applies them, change their lives for the better. He goes into the true meaning of each word with its history and uses. He doesn’t do this in a stale academic manner, but uses examples from his life and from others’ to show the true power of the words. Each word in the book builds on the one before it. One of the highlights are his “Afternoons with Arthur” anecdotes that brought a bit of excitement as Arthur got giddy during their etymological discussions. I learned some valuable words from this compilation that have helped me as an individual and as a leader I study theories of leadership in my master’s degree program.
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth GrahameUnabridged; narrated by David Thorn; Alcazar AudioWorks
A classic tale that doesn’t have a specific beginning or end, but rather takes us into a whimsical world of animals that test their friendship and courage through various adventures. The most memorable of these is the culminating escapade as Rat, Mole and Badger help Mr. Toad rescue his home from the weasels and stoats. None of the characters really progress or develop through the story—Toad remains arrogant and proud; Badger remains the paternal figure that doesn’t care what others think; and Rat is a good, devoted friend who enjoys life and is happy with the simple things. Mole is the only one who really goes through any change as he becomes more courageous when life’s various obstacles confront him. In the end, this is a fun book to take a break and escape with. It will be a fun one to read to kids some day.