Thursday, June 10, 2010

6/10 - The Prime of DP

I find myself in an unusually good mood still from the reascendancy of Nadal. It would have been so sad had he never been able to return to championship form. Now it's interesting to speculate on whether Federer will ever reclaim the #1 ranking. As Rafa now leads Roger by 310 points, it seems that the lead is safe through the end of Wimbledon (Halle would have to award 500 points to the winner, which I don't think it does, and Federer would have to win both Halle and Wimbledon while Nadal only won one or two matches in both tournaments combined). The summer could be a bit of a toss-up, as only Juan Martin del Potro had sterling hard court results last year. But Rafa has his 5,000 ranking points from the clay season safe for ten months, while Roger has to defend more than that many at the next three majors.

Before progressing to this week's letters, I have the pleasure of reporting that one of the major pundits around here has recently reminded me of Miss Carroll from *Lord Edgware Dies* (or *Thirteen at Dinner* depending on when and where it was published). She is very decisive in her evidence about Jane Wilkinson's visit to Lord Edgware's house, even going so far as claiming to have seen her face, although Poirot establishes that she could not have done so. Poirot later explains to Hastings how difficult it can be to determine between a deliberate falsehood and a disinterested inaccuracy. Some particularly honest people are so sure of themselves and so certain of their knowledge that details do not matter; they answer questions in light of their knowledge instead of by reason of remembered facts. Miss Carroll is also quite sure that Lord Edgware's change of mind about divorcing Jane did not spring from any desire to marry for a third time. But Poirot tells Hastings that that only means that the idea had never occurred to her, and that therefore she will not take the trouble to go back and remember any infinitesimal clues that might indicate otherwise.

A quick comment on Monday: I could have said a fair amount about the once and future abuser, but got a sickening image of him following the threads and comments and getting off on it. In consequence, I'm getting nasty qualms about such questions or letters even being included at all, because such askers aren't sufficiently repentant to follow any advice that's more stern than an easy out. And as for the wedding guest with the specifically non-invited spouse, my guess is that anyone sufficiently... conscientious about (the Submariner might say whipped by) straight society etiquette to second-guess himself in the face of such brazen behaviour probably won't be able to rest satisfied without at least a short conversation with the groom to let him know what is being done in his name. It seems probable that this will just confirm full familial prejudice, in which case the asker can sleep without worrying about not sending a gift. But it could be helpful to lead with definitely being unable to attend the wedding, perhaps then finding a way to suggest that his mamma's enthusiastic involvement on his behalf might be behind some of the RSVPs in the negative.

Now, for this week, we move on to Dame Muriel Spark. I was tempted to pay a tribute to the recently departed Lynn Redgrave and title it Hey There, Brodie Girl - which reminds me that I really must replace my audiobook, which bore up well for years and then became defective.

For those familiar with the film and not the novel, the novel gives Miss Brodie a group of six, of which the film retains Jenny, Mary, Monica and Sandy. Eunice and Rose are dropped. But the characters are shuffled about to some degree:

Eunice's talent for gymnastics is given to Jenny, though none of the Brodie girls in the film are given her attraction to church socials or the Team Spirit, which Miss Brodie decries as anathema.

Rose is the girl originally "famous for sex" and Miss Brodie's choice to be her proxy in Teddy Lloyd's bed. These are made over to Jenny. In the novel, Miss Brodie gets Rose and Sandy backwards. Rose tells her about Sandy's affair with Teddy, but in the film Sandy has to reveal it herself.

Mary MacGregor remains the silent lump whom everyone could blame. In the novel, there is an outsider called Joyce Emily Hammond, who is trying to become a Brodie girl, but whom Miss Brodie sees separately from her regular set. Joyce Emily's being inspired by Miss Brodie to run away and fight in Spain is given to Mary, as is her early death (in the novel, Mary doesn't die until she's in a hotel fire in her early twenties).

As Jenny inherits most of Eunice and Rose, her dramatic talent is made over to Monica. She does retain the distinctions of being The Pretty One and Mr Lowther's slight favourite, and remains Sandy's best friend. The novel goes a little farther than the film in terms of Sandy's and Jenny's sexual exploration, as the chapter in which Jenny is accosted by a flasher is omitted. Sandy and Jenny do write the My Own Delightful Gordon Letter from Miss Brodie to Mr Lowther congratulating him warmly on his sexual intercourse and on his singing, but it is hidden in a cave and never discovered by Miss Mackay as it is in the film.

Monica in the novel can do mathematics in her head and loses her temper. These qualities tend to disappear in the film, in which Monica basically just is given Jenny's fondness for drama. In the novel it's Monica who discovers Miss Brodie and Mr Lloyd kissing in the art room. She loses her temper when Sandy appears not to believe her.

Sandy is more clearly set apart in the book. Her last name is Stranger; she has an English mother and interesting vowel sounds when she recites poetry; her point of view is much more dominating. She goes on to become a nun visited by the others. In both the novel and the film, Miss Brodie confides in Sandy, both about Teddy Lloyd and about her suspicions concerning which of her girls betrayed her to Miss Mackay (in the film, Sandy confesses and exits to the echo of Miss Brodie's cry, "Assassin!"; in the novel, Miss Brodie in her retirement keeps guessing to Sandy about each of the other girls in the role of Judas. We learn that, on learning just before her death that Sandy had become a nun, Miss Brodie even guessed to [at least] Monica that Sandy had betrayed her). But away we go.

L1: It is interesting that two of this week's letters have to do with written works. It would be tempting to use Sandy's and Jenny's joint compositions of Miss Brodie's affair with her oft-mentioned deceased lover, Hugh Carruthers, and of the correspondence between Miss Brodie and Gordon Lowther, the music master, but this situation is giving me a slightly different read. LW1 is Sandy just at the moment when Miss Brodie confides in her that Jenny will one day make a great lover, elevated above the common moral code, and that she, Sandy, who has told Miss Brodie that Monica saw Mr Lowther playing golf with Miss Lockhart - twice, has the makings of a Secret Service agent, a great spy. In the film, this is when Sandy is looking into the mirror and trying to imagine herself as a great lover while Miss Brodie's voice is telling her sitting for her portrait won't be her profession.

The Prosecutor has made a very declarative speech (rather in the manner of Ms Messy) stating LW1's mother's true feelings. Unfortunately, she has not taken a seminar from Ms Messy about how declarative speeches ought to carry the conviction of truth. And here I submit that the Prosecution has failed to establish even probable cause. There is no evidence of either loving memories of genuine shared closeness and happiness. We have evidence of: putting his/her mother on a pedestal, trying to make her proud, mourning her loss and being sentimental about her. Perhaps the last two are sufficient indicators of loving memories, but I'd happily take the line that LW1's mother was admirable but not especially close to her child. Certainly the opening of the letter gave me the impression that the relationship was not all warm fuzzies, and people are often more sentimental in retrospect over someone with whom the relationship was slightly imperfect than with whom everything was ideal.

Unfortunately here we can only cross-examine a ghost, which bore rather mixed results for Rumpole when he did his Chancery brief in the case of Miss Rosemary Beasley. He did not much enjoy having to cope with a client who claimed that both she and the dear departed Colonel Ollard were in the regular habit of conversing with Alexander the Gret, Mr Stalin and the Emperor Napoleon, among others. At least Guthrie Featherstone got in one of his best lines, when he told Miss Beasley that she had better not report what Colonel Ollard had said at seance the evening before, because that would be hearsay evidence, and that they would have to wait and see whether his learned friend Mr Rumpole called the deceased gentleman as a witness. It is highly unlikely that the diary constitutes the complete truth. Nor does the Prosecutor's case really carry conviction. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and the question likely to be what LW1 can find tolerable.

While it does not really bother me much if LW1 takes the Prosecutor's words to heart and goes to the grave thinking, "Mommy just adored me," there does seem to be opportunity here to learn that a pedestal is a cold and drafty place, which often succeeds in doing little but accord the person there placed separation from the hoi polloi. But it is not too late for LW1 to raise his/her children not to put people on pedestals in the first place, a point which has entirely evaded the Prosecutor.

Moral: "Mine is the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the creme de la creme. Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life."

L2: The wife in the case seems a dead ringer for Miss Mackay, the headmistress, and her dour, Calvinistic views, particularly in the film. In the novel, when Sandy reenacts Monica discovering The Kiss, Miss Brodie interrupts her. In the film, Sandy reenacts The Kiss itself. Miss Mackay walks in on the reenactment, and the girls quickly invent that they'd been studying opera. Miss Mackay's review of (La) Traviata is a classic. Or there is the original conference between Miss Mackay and Miss Brodie in which their differences are set out. The film deals with this quite effectively, as Miss Brodie has always been shown in bright colours versus the greys of the others. When Miss Mackay comments on her colourful frock, Miss Brodie replies that her credo is Lift, Enliven, Stimulate, and that true education is a leading out of what is already in her girls, as proved by the Latin - the prefix ex-, meaning out, and duco, I lead. Miss Makcay counters with the hope that there would also be some putting in, which Miss Brodie decries as intrusion, from the prefix in-, meaning in, and trudo, I thrust.

As LW2 provides no evidence that she and the Confider have ever been friends (another blunder on the part of the Prosecutor?), the initial confidence seems either seriously misplaced or indicative of far-reaching suspicion. People like the Confider have a depressing habit of seeming always to carry things there own way. it makes me quite thankful that here the only thing at issue was a blouse that revealed a miniscule portion of flesh and not a statewide referendum that would affect the lives of millions of people.

I am slightly more inclined to cross-examine the Confider than her husband, but either or both of them could easily be off the chart. Perhaps the person to cross-examine might be the pastor. LW2 herself seems not to have picked up anything too sensational from him, but others of the flock might have had more extensive instruction, or taken his message more closely to heart. Or the husband could just be one of those pass-the-buckers. I can't care much.

As for what LW2 should do, while it is true that she missed a golden opportunity, her failing to have taken her chance to stand up for herself in her own home has presented her with another golden opportunity. It would not have been seemly for Miss Brodie to conduct a love affair with a married father of six who was a Roman Catholic into the bargain. But there was nothing to stop her from planning to put Rose into Teddy's bed in her place. The true Brodie solution would be to find another group member who would make a good Rose and convince her to dress more revealingly, as well as an appointed Sandy to bring her any gossip that might ensue outside of group meetings, although LW2 might well find that her Sandy will be the temptress and her Rose will tell her about it.

Moral: "Och, nonsense! Violetta did not exprie for love of Alfredo. Violetta was a thoroughly silly woman with diseased lungs. if she'd been properly brought up, she'd have been out on the hockey field, breathing deeply."

L3: Back to the field of the written word. This is another one where the film has the advantage. I mentioned the My Own Delightful Gordon Letter, which in the novel was composed by Sandy and Jenny and then hidden in a cave, Sandy imagining their fictional correspondence between Miss Brodie and Mr Lowther as evidence for an imaginary case she is building up with her fantasy of a police woman, Sergeant Anne Grey. In the film, the girls compose the letter in the library, where their giggles draw the librarian's attention. They hide the paper in a volume that is returned to the shelf. The letter is discovered a considerable time later and brought to Miss Mackay, who uses it in an attempt to get Miss Brodie to resign. Miss Brodie's passionate refusal leaves Miss Mackay thwarted for the moment.

The cross-examination here will not spend too much time in wondering why LW3 is still following the blog of his ex. It is not hard to anticipate his reply that his sole interest lies in keeping track of what is being said about him. I would be much more inclined to delve deeper into his openness about discomfort during the relationship, why he thought it advisable not to make an explicit request in order to keep the peace and what the consequences would have been if he had, and why on earth he didn't make the request a while before breaking off the relationship instead of wanting to do so afterwards. Ls 3 and 4 really both have timing issues. We might also examine how damaging the blog genuinely is, and how

The Brodie solution to LW3's situation seems clear enough. What does Miss Brodie do when her love affair with Gordon Lowther becomes a possible source of scandal? She introduces the girls into the picture, takes over his housekeeping from the two Miss Kerrs, and has her set come over to Crammond in pairs on the weekends. LW3 can similarly attempt to insulate himself from criticism not by keeping the blog a secret as far as possible but by making it known to all the people from whom someone with a sense of guilt would try to keep it.

I must as an aside mention my extreme ire with the Prosecutor on this one. Even if the Prosecutor thinks the due diligence will not be done - callousness on Valentine's Day is now suitable cause for determination of a potential employee's unsuitableness? What kind of SB1 society are we living in in which some SB1 company can look at some SB1 blog of an SB1 ex of an employee and then fire the poor SB1?

Moral: I am torn between, "There needs must be a leaven in the lump," and, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

L4: LW4's friend is Mary MacGregor, the silent lump blamed by everyone, but clearly not capable of entering the Classical side of the Senior School. When Miss Brodie takes her set (minus Jenny) for a walk through a historical district of Edinburgh, Sandy has a momentary impulse to be kinder to Mary than anyone usually is. Then she suddenly senses how set apart from Miss Brodie and the set she will be if she does so, and becomes nastier than usual to Mary as a result, out of thinking that to do a thing many times repeatedly made it a right thing.

I fear I should recuse myself on this one; it would be way too easy to let this one dissolve into a rant against posters who have said such things as, "Show me some moxie," and, "I'd hire you in a New York minute," in previous discussions. I shall merely repeat my Cassandraesque warning from a previous employment thread. The divide that many people fear may develop between the Employmentally Secure and the Idle is already here, and it's much deeper and more permanent than people think. To take the example from the King in *To Play the King* from the *House of Cards* trilogy, already many if not most people consider the Unemployed "a little less human than ourselves" and react to the thought of them primarily with Urquhartian blame for their being in that situation in the first place. There are even shades of this in the contempt for the woman shown by the Prosecutor and a good many posters. All I can say to LW4 is that it's a sign of Corporate Culture Run Mad when people are put in LW4's position every day without a second thought as to what negative effect it might have on humanity (as perhaps Ms Mermaid might agree - I would not want to leave her out after referrals to the Submariner and Ms Messy), it's a pity she's bought into a system in which she must check her humanity at the door but unluckily it's the only system there is (rather like the way in which people may disapprove of In God We Trust but can't just refuse to use money), and to prepare the best recommendation which she feels she can ethically offer.

Moral: "Phrases such as 'the team spirit' are always employed to cut across individualism... Where would the team spirit have got Anna Pavlova? She is the Prima Ballerina; it is the Corps du Ballet who have the team spirit."

To close on a happier note, this reminds of the time I composed an acrostic on the quotation, "Sandy and Jenny approved... Miss Brodie was easily the equal of both sisters together. She was the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, and they were merely the squares of the other two sides."

Ooh - finished early at 7:19! Unfortunately, I started at 10:37, but I did get a lot done while this was being written.


  1. Hrumpole so much wisdom but the characters are confusing me a bit.

    How would it be if you used "The Grapes of Wrath" next time?

  2. Do you know, I have never read that book? How odd.

    I wonder why the main post was so much longer than it seemed at the time.

    I never know from week to week what inspiration will strike. Perhaps it was too ambitious to juggle a book and the film of it, or maybe I just assumed that everyone would be at least vaguely familiar with the film.

    I do try to be clear, and I usually think I am being, but history has shown that my judgement on the matter is not the most reliable.

  3. Hrumpole, you're very clear and don't ever stiffle yourself! It just got me thinking how funny it would be to use the title "the grapes of wrath" for one or all the letters --though the subject matter of people forced to leave their farms during the dust bowl is not funny at all.

  4. My dearest hrumpole ~ how kind of you to reference me, and in such illustrious company. And how right you are about my feelings on this particular situation as being a reflection of the lack of humanity (what we used to call "cut-throat" behavior) that seems necessary to keep one's job these days. Unfortunately, I've never read a company manual that ever contained the word "kindness".

    Speaking of which, I've been meaning to tell you that the other week, while you were visiting my side of the Lagoon, I attempted to leave a very very long reply to your comment about the "mother with the teenage boy who'd been told by dad that she was a tramp and had read his computer" letter ~ and my computer ate it. I mourn over it's witty brilliance, truly the most mesmerizing and awe-inspiring reply ever written, I promise you. I have learned that it's best (safest) to do long replies in wordperfect first and then split it up into two smaller comments when posting. Did you notice I never suggested leaving a shorter comment in the first place? Why ~ that just wouldn't do. ;)

    I'll second kati in her idea. May we begin to submit requests? How familiar are you with the collected works of Sidney Sheldon?

  5. I'd be delighted to take requests, but I'm not sure how many I could honour. Sadly, I cannot claim any knowledge of the collected works of Sheldon.

    While I definitely approve of long posts, it seems only fair to admit that, of my long posts which find themselves feeding the fishes of cyberspace, I rarely know which of them are going to turn out that way. I almost always start intending to be brief, but that really means As Brief As Possible, and then some time later truth wins out again, as usual.

  6. I meant to include in the previous post that I am quite sure Ms Mermaid's long post was almost as brilliant as she thinks it was once translated into Human and quite possibly every bit as brilliant in the original Merspeak.