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Obituary for Nancy Quinn, 1929-2016

May 24, 2016 4 comments

      It is with deep sadness that Tony, Eric, and Larry Quinn announce the death of their mother, Nancy Quinn, on May 21st from lung cancer. She was 87.

      Nancy Proctor Quinn was born on March 10, 1929 in Pasadena, California. She was the daughter of Stewart E. Wilson, an actor on the legitimate stage, and Leone Muriel Simpson, the daughter of a successful building contractor. As an infant, she was adopted by Margaret Proctor and grew up in Los Angeles and New York City. Her family owned a cabin on Lake Tahoe where she spent many happy summers. She received her elementary and high school education at the Horace Mann School and Marlborough School. While a student at the University of Southern California’s School of International Relations, she met and married Harry Alan Quinn, a WWII veteran who subsequently became a Foreign Service Officer. During a 30-year career, they were posted to the Azores, Brazil, Trinidad, Costa Rica, and France. After returning from overseas, she ran a bed-and-breakfast in Arlington, Virginia. She also worked as a secretary at George Washington University in the 1980s. Her retirement was spent in Shepherdstown and Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Mrs. Quinn was known for her keen wit, her stylish interior decorating, and her entertaining cocktail parties. She had a fine contralto voice and when young wanted to be a jazz singer. She loved dogs and for several years bred her German Shepherds Tippy and Schultz. A gifted storyteller, she wrote a memoir of her childhood, A Daughter’s Song and Dance. She had a green thumb.

Mrs. Quinn believed deeply in the right of adopted children to know the identity of their birth parents, and after a search of many years was able to discover the identity of her own. As a result of her search, she met and became close friends with her half-brother, Kenneth Simpson.

She is survived by her three sons, Lynne Quinn, her daughter-in-law, and Abigail and Alan Quinn, her grandchildren. Her family holds her in loving memory.

We love you, Mama Bear!

Photo: High School Graduation Portrait; family collection; all rights reserved.

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Turning 55: the Proposal Scene from Jane Eyre

File:Charlotte Bronte coloured drawing.png

Dear readers, RT for the last several weeks has been exploring 19th century British romantic prose; where else could he possibly find himself, on his 55th birthday, but washed up on the shores of Charlotte Bronte‘s great novel, Jane Eyre?

It goes without saying that this novel is primarily addressed to women, relating as it does the search of a sympathetic and intelligent young lady for the earthly paradise of marriage. “Reader, I married him,” she reports as the novel reaches it conclusion. Few sentences in the English language can have had as widespread an impact on our culture as this one.

But fellow men, take note: we can only wish that we were capable of the profound passion that Mr. Rochester evinces during the novel’s proposal scene. Rochester’s language here reaches the intensity of poetry, as does, in an entirely more feminine way, Jane Eyre’s:

Excerpts from the Proposal Scene, Jane Eyre

“Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do you think I am an automaton?—a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?  Do 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!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;—it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,—as we are!”

“And your will shall decide your destiny,” he said: “I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions.”

“You play a farce, which I merely laugh at.”

“I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”

A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk, and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut: it wandered away—away—to an indefinite distance—it died.  The nightingale’s song was then the only voice of the hour: in listening to it, I again wept.  Mr. Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously.

“My bride is here,” he said, again drawing me to him, “because my equal is here, and my likeness.  Jane, will you marry me?”

Still I did not answer, and still I writhed myself from his grasp: for I was still incredulous.

“Do you doubt me, Jane?” “Entirely.”

“You have no faith in me?” “Not a whit.”

“You, Jane, I must have you for my own—entirely my own.  Will you be mine?  Say yes, quickly.”

“Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight.” “Why?” “Because I want to read your countenance—turn!” “There! you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled, scratched page.

Read on: only make haste, for I suffer.”

His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes.

“Oh, Jane, you torture me!” he exclaimed.  “With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!”

“How can I do that?  If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion—they cannot torture.”

“Gratitude!” he ejaculated; and added wildly—“Jane accept me quickly.  Say, Edward—give me my name—Edward—I will marry you.”

“Are you in earnest?  Do you truly love me?  Do you sincerely wish me to be your wife?”

“I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it.”

“Then, sir, I will marry you.”

“Edward—my little wife!”

“Dear Edward!”

RT suspects that the need for romance becomes more insistent as we grow older. Perhaps, visual impairment notwithstanding, we grow more clear-sighted as we age. Energy is everything, and what better energy can we hope for than affection? Marriage may not be the only answer; we should remember that we are always falling in love with each other. Passion pursues us right up to the grave, and perhaps beyond it. A better fate is hard to imagine.

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Drawing: Portrait of Charlotte Bronte; Evert A. Duyckinck (based on a drawing by George Richmond). 1873. University of Texas; WikiCmns. Public Domain. *

Scotland: Yes, No, and the House of Lords

September 18, 2014 2 comments

 

In addition to some Irish and German background, RT has a fair amount of Scottish blood in him, as witness his middle name, Chisholm. Such genealogical connections constitute the basis for his offering an opinion on Thursday’s looming vote concerning Scottish independence. He will admit upfront that he thinks that Scotland should remain a part of the United Kingdom, but a UK that is somewhat differently governed than at present.

RT will start by suggesting that the main source of political tension between the UK’s constituent counties is the preponderance of English population and resources. This is reflected in the House of Commons, where proportional representation results in 502 English members, 30 Welsh members, 52 Scottish members, and 17 members from Northern Ireland. For the record, here is the population differential behind Thursday’s vote: England has 53 million residents, Scotland, 5.3 million. Such disproportion might worry the most ardent of No voters.

The United States has famously dealt with this problem via its Senate, to which every state in our union elects two members. So what if Wyoming (pop. 580,000) has more cattle than people? This least populous state gets the same number of votes in the Senate that California, the most populous state in the country (at about 38 million residents), gets.

Which brings us to the United Kingdom’s House of Lords. As RT understands it, the House of Lords is a legislative body quite different from the U.S. Senate, though the Lords has been undergoing rapid change recently in its structure, functioning, and numbers. A quick check at Wikipedia reveals the following facts about the HoL: size–774 members; selection of members: members are peers, who have usually been selected for elevation by the Prime Minister (92 are hereditary peers); function: to debate and pass legislation, but with the proviso that any bill passed by the House of Commons can only be delayed from being presented for the Royal Assent for one calendar year, and if the bill concerns taxation or public funds, the Lords may only delay it for a month. The HoL also spends considerable time scrutinizing the government’s activities and expenses.

And for those, who like RT before this post, did not know what a peer might be, Wikipedia informs us that a peer is a member of the peerage, or British nobility.

Here is RT’s rough-and-ready proposal for reforming the British House of Lords. First of all, the
HoL will continue to embrace meritocracy, honoring and empowering those individuals and groups who have done much to serve society.

1) The HoL will comprise 480 members.

2) It will be divided into four quadrants, one for each constituent nation of the UK, giving us English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish quadrants. Each quadrant will consist of 120 members, all of them from the associated constituent nation.

3) Each quadrant will be divided into four segments, each segment consisting of 30 members and representing a particular area of human endeavor, namely a) government, business, and community activism; b) art, whether the fine arts or crafts; c) science and independent scholarship, and d) spiritual life and academia. Each member’s principal achievements must have taken place in their segment’s specialty.

4) The Prime Minister, in consultation with the monarch, will appoint HoL members for a term of 15 years. No member may be reappointed.

5) The HoL will continue its present duties, except for the following. Each quadrant may caucus separately when considering a bill. If at least 72 members of the quadrant (three-fifths) vote to reject the bill, then it will be returned to its originating house for reconsideration. If the bill is brought before the HoL again, and the quadrant once more rejects it, but the bill is passed by the house as a whole, then the bill’s previsions will not apply to the quadrant’s country.

6) An institution as steeped in history and tradition as the House of Lords is cannot be dismantled overnight without sending a shock-wave through society and sacrificing the (considerable) experience and wisdom of its current members. If the Scottish independence vote returns a “no,” however, it might be best to expedite at least the quadrant provisions. The three “junior” constituent countries need a more effective voice in the UK’s parliament.

Images: Upper: The Main Chamber of the Scottish Parliament; author, Martyn Gorman, geograph.org.uk. WikiCmns; CC BY-SA 2.0. Lower: Queen Victoria Seated on the Throne of the House of Lords, 1838. Author: George Hayter. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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On Turning 54 (or Notes Toward a Supreme Potato Chip)

June 10, 2014 4 comments

A couple of days ago, RT found himself in the local Books-a-Million. Now, RT has to admire anyone who sells books via a storefront; what with the competition from Amazon and company, the surge in self-publishing, and the efforts of the blogging community, margins are probably tighter than ever. And a quick inspection of the large shopping space revealed that BaM had an entirely respectable copy of Moby Dick on offer for under $20, Bart Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities tucked away on the far side of the store’s considerable selection of Bibles, and even a passable, though small, selection of poetry (heavy on Homer and The Inferno).

Wallace Stevens (and his essay, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction) didn’t make the cut. Much might be made of the absence, perhaps even the failure of American literature (and poetry, above all) to produce the story-epic-novel that will unite us all in its glorious vision of the world. Where is the American Dante?

But RT is reluctant to announce the death of American society just yet. He will gladly admit that while he is beginning to make progress on viewing the movie Cloud Atlas, he has now watched two of the Twilight Saga movies, thereby garnering an image of Kristin Stewart to accompany him as he continues his journey into the problematic heart of his fifties. Middle-aged men will be middle-aged men.

Or will we? Somewhere, hidden deep in his unconscious, RT still harbors a writer’s ambition. Fifty-fourth birthday be damned! This writer will continue his slow, plodding progress toward finishing Gilgamesh, toward publishing his mother’s memoirs, and toward whatever writing projects his reading might lead him. What’s on the bedside stand these days? The Gardens of Light, a novel about the life of the prophet Mani (definitely worth the read). RT will continue to write until he is found dead at his keyboard (or at least in the loving arms of Kristin Stewart). If a supreme fiction doesn’t exist, then we need to act as if there is one. Through the work of thousands and thousands of authors, we are making our way home.

In the meantime, a supreme potato chip will have to sustain us. There are worse fates.    RT

PhotographA Pile of The Real McCoy’s Potato Chips; author: Paul Hurst. WikiCmns; CC-By-SA-2.5, 2.0.

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Bobby Kennedy and America’s Struggle

There are a lot of what ifs about the 1960s: what if Richard Nixon had been elected in 1960? What if LBJ had held out for one more term? What if that terrible series of assassinations–of John Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King, Jr.–had never taken place?

No single person, however important at a particular moment in time, carries forward the hopes of a nation all by him or herself. If one of these leaders is lost, the forces for reform pick up the pieces, reorganize themselves, and strive onward towards the goal.

Many of the most radical movements of the 1960s–just look at gay rights–have assumed a place in America’s mainstream. A black man is President. Hippies are organizing festivals and gatherings on a scale that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago.

Sure, we face new problems, income inequality prominent among them. But the trumpets have been sounded–the great work of realizing the blueprint that the Constitution gives us goes on. There are bitter and heartbreaking moments of defeat and loss; but there are moments of shining triumph as well.

On this day in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. No assassin’s bullet can destroy America’s aspirations.

PhotographAttorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaking to a crowd of African Americans and whites (1963); photographer, Warren K. Leffler working for U.S. News & World Report. Image donated to the Library of Congress. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Memorial Day, 2014

Stalingrad, July 1942…the streets burn in the run-up to the main engagement of Axis and Soviet forces, which lasted from August 1942 to February 1943, resulting in the decisive defeat of the Axis armies. Each side lost a million men in the battle.

File:After holding a woodland position all night near Wiltz, Luxembourg, against German counter attack, three men of B... - NARA - 531349.tif

After holding a woodland position all night during the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-February 1945), three soldiers of B Company, 101st Engineers, emerge for a rest. The Bulge cost American troops more casualties than any other engagement in World War II.

To the memory of the soldiers who defeated the Axis powers and liberated Europe…and to all American soldiers who fought, suffered, and were killed in combat throughout the nation’s history.

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Photos: topBurning Streets in Stalingrad (July, 1942).  German Federal Archive. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Unported Germany. bottom: Three American Soldiers During the Battle of the Bulge. German Federal Archive. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Unported Germany.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1927-2014

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It is with sadness that RT notes the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombian novelist and recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.

In his early twenties, RT ordered a Quality Paperback Club set of four Latin American novels, which included One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now, RT won’t claim that reading 100 Years was a breakthrough experience for him, but this epic novel did set certain memories in motion, memories of amazing landscapes spied in Costa Rica and Trinidad. The survival of many native peoples in Latin America, moreover, gives the cultures of Latin nations a richness and beauty that can scarcely go unnoticed. GGM’s novels convey a good deal of the magic and vitality to be found in Central and South America. RT was affected to the point of finishing 100 Years and the other novels in the QPB set and reading several novels by the Brazilian Jorge Amado. Now the memory of reading them reminds him of his unfulfilled desire to return at least briefly to the places of his birth and childhood, a poet in a land of great writers.

Thank you, Gabriel Garcia Marquez!  RT

Photograph: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1984); author: F3rn4nd0, edited by Mangostar. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Unported.