Thursday, March 31, 2011

3/31 - Confessions of a Drama Queen

Well, as is probably known by now (people doubtless saw the Submariner's thread earlier), Dan Savage Himself has called me a Drama Queen. Such an accomplishment will be difficult to match, let alone top. Or should I say bottom? I have decided that this page has eaten my post once too often. Accordingly, I shall shorten my comments and concentrate on one letter only each week, giving it as full a treatment as I feel inspired to do. The alternative would be breaking each letter into a separate post, which seems as if it would be too much clutter. The debate over whether to raise two nephews or not from Monday was highly reminiscent of the opening chapter of Mansfield Park. Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon had had the great good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, despite her fortune of only seven thousand pounds being at least three thousand short of any equitable claim to a baronet. Miss Ward, the eldest of the three sisters, was able to make quite a fair match with the Reverend Mr Norris, a friend to Sir Thomas and the possessor of the Mansfield living, so that the Norrises began their career of conjugal felicity with very little less than a thousand a year. Miss Frances, however, managed, by marrying a lieutenant of marines without fortune or education, to disoblige her family. Afterwards, some sharp words of Mrs Norris' resulted in the new Mrs Price sending her sister a letter written in heat and haste, including such frank opinions as Mrs Norris could not possibly keep to herself, that an absolute estrangement occurred until Mrs Price, faced with her ninth lying-in, such a superfluity of children and such a want of almost everything else, could not afford to continue the sacrifice of any connexion (Austenian spelling, but I think it chic) that might be of advantage to her. She wrote humbly, wondering if Sir Thomas could possibly assist her oldest boy William to get out into the world. "The letter was not unproductive. It re-established peace and kindness. Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched money and baby-linen, and Mrs Norris wrote the letters." But within a year, Mrs Norris, who could not get poor sister Price out of her head, conceived a scheme for Mansfield Park (and Parsonage, as Mrs Norris presents it, although she manages, to everyone's satisfaction, to get out of ever having Fanny to live with her) to take in and raise Mrs Price's oldest daughter in order to relieve that prolific mother of the burden of one entire child of her brood. Lady Bertram agrees at once. Sir Thomas dithers over such concerns as being prepared to offer his niece, if necessary, the provision of a gentlewoman, whether their cousin will be a bad influence on his own, older, two daughters, and how the cousin is to be treated, given that she is not a Miss Bertram. His last concern is of worry over his two sons, fearing the possibility of cousins in love. But Mrs Norris is quite prepared for this. She points out that, if Fanny were a pretty girl and not met by Tom or Edmund until she were fifteen or sixteen, her having been raised in poverty and isolation would be enough to make either of the boys fall in love with her, but, raised together, let her have the beauty of an angel, yet she would never be more to either than a sister. Some quick thoughts on the non-highlighted letters: L2: What a piece of work. This letter reminds me of Hyacinth and Richard Bucket test-driving a Rolls Royce. When the manager prepared to accompany them is called back in to the telephone and never reappears, Hyacinth bullies Richard into driving to a hotel where Delia Wheelwright (or some other of Hyacinth's various nemeses who either won First Prize at Flower Arranging or went to one of her Candlelight Suppers and said that Kiwi fruit were lower-middle-class) occasionally goes for coffee, where she happily pretends it's their Rolls for a while. Sadly for Hyacinth, her nemesis arrives just in time to see the police arresting Richard and Hyacinth for theft. May LW2 experience something similar. L3: Now here, while I am perfectly fine with LW3 not attending the rather ghastly-sounding event, I am not prepared to let her entirely off the hook. While it is all well and good to donate what she can afford, I should think that a good friend and such a death would merit at least one symbolic gesture that is at least a little beyond what LW3 can afford. As I do not know her budget, I shall not comment on how extravagant the given sum of $250 might be. But it seems to be not outrageous, particularly compared to some of the wedding-related expenses mentioned by various recent LWs. LW3 would likely have the moral high ground if she were to donate $250 to the cause and not attend the event. I could reminisce about Chapter 10 of Pride and Prejudice, in which Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet disagree about the influence of friendship. Darcy declares that, if Bingley were prepared to leave the country and go to London and a friend said he ought to wait a week, Bingley would probably not go, and at another word might stay a month. Elizabeth considers it a great compliment to Mr Bingley. L4: Now, who, dear Prudecutor, is Erica? There is no way LW4 is going to drop Poor Cynthia (can't people just hear her calling her that, just as Mr Woodhouse refers to Poor Isabella and Poor Miss Taylor in Emma? A friend towards whom one can always feel superiour? Cynthia is much more likely to realize this and make a pre-emptive break. I disagree with the Prudecutor that Cynthia is necessarily headed for much medical misery. Cynthia reminds me of Christine Redfern in Evil Under the Sun. We get a very good look at the Poor Little Wife for who Everybody Feels Sorry while her husband carries on under everybody's nose with a Man Eating Tigress. Now if this were really the plot of a book, LW4 being on the scene would have been arranged by Cynthia and Derek, but I suppose we must acquit the couple of murderous intent. Now for L1. First off, I really wonder what on earth made the Prudecutor go so far off the deep end. Yet of everything she wrote, perhaps the most interesting is that she insists of particularizing the U.S. military. Do we really have a Prudecutor who is an advocate of U.S. exceptionalism? While the role of the military varies from country to country, it is necessary for each, and at least possible for the position to be filled honourably, even in countries of which the Prudecutor disapproves. One might also wonder about what life is like in those countries where criticism of the military is as unheard as one infers would suit the Prudecutor's taste. Why the Prudecutor should suddenly start sounding like a talk radio host and what her motivation might be others are in a better position than I to reveal. There are, one assumes, some among LW1's commenters who might reasonably fit the Pruidecutor's bill, but simply giving voice to a repellent opinion does not mean that the opiner is necessarily as full of herself as the Prudecutor and equally convinced that she is the soul of enlightenment. I shall somewhat mirror the Prudecutor here and say that I should like to think that the number of genuine jerks who do consider themselves to be the soul of enlightenment as they cast slurs far and wide might be proportional to the number of bad apples the Prudecutor claims to exist in the military, and that they all receive a similar comeuppance, although I am prepared to concede that the number of both is rather larger and the administration of justice less sure and swift. I refuse to engage with ugly comments about the cosseted and the smug of any colour state, but it seems appropriate here to thank the Submariner for his comments on this letter, which naturally carry far more force than mine ever could. It might help LW1 in dealing with individual encounters with particular evil-sayers if she could sort out with which sort of evil-speaker she is dealing. I suppose we can rule out Republican plants in her case. There are those who match the Prudecutor's portrait of the whole set and are complete and utter jerks. I shall include with them those who aren't quite such complete jerks by nature, but who sincerely believe what they spout, no doubt as fueled by some source that acts as an opposing counterpart to Fox News. Then there are one-uppers, who don't necessarily believe most of what they say or even ever examine the full implications of their words, but who just take a starting point, pick up bits and pieces, and add on from there, often to establish some sort of cred or other. And then there are those with a genuine grievance against the military. There is actually perhaps a decent riposte to Type 1B (I don't know that much of anything will work with Type 1A). LW1 might point out that this is the sort of military that various powerful people and bodies were trying to create in years of the not-too-distant past, when various changes were made in such matters as accepting applicants with various felony convictions. But there is hope! Suppose there were to be some significant change in military policy on the horizon in the near future, one that would make a considerable contribution for good to the military while reflecting positive societal trends... wouldn't that sort of thing just improve the military a thousandfold from the inside? Now, if only I could think of such an impending change... perhaps the Submariner can supply one? Similarly, what might give Type 3 a reasonable grudge? Now, this is entirely hypothetical, but suppose that hundreds and thousands of competent servicemen have been dismissed from their military positions for some ridiculous reason that has nothing to do with their ability to fill the position and whose dismissals have carried considerable cost, especially when many of those convinced have proven to be not convicted felons but among the best and the brightest. Such a person, or, say, the sister of such a person, might reasonably get a bit overheated, which might lead to its being the better part of valour to agree to disagree and not broach the subject. Now Type 2 may be the most interesting. Type 2 people are, in this case, basically liberal people who don't particularly have strong opinions or really believe much but just sort of chase in a vague direction and spout opinions which they think will increase their liberal cred. It's a sort of parallel to the behaviour exhibited by Guthrie Featherstone after Pinhead Morgan's conviction was overturned and Guthrie was savaged by the Court of Appeal. Leaving the Sheridan Club, he promptly bumped into his old clark, Henry, from #3 Equity Court, accompanied by the Bexley Heath Thespians, up to London to see Diana Rigg performing the role of Hedda Gabler. Among the BHT was Henry's comely new typist, Dot Clapton, who invited the judge to accompany the group to Bloke's for a bit of a bop. There Guthrie shuffled about vaguely attempting to keep time as he poured out his misery to Dot (only calling her Debby instead of Dottie), and the next day sent her roses at Chambers, where Claude Erskine-Brown observed the card reading, "From a judicial admirer - thanks for the bop." An innocent enough encounter, surely? But then Guthrie went to the Sheridan Club for lunch, where he ran into new member Claude Erskine-Brown, who was celebrating by treating Rumpole to a meal. Consoled by Claude about the Morgan case, Guthrie raised his spirits by recounting his intrigue of the evening previous. What cared he for the Court of Appeal when he had taken out a young lady for a bit of a bop at the discotheque? And he could just happen to inform Claude and Rumpole that many young ladies, indeed, girls, preferred an older man for a partner in every sense of the word. Indeed, he had struck lucky with his partner in every possible way. Now such a piece of exaggeration is common enough, and it all might have ended there. Alas, there was an eavesdropper in the vicinity. After Guthrie left to join his luncheon companions, Toby Fotheringhay made it clear to Rumpole and Claude that he'd overheard. And Toby, of course, proved to be a member of She Who Must Be Obeyed's bridge club. And of course he just happened to partner Hilda in a rubber, during which he was able to regale her with cheerful gossip about some judge at the Sheridan who'd been busy indulging in hanky-panky, at last recalling that the judge was named Feather-something. And of course Hilda told Guthrie's wife Marigold, who shut Guthrie out of the marital bedroom for quite some time. I rather imagine that the view of military personnel held by many people of a liberal persuasion is that they are in the main similar to Dick Musgrove in Persuasion, who was sent to sea because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore. LW1 might be able to steer such people into the more benign water of Anne Elliot's sincere regard for the navy in particular. Her admiration does not, as might be suspected of the Miss Musgroves, begin and end with Captain Wentworth. So I conclude with the recommendation that everybody read Persuasion, which would, no doubt, make the world a considerably better place. Moral: "...he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross two years before."

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