Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Finishing School

I read The Finishing School by Gail Godwin in 1985. Gail Godwin has been one of my favorite authors and her intelligence and ability go way past what I am always able to comprehend or understand. It has been my practice to re-read one or two of her books every few years. So, once again I come to The Finishing School a novel that I have underlined and studied throughout the years. I told someone last week, if you want to know something about who I am deep inside, this book give glimpses into my thought processes. The whole book does not pertain to me by any means. If you like depth to your fiction reading, anything by Gail Godwin has that. Published portions of her journaling in her early years reveal an interesting look. To look at her now, she has an eclectic learned look, but pictures of her 20's and 30's show the wild, adventuresome side of affairs, lost loves, and disappointments as she struggled to construct writings worthy of publishing. Since the early 90's her reading has taken on a spiritual aspect, including novels on the clergy, her search for God, and the comforting find of life lived with a few cats, a good man and a God to know and love.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is the following. If you know me well, you will know why I love it.

"There are two kinds of people she once decreed to me emphatically. One kind, you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keep moving, changing. With these people you can never say X stops here or Now I know all there is to know about Y. That doesn't mean they're unstable. Ah, no far from it. They are fluid. They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive. You must constantly be on your guard, Justin, against congealing. Don't be lulled by your youth. Though middle age is the traditional danger point, I suspect that many a fourteen-year-old has congealed during the long history of this world. If you ever feel it coming, you must do something quickly."

Here is more great quotes:

"Money, lurks somewhere in the plot of everbody's life. Sometimes more than passion, I think."

"I have reached a time in my life when I need to be refreshed by the unexpected rather than consoled by the stately rhythms of what I know."

"What bothered me most about theses houses, what bothered me even more than their lack of history, was that they seemed designed to make everybody as alike as possible. And the people who lived in them seemed to conspire."

"You just have to distinguish between a dreary interim and the onset of jellification. However if you catch yourself becoming complacent, I'd say that was a bad sign. Or repeatedly choosing the old, familiar routine rather than rousing yourself and striking out for new territory, whether it's mental or emotional, or actually going somewhere new."

Well, I think this gives you a little picture into part of me. I hate being label or put in a box. If I think you have pidgin holed me, I will make a change faster than you'll know.

To get a better look into Gail Godwin, she has a website http://www.gailgodwin.com/. She would be one of the authors I would love to sit down with and visit. Although, I would need months of preparation to be able to participate somewhat in conversation with her. Another author I would love to visit with is Ellen Gilchrist. Her fiction is thought provoking as well, but in a different direction. Her intensity and layering in relationships is some outstanding reading. I played tennis with a friend whose mother was a bridge partner with Ellen's mother. I'd ask my friend to find out answers to my questions from her short stories and novels. While I am mentioning favorites of course there is Shirley Ann Grau, Ellen Douglas, Elizabeth Spenser, Augusta Trobaugh, and last but not least Anne Rivers Siddons.


Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing...how's your river oaks book club going?

Dana said...

Lord, jello like as my figure may be, may I never congeal.

That is going on my refrigerator!

I love the quote and the insight into you. It fits you perfectly - as a person who encourages me, makes me think and inspires me to carry on.

And, gives me new books to buy!

Anonymous said...

back again..i like to read other comments too but your posts can get me to thinkin'..so here goes-It comes back to the Freedom in Christ as the Way to prevent jellification! Otherwise you can't help but congeal...oh sure the gel make not hold, it may freeze and shatter but that's not freedom thats just shattered, splattered jello..