June 9th, 2005

[BRIEF NOTE] The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery

I went to a book launch last night for The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery, yesterday evening at Ryerson University's Oakham House. The usual attendees at most Montgomery-related academic events I've attended were there: students, academics, fans, Montgomery relatives, others like myself. The second half of the book launch will be held on Prince Edward Island on the 17th, under the auspices of the LM Montgomery Institute.

Lucy Maud Montgomery's posthumous reputation is increasingly founded not only on her works of fiction like Anne of Green Gables, but on the personal journals she kept for most of her life. The recent publication of the fifth volume of these journals under the editorial supervision of Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston from the University of Guelph, covering the period of from 1935 to 1942, completes their publication. These journals are popular because of their detail and their sense of immediacy, charting Montgomery's personal evolution from the inside out. As the late Canadian-American author Carol Shields wrote after the publication of the first volume in 1986 (as reported by Rubio and Waterston), "Such social history, but so much more!"

Much recent Montgomery scholarship focuses upon how Montgomery edited her personal journals so as to produce a specific image at odds with other elements of her self-representation (mother, wife, author). The nine essays in this collection, edited by former UPEI professor Dr. Irene Gammel, seek to explore this. One interesting announcement was the discovery of a collaboratively written diary written in collaboration by Montgomery and her long-time friend Nora Lefurgey, covering the period from January to June 1903 when Lefurgey lodged with the MacNeills, published for the first time as part of The Intimate Life. Excerpts were read by two actors from Ryerson's theatre program, dressed in period costume. The bantering gossipy dialogue, light in tone, reminded me of nothing so much as some early 21st century bloggers, at last, after a century's remove contributing to the community of ideas. What was particularly interesting was that this exuberantly happy diary was written at the same time that Montgomery was confessing her terrible despair to her journals.
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    Shakespear's Sister, "Let Me Entertain You"

[BRIEF NOTE] Pop Culture Will Eat Itself

Jessica Cutler's new book The Washingtonienne is available for purchase across North America now.

Who is Jessica Cutler? A year and a half ago, she was a young woman in her mid-20s who came to Washington D.C. to work as an intern at Congress, decided to carry on a half-dozen affairs simultaneously out of boredom and a desire to make some extra money, and proceeded to write everything in a blog. This blog--intended for friends only--managed to get into wider circulation even after she deleted the blog (here's backup copy), with first Wonkette (1, 2) then the Washington Post ("The Hill's Sex Diarist Reveals All (Well, Some)," "Blog Interrupted") covering the scandalous details. She got fired for misusing office equipment, but she got a quarter-million dollar book contract.

What is The Washingtonienne about? It's about a young woman in her mid-20s who came to Washington D.C. to work as an intern at Congress, decided to carry on a half-dozen affairs simultaneously out of boredom and a desire to make some extra money, and proceeded to write everything in a blog. This blog--intended for friends only--managed to get into wider circulation even after she deleted the blog. She ends up getting fired, but she emerges much the better for it.

Sometimes, the thing that bugs me most about early 21st century popular culture is its unimaginativeness.

[BRIEF NOTE] What's Up With Timothy Garton Ash?

I don't understand Timothy Garton Ash's article in The Guardian advocating a renovation of Europe. One paragraph is particularly responsible.

If I were Chinese I'd be laughing all the way to the bank. After the European centuries, from about 1500 to 1945, and the American century, from 1945 until some time in the first half of this one, the Asian century dawns on the horizon. As Tom Friedman of the New York Times acidly observes, while Europe is trying to achieve the 35-hour week, India is inventing the 35-hour day. Whatever our "knowledge-based" advantage, no economy can compete successfully on such terms. Things must change, if they are to remain the same.


I won't slam the author for quoting the increasingly superficial Friedman beyond noting that using a post-brain eater Friedman quote in a non-ironic sense automatically qualifies him for demerit points. I do wonder what Ash is doing by completely ignoring the factor of productivity. Is he really saying that Chinese and Indians don't want to lead the leisurely lifestyles of First Worlders? And what is his "Asian century" going to be, pray tell? It's so incoherent that it's embarrassing.