Saturday, December 31, 2011

The December Cultural Roundup

The month slipped away from me ... there were so many more films I wanted to see and books to read!

How to Marry a Millionaire (U.S., 1953) directed by Jean Negulesco, 95 minutes
There's No Business Like Show Business (U.S.. 1954) directed by Walter Lang, 117 minutes
My Week with Marilyn (U.S., 2011) directed by Simon Curtis, 99 minutes
Into the Abyss (Germany/Canada, 2011) directed by Werner Herzog, 107 minutes
Bus Stop (U.S., 1956) directed by Joshua Logan, 96 minutes
A Christmas Carol (U.K., 1951) directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, 86 minutes
Casablanca (U.S., 1942) directed by Michael Curtiz, utes

Bullet Park by John Cheever, 256 pages
Blue Nights by Joan Didion, 188 pages
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, 329 pages

Ontario College of Art & Design Book Art Fair

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mr. Bennett, Mrs. Brown and the Birth of the Modern Imagination

"Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown" in the collection of essays The Captain's Death Bed by Virginia Woolf (Hogarth Press, 1950) 224 pages  

A few months ago I picked up a collection of Virgina Woolf's essays compiled in The Captain's Death Bed at a St. Michael's College book sale. The jewel in the crown was an essay on modern fiction called "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown". As you can see it was also printed separately by the Hogarth Press (as seen to the left). 
Woolf begins with the image of a writer trying to capture a sort of phantom "Some Brown, Smith or Jones" who urges her to "Catch me if you can ..." That phantom is "character". 
Few catch the phantom; most have to be content with a scrap of her dress or a wisp of her hair.

In support of this, she cites the writer Arnold Bennett who agrees that, "The foundation of good fiction is character-creating and nothing else." and then goes on to proclaim that there are "no young novelists of first rate importance at the present moment ..." [This paper was delivered to the Heretics at Cambridge University on May 18, 1924]

Woolf reflects on this and feels that she must divide English novelists into two camps: the "Edwardians" (H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and John Galsworthy) and the "Georgians" (E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Lytton Strachey, James Joyce and T.S. Eliot). She could easily have included herself but does not. The latter group were, and still are, modern and, to various degrees, genre shattering, revolutionary in their fields. 
As an example of the importance of character, Woolf cites how a "character" has captivated her. She explains how she spied an older woman on the train from Waterloo to Richmond, a "Mrs. Brown" as she so names her, who is accompanied by a middle aged man, who, Woolf, surmises, is somehow menacing the woman, not physically but psychologically. "There is something pinched about her - a look of suffering, of apprehension ..." Mrs. Brown is "very clean, very small, rather queer, and suffering intensely". 

A fictional scenario ensues in Woolf's mind (by the end of the essay we are still not sure if a "Mrs. Brown" truly existed): Mrs. Brown is a widow with an only son; she is extremely impoverished but comes from "good" stock; they were once so exalted that her grandmother had a maid. The younger man, "Mr. Smith", is "bigger, burlier, less refined. He is a man of business and he had some "power over her which he was exerting disagreeably ..." At one point, she cries and the man ignores her as if he has seen this many times before. Why does Woolf present this scenario? 

What I want you to see is this. Here is a character imposing itself upon another person. Here is Mrs. Brown making someone begin almost automatically to write a novel about her. I believe all novels begin with an old lady in the corner opposite.

Character is what we take away from the great books she argues (as does Arnold Bennett). War and Peace, Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair, Madame Bovary ... The lovers Natasha and Pierre, the inestimable Elizabeth Bennett, the shrewd Becky Sharpe, the doomed Emma Bovary. But Bennett sees no great characters in the writings of the "Georgian" (read "Modern") writers. Woolf demurs. The Edwardians, she asserts, do not see Mrs. Brown.

The Edwardians excelled at describing the "fabric of things". Woolf cites a book written by Bennett called Hilda Lessways and how Bennett opens the books with an intricate description of the home in which she resides, the neighborhood, who resided where, the architecture, the town, the weather. And so, Woolf complains, we cannot hear Hilda's voice "only Mr. Bennett's voice telling us facts about rents and freeholds and copyholds and fines". These restrictions, these limitations, have had a certain effect on modern writers.
... the feeble are tempted to outrage. and the strong are led to destroy the very foundations and rules of literary society.

I love the analogy she cites of a teenage boy staying with his aunt for the weekend who in desperation "rolls in the geranium bed as the solemnities of the sabbath wear on". The modern writer is bored, tired of the same conventions, restless, destructive. They are, she says, sincere, desperate, courageous and it is only that "they do not know which to use, a fork or their fingers".

The interior life of characters is largely absent; hence, her discomfort with the old ways of doing things.

But she does not overly praise the moderns. Joyce is "indecent", Eliot "obscure". Joyce's indecency in Ulysses seems "the conscious and calculated indecency of a desperate man who feels that in order to breather he must break the windows". When the window is broken he is magnificent but "what a waste of energy!" she exclaims.

Eliot has written some of "the loveliest single lines in poetry". But: 
... As I sun myself upon the intense and ravishing beauty of one of his lines, and reflect that I must make a dizzy and dangerous leap to the next ... like an acrobat flying precariously from bar to bar, I cry out, I confess, for the old decorums ...
And is she not right? As much as they thrill, these modern writers also disorient, at times even bore with the stridency of their inventions, do they not? They represent an alluring "season of failures and fragments". 

What is the readers' obligation here? To insist that writers describe "beautifully if possible, truthfully at any rate." We must tolerate the "spasmodic, the obscure, the fragmentary, the failure" for we are "trembling on the verge of one of the great ages of English literature".

As always milady, your arrow hits the mark. For who do we read? Whom do we turn to for truth, for beauty today? For the most part it is not Wells, Bennett or Galsworthy but Forster, Lawrence, Joyce, Eliot and of course ... Woolf.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Girl Who Hated Ponies

I don't really hate ponies ... c'mon look at her - she's adorable!
Was I harsh in my last blog post castigating the Bronies about their obsessions with My Little Pony? I don't think I was. Things have developed so oddly in a society where free speech rules that it is not even possible to point out that certain things that we do in modern life are  possibly strange or unhealthy because it elicits various outcries of anger and frustration. Here's how I know how widely I am disliked on this issue ...

There is a function on this blog where you can see where you have the most hits for a particular blog posting. I noticed a very high number of hits for my blog post I Know What Boys Like . Knowing that I only have about three friends who read this blog, I traced it back to an on-line forum for Bronies where they were vociferously commenting on my failings as a writer and as a miserable human being that you can read here.

The comments went from mild, backhanded praise: "you can tell from the sentence construction that this is an intelligent person and there are some interesting ideas buried somewhere in there." (gee thanks bro!) to vituperative: "There is nothing of worth here. It is a stupid conclusion made with sweeping generalizations and a child's view of both history and sociology." I apparently have that very special blend of "bad opinions, ignorance, venom, pseudo-intellectualism and smug." (I got plenty o' smug alright.) The same post concludes with the cheery: "Up yours lit chick ..."

So I guess in these situations my thoughts are: just because something wounds your sensibilities it doesn't mean it's not true nor should not be spoken of. I'm not wounded by these remarks but I am very puzzled. And I am especially puzzled by the vehemence of the attack. I didn't attack your mother or your religion did I? The energy it demonstrates, the anger, the ferocity ... confuses me. I still haven't sorted out in my mind what is at the root of this anger.

I'm trying to think of something that would make me this angry. One might be ... perpetuating stereotypes about the Italo-Canadian community. The other might be a condemnation of bi-racial domestic unions. Obviously, for those who know me and read this blog it's because they make up an important part of my life - it's my ethnic identity and it's my family situation. It affects me personally, you are attacking me personally when you say derogatory things about either of those issues.

But when I ask what is the appeal of a 20 something man and his attachment to a plastic pony and/or cartoon character - am I attacking you? Am I? Or am I trying to wrap my head around this phenomenon which is difficult to grasp for most thinking people. It's not that I consider the attachment wrong - that's not the word I would use ... it's not about right or wrong. It's about understanding why?

One friend said, leave them alone, we all have weird fetishes.Yes, I'll buy that, I know I do. He dared me to reveal one of mine so people could read this and ridicule me. Here we go, game on. Let's keep it G rated.

This might seem mild in comparison. I am obsessed with Virginia Woolf. I have a photo of her above my writing desk (I rebuilt an old photo frame I had and painted it just for this photo). I have a mug with her face on it. When my husband chipped it by accident, I was upset. I've read virtually everything that she's written. I have a special shelf on my book case for all Virginia-related books. I think about her. Alot. Too much. I often wonder what her life was like. How she suffered with her mental illness, what her relationship with her family was like, her romantic relationship with her husband, how she wrote, what she thought of in her last moments ...

But let me go a step further. I don't think that this line of thinking is normal or possibly healthy. I think it's odd and I rarely talk about it, if at all. If someone were to call me on it I don't think I could defend my obsessiveness because I, too, find it extremely odd. And there's weirder stuff than that of course but I ain't gonna talk about it here.

So ... I think you can have an odd obsession but to express anger or surprise that people don't understand it suggests a dissociation from mainstream life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I don't hate the little ponies ... I just don't get them or the boys that love them. That's my big crime.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Know What Boys Like ...

I'm NOT a doll I'm an action figure  ...
Lately, I seem to be inundated with news stories or interviews of adults who are preoccupied with child-like obsessions: the Muppets, Kermit the Frog, TRON, young men infatuated with My Little Pony, young adult women building forts in their homes. I have not fully understood why this incenses me so … but I am rapidly developing a theory.

CBC Radio I’m looking right at you. All of these stories were featured on CBC Radio which I largely enjoy most days. It drives … me … wild. Q had extensive audio interviews with/on Kermit the Frog, the Muppets, TRON and Bronies (young men who like My Little Pony). A few months ago, on, I believe, CBC Radio's Definitely Not The Opera (DNTO) had a piece about a young woman building a fort in her home and her reluctance to take it down. 

What is at the root of this intense, emotionally stunted nostalgia for childish affectations? Are we too prosperous in the West? Do we have too much leisure time? Are we self-indulgent babies who are running away from the real issues of society? All of the above?

Don’t get me wrong. Any casual observation of my blog will reveal my strange and obscure interests. I like my Vanity Fair, my juvenile pop music, my nerdy literary obsessions, my gossipy websites, my bad TV shows but ... come ... on. I don't hold these things up as worthy of emulation or admiration. They are, I hope, guilty pleasures that take a back seat to more important concerns and interests.

Has the role of men (yes, now I am looking at you gentlemen) become so degraded in our modern society that this is how they must occupy themselves? I'm not an Iron John sort of advocate. I do not want to return to the bad old days. I don't miss excessive displays of machismo or male brutality, having grown up in a home with a strong, very dominant father and many such males in my early life. But there is something to bemoan in the denigration of the role of men in society.

Once they represented physical strength, valour and bravery - they were laborers, fire fighters, builders, soldiers, protectors of hearth and home. They held positions of power and authority (and sometimes withheld it from other groups true). They waged war; they defended family and flag; they earned for their families. There was a dignity in this for them - this has largely disappeared in the lives of many men. Their role has dissolved before their (and our) eyes with a changing world and a disintegrating economy that has displaced a great number of men as the primary bread winners. Great! you may say. I'm not so sure.

With the dissolution of male supremacy in many spheres (truly a great thing) and the implosion of capitalism in the West (debatable by some whether that is good or bad), the increase in leisure time and a lengthy life expectancy, the role of the male in society has deteriorated even further. No wonder the media is full of stories about obsessions with technology, video games, the Internet, porn, animation, Star Trek, etc ... I think it represents a complete inability to grow up and deal with adult issues. No wonder you have 30 year-olds still living with mom - why move out and sustain yourself when you can watch Breaking Bad on HBO (paid for my your parents) and play Call of Duty in your spare time? You'd be fool to venture out into the real world ...

This arrested Fanboy mentality is contaminating pretty much everything in popular culture and media. 

I am not advocating a return to inequitable relations between men and women - or that men resume the macho postures of yore - brutal behavior,  insensitivity to women, disregard for the needs of others but wouldn't it behoove a grown male to have a hobby other than collecting "My Little Pony" figurines or attending Star Trek conventions in costume? And no, Jian Ghomeshi, as you mentioned in your broadcast on December 7th, it's not "sweet" that some young men collect "My Little Pony" figures ... it's disturbing and infantilizing.

We are apparently so bored and our capacity to do good is so underutilized that we revert to these childlike states and obsessions. What about issues of social justice? The state of your community? Your neighborhood? Our place in the world as citizens of the world? The welfare of your own family members who might be isolated, impoverished or lonely?

But we women are no better - tracking the Kardashians on Twitter, collecting AmericanGirl dolls, dressing like Paris Hilton, getting plastic surgery done to resemble movie stars or Barbie dolls. One seemingly innocuous example: why would the CBC Radio invest time in a story about a young woman who built a fort in her living room and then didn't want to take it down. I can't recall now (I wish I could find it) if this was a personal essay or a piece of fiction. Building a fort ... getting into an argument with your boyfriend because you don't want to take the fort down ... feeling safe in the fort ... feeling secure in the fort ... feeling like a child again.

Maybe I'm alone in this but I don't remember feeling being a kid was a particularly satisfying place to be. I couldn't wait to grow up and do adult things. I wasn't mature by any means; I was frustrated by my lack of freedom and ability to experience new, adult things! I wanted more experiences and wider-ranging emotions. Am I the only one on the planet who didn't see it as an idyllic state? And why would I want to revert back to it now? Why would you?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Downton Abbey

The Crawley sisters of Downton Abbey: Edith, Sybil, Mary
I often dream of large houses, not necessarily grand ones; sometimes they are decrepit and run down and I am trying to navigate them, often unsuccessfully. There was an abandoned seventeen room house on our street which had me intrigued for many years before it was finally purchased and renovated.

Perhaps it isn't hard to explain my fixation on the British PBS TV series Downton Abbey then (represented on screen by Highclere Castle) where the real estate fascinates as much as the characters. It couldn't be more different than anything I have known in my own life and yet it completely fascinates me. Of course, there is the typical upper class British twittery and senseless opulence but there is something about the interaction between the classes, the whole Upstairs, Downstairs aspect which compels me to watch. 

The series began with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the presumed loss of the Downton Abbey estate heir, Patrick Crawley. Patrick Crawley was a cousin of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville - I still think of him as Hugh Grant's hapless friend in the film Notting Hill) - the current lord of the estate. Because the estate is entailed in such a manner that none of Richard's three daughters Mary (Michelle Dockery), Edith (Laura Carmichael) or Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) may inherit, it must go to a male heir. With Patrick gone, it now falls to cousin Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), who is - horrors! - a practicing solicitor who lives in (egads) Manchester and is decidedly not one of the idle rich. 

Of course, this series, written and directed by Julian Fellowes, perhaps best known for the film Gosford Park, goes places that the original Upstairs, Downstairs TV series could not, nor would not, go. There are the expected star-crossed romances: Lady Sybil, third daughter of the manor, and the handsome radical, an Irish chauffeur named Branson (Tom Branson) not to mention the Lord of the Manor who fixates on a widowed house maid named Jane who eventually leaves his employ. There is the gay footman who eyes every upwardly mobile opportunity and handsome face out there ... yes you read correctly.

But there are strange and interesting undercurrents too that help it rise above the average upper crest mansion porn. Rob James-Collier (better known as the character of Liam Connor on Coronation Street from 2006 - 2008) plays Thomas, a sinister footman who is not only gay but actively evil and plays it with great relish. Thomas tries to plant false evidence that a perceived rival named Bates, the valet to the Earl of Grantham, is a thief. He threatens to blackmail one of his "betters" with whom he served as valet until the man steals the letters back which implicate him. Don't feel too sorry for the blackmailed man - he wants to marry the eldest daughter Mary on the condition that she inherit even while he dallies with Thomas.
Dishy Thomas, beautiful, gay ... and evil
Thomas, once eager to go to war in WWI against the Hun in France, willingly has himself shot in the hand in the trenches to return back home. He dabbles in the black market after the war only to be tricked by more devious minds than his. He is ambitious and he can be ruthless but the character is also layered. He has aspirations, resents that his opportunities are limited merely because he's a working class lad and ridicules the other servants who mourn for the lady of the manor who has had a miscarriage and was carrying a male heir. He scornfully asks why they should care so much for a woman who barely knows their name? But Thomas' character is textured, vulnerable. Few know about his sexual orientation and he is careful not to reveal himself. But he does show his vulnerability when he comforts and aids a blinded soldier who eventually kills himself. James-Collier makes it difficult to despise him despite his reprehensible actions.

The sour-faced lady's maid Sarah O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) also has a malevolent streak which she only partially succeeds in concealing. Her unfounded fears that she is about to be supplanted leads her to do a despicable and life altering act that critically changes the course of the family's fate. She also tries to undermine the Lord's valet (a position that she covets for her colleague Thomas) and jeopardizes the whole of the family in doing so with her scheming. And yet she also selflessly nurses Lady Grantham through the deadly Spanish flu and shows a shell-shocked fellow servant, Mr. Lang, the little kindness that he receives in the house as a faltering valet.

What Fellowes excels in are the relationships between the women of different classes in the house. Would you believe that the head maid (Anna) would aid her mistress (Lady Mary) in removing the dead body of a lover from her chamber? Or that a Lady (Mary) would decorate a chamber for her maid's honeymoon night in the manor? I do. I believe these scenarios. I think of the emotional relationships that women today have with their aestheticians, their hairdressers, their masseuses, their cleaning ladies ... the confidences shared, and the secrets concealed, and I believe this part of the Downton Abbey story completely.

Elizabeth McGovern as the American heiress Cora
Of course there are certain cliches that persist ... the Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith as the Earl's mother) keeps things hopping with her barbed remarks about the lower classes (for instance, how Lady Sybil's chauffeur/paramour makes the new previously disliked heir Matthew look like a Hapsburg). American heiresses in the mid to late 19th c. were seen as cash cows who could siphon new money into crumbling estates and legacies (most notably Winston Churchill's mother Jennie Jerome). Fellowes said that his story was in part inspired by the presence of these American women - some 350 or so who married into the British aristocracy. Most Brits unreservedly support the war in the series except in the person of Branson, the Irish chauffeur, but even he cannot bring himself to accept the killing of the Czar Nicholas II and his family in Russia.

And frankly there are scenes that I think would just never happen - the grudging acceptance by the lord of the manor of the marriage of his youngest daughter Sybil to the chauffeur Branson. Never ... gonna .. happen. Those nighttime rendezvous between daughter and chauffeur, highly unlikely. 
Would the Earl of Grantham keep in his employ a lame valet with a prison record even if he was a comrade from the Boer War? Would the dowager countess advocate to have a footman be treated in the local hospital after he is gassed at the front because she pities the father of the boy? Fellowes, who is affluent himself (Lord of the Manor of Tattershall in Lincolnshire), keeps insisting that the aristocracy could simply not afford to mistreat servants as they would leave - after all they weren't slaves! 

It all has a tinge of "It was horribly unfair wasn't it? But didn't we get along so well - looking after each others' interests?"  I wonder. Possibly, these acts of kindness were commonplace ... it's a lovely dream though isn't it - of how class relations worked back then?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The November Cultural Roundup

In 1980 I started a Cultural Journal where I recorded the films I had seen, the books I read, etc ... in an old diary style blank book that I found in Chinatown because I'm ... anal, I guess, and feel the need to categorize everything incessantly. The other day I was wondering why I am still recording this information on paper (much as I love paper)? So here we are ... the inaugural post on a cultural round up of the month's activities. 

T.S. Eliot: Selected Poems by T.S. Eliot
The Captain's Death Bed by Virginia Woolf
The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

Carlos (France, 2010) directed by Olivier Assayas, 165 minutes

Interview of Joan Didion by Margaret MacMillan at the International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront
Karen Mulhallen at the Draft 7.2 Reading Series, Only Cafe

Art Exhibits
"Struggling Cities from Japanese Urban Projects in the 1960s" exhibit at the Japan Foundation

Monday, November 28, 2011

Through a glass romantically …

The Captain's Death Bed by Virginia Woolf (Hogarth Press, 1950) 224 pages 

But no living writer, try though he may, can bring back the past again, because no living writer can bring back the ordinary day. He sees it through a glass, sentimentally, romantically; it is either too pretty or too brutal; it lacks ordinariness. Virgina Woolf

When I was younger and put pen to paper (and back then it really was pen to paper) I always felt intimidated at the notion of trying to write a personal essay. The first essays that I eagerly read (outside of an academic context) were those of Virginia Woolf. I voraciously pursued all of her writing: fiction, biographies, diaries, essays, and all things Bloomsbury.

You can imagine my excitement in finding this final edition of Woolf's collected essays at the St. Michael's College Book Sale this fall when I realized that this was an edition printed by Woolf's own Hogarth Press and edited by her husband Leonard Woolf. I love everything about this book: it's size (5"x7 1/2"), the way it feels in my hands, the smell of the book, the green hard cover, its yellowed pages and even the slightly cryptic inscription left by a friend (or possibly lover?) in fading blue ink on the front page:

See p. 90
All good wishes
from H.G.
Jan. 1, 1959 

Was it a teacher who left the message for H.G.? A lover? A doting parent? Surely it was a man, one who sought to instruct, to advise and set one on the right course ...

Woolf, that most modern of writers, had a passion for late 18th c. and 19th c. eccentrics and geniuses and a deep reverence for the masters of art and literature. But why would she pursue such an obscure collection of thoughts and ruminations you may ask. (Although, confessedly, why would I want to read about the doings of artists and writers from almost a hundred years ago here you might also inquire).

You might understand her interest in the English art critic John Ruskin (with his "petulant eloquence"), the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev ("he chose to write with the most fundamental part of his being as a writer"), Thomas Hardy ("that faculty for putting the telescope to his eye and seeing strange, grim pictures") and her own father the writer/critic Leslie Stephens ("If one moment he rebuked a daughter for smoking a cigarette ... she had only to ask him if she might be a painter, and he assured her that so long as she took her work seriously he would give her all the help he could.") As a writer, her thoughts on "Modern Letters", "Reading" and the "Cinema" intrigue me but what of the other essays?

They are as numerous as they are obscure: the ornithologist (White's Selbourne), the sea captain from the Napoleonic Wars turned novelist (The Captain's Death Bed), a governess to the well born (Selina Trimmer), the pastor kept a largely uneventful diary for 65 years (Life Itself), the painter Walter Siskert (Walter Siskert) ... and then are some that are a tad underwhelming: imagined rides on "aeroplanes" (how odd  it seems to pair Woolf with an "aeroplane" (Flying Over London) or getting a dose of "gas" at the dentist (Gas).

But what could this offer a 21st c. writer/reader like me, even an avid follower of Woolf's? Even one who is such a lit geek that she has photo of Woolf over her writing desk and mug with her face on it. Even I find my fixation strange. But ... in the manner of those who are besotted with all that the person they love is involved in, I am fixated on all that Woolf is interested in. Yes she was a snob, could be a nasty gossip, said vicious things about the Jews despite being married to one whom she clearly loved and doted on, was a bit too beguiled by the aristocracy, cared not whit for attire and feminine accouterments as she aged and acquired that haphazard look that some older women have when they are not careful with their dress. But how she dazzled with her prose, how playful and quick she was ... how she soars when she writes leaving us lesser mortals here below pining to be up there in the clouds with her.

Woolf at work ...
The proverbial jewel in the crown in this collection is the essay "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown" that speaks of the importance of character in fiction and likely that was why it was placed dead center in the collection. I'd like to address that essay in a separate blog.

And because of Woolf, specifically because of Woolf, I have tried (tepidly, fearfully, at first) to write my own essays on small and obscure subjects - hence the blog and other small bits of ephemera. The smallness of the topics incite me to write further because even though the topics are odd and perhaps deemed irrelevant by some, she infuses beauty and clarity in all that she writes.

I have a theory: read well (and hope to) write well. I also have a mystical desire to touch the books that were produced by her own press with a not so secret hope that the magic and power that infuses her books will be transferred in a small way to me as a writer, as an acolyte.

I cannot bring her back in her "ordinariness" in my imagination, only "sentimentally, romantically" but that will suffice for me.