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parsing The Blue Flower

Violent windstorm just beginning. They’ve warned us the power might go out, so Wayson is not coming for Sunday dinner as usual. Which is good, because it means I don’t have to watch the Oscars with him and can liberate my evening. PBS is showing My passion for trees with Judi Dench, which sounds like more fun than a parade of fancy dresses. Though I will undoubtedly peek.

Went to a class at the Y this morning; the instructor has fabulous music, including lots of inspiring gospel, unusual for an exercise class. “O Happy Day” – such limited lyrics, such glorious, rich, passionate vocals.
(Oh, happy day
(oh, happy day)
Oh, happy day
(oh, happy day)
When jesus washed
(when jesus washed)
oh, when he washed
(when jesus washed)
when jesus washed
(when jesus washed)
he washed my sins away!
(oh, happy day)
Ah, happy day
(oh, happy day)
Oh, happy day
(oh, happy day)
oh, happy day
(oh, happy day)
It made my heart, if not my feet, soar. How grateful I am to African-Americans who have graced us with so much magnificent music.

Yesterday, my friend Wendy O’Brian’s book club, Books and Bourbon, to discuss Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower, a difficult, maddeningly obtuse, marvellous novel about the 18th century German Romantic poet Novalis, his life and family and his chaste love for an ordinary 12-year old girl. The meaning of the blue flower, mentioned several times in a story Novalis writes and reads to others, is never made clear, but it’s thought to symbolize yearning – the longing we all have for the divine. Or else, as one member said, it’s “the myth we need to believe in, that makes life work for us.” Hmmm – I wonder what myth that is for me. And for you?

I love Fitzgerald particularly because she started writing late in life – her mid-sixties – and achieved great success. Here’s a typical paragraph of her writing – with phenomenal research and recreation of a distant time, gorgeous descriptives, subtle, sly humour.
Both girls were in white, run up by the same dressmaker, but Sidonie seemed to be moving in flight or in a drift of whiteness, delicate, weightless, strange to the onlookers, while Louise could only hope not to hear, at least for this summer, the suggestion that it was perhaps time Fraulein Brachmann should give up wearing white altogether.

Listening to Tapestry on CBC, a young woman being interviewed about millenials burning out – and I have to turn it off, because she uses ‘vocal fry’ – that gravelly catch in the back of the throat, the words drawn out and creaked as if the speaker can’t quite make the effort to push the sound out. Can’t stand listening to it, or to ‘up talk’, each sentence sounding like a question. Like my friend Chris to the left, I’m officially an intolerant crabby old fart.




2 Responses to “parsing The Blue Flower”

  1. Unknown says:

    It is wonderful to read you as ever. AND: I totally concur with you about vocal fry and Up talk, but especially the former. It does not help ram the point home unless used in a very infrequent manner; and even then… it is rarely acceptable to my ear.

  2. beth says:

    Bernard, glad you're still out there! Vocal fry drives me crazy, as perhaps you can tell. Funny that this affectation has spread to an entire generation. It's like tattoos.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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