Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The End of an English Major; or, I Don’t Wanna Talk About Sex Anymore

Here I am, four years older, at the end of my English major. This is, like, a big deal for me. I knew I was an English major when I was, like, fourteen. After reading The Lord of the Rings (Go on. Laugh, laugh, laugh). Then I realized, like kindred spirit, Julie, sometimes says, "You can do this? You can read books for four years? That's a major?"

Imagine my shock & surprise. Imagine my glee. After tearing through Little House on the Prairie, any and all Nancy Drews, the Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, coffee-table books, appliance manuals, how-to pamphlets, anything with words— after devouring all this throughout my awkward youth and adolescence, I could hardly believe I could continue such fantastic (read: useless) exploits as a college student. I was on-board since the 9th grade.

Also imagine my shock & surprise upon finding out what an English major really is. Because an English major, it turns out, is actually not a reading major. Nope. An English major is actually a history major. And a psychology major. And a rhetoric major. You'd be surprised how very little reading of actual literature goes on across four years filled to the brimmest brim with writing and reading of theory and criticism. Yummy, no? Not what I signed up for. Not what I expected as I zealously (and with great relish) checked off the little box next to 'English' on my Villanova online Common App (the very phrase which, by the way, still brings a tremble to my feeble heart). Trading in my Dickens for Derrida? Horrifying. Limerick poetry for Foucault's Pendulum? Slay me. Book reports for analytical criticism? Seriously? Does anyone like this crap?

The answer is no.

Okay, maybe not no. Of course there are people who eat it up. Like professors, for instance. I can think of a certain few who foam at the mouth when it comes time for this kind of thing on the syllabus. But come now. Friends? Who really sits on the beach and reads through a Philippa Gregory thinking about (nay, listing?) the possible New Historicist critiques? Does any casual Austen reader observe the romance of Darcy and Lizzie Bennett with a feminist eye? Or am I the only one who sits down to read a good Graham Greene without pulling out my notes on post-colonial critique? Forgive me.

And how about the lingo? You can fill a whole class period with words so obtuse as to be almost meaningless. Be real, how often do you drop the phrase double-bind in standard conversation? 'Hey, Pete, would you mind passing the rolls when you extricate yourself from that double-bind there?' Haw haw haw. I can hear the roars now. Or 'the subject' and 'the object'? Maybe you should try referring to your BFFs in such intimate terms.

Being an English major made me forget what it means to read. Do you know that feeling? That feeling when you finish a chapter or a whole book, like you've just been pulled out of water, like you've been so taken in by the movements between characters that you forgot to breathe? Being an English major has effectively beaten out of me the wonderment at a well-written book, or a finely-crafted sentence. It has taught me that, in the classroom, your feelings or reactions to a medium that was invented for instruction and entertainment absolutely do not matter.

But of everything my English major has taught me, the most important is this:

Sex is everywhere. Every author in every era consciously decided in every book that every theme should somehow be tied, in some way, to sex.

Sex.

Sex, sex, sex.

SEX.

Oh, what was that, British survey class? There's sex in Beowulf?

What is T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land about? Sex. What motivates Agamemnon to try to kill Achilles? Sex. Why does Edna walk into the ocean at the end of The Awakening? Sex. Why does King Arthur lead a conquest on the continent of Europe? Sex. What is Janie's big revelation about in Their Eyes Were Watching God? Sex. Really, it should be titled Their Eyes Were Watching Sex. I have written about it, I have thought critically about it, and I have participated in class discussions of literature about it. And here, at the end of my beloved major, the truth is this:

I don't wanna talk about sex anymore.

Seriously, keep it to yourself. Hamlet, button your drawers. Sylvia Plath, keep your shirt on (or…your head out of the oven? Too far?). Kids in my "Writing the Novel" workshop class, do not write about it, I don't want to read your juvenile attempts at illustrating the dirty. Get thee away from me with that, crazies.

Perhaps I am overreacting.

It's not that this isn't true about literature. Humans, for all their sophistication, have a pretty predictable fascination with the Full Monty. Now, granted, it's not always The Act itself. Sometimes, we term it "gender" or "queer theory" or "feminism." But whatever you call it, I'm ready for a break from it.

Don't get me wrong. Sex is great. And being an English major in general has been an incredible, perspective-shifting, affirming experience. There have been very few things more fulfilling than my intense, extravagant study of literature. But here is the problem. I honestly cannot remember the last time I read a book and did not, in any form, think about the social/political/historical/spiritual origins and implications, and whether or not authorial intent is valid in this or that instance, or the significance of how many times a certain word is used, or, my favorite, the "project" of the work itself. Like, what the hell? Like I said, I starting doing this because of the way books stilled a hunger in me, the way reading filled the holes in me, the way authors spoke to me across pages and cultures and centuries. Through reading, I learned how to be a human. There is a reason why God speaks to us through a text. Because this is a medium that is unique and mysterious, and even as I write this, I will never be able, ironically, to express in written language the feeling which written language itself elicits in me.

But I can tell you I am ready to once again to fully experience, entirely at my leisure, this feeling again. The summer reading list grows daily. So, at the risk of a terrible pun, this turned out not to be the end of an English major, but merely another chapter.

Anyone? Yeah? Anyone?

I deserve the cyber-silence, I suppose.

But let it be known, this Roaming Librarian has turned in her final essay. The thesis is done, the library books have been returned, the last Writing Center shift has been logged on my payroll. It is all over, and it has been incredible. I know who I am now because of this intense four years of study. And I'm so excited and ready to move forth.

Graduation in T-Minus 11 days. Will we have lift-off?

I'll be back with more soon!

Yours loyally,

R.L.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

There and Back Here Again.

We're up and roaming again.

I'm back, baby. Things are movin' and shakin'. Lots has changed in the interval between here and Oxford. Can you believe it? Can you believe it was roughly five months ago that I was gallivanting around the Ox, eating Noodle Nation and drinking too much ale, and going to tea when I should have been in the Bodleian?

I believe it, thinking about it now. Now it's all late nights in a rather non-descript library, and late mornings in a teeny-tiny, impossibly small single in St. Rita's Hall, which has its own chapel, but no laundry room.

To quote a friend: "You live in a backward land." Love me my Catholic school.

Or, I should say, that is how things were being back here at 'Nova. Because that was my routine whilst composing my Senior Thesis (read: life mistake. Life ass-kicking.) this semester. Get up, go to library, (go on Facebook), write, write, write, schlep several kilotons of books between bibliotheque and bedroom, go to bed. Repeat.

BUT.

I have finished the senior thesis. For good! I defended on Friday, handed in my (awful) draft, and celebrated with my compadre Julie Morro in true form (a pitcher of sangria, snuggies, and a black-and-white movie appear in this tale which shan't be repeated here.)

But in this period of blogging silence, so much has happened. I can now officially assume the identity of the Roaming Librarian. Having been accepted into all 5 library programs to which I applied, it looks like the stage is set for my performance as heroine of Roaming Librarian (The Musical?). But the question is, where?

UNC, Rutgers, Simmons, Maryland, Drexel.

North Carolina, New Jersey, Boston, Maryland, Philly.

How can I possibly choose?

Well, money, for one thing. Who's gonna fork over that cash, huh? GIMME DAT $$$, is all I'm saying. I guess once I know if there's a fellowship in my future, that'll help me to make a more informed decision (read: that IS where I'm going).

But suddenly next year seems so open and broad. The possibilities are a tad overwhelming (not simply whelming, thanks).

Of course, I need to acknowledge the giant panda in the room: I'm not going back to Oxford. Yes, in folly I did apply. But Oxford was strong in their resistance, sending me not one, but two identical rejection letters in short, curt form. Initially I was distressed and sad, but I realize even if I returned, the Oxford I love, the Oxford I spent time and care and love describing to all of you, is not there. It is tied up in all the people: in Aidan and Conor, in Hunky, in Tyler, in Chelsea, Alex, Phoebe, and Amy, in my tutors and in Julie when she visited, in the IFSA staff. Oxford is the people as much as Oxford is the ancient bastion of education in our world. I can't say I'd be as incandescently happy as I once was all those long months ago if I returned.

Sad. But true. Also, don't miss the part where, besides the lofty rationalization, my pride is stung by being rejected. By an institution I love so much.

('They don't….want me?')

Snap out of it, girl; get over it.

It would have been sweet to write to you all again from The Ox, but it's not meant to be. I am meant to be a librarian. I am also meant to graduate in < 5 weeks. I'm meant to move on now. It's scary and thrilling and totally baffling.

Bring it on! I'm back!

Yours ,

R.L.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finis.

I'm sitting in Heathrow Airport. Christmas music is playing, and there's a Santa Claus walking around. The airport's busy, but not too bad. What I suspect to be the standard holiday buzz. People are milling around in the Duty-Free shops, and I'm wondering how much chocolate I can get for 3 pound 50. Some little girls are climbing along the chairs next to me; they are eyeing that Santa Claus.

Today's my last day. My last few hours. Right now I'm sitting in the lounge, trying to scam some wireless (not working). After a serious of slight traveling hiccups (one of which included an infuriated cabby, and another a vexed bus driver; but I will not digress here), I made it to the terminal largely without incident, and with a triumphantly underweight bag (although I can feel it in my triceps where I was hefting my duffel bag full of shoes and books). It's pretty in here for Christmas. Someone on the administrative staff has an eye for the glam. And icicle Christmas lights. I'm a little tired because last night was a final hurrah of pub-crawling through the Ox. It was not sad, but rather very joyful, and compounded by a sudden snowfall (snow doesn't happen much in England, at least not on a scale like we see in the States). So there was that extra element of wonderment that such beautiful stuff can come pouring out of the sky so suddenly.

I don't know if I'm ready to leave yet. On my bus out, I found myself crying with great abandon. The town looked so beautiful as the coach swerved through it; everyone was going about their day in a way I had and never would again.

But by the time I reached the airport, I found that I was oddly calm. I'm never really calm (see post about Uffington White Horse), and especially not in travelling situations. But as I walked through the airport, checked in, and am now sitting here, I find that maybe I am ready to go. Because I don't think, somehow, this will be my last trip to England. I just have this nagging feeling that this isn't goodbye.

I guess I lied when I said I'm never calm. I felt this way a few days ago. On Thursday, right after I finished up my secondary tutorial for good. It was a really good tutorial; my tutor and I geeked out about Hamlet for a good hour, and to top it off, I was actually pleased with my paper. So I was on this kind of buzz walking back to my room. It had snowed the night before, and everything was pretty and white as I walked through the meadows. Gosh, it was so beautiful; I wish I could convey to you how still everything was, like it was holding its breath. Nothing was quavering, nothing was anxious. Even now I can vividly recall the crunch of the frozen gravel under my gait. It was so quiet. Except for the usual wildlife. The cows were still grazing lazily, despite the frigid air. I don't think anything spurs them on. Seriously. The little babies were napping in the frost. No hurry for these bovines.

But as I walked there, despite the cold and my unfinished assignments, I couldn't believe how hopeful I felt. A semester of wonderful friends, adventures, and road bumps in a unique and vibrant community like Oxford doesn't just end, at least not for me. I'll be back, I think.

We'll see, won't we? Although I never did find that peanut butter I was looking for.

It's time to get on that plane and get home. There's a rumor that my family has constructed a welcome-home banner in my honor. Name and everything. Hanging on my house. Did you guys get a banner? I don't think so.

In the words of Hunky's friend Will, that's what I call a 'hero's welcome.'

Kidding, kidding. I am not a hero. I do feel on top of the world, though. Like I can do anything. Which is a pretty good feeling for someone who still has to finish up a semester of college and then, oh, I don't know…..graduate.

YES I SAID IT OKAY. I said the 'G' word. I'm graduating. And I'm ready! Of course, check back in, like, three months to see if this optimism has held up, but you never know. I could remain this good-natured.

So I will miss Oxford. I will miss the long hours in the Bodleian, the bicycles, the Pimms, the pubs, the porters, Hall lunch, Warnock dinner, looking over the Thames, the cows, tea time, the long walk home from St. Catharine's at 3am, Hassan's, Tesco's, watching Lost with Aidan (actually, doing everything with Aidan), attending glittering parties with Gerard, teasing T-Fresh Roberts, free museums, old things EVERYWHERE, my tutors, my tutorials, toting a surplus of library books at all times, and I could go on but you're probably going cross-eyed.

In short, I'm going to miss Oxford, and I hope Oxford will miss me, enough to have me back in the future.

For now, the plan is to sit on my couch in my Christmas pajamas and watch Christmas movies and eat Christmas cookies and generally get the good cheer on. (And did I mention a certain young gentleman who might play frisbee and who is definitely good-looking lives like twenty minutes away? Mistletoe, anyone?)

So, I think this is it for a while, but thanks for reading. Who knows, maybe I will be back! There might be more madness to follow.

Yours, eternally and with devotion,

The Roaming Librarian!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sojourns of Fancy.

First off, everyone should know I didn't make it to the White Horse.

I know, I know. You had to read that whole whining post. I'm sorry. But there are a few reasons why I decided against trekking into the English wilderness:

  1. Snow flurries! Wonderful! The first snow of the season is always one of my favorite things (cue song?), but not ideal for a trip to the countryside.
  2. Gerard, who I was trusting to coach me in breathing when/if we got lost, couldn't accompany me because he had a important Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. Because, you know, he plays for the Oxford Blues. The University team onto which you must be invited to play, by the current captains. Which is not a big deal, except…it is. Since he neglected to mention this fact to me until recently, I decided to practice my 'being supportive' rendition and go to his tournament instead. I also was very realistic about the potential negative consequences of going to White Horse alone, not excluding ending up in a field shivering and surrounded by sheep (this is a recurring nightmare of mine). Standing on the sidelines while a few attractive guys toss around a frisbee was, I think, a reasonable alternative.
    1. Also, I think I should mention here that I was accompanied to this match by TYLER ROBERTS. TYLER ROBERTS, are you reading this? Everyone, TYLER ROBERTS came with me to the frisbee match, and we got hot chocolate on the way, and did star jumps (jumping jacks, for you Americans) to keep warm, and he was the best & most fun fellow spectator there could possibly be. That was TYLER ROBERTS, for those of you that may have missed it.

But the final and most important reason why I didn't make it to White Horse is……………………….

  1. On Sunday, I went and saw Jane Austen's house, and let me tell you, I ended up needing every ounce of physical and mental stamina I could muster.

There are a few reasons for this. Of course one of which is the fact that, come on, folks, let's be honest: you know it takes a lot of energy to grovel (read: lay prostrate on the ground) in worship on the threshold of one of the most revered writers in the literary canon. But there's more than that.

Let's start with the journey getting to Janie.

On Thursday night, I booked train tickets for Aidan and me. Aidan is a fellow Austen Aficionado (I do love me some alliteration) and, much to my soaring happiness, agreed to come with me to find the house, even though she will be here for the year and has plenty of time to travel around without crazy people such as myself.

We met up in Tesco's bright and early Sunday morning, to pick up breakfast (which ended up meaning: Cadbury, Mars Bars, Starburst, etc). It's a beautiful day, sunny, and -7° Celsius. So, that's more than a little cold, but we're optimistic. From this point, however, I think it will be more helpful if I provide a play-by-play:

9:01 – We board our train, first of four on the outward bound journey (since Jane Austen I guess lived in the middle of freaking nowhere), at the Oxford Railway Station. There is no heat on this train. Aidan: "Do you think it's cold? I think it's cold." Me: "I can see my breath in here. It's cold."

9:20 – The train stops dead on the tracks about 3 stops from our transfer station because 'we are waiting for a train in front of us to move.' It turned out to be a train full of rocks. That did not move for forty minutes. Subsequently, Aidan and I miss our connecting train at Reading to Basingstoke.

10:00 – We wander clumsily (since all of our extremities are frozen) through the Reading station. We find an information desk, where a woman helpfully prints out some…information on optional connecting trains to our final destination (Alton). We immediately find coffee because we've discovered that Britons do not believe in indoor heating: we can still see our breath in the train station, probably since the doors were propped open and there's a bitter wind whipping up through the main concourse.

10:37 – We board a train allegedly heading for Basingstoke, the site of our second transfer. This train is warm (thank goodness), but is not moving at the appropriate time.

10:47 – A National Rail employee walks through the train carriages: "We're running a bit behind schedule. The train conductor didn't turn up for work this morning."

10:47:30 – Aidan and I exchange horrified glances.

10:48 – The station announces the train will not be leaving, but that there is a train departing for Basingstoke immediately a few tracks over. Cue more running with frozen extremities.

10:49 – Aidan and I make our train, successfully make it from Basingstoke to our next stop, Brookwood, and then also successfully make it onto our train to Alton. As the journey wears on, however, we begin to note the following things:

    The train is getting emptier and emptier with each successive stop.

    We are rumbling through countryside. Roads turn into fences, fields, sheep, etc. Things are looking more and more remote.

    The sky is getting cloudy, it looks like it might rain, and there's some mist rolling in, and I think I saw a Death-Eater behind a tree, but I can't be sure.

12:30 – Our train pulls into Alton, and Aidan and I are, literally, the only people to get off. It's the end of the line, and we're the only ones who have braved it. We walk into the station – small, rickety, cold – but unfortunately no one on the Alton Town Municipal Board had the forethought to post, say, a 24' x 36' topographical map with color-coordinated walking directions to Jane's house. I resort to asking a rather tired looking woman behind a dirty service window.

    'Hi, excuse me, could you tell me how to get to Chawton?'

    The woman looks up. Some synapses jump and she processes my accent and touristy garb. My attempt to hide my destination by asking about the town instead of 'JaneAusten'sHouseWhichIHaveBeenWaitingToSeeMyWholeLife' fails, because she laughs. I even restrained myself from jumping up and down, but she knows what I'm here for, she's no idiot. American women with backpacks and sensible walking shoes can only mean one thing: Jane Austen pilgrimage.

But, really, folks? Whatever. By this time, Aidan and I were so hypped up on caffeine and Jane and an improtu dance-party on an empty train that we were moving into Do or Die mode. At this point I didn't care if I had to walk three miles down a sidewalk-less highway in fading daylight to get to this house.

Oh, funnily enough, that is exactly what we ended up doing. Turns out the house was located down the very end of some obscure road. At one point, I think one of us may have shook our hand at the heavens. The street on which we were walking bottomed out onto a dangerous roundabout, bracketed by two arrowed signs reading 'Jane Austen's House: This Way.' Pointing at each other. I think we really started to despair when we practically ate pavement crossing the roundabout and realized that the ways in which the signs were pointing had no sidewalk. But by this point I was preternaturally determined to make it there. I stormed back around the roundabout, and spied a street name I recognized from the AWFUL map on the Jane Austen website.

Aidan and I began walking rather warily down the street, since, if you didn't know, Britain can go from highway to farmland in 30 metres flat. There were suddenly horses milling around in fields next to us. Luckily, however, we found some nice British people out for a walk, who took enormous amounts of pity on us, and assured us we were going the right way. Jubilation! We finally found where we were going! We continued down the road, feeling much better, and even more determined. But there was one final wrench.

We walked about another half mile and then stopped, because we got to the end of the road the British people directed us down, and couldn't see any more signs or anything. Nothing that looked like the house where six works of groundbreaking literature were composed. There was shoulder slumping, loss of hope, etc.

'Aidan, we're never going to find it.' Tears coming on.

'No, no, we will, we w – look!'

And Aidan points. And we are standing right next to a gate saying 'Jane Austen House & Museum; Enter Here.' And I'm pretty sure if I was just rescued by Bear Grylls after hanging off a precipice in the Himalayas, I wouldn't feel a bigger wave of relief as I did after Aidan used basic cognitive faculties to figure out that we had reached our destination. Thank goodness I had that girl with me; she is a life-saver.

I mean, the rest of our adventure was just bliss. I won't stifle you with my ramblings. Mostly we walked (semi-floated) around the grounds of this beautiful little house. The whole place is run by little old ladies who totally understand the reason people like me come to the place. They even let me take pictures inside the house, even though there's a huge sign banning cameras.

And do you know what I wrote in the guest book? Do you know? Guess. I wrote: 'She has bewitched me, body & soul!' Because she has! Her writing captivates me.

Is it too weird? I think it's too weird. But it's too late now. It's there forever.

Or until they rip the page out.

But I have to say, this whole day was one of the best (if not the best!) part of my whole trip here. Not only did I spend a few hours in house of my literary heroine, I got to do it with a wonderful friend and tell a wonderful story.

Is there really more one can ask?

From heights of ecstasy,

R.L.

'Such art as hers can never grow old.'

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A typical day in the Bodleian:

Aidan and I Skype-chatting each other.

Aidan and I laughing inappropriately.

Aidan and I doing that thing where we make a gun with our fingers and blow out our brains.

Aidan and I stressfully massaging our foreheads (our own, not each other's).

Aidan and I texting each other.

Aidan and I going on cookie breaks to Ben's in the Market.

Aidan doing work, finishing papers, moving on to next week's reading assignment; me procrastinating like I've dropped out of school.

Aidan and I slamming our heads on the desks in frustration.

Aidan generally being an all-star, me updating my blog. But at least that gives me a chance to finally tell you about Aidan. In case you didn't know, she's a fantastic, fabulous Smarty McSmart from Wheaton College (in Massachusetts!) who suffers my antics and generally has made my Oxford experience a thousand times better than it would have been because of her lovely personality and hilarious sense of humor.

Did I mention she's a philosophy and math DOUBLE major? I think that's worth noting. She really is smart.

And she keeps me sane. And at this moment, as we're sitting in the Bodleian, she's looking at me authoritatively and pointing at my computer. I believe that means 'get back to work.'

She's right, you know!

Love,

-RLib.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Exercises in Horseplay.

The ancient-English-history nerd in me is dead-set on going to see the Uffington White Horse this weekend. It's my last full weekend in England, and I'm attempting to knock out both WH and Jane Austen's house in terms of sight-seeing. If you aren't familiar with traveling around the UK, there are parts of England that are wonderfully accessible (Jane's abode), and then there are parts of England that are almost impassably difficult to get to. And one of those places is indeed the Uffington White Horse.

For those of you that, unlike me, don't spend the majority of your time researching ancient locations of pre-Celtic yore, the White Horse is essentially a giant effigy of a horse (they think, or now they think it might be a dog, but that is not going to be discussed) carved many thousands of years ago into the side of a hill. Scholars have little to no clue about the origins or purpose of the site, other than the fact that it is extremely cool. Said extreme coolness is the reason I want to go, but if you desire more information, you may sally forth here: Uffington Horsey.

So, yes, I'm salivating just thinking about going (especially since the Horse was given a nod in the recent Ridley Scott flick, Robin Hood. Which I saw in theatres. Twice). As an added bonus, I think I successfully convinced my fabulous (read: extremely hunky, extremely brilliant, extremely talented, extremely longsuffering-for-putting-up-with-my-constant-mentally-ill-behavior) sweetheart Gerard to come with me, and I may or may not have taken into account his excellent sense of direction and ability to prevent me from hyperventilating in panicky situations when I'm not wearing stretchy fabric when I asked if he would join.

Hands off, ladies.

Did I mention he has hazel eyes?

Really, back off.

But I digress. So today I was researching how I might get to said Horse (this may or may not have been around the same time I was ignoring the 2,000-word essay I have due tomorrow morning). It's in Oxfordshire, which is like our county, I guess, so I figure, what the heck? It can't be that far away, and it certainly can't be that hard to get to.

Fellow English majors, raise your hands if you can spot the hubris of all tragic heroes.

My first clue about this intended excursion should have been the vast variation in available information online, or actually the lack of reliable information on transportation from Oxford to Uffington in general. Furthermore, I'm already starting out with a number of handicaps for this journey, one most notably being the fact that I neither own a car nor know how to drive a stick shift even if I could rent one. My only option, therefore, is coach services. Buses are actually surprisingly reliable here, and abundant (quite unlike the States; sorry, NJTransit), so I wasn't terribly worried about finding a way to get to the equine masterpiece. But as the minutes (hours?) and internet usage wore on, I became more and more frustrated. I skimmed everything from bus routes to message board posts (No, WhiteHorseWalker25, "Uffington is getting on ten miles from the center of Swindon, as the crow flies" is NOT a helpful set of directions), but to little avail.

BUT, after many extended forays into the Google wilderness, and not much help from the National Trust AT ALL (Prince Charles, are you listening?), I finally found myself a route.

Are you ready?

Getting to legendary and venerated White Horse* is going to take two hours, three buses, and a one-mile hike through the remote British countryside, which may or may not include signage to the intended destination. This raises a number of hazards, such as the potential for being hit by speeding motorists around winding mossy bends, missing a bus and being stuck out on the moors, wandering into a flock of sheep and inhospitable shepherds, or getting desperately lost and falling off a hill into an impassable crevasse and/or bog, without hope of discovery for about 500 years.

At least my mortal coil will be preserved.

So, I know as all of you are reading this, the alarm bells are going off. Don't do it, you say. You didn't even bring sneakers to England (which I didn't), and ballet flats are unsuitable for such treks across the heath. Why don't you just remain satisfied with knowing you were in the same county?

I should also mention it's going to be 2⁰C on Saturday, with a forecast of rain. But I feel like that's the kind of weather my doctor would recommend for my extended earache, so devil may care with that one. I'll bring a hat or something.

Because, see, when I finally figured out what it was going to take to get me to the Horse, there were no such alarm bells. My only thought was, "Yeah! Let's do this!" Is that bad? Yes. Have I spent too much time reading Beowulf and Arthurian Legend? Yes. Are my health, sanity, and hunky hunk going to suffer for it? Most certainly yes.

Is that going to stop me? Absolutely not.

Saturday, it is! Pray I live to write another update!

Fondest farewells,

R.L.

*So legendary and venerated and important that no one bothered to pave a road there.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

London-town.

Took a London trip yesterday. It was fabulous! I jetted in via bus (coach, as they say here) to go to an exhibit at the British Library and see a performance of Hamlet at the National Theatre.

Let me tell you, I was completely unprepared for the life-changing experiences I was to have by simply walking around an exhibit full of really old books.

In fact, why don't I quickly list the seminal texts of the Western literary canon upon which I was privileged to lay eyes yesterday, and I'll let you decide for yourself if you feel like freaking out with me or not:

  1. First up, one of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Not too big of a deal, just one of the main sources of Anglo-Saxon information surviving with us today.
  2. The original text of Beowulf. There. In all its glory. If this doesn't make you freak the heck out, I don't think anything else in this list will, so maybe you should cease reading.
  3. A manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
  4. The King James' Bible. THE King James' Bible.
  5. William Tyndale's English translation of the Book of St. Matthew, which is significant for me since he attended Hertford, you know, like, four hundred years ago or whatever.
  6. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary.
  7. The. Handwritten. Manuscript. Of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Handwritten by Jane Austen. In case you didn't intuitively grasp that at first.
  8. The manuscript of Finnegans Wake.
  9. Mozart's wedding contract.
  10. Charlotte Bronte's manuscript of Jane Eyre.
  11. The earliest draft of Handel's Messiah.
  12. Parts of Da Vinci's manuscript notebook.
  13. The Book of Hours.
  14. One of the Gutenberg Bibles.
  15. The Lindisfarne Gospels.
  16. And last, but by no means least, and sequestered in its own room complete with timelines and graphics and general splendor: the freaking Magna Carta. I saw. The Magna Carta. I saw one of the original copies of the only thing closest to a British constitution, written in the thirteenth century. I saw it. I SAW it.

    I mean, it's pretty unassuming. There weren't angels flying out of the page or heavenly lights shining on it, but……..still. I gazed upon it, and many other important works of literary greatness in the span of about an hour and a half and in one place, which was enough to leave me giddy and reeling for the rest of the day.

That is, until I went to see Hamlet.

Which, notably, was located some ways away from the library, so I booked it back to the Tube, since I needed to take it south a few stops and then physically cross the Thames via footbridge.

Which can take a while, in case you were wondering. And the performance was in one hour.

By the way, I gave someone correct Tube directions! This made me so happy. But moving on.

The sun was starting to go down, and the South Bank was all lit up. There was a little cutesy Christmas village selling cutesy Christmas things that was heart-warming to walk by, except I was on a mission to the theatre, so I didn't stop to get my cheer on. I made it just in time, as the doors were opening to the Olivier Theatre to let attendees in to their seats.

Well, let me tell you, seeing a Shakespeare play is much different than reading it. Seeing Hamlet plot and go mad is much different than skimming over "To be or not to be." This production was set in a modern totalitarian society, but retained the original Jacobean script. I actually ended up enjoying it. And Rory Kinnear, who played the prince himself, was utterly convincing, if not a little too schizophrenic for my taste. In my opinion, the supporting cast was the real gem of the performance, but I'm sounding like a theatre reviewer, which I am not. All in all, it was incredible, doubly so since I am reading the play for my last Shakespearian Tragedy tutorial. One more thing I will say: I laughed at all the jokes. I feel like if a modern cast can make Shakespeare so accessible as to have the whole audience roaring at multiple points, it's got to be good.

Anyway, after a very fulfilling day for this English major, and after a minor panic attack during which I couldn't find my bus stop to catch the coach back to Oxford, I made it to my room in one piece. More to fill you in on later.

One more thing: I will be home in 13 days! Crazy!

Rock on,

Roaming Lib.