May 9th, 2016


Lila, by Marilynne Robinson

Identifying the second paragraph of the third section (there are no chapters) was not completely straightforward. The various sections are set off with blank lines between them; the third section thus set off has only one paragraph! But the second section is split at one point by a horizontal line, at the top of a page, so I'm taking that as a sign that it's meant to be a section break. The second paragraph following the horizontal line, you'll be fascinated to know, is:
There was an ache in the child's throat because she wanted to say, I guess i left my rag baby back there at the house. I guess I did. She knew exactly where, under the table in the farthest corner, propped against the table leg like ti was sitting there. She could just run in the door and snatch it and run off again. No one would have to see her. But then maybe Doll wouldn't be here when she came back, and she didn't know where tat house was anyway. She thought of the woods. It was just an old rag baby, dirty from her hand, because mostly she kept it with her. But they put her out on the stoop before she could get it and the cats wouldn't even let her touch them and then Doll came and she didn't know they would be leaving, she didn't understand that at all. So she just left it where it was. She never meant to.
This is the latest in the sequence of novels which started with Gilead and continued with Home - not a sequel as such, because all three books cover the same time period, but seen from another perspective. This time it is the turn of Lila, the much younger wife of the clergyman John Ames who was the central character in Gilead. It's an extended character study of someone finding stability and not quite daring to trust it, with some extended flashbacks explaining who she is and where she has come from, in the leisurely detailed implicit way that we had in the previous books, but this time finding an authentic voice for Lila in words that feel like hers - much more authentic than, say, The Red Badge of Courage. A very good book; interesting that Robinson waited until the third in the series to give a female character the central spot.

30 Days of Shakespeare: Day 17 - your favourite speech

Looking back on my posts so far, I realised that of the plays I know well I have yet to post about Julius Caesar. Fortunately this question is a jolly good excuse to turn to that play: Mark Antony's funeral oration for Caesar, turning an initially unsympathetic crowd against the conspirators, is a masterpiece of oratory.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
Here's Damien Lewis performing it:

I'll give an honorable mention to John of Gaunt's speech in Rochard II, especially as performed by Patrick Stewart:

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