Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chapter Two ~ James Barrens

~ continued from Chapter 1 part 3; click here for where it all began: first post ; next post: click here

James Barrens was a wealthy man and always had been. He was used to getting what he wanted and always did. Cliche, perhaps, but true.

His closets were perfectly lined with five smart suits for every occasion, mood, and time of year. Three smart shirts to match each suit hung alongside, consecutively; three possible tie choices for each shirt, also hung consecutively. He chose only two pairs of shoes for each general category in order to preserve modesty, a trait he believed the general public to still recognize and appreciate (however unconsciously). One pair black, and one pair brown.

He despised clutter. It stole too much time.

On the day he met Soula, he wore an off-pink shirt under his brown wool-cashmere suit. His tie was olive silk with a simple pattern of deep red and brown. His shoes were brown. James remembered this because she was staring at him; not at his face, but his clothing. He remembered because she looked gently appreciative of his efforts and therefore he had accomplished being not too strong, yet not too lax.

She was beautiful and comfortable with herself that day, James remembered. She was quiet. She listened and nodded. She smiled appropriately. She hadn’t been walking around, gossiping, squealing, like the other girls. Others came to her. Others were looking at her. She was exactly what he wanted. He was exactly who she needed. They would get along. She wouldn’t nag him. She would smile at him, reassure him. He would stroke her hair, her cheek, her lips, and all would be right. Like the perfect suit he was wearing on the perfect day that he met her.

Ah, love. So this is what it was like. It felt better than any business partnership or super deal. And he didn’t even have to be stealthy. Well, maybe he was, just a little. Said things he knew she wanted to hear to show he understood her. Did things he knew she would appreciate, to show her that he could take care of her. Yes, he had clinched the deal. He would have to thank Frank Kinds for bringing her by.
continued from Chapter 1 Part 3; click here for where it all began: first post ; next post: click here

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chapter One Part 3 ~ Soula Granger

~ continued from Part 2 click here for where it all began: first post ; next post click here

When Soula had gotten home that day, she had checked her mailbox. Nothing. The box labeled 304 Barrens was empty. Odd, wasn’t there always something in a person’s mailbox? She held onto her keys and headed up the stairs.

She was glad her apartment was in such an eclectic building. It was much like Holly Golightly’s on the outside, the key locked mailboxes just inside the front door in the cozy entryway, and in the dark stained wood rail of the staircase. There was something simple and old fashioned about living in an older building and having to climb the stairs. The apartments, however, were more modern and open here, which was a wonderful thing, and there were lots of windows; she loved the light.

James’ choice in apartments for her was one of the things she loved about James. It said something about him that you wouldn’t notice at first glance. She saw beneath the suit and tie, the slick hair, the manicured nails, the money. He knew she’d love it, he'd said so when she told him she did; this meant he understood these things. If he knew she would love it, then he must have loved it too. He loved her, after all. Not a time went by when she took the steps that she didn’t think about this part of him. It’s why she would always enter her home with a smile on her face.

There was a stack of mail waiting for her in front of her door. She thought this to be overtly odd. Perhaps the mailman had put the mail in with someone else’s by mistake, she wondered whose. There was no note to say. She looked around. Everything was quiet and normal.

continued from Part 2 click here for where it all began: first post

next post click here

Chapter One Part 2 ~ Soula Granger

~ continued from Part 1
Part 3

In the mail that day came her first magazine subscription. Her selections had been handpicked at the café on the corner, next to her new building. It had taken quite a bit of browsing, but narrowing down wasn’t too difficult a task.

Newsweek covers were too unpredictable. The New Yorker was too pompous, James had said so, hadn't he? Utne Reader was too off key, besides which they smelled newspapery. Reader’s Digest was for old people. And for those whose homes smelled of old quilts and pot luck leftovers; the type with Publisher’s Clearing House return envelopes, always neatly stamped, sitting quietly on the table by the door, ready to be personally handed to the mailman.

No to health and sports magazines, they sent a subliminal message that their incumbents were in need of a way to relax or were not as healthy or shapely as they ought to be. No, definitely not. And Martha Stewart Living, while it was tidy and organized, gave entirely too much information; one could get “too caught up”.

Better Homes & Gardens had a new look and nice shape, it would do nicely. She flipped through and, ah, yes, there was the loose card, ready to be plucked.

She then settled on The Economist which seemed rather scholarly; it would be perfect on the bottom and just out a bit. She leafed through the magazine looking for the loose ordering card. Didn’t they all have one? Perhaps this copy was defective. Or perhaps she wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the loose advertising. She smiled at this thought, and as she did so, her eyes, shifting up, glanced over the magazine rack, and met the gaze of the barista boy who burnt his hand on the espresso machine. Soula felt awkward for his clumsiness. Hoping not to cause him any further embarrassment lest he noticed her stare, she averted her glance, and went back to her search.

She opened the next The Economist and the next. Well, she would have to tear this one out. Not very economical of them, she thought. She hated the sound of tearing paper. It sounded violent and angry. For a brief moment she thought of moving on to a subscription that didn’t require so much effort. But rather than give up on the idea she chose it anyway, creasing the perforations then tearing slowly so that the sound was more of a detachment, and tucked it into her purse.

She scanned some more.
Fine Gardening was a nice magazine to wait with on the couch. She was right, the card slid out before she had a chance to flip; a good omen. And Architectural Digest, boring, but a page turner, and often expected in nicer homes. These she knew had a loose card because she had scanned them many a time before at the houses of her father’s acquaintances.

When she reached the door to leave, she stopped for a moment. She had chosen only four magazines. That wouldn’t do. There had to be an odd number. It would be a designing faux pas to group together an even number. It wouldn’t be pleasing to the eye. It wasn’t natural. There were 365 days in a normal year, not 364. There were seven days in a week, not six or eight. Even children knew that. All childhood games relied on there being some sort of coherent unevenness, to make things fair. Soula finally settled on National Geographic. She could feel worldly while glancing at impressive photos from all over the world. She really ought to have thought of this one first.

continued from Part 1
next: Part 3

Monday, January 26, 2009

F.B. Profifle ~ Random Question

In the dream where you show up to school naked, why do you never go swimming?

Because I usually end up in the meat isle at the grocer and it's too cold!

Top photo: Pandora's Box

Chapter One Part I: Soula Granger

next: Part 2

"My name is Soula,” she said. “Soula.”

A wisp of her hair had wrapped itself around her necklace. Pollen, from the flowers she had decided on a few moments before, powdered the tip of her nose and upper lip and gave an extra glow to her fancy-free smile.

It had always been this way, she fancy-free, and everything else clinging to her. The boy in the flower shop was no exception.

He was cute, she thought. Lean and strong. Such pretty eyes. So gentle and sweet. It had never occurred to her, as perhaps it should have, that those eyes would follow her into the rain, watch her sundress as it wrapped around her breasts, belly, and thighs. The rain was coming down slow and warm.

She had forgotten her umbrella and his eyes were glad.

The flower shop had been packed that morning. Soula Granger had spent over an hour picking out flowers for her new apartment. “The perfect finishing touch,” she agreed with herself. There were no more boxes to unpack. All her furniture was arranged. She had even bought new bed sheets. Her proudest purchases, by far, were the carefully picked new books for the coffee table. And she even subscribed to a few magazines. As for any of the reading material, it was all for show, of course; it was doubtful whether she would ever pick any of it up to read, not even out of curiosity. Leafing through did not constitute reading.

Fruits were chilling in the refrigerator. Glasses dipped in water were chilling in the freezer. The only thing that had been missing was fresh cut flowers, and she had those now. All that was left to do was to wait.

Waiting was something Soula was accustomed to doing. She found things to wait for, and did not much more than the simple task of waiting. It was one of her handpicked hobbies. She loved the luxury of it. She immersed herself in it. Feeling the passing of time impassioned her, as did ignoring it. It was another one of her care-free quirks.

When she got home, she placed the flowers on the kitchen island beside the waiting vases. She took each vase, one by one, to the sink and filled them with fresh water. At the counter she took the packets of powder and carefully scissored each open, then poured their contents into their new home. The soft crystals floated at the tops and slowly trickled into the water, one after the other. She leaned in to look as, consecutively, each vase began to cloud. With a wooden spoon, she carefully stirred until all the sand-like granules melted. When flowers and vases were in position, Soula looked around and, quite pleased with herself, she took in a satisfied breath.

She then went to the bathroom. There, she looked into the mirror and smiled. It was one of the things she liked to do… smile, into the mirror, at herself. She checked her teeth. Perfect, but it wouldn’t hurt to brush them again. She looked into her eyes and made them sparkle back at her.
next: Part 2

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Floor Wounds ~ F.B. Fiction

The faux marble stick-on tile in the upstairs bathroom has kept unusually well. I've only had to pull up and replace one tile. It stands out, however, unusually white, but only a trained eye could spot it. It too is accumulating the abuse of foot traffic on the slightly uneven floor. There is a tell-tale tile, next to the one I replaced, which tells of the floor's slight dip here, the cause anyone's guess. A stifled crack quietly split the tile in two one day. When, exactly, no one knows. The first tile removal had been such a chore, however, that I decided to cover the other with a bath mat, every once in a while letting its wound breathe with the stripping of the mat, like a no-stick band aid. With the bath mat, its permanent scar is hidden, most times forgotten; fresh white gauze on a flesh wound. Yet with each removal of the mat, I can't help but hope that this time it worked. This time the scar will have dissipated into a long ago memory, a wound that I helped heal. But it never does.

photo resource:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Top ten ways to get called in by the school social worker

Top ten tried and true ways to get called in by the school social worker if you're a parent:

  • Bring complimentary Scotch and Pepsi to PTA meetings. Tell them it's what you give your son to "calm him down" when you just want some peace and quiet.
  • Smack your gum and clip your toenails while waiting in the office for no one in particular. You have to smile sarcastically at the secretary and then roll your eyes at her every once in a while for this to really work. when she tells you "the rules", snap your gum loudly and wiggle your foot at her face and shout, "It's a free country! I can do what I want!"
  • When someone says something you don't like on curriculum night, throw your hand up, shake your head, and say, "Please! I encourage you to keeps your thoughts to yourself! I'm assuming you're not going to be teaching my child this crap! What kind of BS is this? This is worse than the PTA meetings... Shut up and sit down!... Shall we take this outside?! Shall we?... Look here, I encourage you to stop telling me to settle down. You are being highly irregular! Must I call your mother?! Oh, you do need a good spanking! I encourage myself to give you one right now! Let me through!... Let me through!"
  • Bring your freshly groomed Maltese to pickup. Put her down and shout, "Kill, Cujo. Kill!" at the top of your lungs and start screaming.
  • At drop off, block the door of your child's class room until AFTER the bell rings so everyone but your child can be tardy (this must be done at least 4 or 5 times in a trimester to work).
  • Bring your beach blanket and bikini and sunbathe on the playground at recess. Don't forget to ask the school yard matron to rub some suntan lotion on those hard to reach spots for you like a good sweetie.
  • Walk down the hallway with your cell phone to your ear and vehemently repeat, "Yeah, but I didn't inhale! It doesn't count!"
  • When the teacher sends a little red note home with your child about what they are "encouraging" your child to do, respond with a large white note telling her off COMEPLETELY!
  • Encourage your child to stage a protest when they don't get an "I was so good today" sticker but the goody two shoe little biddy next to them does.
and my favorite:
  • Sing "I'm bringing Sexy back" like you really mean it on the school library reading stage. (Don't forget to strip it off).
Hope you enjoyed. If you've got any you'd like to share, let us know. Or if you have top ten subjects you'd like us to create a list for, let us know.
This has been an F.B. Publications broadcast.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Cleaning day again today. I feel like I say this all the time. Where is my maid? Conchita. She has a drinking problem and hates flying. I therefore send her on flights several times a year. She sneaks into the vip room for drinks; how she does this, I wish I knew. Since she is no where in sight, I find that I have to clean alone, again. Damn it all. She is probably under a couch somewhere, passed out. I shall play another trick on her today. I shall create a crime scene. Tear a curtain here, throw a stained knife there. Perhaps paint bloody drag marks on the floor leading... to somewhere hidden. Where she'll be compelled to look. Where I can come up from behind and frighten the bajesus out of her. Ah, the joys of cleaning day.

Webkinz World No No

This will happen to your Webkinz World pumpkin garden if you leave it unattended for too long.

Here you see 500 Kinzcash gone to pot.
Very sad indeed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Perfect California

Right now I’m in California. At last it feels like it. Sun, breeze, temperature. No beach ocean smell, mind you, but that’s okay. It would be nice really being there. … I never thought I’d say that, not in a million years. It would get boring to me, or so I always thought and certainly not worth the money. Yet here, in my mind, I find myself.

It must be the new white robe draping over me. Plush. Pottery Barn =). Monogrammed. Special gift. The lavender oil. I never did shower it off. I never even cared that there wasn’t a bleachable white towel under me. I didn’t care that I’d have to wash all the sheets today.

Quiet would be good. No TV, laptop set aside. No phone. Not even a book in sight. No escaping into another world. Just experiencing the one I’m in. Yes, just the sun and the breeze and … a view. I’d like a view. A view as far as the eye could see, over the city and to the ocean.

For that matter, I suppose Italy or France could have done. But, not today. Today there’s something about California. Knowing there is hustle and bustle in the midst of my view. Knowing there are people worrying about what they look like, what they’re going to do, who they might run into, how much money they’re going to make or not make. But not me, I am apart and above it all. Today this is where I am.

Windows. Lots of big seamless windows that let the sun flood in, casting cozy, private shadows. Perfect for a cat. Perfect for me. The perfect California.

A feeling of poshness, yes. A feeling of money doesn’t matter but I’ve got it, yes. A feeling of having nothing to do for the day. A feeling of being alone because of choice not because of circumstance.

This is where I am, in my fantasy, quiet and private. The cars rushing by to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ have no clue. The men repaving the neighbor’s front walk have no clue. The joggers and their dogs, have no clue. Neither do the children, they’re in a world of their own. None of them know. None of them see what I see or breath the air that I breathe. It’s all mine. For the next ten minutes, it’s all mine.

Frieda's Senior Overview 2005 ~ On Two of My Favorite Novels

Reading is a major part of my life. Without books I really don't know what I would do with myself. Just as I would not know what to do with myself if I could not write. It is not just "the story" that excites me, it is the who, what, where, when, and why that interests me. It's the sweat of the writer and the trying to figure out which excersize he or she is using to keep him or her so shapely that gets my blood boiling. So every once in a while, I find myself on the serious side of life.

I ran across my senior overview (2005) that I had written on the narrative techniques and designs used by Virginia Woolf in To the Lighthouse, and Paule Marshall in Praisesong for the Widow, and felt compelled to share it with you. Because as you all know, writing is more than simple pen to paper or fingers to keys. There is life and thought behind all of our blogs. All our processes are different, but in the end, we have all, meaning to or not, made concious decisions before hitting "publish post".

Now, this is not a funny piece. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anything humorous here. And yes, it is lengthy and many of you may simply scan it or come back to read bits now and again. But these are two of my favorite books that I, for one reason or another, find myself going back to time and again. If you haven't read these books, perhaps you will sometime soon give them a try.

Narrative Excursions

When comparing and contrasting the narrative techniques and designs used by Virginia Woolf in To the Lighthouse and used by Paule Marshall in Praisesong for the Widow, the simplest but one of the most important aspects to look at is how the authors establish structure and theme for their readers. The importance of these aspects is due to the fact that how the aspects of structure and theme work together shapes the readers’ view of the plot and characters. Style is consequently an integral part of the narrative techniques and elements applied in these novels, as it provides depth and meaning to each; the styles chosen and used by Woolf and Marshall not only allow them to influence how their readers perceive each novel, but also allows them to provide readers with a distinct experience of a similar theme. Therefore, in order to understand how Woolf and Marshall impress some of the major literary techniques and elements essential to the novel form, it is necessary to examine in detail each author’s choices, and uses, of the main titles and sections, as well as to carefully observe the opening paragraphs or general prose and their contributions to the narrative. The first look will be at Woolf’s novel, To the Lighthouse.

Wolfe’s title sets the reader up for an excursion to the lighthouse. We do not know which lighthouse, or exactly where it may be, but all the images that a lighthouse brings about in one’s thoughts are set into motion; we are automatically to assume that this novel is to be about an excursion to this lighthouse. Woolf has set her theme into motion before the cover has been opened; the reader is already involved in Woolf’s story and the title becomes the beginning of her narration.

Upon opening To the Lighthouse, the reader is provided with a table of contents listing three sections: “The Window,” “Time Passes,” and “The Lighthouse.” These three title images, and senses of time, both still and moving, guide the reader through the novel and give him or her, a sense of how the narration will be played out. We can assume, for example, that, as readers, we will be given some sort of window view, time will pass, and something of importance will be found out about the lighthouse in question. These simple titles are crucial to the narrative because of their simplicity, and because they are so specific, focused, and universal. These titles are specific because there seems to be a clearly definable beginning, middle and end. They are focused because they seem to the point and literal. They are universal because a window, time passing, and a lighthouse are such general and common terms to use. Although the terms that can be applied to describe these titles are contradictory, there is a definite sense of knowing provided by these titles and a looking forward to something simple and perhaps even relaxing. This is what the reader is given as a first impression, as a lure to go forward and meet the assumed plot and unknown characters. However, Woolf also has something a bit different in store for the reader.

Keep in mind that Woolf has not advertised falsely, thus far. A reader’s interpretation of titles is shaped by past reading experiences and expectations; there is, after all, no particular image that Woolf is portraying, merely suggestions of tangible things and of ideas, both of which are open to a personal response. In this way, Woolf seems to be allowing the reader’s inner, personal self to form his or her own tacit relationship with the novel, just as the characters she creates form their own relationships with the world around them. So, in this way, it seems, the reader becomes one of Woolf’s characters. Theme, plot, and characters are already beginning to silently unfold, even before the reader gets to the body of prose.

Woolf’s prose offers the reader a great many things. It takes the reader directly into moments, dialogues, memories, and inner thoughts; within each, hopes, fears, needs, general wants, and personal desires, all culminate in a mass that is a sort of continuous structured chaos. The chaos, here, takes shape largely from Woolf’s narration of characters and her portrayal of time (flowing from external events to internal thoughts). What seems to structure and organize these chaotic elements are Woolf’s variations of style which present both time and character, and determine how a reader follows the pace of the plot; her combination of styles seems to stand as a guide for how she is relating the story to the reader. Wolf’s use of omniscient point of view is therefore inevitable due to the fact that it allows her narrative voice to flow in and out of the thoughts of all the characters she may present.

In the opening paragraph of “The Window,” the reader is placed at the end of a mother’s dialogue to her son, taking the reader directly into a moment. (Note that there is no opening quotation mark.) Woolf’s style, here, further impresses the idea that Woolf is continuing a narration that has already begun in the main title. The dialogue is simple, it is motherly and caring, promising yet foreboding (note the use of the word, “if”), “Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow… But you’ll have to be up with the lark’ ” (3). The reader at this point, (so far having felt the definite structure of a novel,) would not necessarily suspect that the narration would go into a lengthy, stream of consciousness paragraph which needs to be more carefully digested than the first; a paragraph with much less ending punctuation and divisible preciseness than initially offered.

This switch from a simple style to a complex style steers the reader in the appropriate direction, so that he or she inevitably looks at the series provided in the second paragraph as an eye scanning a room, with everything coming in at once in order to be processed and separated later. The reader is only slightly eased into the narration; the first sentence of the second paragraph is lengthy, but seems normal enough. Then comes the second sentence in this paragraph, where the reader learns that the son is six, that he comes from a long line of people who, “cannot keep this feeling separate from that” (3), etc., that the boys name is James Ramsey, that he is “…transfixed…” (3), that he is “…on the floor cutting out pictures…as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss” (3). The imagery is a lot to take in one sentence. But this is just as it should be, because it is fully representative of mindful thought. There is no break, just as there would not necessarily be a definitive break in one’s mind if one were speaking or thinking; one thoughtful fact flows into another. And then a break comes with a simple sentence of five, small words, “It was fringed with joy” (3). This small sentence becomes a momentary mental time for reflection, a brief pause, given by the fact that there is timely end punctuation; a single, simple thought. And then as sudden as the tides in the sea, the narration heaves back into the active mind, comma after comma, connecting facts which link to each other as in a stream of conversational thought. Then the chaos is interrupted by Mr. Ramsey speaking briefly and succinctly, “But… it won’t be fine” (4). And so the narrative goes, in and out, thoughts and interruptions, perhaps Woolf’s way of connecting the movement of the sea to the movement of the narrative. The structure of this paragraph also mirrors and plays upon the domestic urgency of the presented situation juxtaposed with the inner urgencies felt by both Mrs. Holloway and her son James.

Marshall presents Praisesong for the Widow with a different direction in mind, choosing the same elements and techniques but in a distinguishable fashion and form. For example, Marshall’s theme pertains to a multi-layered excursion just as Woolf’s does, however, where Woolf is upfront and obvious about the literal layer of her theme, Marshall unfolds her theme with clues and pieces, beginning instead by introducing character and plot. The plot of Marshall’s novel unfolds as the novel’s main character deals with conflict, and it is she whom the reader sees directly in the title; impressed further by her choice of third person limited point of view, recreating how the main character in this novel experiences the world with an authoritative approach.

Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow, is similar in many respects to Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and can be analyzed in much the same way. The title Praisesong for the Widow expresses that this novel is about a widow, and beyond that it is a song of praise to her, a religious glorification to her. Praise and song are combined to make a whole word, where normally these words would remain separated in our language. As the title further suggests, there is another way to look at “Praisesong:” it is an African-American term for the kind of praise circle walk that Avey will recall and will later perform. This title now has an ethnic flair that must be navigated by those unfamiliar with the roots of this culture, and re-explored by those familiar to it, just as Avey navigates her own physical, mental, emotional, cultural, and ancestral roots. Noticeably, there is a coming together of the two interpretations, making a new whole; a unique yet traditional song which brings together the old and the new and which remembers what mustn’t be forgotten. The way in which the reader initially interprets this title does not necessarily affect his or her preparedness for the novel. It seems that what Marshall has been unmistakable about is the immediate introduction of her main character “the Widow;” as for “Praisesong,” she leaves room for discovery.

There is a question that arises when noting that the name Widow is used as the reader’s first impression of the main character. By doing so, Marshall impresses upon the reader a general term left open for interpretation, just as Woolf does in her titles. In this way, Avey becomes any widow, stepping outside of the boundaries and stereotypes of, for example, color and race. With this title, however, Marshall cannot necessarily, overstep the connotations and baggage that comes with her title: old age, loneliness, and sadness. The only hint as to her ethnicity thus far comes in the word Praisesong. Without that, she is a woman with no name from any time, a woman labeled Widow.

Just as in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, subtitles guide the reader through Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow and give the reader a sense of how the narration will be played out. Marshall has divided her novel into four sub-sections: “Runagate;” “Sleeper’s Wake;” “Lavé Tête;” and “The Beg Pardon”. The titles do not leap out as simply and succinctly as “The Window”, “Time Passes”, and “The Lighthouse”. The reader may have to take in the feeling or idea of what these titles may mean at the moment, and unravel their meanings as they are discovered within the prose. Marshall also uses quotes which coincide with three out of four of the section titles, offering the reader a foreshadowing, and a deeper insight on the chapters to follow as well as something to focus on while reading the body narratives that follow (a feature not found in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.) These quotes make clearer what the section titles do not, and they serve as a transition into the narrative prose.

When Marshall’s titles are looked at outside and separate from the scope of the body narrative, there is a private and esoteric elusiveness that suggests one can only come to an end by starting at the beginning. Note that unlike Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, the reader will not find a table of contents. The reader is instead plopped into the story one page at a time with no knowledge of what lies ahead -- mirroring Avey’s journey, filled with unknowns, traveling through each moment, in the now, or in the past, but not the future. Just as in Woolf’s novel, the reader here becomes a character in the story.

When looking at the section titles and the quotes that follow, the reader is first faced with a runagate: a vagabond, a fugitive, a runaway. Until one begins to read the body of this section we really don’t have much of a clue as to what we may be faced with. We do however get an initial feeling of discomfort and uneasiness due to the criminal connotations this word provokes. The first quote that transitions between the section title and the narrative body enhances this feeling, and adds the sense of a specific known journey, “. . . and the night cold and the night long and the river/to cross . . . –Robert Hayden” (8). But there is a second quote from Amiri Baraka, “I wanted to know my mother when she sat/ looking sad across the campus in the late 20’s/ into the future of the soul, there were black angels/ straining above her head, carrying life from the ancestors,/ and knowledge, and the strong nigger feeling . . .” (8). This second quote brings in a whole other aspect not suspected, which carries on the vagabond theme as a “wanderer” ( This wanderer is now a more subdued being, whose wanderings are for the purpose of finding ancestral knowledge, based on and led by a single memory. When looking at Marshall’s opening paragraphs, the reader sees that it is Avey Johnson who is the runagate, the vagabond, as “noiseless as a sneak thief” (10). She is the fugitive, the runaway, literally running away from the fifteen hundred dollar cruise and her friends, and metaphorically as the reader comes to see, a fugitive from herself, and a vagrant to her departed husband. Avey is caught right in the midst of it all, “With the strength born of the decision that had just come to her in the middle of the night, Avey Johnson forced the suitcase shut on the clothes piled inside and slid the lock into place, taking care not to make a sound…” (9). It is a private and personal moment for Avey Johnson, sudden and elusive. This moment is elusive in that Avey does not truly know why she is leaving or what will happen, and neither does the reader; for this reason, that same uneasiness the reader feels when faced with the title “runagate” resurfaces and the reader becomes aware that Avey too feels like a runagate, sneaking off in the night, not wanting to tell her friends. Based on the novel’s title, the reader can assume that Avey is probably the widow mentioned and the reason for her packing in the middle of the night is of great importance; the reader assumes she is preparing for a possible journey of the self and is eager to follow her every action and thought.

Next comes “Sleeper’s Wake”, the wake of someone who is asleep, not one who is dead as one may first assume a wake to be for, “a watch held over the body of a dead person prior to burial and sometimes accompanied by festivity” ( There is in this last definition a direct correlation to the title Praisesong for the Widow, as a wake brings to mind songs of praise and widows. However, wake could also mean “an annual holiday or vacation” (, in which case the reader can interpret this title as eluding to taking a holiday while one is not fully conscious or awake, which is precisely what Avey seems to be doing. It can also be suggested that another possible meaning could be a sleeper’s awakening or a waking up. In this section, (if looking at “Sleeper’s Wake” in its most literal definition,) we see Avey does literally sleep, and she does literally wake up; added to that, her fitful sleep allowed for something quite dramatic and crucial to happen to her, and perhaps it is partially to this part of the plot which Marshall is eluding to. During these moments, quite a few definitions of wake can be interpreted. For example, how the dreams which wake her in her sleep “arouse or excite feelings and passions”, and the way that she is made “aware of” much about her life in her dreams, as well as in the ways she feels “the consequences of” her life’s “events” as if they were a wake or aftermath of a storm, ( The life she lived before and since her husband’s death is waking within her and from this waking, she goes through a metaphorical waking and an awakening of her own; she was not living her own life prior to this journey but now she is waking up and filling with life, awakening, beginning to realize what she had suppressed for so long, leaving the waves in the wake behind her.

It is only after reading the body narrative of this section that one can see the significance of all the aforementioned definitions and that Marshall is doing the same thing that she does by combining praise and song in her title to make one word; for within the body narrative she has combined various definitions into one. We do see that this section contains many paths that lead to the same destination, for example a personal wake for the widow and the wake that she is ultimately led to, known as “The Carriacou Excursion” (75).

Note that this particular section is the only section not supported by a beginning quote or set of quotes. There is no guidance or foreshadowing beyond the section title “Sleeper’s Wake”. We are tossed into this section with nothing to hold onto but what has come before, just as Avey has nothing to hold onto at this point as we meet her in a restless, fitful, draining sleep that begins on the balcony of her hotel room where the reader, like Avey is bombarded by dream after dream of memory after memory. There is no time to pause or ponder, or even to explain or foreshadow; perhaps this is because a quote here would place a pause where Marshall’s prose seems to demand a fluidity that mirrors the tension and urgency that takes the reader from one section into another.

What follows “Sleeper’s Wake” is “Lavé Tête,” a French phrase. Lavé means “lava” or “watery, washy, washed-out” (, it is also the past tense of laver, to wash, and tête means “head” ( This gives a possible anointing or baptismal image when combined. Perhaps one might even go so far as to assume that it represents the low tide around the island (as lava brings to mind volcano which brings to mind island and washed out brings to mind the tide.) One might even presume some sort of bath or shower or clearing of the head or mind. Whatever the possibilities, the reader still may not necessarily come closer to a definitive guide as to what exactly “Lavé Tête” may specifically imply in terms of theme and plot, and so the reader turns the page and finds two quotes, one in Haitian, one in English, both with the same message, “Papa Legba, ouvri barrière pou’ mwê. –Vodun Introuit, Haiti” (148), and “Oh, Bars of my . . . body, open, open! --Randall Jarrell” (148). The first of these quotes breathes a deeper insight and focus for the simple fact that within its translation (open the barrier for me) barrière can, figuratively speaking, imply a social/cultural barrier (, as well as a gate and a tollhouse for the collection of taxes on goods. These possibilities are a crucial concern within this section as we witness the major transformations that are about to come upon Avey both mentally and physically. In this section, Avey’s wants to get to the island, she wants to get back to her roots, to Tatem, to her ancestors, she wants the dirt floor, she wants to escape, she wants her body to stop aching, she wants to sit, and she wants a drink of water. But there is something she must do to get to any or all of these and that something is to let go, to purge her body and her mind, to empty the contents of her purse, to take off and let go of her hat, and to open herself up. Yes, even the seat did not come without begging, and the coconut water with “a little Jack Iron from Carriacou” could not be arrived at had she not sat down with Josephs and opened up to him (174).

In this section Avey’s mind is being emptied, purged, readying itself for the final stages of the metamorphosis that is about to occur, “It was as if a saving numbness had filtered down over her mind while she slept…. Or that her mind, like her pocketbook outside, had been emptied of the contents of the past thirty years during the night, so that she had awakened with it like a slate that had been wiped clean, a tabula rasa upon which a whole new history could be written” (151). Later, the reader sees one of the meanings of lavé come into play in connection with Avey’s experience on the boat, an experience which finally washes her out completely. The section title and transitional quotes now take shape and have a deeper meaning for the reader. They can be thoughtfully realized and reflected on, finally, as a main theme of this section; but only after reading the body narrative can this thoughtful realization and reflection take on this full effect.

Finally we come to “The Beg Pardon”. The reader can assume that it is at least on one level, related to that “shrill unintelligible song” that is to be sung on ones knees “at the Big Drum”, the same “The Beg Pardon” sang by Josephs that brought Avey’s dizziness back (165-166). “Down on my knees, oui, at the Big Drum, begging their pardon for whatever wrongs I might have done them unbeknownst during the year…You best beg them, if not they’ll get vex and spoil up your life in a minute… The Old Parents! The Long-time People! ... We must give them their remembrance.” There is finally some sort of familiarity in a section title, a common ground with no speculation which the reader can clearly visualize and feel certain of. For this section, the reader knows that there is going to be some sort of asking of forgiveness. This section title possibly makes a connection to the first, “Runagate”; perhaps a begging pardon by the vagabond, fugitive, runaway will take place. It also offers that there will be a satisfactory ending; especially so when considering the final transitional quote provided by Marshall, “’Ultimately the only response is to hold the event in mind; to remember it.’ –Susan Sontag” (212).

(Note again that, as previously mentioned, Praisesong for the Widow does not provide the reader with a table of contents, instead the novel unravels page by page and needs to be read in this fashion, so that it is up to and including the point a title comes into the narrative that the reader has usable knowledge to apply to his or her understanding of what this element’s message may be.)

Going into the body of this final section, there is a real feeling of structure as well as a feeling of knowing for the reader, perhaps even more so than there is when going into Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. The reason is that up to now, when noting only the main and section titles and their placement in the novel, there has been an overall culmination of uncertainty for the reader in deciphering the titles and any juxtaposing quotes. This is most probably due to Marshall’s reflection of the fact that in the narrative prose itself, the main character has up to this point had her uncertainties, herself. However, once we read through the body narratives and get to “The Beg Pardon”, we can see that there is as much clarity given after all, in this section title as there is for Avey in the body of the novel. And yes, there is definitely that private and personal moment, sudden and illusive, mentioned earlier which finally comes to fruition by the end of the novel, and which becomes wonderfully public and aware.

Like Woolf’s use of mid-style, Marshall’s use provides two different effects by contrast, allowing the narrator to ebb and flow, lie calm, or rage like the waves. Marshall’s narrative, carries an elusiveness which diminishes by the end of her novel as one can see in her layering of theme, plot, and character – her narrative is elusive either because she assumes the reader will know her meanings or because, and more probably, as stated previously, she is leaving room for the reader to experience the unfolding of the journey that unfolds in her novel. As suggested in the main title, Marshall seems to want the reader to do a bit of seeking out the truth before a full image or thought can be fully provoked in the reader’s mind.

Woolf establishes structure and theme well; but it is up to the reader to figure out what is going on once he or she is there, engulfed with stream of consciousness prose, short breaths here and there when one mind stops for a thought or switches to another’s. While Woolf sets the reader up for a mood, linear movement, and an excursion in a seemingly precise, and traditional formatting, it is the narrative prose which sets the reader into unexpected, mindful chaos; the reader needs to crack the code and make the connections the characters are trying to make in a world that seems to be held together and neatly organized.

Woolf and Marshall have obviously done quite a bit of careful planning. In fact their own careful planning must have been great excursions of their own. One tends to take for granted the simple things offered by an author, and it is often times those seemingly simple things that prove to be the most complex of all.

Works Cited
Marshall, Paule. Praisesong for the Widow. New York: Penguin Books, 1983.
Microsoft. Microsoft Office Online Services. 2004. 8 Dec. 2004>.
Microsoft. Research Task Plane. 2003. 7 Dec. 2004>.
Webnox Corp. Hyperdictionary. 2004. 27 Mar. 2005
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. New York: Harcourt, 1981.

My Rainbow ~ What's yours? Let Us Know!

Your rainbow is slightly shaded green, orange, and white.

What is says about you: You are a contemplative person. You feel strong ties to nature and your mood changes with its cycles. Those around you admire your fresh outlook and vitality. Others are amazed at how you don't give up.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Mrs. Ramsey’s Presence in “Time Passes” ~ An Unexpected Frieda

“Time Passes” begins the journey into memories and the changes that have accrued since the day, long past, that began Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse; when the children were young, and Mrs. Ramsey kept everything just so, and visitors sat down to dinner; when Mr. Ramsey had his fits, and the trip to the lighthouse was not a probability. Nature had made its way into the house, taken over, now, where Mrs. Ramsey would never before have let it. Mrs. Ramsey’s world, the world she had created for everyone who had been a part of the household, was no longer in tact. Only faint reminisces remained, which were “too much work for one woman” (p.137) to fix, as (now very old) Mrs. McNab puts it.

It is through this trying to fix things up for what may be the family’s final gathering that the memories begin to peek through, and show themselves in bits of old handkerchiefs, tea cups, the old grey cloak that had been worn by Mrs. Ramsey when she was gardening, “(‘Mrs. McNab fingered it’)”(p. 136), bringing it, and in turn it’s pervious owner, one may say, to life so many years later; just as she does while she dusts and straightens “over the bedroom wall, up the dressing-table…”(p.136).

Different from “The Window”, where people and moments are looked at as though through a window, in “Time Passes” those people and moments are looked at telescopically, as if trying to look closely at something that is far away. The eye of this telescope fits, in this section, over Mrs. McNab’s eye, and as she daydreams of Mrs. Ramsey, Mrs. McNab delights that “She could see her now, stooping over her flowers; and faint and flickering, like a yellow beam or the circle at the end of a telescope, a lady in a grey cloak, stooping over her flowers, went wandering over the bedroom wall, up the dressing-table, across the wash-stand, as Mrs. McNab hobbled and ambled, dusting, straightening”(p.136).

Even the physical and present beam from the lighthouse is not spoken of in this way, described instead as entering “the rooms for a moment … its sudden stare over bed and wall in the darkness of winter, looked with equanimity…”(p.138). Nature, and the present, offer dinginess and chaos to a once perfect world. Butterflies and poppies and the sun are no longer so lovely. It is the mental memories of Mrs. Ramsey’s pleasantries and habits of times past, even when dressed in grey, that slowly wash over the home and offer the glimpses of when her own life fed life into the world they all once new.

Scrabble Inspirations ~ Luged

"I luged. I luge, now. I'm a luger."

What Bob would say if Dr. Leo Marvin had vacationed in Meadow Lakes, Alaska instead of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Did You Know ~ Frieda Says Check This Out

Greg Lynn: How Calculus is changing architecture

Something to watch. I found it way cool. 18 minutes long by the way, but fascinating stuff. You may never look at things the same again.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting a Good Night's Sleep

A couple of years ago, our oldest son decided to take advantage of the fact that our youngest son could not yet read and write. He was tired and trying to get to sleep, but his younger brother was apparently being a pest. So he jotted a note on a piece of paper and gave it to our youngest and told him to go give it to us. It read, "I am not letting Zaphron sleep." Very clever. Needless to say, we had a great laugh.
Thankfully we had a camera nearby.

Postcards ~ Dear Jasmine

Dear Jasmine,

Luke said he got bit by a snake yesterday. He says it was a rattler, but there are no poinsonous snakes in Main. I think he just wants the attention. I think he wants me to move back in. Why would I want to move back in if there are rattlers slithering around?

Your friend,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Imagine Me, A Hot Commodity ~ Mom Almighty

I have decided that I am a hot commodity. If you’re a mom, you probably are too. And if you don’t know this about yourself, get to knowing this, and fast. Your life will be a lot easier when you admit to this fact.

Ever notice that nothing can get done without you being there? Like, physically there? This is unfortunate, and I do mean unfortunate. I wish that I could tell my children, “Okay, I need to get the vacuuming done today. So You, make sure there’s nothing on the floor. You, make sure stuff is put away where it belongs. You…” and that they would actually do it. Without my being there. Without my repeating myself. Without my hair graying and my feet swelling as I stand there like a fool expecting it to actually happen. It’s NOT going to happen, at least not in the near future I can tell you that. Not if I’m not there with them, holding their hand every step of the way.

My children are all fully capable of getting things done on their own. Imagine four people doing the job of one. Things could not only get done, but could get done fast. You and I both know this. I mean really, they each have their special talents. They each have extra energy. Not to mention superpowers galore (at least They think they do). I really could be living in a spotless world at every moment of every day. So could you. And so could they.

Apparently, they don’t care about this simple fact. Apparently, it’s Someone Else’s mess. You know Someone Else, that seventh child you squeezed out right before all the messes started happening? Someone Else is invisible, so it’s easy to look them over. I do it all the time. Please, like we were born yesterday.

Honestly, though, it goes beyond their not caring. They need us, and things like this are just one of the many things we have to take a deep breath over and accept. We’re a hot commodity. Us moms know this deep inside, we just really don’t want to admit it when just being able to put our feet up in a nice clean room, that we didn’t have to clean ourselves because we didn’t make the mess in the first place, is so within reach we can taste it. You’re tired, your beat, your tits are still sore from 8 years ago. Who can blame you? Certainly not me.

So, as much as we dislike it, okay, hate it, we need to be in the middle of the cleaning up and doing it with them. They learn from us, after all. Our attitudes can change their attitudes in a moments notice. No matter how old or experienced they are, it gives them a bit of joy to know that mom is still there for them and she always will be. And we all want our kids to be happy. It’s our number one wish, isn’t it?

Bottom line? It’s not because they don’t want to. It’s not even because they can’t. And it’s certainly not just because they enjoy making you mad and not listening to you. It’s because when you’re there, everything feels normal. You’re a hero. You’re their comfort. You’re, well, Mom Almighty. And you make everything a-o-kay.

ps. If you have kids that do it all on their own without a fight or without having to tell them, let us know! We’d love for you to rub it in. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Postcards ~ Dear Kate

Dear Kate,

Just opened a jar of Handy Mom Chunky Meat 'n Giblets Stew, for dinner, you know? And you'll never guess what was in there! A severed finger of all things! How much do you think I can get for it? Going to the store to pick up more tomorrow! Maybe I can finally go on that all-inclusive cruise. Gotta go. Talk to you soon.



Postcards ~ Dear Susan

Dear Susan,
Joy be to Jesus. Life at the convent is more than I ever hoped. Finally no bras or panties and no one knows!
Blessed be,
Sister Mary Katherine

Postcards ~ Dear Bob

Dear Bob,

Saw your wife through the window. Did you know her tits jiggle when she vacuums? Anyway, thought I'd say thanks and wanted to know if you'd like to go out for a beer sometime.

Your neighbor,

Ten Topics of Interest You Might Find in a Frieda Babbley Magazine

  • Go Bald in Just 10 days
  • So you think you're all that
  • Horoscopes for the pessimistic
  • How to get your panties in a bunch ~ the true fashion statement
  • Shemut gossip*
  • How to get your throat slit on your day off**
  • How to prank call your neighbors and get away with it
  • So your 40, now what and so what
  • The proper way to wear a mu mu
  • How donkey's can help
*See Dyslecsics' Dictionary for more information.
**See Dyslecsics' Dictionary for more information.

Scrabble Inpiration ~ Confides, Stick

We have it on good note that Jessica Langley, long time squirrel huntress, confides in tarot before each outing. Sources say Langley will not even think of entering any squirrel infested yard without first consulting her Bohemian Gothic Tarot since her dastardly confrontation with stick throwing squirrels in the Quim's front lawn. We are told she will not be taken off guard again.

Profile Question ~ Topic: Hair

The hair from your last haircut... what would it say about your new style?

"You nasty sod! Now look what you've gone and done!"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tribute to My Vain, Self-Centered Leader Self

Steph and Don's Wedding

"You like me, you really like me!"

Sasha's birthday party.

Borders Books! Exciting!

Oranges at the grocer. Two for one dollar.

Aren't we just gorgeous!

Two dogs, a mom, and a little girl.

When life offers lemons, I tend to pucker.

Okay, if you can kareoke better than this, I'll eat my shoe.

The future George Lucas and proud mom.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Harry Hippopotamus Wears a Hat

My Harry is a hip old pot,
My Harry is a mess.
My Harry wears his hairs in braids,
My Harry gives me stress

I once caught Harry living large,
Deep in the muddy marsh,
A capuchon upon his head,
A tattoo on his arse.

My Harry is a hip old pot,
My Harry is a mess.
My Harry has a wild streak,
He's a hippopotamus.

Frieda's "Not Looking" Run On Sentence

What do you do when you're sad because you've been looking at someone who hasn't been looking at you and you're hoping they finally will but they haven't been thinking you've been looking at them and they tell you first so it's your fault even though you have been and you don't know what to do and life isn't so funny and hopeful anymore and you're better at writing than talking but you really don't know what to write?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Eat This Dr. Phil ~ Looks Like There's a Little Star Wars Application That Knows Me a Little Better Than You Think You Do

In your face Dr. Phil. According to facebook's quiz application, "What Star Wars Character are you really?" I am most proud to let you, my devoted readers, know, that I am.....


How cool is that?

I am: "Yoda, the most powerful Jedi and a strong fighter." I am "wise and willing to help anyone." I "also have no fear and," I, "care about others and not," myself.

Go me-ee! Go me-ee! Go me-ee!

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What Dr. Phil Thinks About Me ~ Personality Quiz Gone Terribly Awry

According to a Facebook application, "Dr. Phil's Personality Test", I am a "Vain, Self-Centered Leader." No matter how many times I took the test, and believe me I took it as many times as I could, making alterations of all the truths that were truly me.
For example, I sometimes sleep flat on my stomach, I sometimes sleep with my arm under my head, and I sometimes sleep sort of curled up (especially if I am cold).

At times I have one or more hands on my hips when speaking with someone. Akimbo I believe is the word. Other times, especially if I am very close with someone, like my sister for example, I will physically abuse her as I speak. Or, in Dr. Phil's words, do I touch or punch the person I am speaking with? And sometimes I have my arms folded, usually this is for balance but you have no room to offer explanations.

The offered answers to this questionnaire application are cut and dry, with no room for explanation or "well, sometimes I do if..." Apparently they take this into consideration and offer you the ability to take the test again if you are not satisfied with your outcome; knowing all the time exactly what they think they know about you. So beware! They've got you tagged at the door. "Bad result? Click here to take the quiz again," my dying foot!

Seriously, who would be satisfied with an outcome like Vain, self-centered leader? The leader part I could see being sought after. Hot tempered, sure. But vain? Self-centered? Not a chance. At least not for this little missy! Damn right I'm going to take the quiz again. Like an idiot savant.

Who am I kidding? Others see me as, "someone they should 'handle with care.'" I am seen as "vain, self-centered," and as someone, "who is extremely dominant. "Others," may, "admire," me, "wishing they could be more like," me, "but don't always trust, " me, "hesitating to become too deeply involved with," me.


Eat my grits, Dr. Phil! I'll prove you wrong with the next quiz! You'll never see it coming.

Reminisce the Past

So it is the new year. I'm setting into it just fine as I've had a lovely headache for two days now, which is NOT, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you view the matter,) due to a hangover. The lovely sound of children crying more than usual fills the air. And I have been lucky enough to partake in more pizza and carryout food than most feel bearable.

My home could use a bit of work in the cleaning department. My little doggy, Seraphina, has, on more than one joyous occasion, entertained with tissues, some used, some not. She does know how to throw a party, I have to give her that much.

The New Year has brought with it an artistic streak, which my children have relished in wholeheartedly. Walk into any room of the house and you will find grand masterpieces. You will also find an artist's tools and discarded scraps on floors, couches, chairs, tables, counters... Unfortunately, like most artists, their motto is creativity before cleanliness. I thoroughly understand this, but please.

I have no New Years resolutions. I never do. However, I do have quite a few things that I am thankful to reminisce upon from years past:


All things I would never want to be without.

Random Questions

Your hand has been replaced by a rubber stamp. What does it say?

"I want my hand back!"

You can find this question/answer conversation in my profile page. The question was generated by blogger. The answer by me. Rather fun, those random questions. Have you enjoyed your random question today?
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