nicest Christmas present of all was flung with the characteristic flair
and confidence of the giver into my garage on Eid, with no fear of it
being run over, stolen or rained on. And, as it is with people who expect
no less, it was indeed intact. I stepped out of my car and tripped over
it, half ripping the loosely wrapped paper. Under the yellow glow of the
neon light, surrounded by the shadowy dusk, I ripped it open.
was a book, no, a diary, oh, an engagement calendar. Framed in deep
burgundy, an intense, elegant and intelligent face of a woman looked at me
coolly, with a mild hint of a challenge from the cover. Below the portrait
in italics was a signature “Isabel Allende.” Rapidly I turned the
pages, and on each alternating page there was a photograph or etching of a
woman writer with a bio-data and quotes by the writer.
this time of the year, when we are making ready to kick in the new year,
there is the inevitable private tidying up of our minds, hearts and
intellects: a reckoning. Mentally, we tick off friends lost and found,
ground gained and lost over our deepest ambitions and dreams. We may
relive our highs and momentarily sink into depression over our lows, but
in the final analysis, we are our own best teachers (as we should be, if
we know what’s good for us).
forgive ourselves our peccadilloes; honest enough to see our own
weaknesses, and resolve to do better because Lord knows none of us are
perfect. So while we are sober, making ready to slough off the husk of
this old year, polishing our nails, smearing glitter across our cheeks,
giving a final swipe of polish to our dancing shoes, let’s quickly
glance at these quotes by women writers which may help us with our
resolutions, because they are in the end about a way of looking at the
world, and love (apart from which what else is there?)
then Henry said when he looked at all of those large size diamonds he
really felt that they did not have any sentiment, so he was going to give
me his class ring from Amherst College instead. So then I looked at him
and looked at him, but am too full of self control to say anything at this
stage of the game, so I said it was really very sweet of him to be so full
of nothing but sentiment.
Anita Loos, novelist, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925)
whisper my mountain stories in his ear, stories of the ghost women and the
stars in their hair. I tell him of the deadly snakes lying at one end of a
rainbow and the hat full of gold lying at the other end. I tell him that
if I cross a stream of glass-clear hibiscus, I can make myself a goddess.
My fingers coil themselves into visions of birds on his nose, I want him
to forget that we live in a place where nothing lasts.
Edwidge Danticat, Haitian novelist, short story writer, in Krik! Krak!
feeling for Mr Brooks was so much the most important part of her life that
it seemed like something which did not belong to her, but which she had to
carry about with her, at work or in her room, there was no difference. She
had a kind of affection, too, for the love itself, which was so strong,
but maintained itself on so little.
Penelope Fitzgerald, British novelist, biographer, in Human Voices (1980).
is for you:
the thrilling fever of the insomniac
the blue fire of my eyes,
my poems, that white flock
Anna Akhmatova, Russian Poet in White Flock (1917)
rational mind does not work under compulsion; it does not subordinate its
grasp of reality to anyone’s orders, directives, or controls; it does
not sacrifice its knowledge, its view of the truth, to anyone’s
opinions, threats, wishes, plans, or “welfare”
Ayn Rand, novelist, essayist, in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966)
becomes total when it becomes independent of all opposition: it rules
supreme when nobody any longer stands in its way.
Hannah Arendt, political philosopher, in The Origins of Totalitarianism
you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless
and heartless? -You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, -and full
as much heart!”
Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre (1847)
Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing
and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Ma,
gently rocking and knitting. She thought to herself, “This is now.”
was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the
music, were now.
could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a
long time ago.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, novelist, in Little house in the Big Woods (1932)
are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and
remember. Think of the vine that curls from the small square plot that was
once my heart. That is the only marker you need. Move on. Walk forward
into the light.
Barbara Kingsolver, novelist, poet, in The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
we miss the people we have left behind, simply miss them, and that missing
gets in the way of what we see, and we fight what we see and only want to
get back, like Eurydice or Lot’s wife, but there is no going back, that
place is where you are, it is the only place.
Mary Gordon, novelist, in Living at Home (1993)
mean the main thing is - well, the main thing is..Gosh; I don’t know
what the main thing is.
Beth Henley, dramatist in The Miss Firecracker Contest (1984)
that is our last Survival Lesson - we look at how far we’ve come, and
then we know - there can be no turning back.
Gloria Steinhem, essayist, journalist in Outrageous Acts and Everyday
you, dear reader, an abundance of all things good in life, love, health,
happiness, fulfillment, and when the going gets tough, a reserve bounty of
hope. Happy New Year.