Seeing Fannie

As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted–

Never mind.

The section that vanished when the wireless network disappeared concerned A. S. Byatt’s Possession. It’s a magnificent novel.

My comments were anything but.

So I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

Now to the update on Fannie Flagg: I heard Ms. Flagg speak last Saturday at BookPeople. She read from her latest book, I Still Dream About You, and signed.

Before the program, a BookPeople staff member announced that Ms. Flagg would stay until every copy was signed, and that she would be happy for people to take photographs. In other words, she was gracious. She demonstrated appreciation and respect for the people who came out to see her.

Ms. Flagg took her reading from the chapter titled “Hazel Whisenknott Begins.” Hazel is a real estate agent, the smallest one in the state, not much more than three feet tall. She is also dead when the book begins. When she is five years old, she starts a weed-pulling business that becomes remarkably successful.

I Still Dream About You is a murder mystery. I don’t know the victim yet. I presume it’s not Hazel. I also presume I will know who by the end of chapter three.

I hope I know by the end of chapter three. That’s when everyone says I have to have my murder taken care of. I wouldn’t like to think there there’s a set a rules for me and another set for Fannie Flagg.

In summary, regarding Fannie Flagg’s appearance at BP, a good time was had by all. Especially me.

A coil of hair

Minna Katherine Stagner Veazey, front row center, at a reunion of the Lipscomb Rifles, San Antonio, Texas, ca. 1950. Mary Phereby Veazey Barrow, front row left, wearing picture hat.

My mother’s family recycles names.

In my generation there are seven grandchildren, each with two given names. Of those fourteen names, only one is new. The rest are hand-me-down, used by parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, an aunt.

I’m the youngest, a Mary Katherine. For my first thirty years, the name drew no comment. Then people began to ask: Are you Catholic? Are you a nun?

Sorry, no. Just the child of Southern Protestants who had no imagination.

Actually, I was supposed to be just Katherine. My mother tacked the Mary on at the last minute before the birth certificate was prepared. She said my grandmother, who was on the scene, grew all fluttery at the compliment.

My great-grandmother presented me with a silver locket in the shape of a heart. One of my early memories is of visiting her at my great-aunt’s house. Mother clipped a lock of her white hair, coiled it, and put it into the locket. I was fascinated at the process. I think I wore the locket once. It’s spent most of its time stored away, carefully preserved. Someday the next Katherine, two generations younger than I, will care for it.

Locks of the Ages: The Leigh Hunt Hair Collection is now on display at the Harry Ransom Center. It features hair from, among others, George Washington, Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Bronte, John Keats, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and William Wordsworth.

Lord Byron stole a strand of Lucretia Borgia’s hair from the Ambrosian Museum in Milan and presented it to Hunt for his collection. That strand, however, appears not to have been part of the collection sold by the Hunt family in 1921.

***

Leigh Hunt was a Romantic poet and essayist. I read that he was the model for Mr. Skimpole in Dickens’ Bleak House. The portrait Dickens painted wasn’t complimentary, and I don’t know whether they remained friends.

Literature textbooks generally included only one of Hunt’s poems. Semesters were short; there wasn’t time to read everything, so the syllabus jumped from Wordsworth and Coleridge to Byron, Shelley, and Keats. I’ve never been curious enough to learn anything else about him on my own.

The one poem by Hunt, however, was too nice to ignore. The professor who taught the Romantics told how Hunt came to write it. He’d gone to visit philosopher Thomas Carlyle and his wife, Jane. Hunt had recently recovered from a long bout with influenza, and when Jane Carlyle saw him, she leaped up and kissed him. Because she was not usually a demonstrative¬† person, Hunt was moved by her gesture and later wrote his poem.

Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss’d me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note: This post was on its way to publication when the wireless network vanished. When the network returned, the final third of this post had vanished, as had the tags. As had January 13, 2011, so this piece was published after midnight, on January 14. Drat!

After a decent night’s sleep, however, I’ll recreate the rest of the post and republish. And then I’ll publish a second post.

One of  my resolutions was to eschew perfectionism. I might as well get started now.