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Running from Animals in Terror

Today you have the pleasure of reading my ramble about how I believe I developed my fear, and general disapproval, of animals. If you are pro-animals and/or keep pets. And you love those pets. More than the people in your life. I suggest you stop reading. Because if you keep reading, you may come to hate me. And I don’t handle being hated very well.

Now that a few of you have left me (I didn’t really want those readers anyways) I’ll share my theories about animals and my hatred of such creatures.

The Fear of Dogs

When I was little, our neighbours had mean dogs. I think they were Rottweilers or German Shepherds or some other breed that is legitimately scary and from which it is appropriate to run in terror. Especially because these were not particularly well-trained dogs. I have two memories of these dogs, both involve grownups running from them in terror (which was the appropriate reaction to these evil creatures). The first involves the fact that these dogs would often take pleasure in jumping over the hedge that separated our backyard from our neighbour’s. Once, when our babysitter was over, we wanted to go play in the backyard. Unfortunately, our neighbour’s scary dog was hanging out in our backyard. The babysitter frantically ushered us back inside. Panic and pandemonium ensued.

If this had not been enough to scar me for life with regards to dogs and teach me that running and screaming is always the appropriate response to encounters with any dog (big or small, mean or nice) there was another incident involving my dad. Please note that this incident has probably been dramatized, melodramatized and sensationalized in my memory, but regardless, this flawed memory has come to shape my life and who I am as an evil dog-hater. The story (as I remember it) is that my dad was taking in the empty garbage cans from the curb, and he was attacked by one of these dogs. Thankfully, he ran away before they could do anything to him. I don’t think I actually witnessed this, but I do know that I definitely overheard something along those lines and it taught me that those dogs truly are scary — if even my daddy was afraid of them — and that when you see a dog, you should run away — because that’s what my daddy did. (Note: I just fact checked this story with ‘Daddy’ and he denies that it ever happened. I’m sharing anyways, because I’ve been under the conviction that it did for my entire life and I really do blame this ‘memory’ for my fear of dogs.)

Also, I am not just scared of mean dogs. My juvenile mind generalized this fear and couldn’t distinguish between the mean dogs and the nice dogs. They were all evil and I used to run in terror from my grandmother’s stupid little Bijon Frise (may that stupid little dog rest in peace). I’ve had to reign in my terror over the years, as my mother threatens to disown me when I embarrass her by literally running from dogs screaming. Despite my attempts to repress my fear, I still cannot see the point of keeping a dirty, smelly dog in your house. Dog owners and their strange habits (referring to their pets as their ‘babies’, talking to other dog owners while walking their dogs, buying snow boots for their dogs, etc.) will never make sense to me.

The Distaste for Cats

Hopefully this section will be very short, because even just thinking or writing about cats gives me the heebie-jeebies and makes me cringe, but I don’t think I can write a comprehensive post about my hatred for animals without reference to these icky animals. I believe I inherited this irrational fear from my mother, and then multiplied any distaste she has for the animal by about ten. She, at least, has a legitimate reason for her hatred — she’s insanely allergic to cats. (I wish I had such a good excuse and I often tell people I’m allergic so that they keep their vile creatures away from me.) Again, due to my juvenile logic, I assumed that if my mother was allergic to cats, and she didn’t like them near her, they must be a very unique brand of evil, to be avoided at all costs. As with dogs, when I see cats, running and screaming tend to ensue. However, unlike dogs, who like to chase you when you run screaming, this is a very good technique for repelling cats as my shrieks of terror tend to terrify them and they go away.

Before I move on to animals that nauseate me less, I want to make a literary connection, as this was supposed to be a bookish blog. While Anne Shirley and Emily Starr (the heroines of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery) are very much like myself (and I often wonder how LMM wrote a book about me about a hundred years before I was born) there are a few differences between me and these girls. The key difference is that they both tend to adore cats. I was so conflicted when reading these books, because I had my high and mighty values of feline-hatred to maintain, but LMM is just such a great writer that at one point I even remember sympathizing with Emily’s missing of her cats. This sympathy, however didn’t last long. LMM proceeded to write for two consecutive pages about the ‘loveliness’ of the freaking cats, and those were the only pages in an LMM book that I felt compelled to skip. I didn’t, because I didn’t know how long it would last and I was afraid of missing any of the good stuff, but just know that I felt physically ill as I skimmed through those pages.

Back to the Horses

After my literal experience involving getting back on a horse I don’t recall going horseback riding again for quite a while. Of course, I also don’t remember the original experience (I just know that story that my mom told — it happened when I was really young) so it doesn’t necessarily follow that I didn’t get on another horse between then and the next story. The next story happened at an apple picking farm, when I believe I was in my early to mid teens. We went apple picking one fall day with family friends of ours and besides the horse story I’m about to tell, the only other thing I remember about this day is a black cat among the apple trees that sent me running and screaming. After the running and screaming, there was a merry-go-round, which had real horses (or probably ponies) tethered to a contraption to make them walk in a circle. I was too afraid to try this ride, but our family friend’s child did and proved that staying firmly on the ground had been the right decision. Basically, the horse she was on got spooked and jumped up on its hind legs (much like what had happened to me when I was little). This just reconfirmed what I already knew (about the unpredictability and terrifyingess of animals) and I vowed never to get on a horse again.

But then I did. And it’s a great story about how I ended up having a great time horseback riding along the beach, but that doesn’t really fit in thematically with the rest of this post about how evil and scary animals are, so I’m not going to talk about that experience. Mostly because such experiences (with positive, cliched, happy endings) are rarely as entertaining as experiences that go horribly, hilariously wrong (which is also why there won’t be a post about prom, because everything went boringly well). I will end off with telling the begining of the positive horseback riding story though, because the beginning is pretty humourous. I finally got up on the horse, after much coaching, coaxing and crying and I was very proud of my accomplishment, so I stopped crying and even began to smile. Then I had a minor panic attack and started screaming and crying all over again because “OH MY GOD!! THIS HORSE IS MOVING!! IT JUST TOOK A STEP!!! PLEASE, PLEASE LET ME GET OFF!!”

So, how do you feel about animals? Do you sympathize and like me a little more now? Or do you think I’m an awful person for not loving animals? If you fit into the latter group, you should have stopped reading when I suggested you leave in the first paragraph. So it’s really your fault.

The Blue Castle

In between all the sleeping in, paddle-boating and swimming with my friend up at the cottage last week, I found some time for reading material beyond our million or so back issues of Seventeen, People and Vogue. I brought up The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery, who’s also the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, (which is the best series in the entire world, just by the way) and it was the most perfect book for reading by the beach and pool.

Firstly, it’s by LMM, so obviously it was predetermined to be awesome: nice, cozy writing style; fulfilled expectation of a happily-ever-after ending; lovable heroine and quaint, early twentieth century, rural Canadian setting. Okay, fine, depending on the kind of person you are, that might not appeal to you and even if you’d like this book, that description probably makes it sound very lame. But it was awesome and those are the qualities that I loved about it, so if you have a problem with that, it’s your problem, not mine.

Photo credit: Goodreads.com

The difference between this book and the other books I’ve read by LMM, is that (as you probably know) her other books are geared towards a younger, more child based audience (which of course doesn’t get in the way of my enjoyment in the least) whereas this is one of LMM’s only books for grownups. This means that there is drinking and drunks and even *gasp* an illegitimate baby. While nothing in the book is quite so shocking or even unusual to a twenty-first century reader, it felt just a little bit scandalous to read about such things in an L. M. Montgomery novel. I say this because, (for the uninitiated or the grownups who haven’t hung out with Anne Shirley lately), in one of the later Anne books (I believe it’s Anne’s House of Dreams, but don’t quote me on that one) she has a baby and the narrator describes the baby as being brought by a stork. Yes, you did read that correctly, a stork. This grownup book also tiptoes around such subjects, but much less so, and you have to bear in mind that these books were written in a different time and the woman writing them was married to a minister, so I’m sure she felt restricted in what she could write.

That being said, part of LMM’s charm is the classic, from-a-completely-different-world-but-the-people-are-still-the-same-as-they-are-now feel. And after studying and annotating serious (although still enjoyable) books for my Literature exam for days on end, this was just the right break I needing before coming home and doing the same with different books for my English exam.

And now that my English exam is over (as of yesterday at noon!!) I get to move on to new books over the summer. I already have a somewhat substantial to-read list, including Romeo and Juliet (although I may just watch the movie, if that isn’t absolute heresy), anything by Alice Munro, something by Willa Cather (who was recently recommended by the best English teacher in the world), perhaps The Great Gatsby, more by LMM and more of Louisa May Alcott’s easily-read, happily-ending classics and so on.

Any audience suggestions? I want a nice mix between cozy, happy endings to be read by the pool or beach and brilliant literature that you cannot be a complete human being without having read.

I’mmm Baa-ack!

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, but I’m back and hope to stick around. It’s been a crazy past two weeks, with grade 12, and hence high school as a whole, coming to an end. First there were all sorts of assignments that needed doing and an exam before classes had even ended — because, evidently, my Literature exam wasn’t important enough to bother squeezing into the exam schedule.

My last day of high school was two weeks ago, and after that all my peers went on the grad trip to washington, while a friend and I hung back and decided to spend a few days up at the cottage instead. Because we’re individuals, who don’t feel the need to conform. And we wanted to have fun in our own way not in everyone else’s. Our trip was a lot more fun, if you were wondering. Our peers spent 24 hours on a bus, just getting to and from Washington, so that they could spend barely 72 hours there. I can’t (read: don’t want to) calculate how many hours we were up the cottage (because that would require math, and, having washed my hands of grade 12 Data Management, I don’t plan on doing math ever again, if I can help it), but we were away two days longer then our friends were in Washington, and that’s not even taking into account the time they did and we didn’t spend on a bus.

Of course, that’s just talking about quantity, which wouldn’t be worth anything without quality. They spent their three days ‘exploring the city’ and going to baseball games and amusement parks and museums.

“But what’s wrong with that?” you may ask.

“Nothing,” I may answer. “If you like that sort of thing.”

But my personal preferences, when it comes to going on trips and having fun, involve sitting by the pool or beach, out in the sun, with books and magazines and a friend or two for company. Which is exactly what I got.

The view from our beach chairs — I’ll take that over the White House any day — is anyone with me on that?

We had way more fun than our peers seemed to have and in our age of Facebook, we got constant updates on all the ‘fun’ they were having. And by fun, I mean about a million or so pictures of the same people, in the same places, making faces at the camera. My friend wisely commented that when you’re taking so many pictures, and they aren’t for sake of a photo-op, (which the vast majority of these pictures aren’t) it’s because you’re bored and trying to find something to fill the time.

My friend and I took only took a handful of pictures and there were only two times when they cameras on our phones came out over the five days we were there. One day, we went into ‘town’, because it was too chilly to relax by the pool, and we were fully aware that those pictures were taken out of (slight) boredom and besides, the taking of them was what made our little ‘expedition’ so much fun. Because it turned out that we went to the wrong ‘town’. They have all these cute, quaint little stores where we should have gone, but instead we wound up in the ‘town’ that consisted of a single main street, and half of the stores along this three block street were convenience stores. A girl can only drink so many slushies, after all. So we found ourselves hanging out at the playground of the elementary school. In a totally juvenile, lets-go-hang-out-on-the-swings kind of way, not in a lets-go-be-delinquent-and-make-graffiti-all-over-the-jungle-gym kind of way. I feel that this clarification is important, based on all the graffiti that was already covering this jungle-gym. I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.

There was another photo my friend took of me lounging by the pool. I took it so that when I got back and saw people from school and they showed me pictures of all the ‘fun’ they had on this school mandated (read: lame) trip, I could show them my picture and tell them it was me, sitting by the pool, not giving a damn.

As for reading material, I read through L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. It was great, but I’m saving it for another post. So stay tuned if you want to hear about that. Of course, I’d love it if you stayed tuned even if you don’t want to hear about it, but then, if you don’t care for LMM and Anne Shirley, I’m really not too sure why you’re reading my blog in the first place — we’re obviously not  kindred spirits.

 

Literary Baby Names

I’m the kind of person to whom a rose by any other name would NOT smell just a sweet. Like Anne Shirley, “I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” (Although, in all honesty, while thistles are the ugliest flowers I’ve ever seen, I really like the word thistle and before I had seen what a thistle was, I thought thistles were very picturesque weeds…)

Gwyneth Paltrow with daughter Apple Martin

So names are evidently very important to me. They’re your first impression, your identity; a girl named Cece must be very different than a girl named Caroline (right?). So, as a writer (kind of), I spend a lot of time (perhaps too much) picking names for my characters. I’m also the kind of girl who started planning out my entire life at 12 and had started naming my (as of yet, fatherless) children when I was six. I’m a little conflicted though. On the one elbow, I think it would be very cool, and unique and all, to have a daughter named Celery, or, you know, Apple. But, on the other, I think people who inflict such names on their children are not only ridiculous, but also cruel.

That’s why naming characters is so much better than naming babies. Because, firstly, characters aren’t babies anymore when they’re born, they can be as old as you want, and you already know they’re whole personality and can name them aptly based on that knowledge. Although, when it comes to real life babies, some people (myself included) believe that what you name a kid affects their personality and they fit into the name, rather than the name innately suiting them. So, there’s that argument for baby names over character names, because by that logic, character namers have to work backwards, which can, sometimes, be harder. A second reason character naming rocks, is that, unlike when you name a baby, you don’t run the risk of doing irreparable damage that even years of therapy won’t fix (unless that’s the effect you’re going for, and in which case, you won’t feel quite so bad when it happens, nor will you be the one who has to pay said therapist’s exorbitant fees). Lastly, you tend to work on whatever it is you’re writing for a while, and you can change you character’s names as much as you want, until you find just the right one. In the real world, changing your baby’s name isn’t all that easy (so I’m told … as of yet I don’t actually have any offspring to speak of). Presumably, once your baby’s registered into the system, you can’t just decide that, “maybe Gardenia is a stupid name, perhaps we should have gone with Tulip”.

But then there’s literary names. In my humble opinion, it’s a little awkward to give your characters a name that’s famous from another book; then the reader is probably aware of the other character’s personality and will remind them of that character when they should be falling in love (or hate) with your character. I think it would only work if you’re purposely alluding to that other character for some reason or another, or if it’s a popular name that you happened to read in a book, but the character you’re ripping it from isn’t famous or anything.

So, I was recently thinking about what I would name my brood of unborn children, you know, if I wasn’t restricted by this thing called reality, or weighted down by my future husband’s opinion or concerned with inflicting emotional damage on said children.

Picture this little girl, times five

I think it would be really adorable if I had quintuplets (that would be five babies born all at once … we’re suspending disbelief here, okay?) and I named them Elizabeth (because Elizabeth isn’t my real name, just a pseudonym, not being  egotistic or anything), Jane, Emma, Catherine, and Marianne. And they’d be adorable little blondes, and I could dress them in adorable little dresses. And they could have a big sister named Meg (like in Little Women) and she could be my one brunette, who looks like me. I can just see it now, they would introduce themselves and follow-up with, “yes, we are, in fact, all named after fictional heroines, and yes, our mother is, in fact, a cruel, cruel psychopath.”

So, what would you name your kids, if you weren’t bound by reality?

Favourite Books

Here’s a list of my favourite books so far, including when I read them and what led me to do so.  (This list starts in grade 10, because that’s when I discovered “real” books — I was a very literarily deprived child and my favourite books before then were along the lines of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and The Clique series *shudder*, but that was before I was enlightened by a certain amazing English teacher, whose class I’m no longer in this year 😦 )

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — although, the author should really be obvious and if it isn’t, I suggest you get off this blog and go read it, because if you haven’t read this book, you don’t deserve to read my blog. I read this in Grade 10; it was my first love, and by that I mean the first book with which I was in love, not the first love story I ever read. And then there was also my one-sided love affair with Mr. Darcy (*cough* Colin Firth *cough*). This was the first of many recommendations from the aforementioned English teacher. Click here  to hear (er, read) more.

Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Mansfield Park  and Persuasion I read these in quick succession of each other (in that order), shortly after reading P&P (i.e. the end of grade 10 until the beginning of grade 11). I started S&S after the same English teacher (not-so-subtly) hinted that it was time to move on from P&P. She also suggested Emma; the remaining three, I found all by myself. Mansfield Park and Persuasion were my least favourite, and Emma and Northanger Abbey both come in a close second to P&P. I may write posts elaborating on each at some point in the future.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was during the beginning grade 11. I remember not loving it and it being very different from what I would normally like, but I was unable to put it down. The recent movie adaptation did no justice to it, but made me realize how brilliant the book is (by comparison to the very un-brilliant movie) so I really want to re-read it when I get a chance. Can you guess who recommended it?

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, which, I don’t know about the rest of the world, but is pretty big here (in Canada) and everyone (who is a girl…) reads this book when they’re younger. Unless you’re me, in which case you’ll manage to make it until you’re sixteen before reading this book and the subsequent 7 in the series. I don’t know how I lived so long without Anne Shirley —  she and I are like the same person. I will definitely be expanding further about this series and the movie adaptation which was also incredibly amazing (seriously, it made me fall even more in love with Gilbert Blythe than I already was). Again, best teacher in the world told me that would would be my favourite book in the world — she was right.

After that was the Emily of New Moon trilogy, also by L.M.M. and which maybe shouldn’t be on my list of favourites, but is here anyways because it influenced me and my writing (Emily’s a writer). This was a follow-up recommendation, from the same teacher. (Are you starting to see a trend?) The final book in this series once kept me up half the night, worrying about Emily and her various suitors —  I think I get a little too involved in the books I read…

I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne just before and during final exams. It was also recommended by my teacher — whose class I was actually in at the time. This was such an amazing, thought-provoking book and I just wanted to discuss and dissect it, because the ideas it presented were so intriguing and presented so beautifully. I was one of those psychopaths who actually wished I could learn about it in school and so we could have class discussions and worksheets and write essays about it. I was able to do the latter point this year, as I was able to choose it for my independent study novel. It was not quite as wonderful as I thought it would be (perhaps because I couldn’t focus on its brilliance and what intrigued me about it, but had to compare it to a movie in a slightly contrived manner — although, based on my grade, my teacher seemed to think it was a good essay).

Then this past summer I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, which, shockingly, was not recommended by this teacher! This was an amazing, fun and easy read and I read it in my brand new hammock, under the gorgeous sun, which, of course, added tenfold to my  enjoyment. (And yes, it does get hot here in the summer and no, our houses don’t melt, because they’re made out of bricks, not ice). Less well-known, are two sequels called Little Men and Jo’s Boys which were both really cute (although they seemed to target a younger, more male audience, which didn’t detract from them, but I thought it was a little weird…) For more on my discovery of this excellent novel click here and here.

Which brings me to this year. I recently finished reading Regeneration by Pat Barker for my Studies in Lit class and it is one of the best books ever. It takes place in a mental hospital, during the first World War and it is far more “ugly” (if you know what I mean) and Postmodern than what I normally like, but my former English teacher (you know, the one I’ve mentioned about a thousand times in this post) told me I’d like it and (prepare yourselves) she was right. It was just really, really fascinating and I suggest you read it, because it kind of changed my life (okay, that may be a slight hyperbole, it isn’t Jane Austen or anything, but still).

Currently, I’m working my way through Adam Bede by George Eliot. It is amazing and I have no idea why it isn’t more popular (perhaps it’s been overshadowed by Middlemarch, which, the same English teacher (who, of course, told me to read this) claims isn’t even all that great! So, an appeal to the internet, I think you should all go read this book and realize how great it is, then tell all your friends and give it the popularity it deserves, because seriously, IT IS BRILLIANT. You know, in a occasionally-makes-me-want-to-throw-it-on-floor-because-the-characters-are-being-so-real-and-therefore-annoying kind of way.

Well, that was fun. Check back for elaborated posts on each of these books, coming soon to a computer near you. So, what are some of your favourite books?

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