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Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Little About Reading and Another Digression

Some comments on Elizabeth of the German Garden, the biography of Elizabeth Von Arnim:

Although there are periods in her life that are sad, Elizabeth has a remarkable resiliency, and when things are going well, her appreciation of life and of nature reveal an optimistic personality. The description of her days as noted in her journals or her letters may appear to be commonplace, but her view is much more uplifting and appreciative of sun, warmth, birds, and other aspects of nature. When I read her journal comments taking such delight in some of the most everyday events--a pleasant walk, the scent of flowers, a conversation with friends, reading Keats' letters or one of her favorite poets--I'm aware of how much I take for granted and feel that acknowledging the pleasure and beauty of little things must be a constant bolster to the happiness equation.

An especially lovely time in her life was spent with friends at the Castello, a medieval castle on the Italian Riviera, that she managed to rent in April of 1921. "Heard the Castello is mine for April. Much joy," reads a March entry in her journal. It was here at the Castello that she began writing Enchanted April.

Also in 1921, Elizabeth meets her second cousin Katherine Mansfield for the first time and forms a special friendship. They see each other frequently, and the Murry's (Katherine's husband was John Middleton Murry) take a cottage near Elizabeth's chalet in Switzerland. The two women are very different in their outlook on life, and Katherine is gravely ill by this time, but they muddle through their difficulties and establish a strong bond.

John Middleton Murry, Katherine's husband, made the following comment to Elizabeth when her novel Vera received some negative reviews: "Of course, my dear, when the critics are faced with a Wuthering Heights written by Jane Austen, they don't know what to say." It was a remark she treasured, and I can certainly see why. (Note to myself- Can I locate a copy of Vera? Semi-autobiographical story of E.'s unhappy marriage to her second husband, Francis Russell)

De Charms includes a number of excerpts from letters that Katherine Mansfield wrote to Elizabeth, and I'm making another note to myself to look for these letters because they are so charming in their phrasing and so very human.

Here is a portion of one of Katherine's letters to Dorothy Brett in October of 1921: "...I am sitting writing to you in the balcony among teacups, grapes, a brown loaf shaped like a bean, a plaited cake with almond paste inside and nuts out. M. has forsaken it to join our Cousin Elizabeth. She appeared today with a bouquet--never smaller woman carried bigger bouquets. She looked like a garden walking, of asters, late sweet peas, stocks, and always petunias.
She herself wore a frock like a spider web, a hat like a berry--and gloves that reminded me of thistles in seed."

And a comment in one of her letters to Elizabeth about reading James Joyce: "I wonder if you will like Ulysses. It might have been a wonderful book. But although there are pearls[,] the size and blackness of the swine makes it hard to gather them. I shrink from Joyce's mind. He makes me remember all I choose to forget, and he seems to consider as important things that have no existence in a work of art."

Later, Elizabeth writes to John Murry, asking them to come stay with her for a while and gives her opinion of Ulysses: "...Hugh Walpole lent me Ulysses--I didn't get far. I see it is a wonderful thing, but nothing will induce me to read a thing--anything--even God's first novel, if it bores me. Ulysses made me feel as if I were shut up with a lunatic who was doing what the courts call 'exposing himself'. I got as far as the detailed account of the man's morning (?) visit to the lavatory and then boredom so profound fell upon me that I went to sleep."


While in Houston, I bought two pairs of bamboo socks, and they really are the most comfortable socks I've ever experienced. These socks are great for anyone, but especially for athletic purposes and for diabetics. Made of spun bamboo fibers, they offer an eco-friendly alternative to cotton: “Bamboo is the new has all the properties that you physically want out of cotton, plus some. Bamboo is more antibacterial than [other fabrics like] cotton or wool, which are very absorbent and hold moisture in. Because Bamboo wicks moisture away, it’s great for your circulation and skin.”, September 25, 2005.

I'm thinking about ordering a few other articles, like this crew neck tee, when I order more socks. If the socks do such a great job keeping my feet dry and cool, the tees should also be a great addition to my wardrobe. They also make yarn for knitting, and although the colors are limited, I like them.

Here is another source that mixes bamboo fibers with cotton. For those of you in Canada, yet another source.

This line of bamboo clothing was completely unknown to me, but obviously, I'm behind the times. Must catch up.


  1. Reminder for me: get a copy of this biography and Enchanted April. "Acknowledging the pleasure and beauty of little things must be a constant bolster to the happiness equation." My husband and I were recently discussing that very concept. I firmly believe that those who appreciate the nuances of life and the beauties of the world, both natural and man-made, are happier people.

    I've never heard of bamboo being used in clothing. I have a bamboo cutting board and a couple bamboo spoons that I love. Something else wonderful and new to check into. Thanks for the heads up, Jenclair. And the beautifully written review.

  2. I've had the occasion to use bamboo towels while guesting with friends, and they are quite lovely.

    My sister is a fashion designer and says that bamboo is gaining in popularity as a construction material, so availability, selection, and price should all be improving in the future :)

  3. Booklogged - I'm really enjoying this biography; it is so interesting to look into the life of an author, especially one who used so much of her own experiences in her writing.

    The bamboo socks are so light and cool that I'm afraid wearing ordinary socks will always be a compromise from now on.

    Kim - Oooh, bamboo towels! I didn't see any advertised on the sites I visited and will have to look for them.

    I had looked at bamboo flooring a couple of years ago, and the price intimidated me.

    The clothing seems more in line with typical prices (well, except for Walmart where I actually buy most of my socks). Although, it is hard to beat Walmart prices, now that I know the difference in the way the bamboo socks keep your feet cool...price matters less. :)

  4. Bamboo clothing is new to me, but then, I am not really one to pay attention to the latest fashions! I might have to look into it more closely at a later date.

  5. Kailana - It was new to me, too, and I stood at the vendor's table feeling the socks and trying to imagine them having come from bamboo. They use the term "bamboo silk" and although there is no silk, the socks have a softer quality than normal. Strange stuff to have come from bamboo...

  6. I really must read more by Elizabeth Von Arnim. I actually found Vera on bookcloseouts so maybe they still have it!
    I'm bookmarking the bamboo clothes link.

  7. Again, I'm enjoying your thoughts on the biography.

    I bought bamboo socks for my toddler and they are the softest socks she has! I'm going to have to get some for me, now that I know they make stuff for grown-ups out of bamboo--thanks!

  8. I'm going to have to read more EVA, too. I will definitely have to look for the bio now. I had wrote it down last time I was here, now I will have to start looking for it! Her comments do make you think that you need to pay attention to the little things in life and appreciate them more.

  9. I can't remember who it was who had recommended the biography to you (Perhaps Melanie?) but it was clearly a great suggestion! I'm tempted myself.

  10. iliana - From the comments in the biography, Vera should be interesting. Von Arnim's marriage to Francis Russell was definitely not a happy one.

    gentle reader - The bamboo fibers seem to be almost a miracle fiber--good for the wearer and good for the environment! I'm certainly going to be purchasing more.

    danielle - To pay attention and acknowledge...Elizabeth did both. I'm going to try to be a little more attentive and verbally appreciative. I think you will enjoy the biography, especially since you read Elizabeth and Her German Garden.

  11. Jill -- It was, indeed, Melanie of The Indextrious Reader who mentioned it when I complained about being unable to locate a biography. Melanie has also recently connected me to her sister's website with some great materials for dementia patients. Her sister has also written a book on activities for A.D. patients that I put on my wish list at Amazon.

  12. I recall reading that bamboo is one of those materials being researched for more practical uses because it's one of the more sustainable natural resources. But I didn't know you can wear them.

    The hooded sweatsuit looks like something I would want.

    Too bad they don't ship out to Asia. Oh well. Will look around when I travel.

    Thanks for the tips

  13. Orpeus - Sustainable and rapid growth, so crops can be harvested much more quickly. The socks would be particularly good for all the walking one does on trips like this, sorry I didn't discover them earlier. When are you leaving?

  14. Vera is EVA's 'serious' book and is a superb portrayal of an abusive, not physical but mental, marriage. It has just been reprinted by Virago.