Monday, July 27, 2015

This is the end…or is it?

I was assigned Great Expectations in 8th grade and thought I'd read it then, or major parts of it at least. Now having finished "re-reading" it decades later, I have become quite certain that I didn't read any of it back then because I didn't recognize anything.
Whatever didn't make it into the Classics Illustrated comic back then, I didn't know about.  Do you suppose, in the pre-Internet days, eighth grade English teachers were familiar with the 64-page cartoon book rendition of Great Expectations and asked final exam question slightly outside of its exposition?
Dickens ties everything up so neatly, nothing and nobody wanders through its 500 pages for no purpose. The critics say this is his most pared down book!
Its ending was re-written before publication, his editor prevailing upon Dickens to alter the ending to provide for Pip's total redemption.  The brutally brief and cold discarded ending had Pip walking along in London, much later, when he was summoned by a servant to a nearby coach being driven by a lady of means, Estella.
"[T]he lady and I looked sadly enough on one another. 'I am greatly changed, I know, but I thought you would like to shake hands with Estella, too, Pip.'  … .  I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview, for in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Great Expectations--Monetary or Personal?

 I finally finished Great Expectations--Pip's great expectations have vanished, leaving him in debt but also forcing him to undergo redemption and turn from a fop into a man.  Perhaps the point of the book is that great expectations aren't monetary, as it's ruinous to expect to be made happy by money, but rather great expectations are personal, as associations are ultimately rewarding. 
In as great an incredible piece of literary license as you'll ever find in literature, Pip and the cold and heartless but beautiful Estella, her features and her implacable inhumanity softened and altered by time, sadness and hardship, meet on the grounds of the ruined Satis House more than a decade after the passing of its owner, the reclusive jilted-bride Miss Havisham, who raised Estella to be what she became.  This chance encounter occurs when each is on a lonely moonlight stroll, scheduled to depart forever on the morrow after a brief nostalgic sojourn to the place of their childhood.
"'Estella!'  'I am greatly changed.  I wonder you know me.'  The freshness of her beauty was indeed gone, but its indescribable majesty and its indescribable charm remained.  Those attractions in it I had seen before; what I had never seen before was the saddened, softened light of the once proud eyes; what I had never felt before was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand. 
"We sat down on a bench that was near, and I said, 'After so many years, it is strange that we should thus meet again, Estella, here where our first meeting was!  Do you often come back?'  'I have never been here since.'  'Nor I.'"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Great Expectations

I'm reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It sure is slow going but it sure is good reading. Some paragraphs are a page long! 

I can't believe I read it in seventh grade because I don't remember any of it; or rather, perhaps I read the Classics Illustrated comic book back then instead of the novel. I can't believe they assign this dense and complex, but rich and exquisitely well developed, book to seventh graders, who surely could never follow all the goings on in it. Perhaps they don't assign it anymore, assigning instead, what, a Harry Potter book? 

I have reached what I think is the moral of the book, when Miss Havisham, with her heart of stone, begs Pip to forgive her someday for having so cruelly misled him for so long about his true benefactor but even more importantly, for having turned her adopted daughter, the beautiful child Estella, Pip's longstanding unobtainable love, into a cold and heartless adult incapable of love. Pip replies, "Oh Miss Havisham, I can do it now. There have been sore mistakes; and my life has been a blind and thankless one; and I want forgiveness and direction far too much to be bitter with you."  

This reduces the stern old spinster, who never left her bridal party room when jilted at the altar decades earlier, into a weeping and prostrate supplicant whom Pip comforts.  The evolution of a boy-turned-fop into a freestanding, freethinking young man who--what?  I'll find out in the coming days and weeks as I crawl through the last eighty pages or so.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Happy Place

I been running, yeah.  I'm in a happy place currently with it, having logged over 100 miles last month.  (The Washington Monument is ever-present on the Mall, as seen from the veranda of the Lincoln Memorial.)

I run with friends usually.  Sometimes I run alone, but that's work and not as much fun.  (Interesting cloud cover over the Lincoln Memorial.)

I started off on my comeback to running four and a half years ago weighing in at a hair's breadth under 250 pounds.  Now I'm at a hair's breadth under 180 pounds.  (The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is nearing completion on the Mall within the shadow of the Washington Monument.)

DC has a great running community.  It boasts lots of races, myriad resources, great running venues and decent weather.  (Last week a noontime running group cooled off after three and a half miles in the 90 degree heat with ice cream from the Jubilee Ice Cream Shoppe down by the waterfront near Nats Stadium.)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Friend without the Are

Fifteen questions, spoken with a pause between each one and nary an answer in return, can be rattled off non-hurriedly in under a minute.  That was the case last fall when I had a chance public encounter with the mother of my three estranged sons, from whom I and the rest of my clan haven't heard a single word in over eight years.

I asked her five questions about each son.

Is he alive?
Is he well?
Is he married?
Does he have children?
Where does he live?

She met each question with stony silence, to match her heart.  I added a comment at the end, "That's information any parent would give the other," and then said as I walked away, "I'm sorry for you."

There were several other persons present, including her current husband.  Happy birthday, Jim.

I'll bet anything that he knows the answers to those fifteen questions.  Somehow I don't think he's an independent actor though.

He was walking alongside of the mother of my children as the two of them, and five or six other people, were walking a German Shepherd when I asked her these basic questions about our children, so he obviously heard the questions too.  And his silence to an anguished father was as stony as hers.