The perfect conclusion to a classic Bildungsroman series

Betsy has just returned home from her interrupted Grand Tour, which her dad sent her on to get inspiration for her writing. (If only everyone had that kind of class privilege!) Before she left London (due to the outbreak of WWI), she and her ex Joe arranged to meet in New York Harbor on 7 September and make another go of their relationship.

Betsy and Joe were practically engaged as university students, but broke up when she sort-of cheated on him. During Betsy’s entire Grand Tour, she frequently found herself thinking about Joe, and when they meet again, they immediately decide to marry.

Since most of their relationship happened between books, though, and Joe was always more of a secondary character, the lightning speed of their reconciliation and their intense feelings don’t feel entirely believable. I wish Mrs. Lovelace had written a few books about the years between Betsy and Joe and Betsy and the Great World. The infodumpy backstory in Chapter 2 of Great World and Betsy’s appearances in spinoff books don’t have the same impact.

Betsy and the Great World/Betsy's Wedding: Lovelace, Maud Hart: 9780061795138: Books: Amazon.com

Betsy and Joe have a grand time in NYC, though Betsy keeps pressing Joe for a formal proposal. She sensibly doesn’t want Joe to waste money on an engagement ring, but he buys her a wedding ring at Tiffany’s. Soon after their reunion, Betsy journeys home to Minnesota.

Since the Rays are joined at the hip, Betsy’s parents are convinced she’ll stay at home for many years. When she breaks the news about her engagement, they’re stunned. Particularly because she and Joe want to be married in a week, and Joe lives in Boston.

But Betsy reassures them she’ll still be nearby, since Joe quit his job in Boston. Without having a new job in Minneapolis lined up! And he didn’t even ask Mr. Ray for permission. (An unthinkable horror!)

Betsy's Wedding (Betsy-Tacy): Lovelace, Maud Hart, Neville, Vera: 9780064405447: Books: Amazon.com

Since there are no truly black clouds in Betsy’s idyllic life, her parents’ objections are quickly overcome, and Joe finds a newspaper job after going to several offices (racking up a huge cab fare in the process). Tacy and her husband Harry (whom I will never see as anything but a creepy groomer) loan them a cottage by the lake for their honeymoon, and there’s a lovely wedding at the Rays’ house.

After an idyllic honeymoon, Betsy’s little sister Margaret finds them a great apartment. The landlady is the mother of her BFF Louisa, whom Margaret calls Boogie. Louisa in turn calls her Bogie, and Mrs. Ray and Betsy can’t believe these high school girls aren’t boy-crazy yet.

Betsy is determined to be the perfect housewife, though she’s never been domestically inclined. She puts her mind to learning how to cook, clean, bake, budget, and iron, having many funny failures along the way. Betsy even refuses a job offer from Joe’s boss, saying her only job is being Joe’s little wifey. (A complete departure from her well-established character!)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the character Anna Quindlen thinks is such an incredible, unsung feminist! A few books earlier, Betsy and Tib lamented how Tacy would be an old maid because she wasn’t interested in dating at the ripe old age of seventeen.

Betsy and Tacy’s schemes to marry off Tib backfire, and Betsy eventually realizes how wrong it was to try to choose a husband for another woman. You can’t force a relationship on anyone, and it’s better to marry for love. I was very happy when Tib found her perfect match all by herself.

A monkey wrench is thrown into Betsy and Joe’s lives when Joe’s aunt Ruth comes to live with them. They’re forced to buy a house and give up their lovely apartment. More challenges come when Joe starts working the night shift

But through all these ups and downs, Betsy emerges as a mature adult in her own right, and still finds time for her old friends. These things become very useful when the U.S. joins WWI and Joe enlists in the Army.

Betsy's Wedding - Lovelace, Maud Hart/ Neville, Vera (ILT) - 9780606141635 | HPB

WeWriWa—The cab arrives

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I decided to switch back to Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth novel with my Russian characters, because the subject of Chapter 41, “A Modern-Day Greek Tragedy,” is now very timely and relevant. It’s September 1949, and 20-year-old Bogdana knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that she became pregnant when her 35-year-old secret boyfriend, his nephew, and their roommate assaulted her six weeks ago. Without a job, and afraid to ask her parents for mystery money, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Bogdana began bleeding profusely after using a sharpened piece of hanger, and she’s unable to extract it. She called the cab company and asked for her friend Achilles, the only person who knows her secret besides the radical Dr. Scholl and uncommonly liberal priest Father Spiridon. Achilles is a med student and very young widower with a toddler daughter.

Bogdana struggles to lock her door in her kneeling position. The keys slip out of her hand after she’s finally accomplished this, and she barely remembers to retrieve them and put them back into her handbag. She crawls to the curb at the sight of the approaching cab, the pain growing stronger and more unbearable every second. Her insides feel on fire, and the blood still hasn’t stopped. It’s all over the sidewalk, in a trail leading back to her apartment.

The moment Achilles pulls to a stop, Bogdana slumps over and passes out. Achilles pushes his door open and runs to her side.

“Bogdana, can you hear me?”

She remains slumped over, her legs covered in blood. Achilles goes into the trunk for his emergency medical bags, whose contents include a Kelly pad.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

He unfurls the rubber sheet across the backseat, picks Bogdana up, sets her on the sheet, and speeds to Dr. Scholl. Time is of such essence, he damns the consequences of being seen going directly to the clinic.

Achilles squeezes into a parallel spot about ten feet away from the clinic, barely missing nicking the other cars, and takes Bogdana out of the backseat. He closes the doors with his hips and runs towards the clinic without locking up.

“Is Dr. Scholl in?” he shouts as he runs inside. “There’s a very serious emergency. I think she tried to give herself an abortion.”

The receptionist turns white at the sight of the unconscious Bogdana in Achilles’s arms. She picks up the phone and repeats the information.

“You can go right down to the basement. He just finished with another patient.”

The discovery of Dante’s handwriting

I recently was alerted to a July 2021 article in The Daily Mail, corroborated by the more serious U.K. paper The Times and several other sources, reporting that a British-born, Florence-based nun named Julia Bolton Holloway discovered a few manuscripts almost certainly written by Dante in the 1280s or 1290s. While researching manuscripts written by students of Dante’s dear surrogate father and guardian Brunetto Latini in several libraries, Sister Julia found some which we have very good reason to believe were penned by the Supreme Poet.

These manuscripts were located in Florence and the Vatican, dated to Dante’s student days, when he was copying books and treatises on government. In the days before the printing press, everything was handwritten, and it was quite common to copy other people’s work for one’s own education or personal library.

Some of the manuscripts from Brunetto Latini’s students were also transcriptions of his own lectures and writings on philosophy, politics, law, government, rhetoric, science, and ethics, greatly influenced by things he learnt while in exile in Spain.

Sister Julia was a professor of Medieval Studies at Princeton before answering the call to become a nun. One of her great passions is Brunetto Latini, whom she’s studied for fifty years. After taking the veil, she moved to Italy and ran the English cemetery in Florence. She also lived for awhile as a hermit in Tuscany. But always, her love of the Middle Ages endured, which was what led her to making this miraculous discovery.

According to Leonardo Bruni (ca. 1370–1444), a historian, humanist, and statesman of the early Renaissance, Dante’s handwriting was Cancelleresca script (Chancery hand), with the same idiosyncrasies as those in the documents Sister Julia discovered. These documents are also the only ones among all the manuscripts written by Brunetto Latini’s students using Cancelleresca.

Cancelleresca was developed by the Apostolic Chancery, a department of the Roman Curia responsible for the Pope’s books and censoring documents. It’s a form of blackletter, known as rotunda script in Italy and with origins in Carolingian minuscule. Among the unique features of the Italian form of this script are uncommon spellings and abbreviations (e.g., milex instead of miles, qui represented by a line under the letter q). It was also less angular than other forms.

The most calligraphic form is officially called minuscola cancelleresca italiana, and eventually began to be used for books instead of government communications like charters.

Sister Julia believes Dante’s father, Alighiero di Bellincione degli Aligheri, taught him to write in Cancelleresca.

In addition to being the only documents written in Cancelleresca, out of all the other known samples from Brunetto Latini’s students, they’re also the only ones written on cheap parchment instead of the more upscale vellum made from calfskin. Though the Alighieris were minor nobility and always had enough money to live comfortably, they also weren’t an über-rich Florentine family like the Portinaris or Falconieris.

Thus, Dante didn’t have the same financial means as the other students. After his father died in the early 1280s, the family’s finances also became more precarious, and Dante had to earn money through selling letters of credit his usurer father had on unpaid loans, charity, loans, and income from family farmland. As Forese Donati, one of his best friends, joked about in the six tenzone they exchanged in the first half of the 1290s, Dante wasn’t exactly a wealthy man, or even bourgeois.

Tana (Gaetana) and Francesco were Dante’s much-younger halfsiblings, to whom he was very close

Sister Julia says, “The handwriting is schoolboy-like in the early manuscripts, but the writing is in excellent Tuscan,” and feels it “provides an insight into his genius.”

The big square imposed on a circle represents God, an idea which Dante later expressed in Canto XXXIII of Paradiso, pondering the geometer who can’t find the principle to square the circle as he gazes upon three circles representing the Trinity.

Given how Dante rescued many women from historical oblivion by recording their names and stories, and how his overall treatment of women is lightyears ahead of the majority of his contemporaries, it feels only fitting that a woman should discover these manuscripts and figure out he wrote them. The good you put out always comes back to you.

WeWriWa—Bogdana’s desperate act

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I decided to switch back to Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth novel with my Russian characters, because the subject of Chapter 41, “A Modern-Day Greek Tragedy,” is now very timely and relevant. It’s September 1949, and 20-year-old Bogdana knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that she became pregnant when her 35-year-old secret boyfriend, his nephew, and their roommate assaulted her six weeks ago. Without a job, and afraid to ask her parents for mystery money, she’s decided to take matters into her own hands.

Peppermint is Bogdana’s cat.

After spending several hours bending an old, already-bent hanger back and forth until it finally snapped, Bogdana then moved to unstringing it just as painstakingly and slowly. Finally, she spent several more hours bending it back and forth again until a suitably small piece broke off. The final step was sharpening one of the ends with the never-used whetstone her parents insisted she have.

Now, as dusk approaches, Bogdana steels herself and has a seat on the floor. She figures this can’t be harder than when she douched with Lysol. There’s nothing on hand to numb the pain, but it’ll be over quickly.

Bogdana guides her sharpened piece of hanger into her body, taking deep breaths. She yelps when it hits something she assumes must be the cervix. After taking a few more deep breaths, she wiggles it around until she discovers a slight opening. Victory achieved, she pushes it through.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Searing pain rips through her, from a place she can’t be sure of. The intense pain is accompanied by a warm, wet, sticky gushing down her legs. She tries to pull out the instrument, but can no longer reach it. Panic sweeps through her as she tries again and again to get even a toehold of a grip. She has no pliers of any sort, so she can’t extract it the hard way either.

Bogdana suppresses her urge to scream and alert her upstairs neighbors to what’s going on. She crawls over to the phone, pain still holding her in an iron grip, and calls the cab company. In a shaking voice, she asks for Les Medved, and gives her destination as a random address near Dr. Scholl.

During the next ten minutes, she breathes deep and clenches her fists and toes to try to distract herself from the agony. All the while, blood continues gushing down her legs and forming a pool on the carpet. Peppermint pads up to her, then skits away at the sight of the blood.

A to Z reflections on Ukrainian history and culture (А до Я роздуми про Українську історію та культуру

This was my eleventh year doing the A to Z Challenge, and my ninth with two blogs. For the fourth year, I only began researching, writing, and editing my posts in March. In years prior, I put them together many months in advance.

Since Ukrainian history and culture aren’t nearly as intimately familiar to me as their Russian counterparts, I needed to do a lot of exhausting research. The vast majority of the information in my posts were things I only learnt as I was researching them.

Because I have two blogs, and the themes on my main blog are always very intense and research-heavy, waiting until March is not a strategy I want to continue with. I’ve finally realized that’s the reason I feel so mentally exhausted and run ragged by April first. When I completed my posts as much as nine months in advance, I had much more energy for visiting lots of blogs and writing for Camp NaNo in particular, and more overall energy in general.

Topics I considered but crossed off my list were Vasyl Avramenko (father of Ukrainian dance), Christmas in Ukraine, Moysey Fishbein (a writer), the Janowska concentration-camp, Makhnovshchina (an anarchist-controlled area of Ukraine from 1918–21), the Odesa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, Pochayiv Lavra (a beautiful, large, historic monastery), Priest’s Grotto (a cave which sheltered several Jewish families during the Shoah, some for up to 344 days), St. George’s Cathedral of Lviv, St. Sophia Cathedral of Kyiv, Ukrainian language, West Ukrainian People’s Republic (an area which existed from 1918–19), the White Dacha (Anton Pavlovich Chekhov’s residence in Yalta, now a house museum), and Mariya Zankovetska (a renowned theatre actress).

I also began writing a post about Lviv’s Dormition Church, but filed it away in my drafts folder because there weren’t enough specific historical or architectural details for a more substantial treatment. I’ve put other discarded A to Z posts in my drafts folder in years prior, and eventually posted them.

As much as possible, I tried to pick lesser-known subjects, though a few seemed inevitable. It was obvious H could only be the Holodomor, R would be Rushnyk, L would be Lviv, and Y would be Yalta. I also knew going in that I’d have to do Ukraine’s national writer Taras Shevchenko, who was originally slated for T instead of S. Other subjects I had to include were the poet Vasyl Symonenko and writer-bandurist couple Olena and Mykhaylo Teliha.

I crossed off Makhovshchina and West Ukrainian People’s Republic because the thought of writing those posts gave me a headache. They weren’t as relatively simple as writing about a person, city, building, or aspect of culture. They’d require a lot of research, careful selection of what exactly to include and exclude, and probably several days of writing and editing. Not exactly general-interest subjects!

Though some of the topics have tie-ins with my writing (the Holodomor, Bila Tserkva, Jewish Ukraine, Yalta, Lviv, Chornobyl, rushnyk), I decided not to mention them like I usually do with my A to Z posts. It didn’t feel appropriate given what’s going on now.

I have at least ten more topics planned for future years!

Post recap:

Andrey Ivanovych Sheptytskyy (Андрей Іванович Шептицький)
Bila Tserkva, Ukraine (Біла Церква, Україна)
Chornobyl (Chernobyl), Ukraine (Чорнобиль, Україна)
Drohobych, Ukraine (Дрогобич, Україна)
The Executed Renaissance (Розстріляне відродження)
Feodosiya, Ukraine (Феодосія, Україна)
Oleksiy Oleksandrovych Glagolev (Олексій Олександрович Глаголєв)
The Holodomor (Голодомор)
Ivan Yakovych Franko (Іван Якович Франко)
Jewish Ukraine (Єврейська Україна)
Kostyantyn Dmytrovych Ushynskyy (Костянтин Дмитрович Ушинський)
Lviv, Ukraine (Львів, Україна)
Marko Vovchok (Марко Вовчок)
National Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture (Національна академія образотворчого мистецтва і архітектури)
Dr. Sofiya Atanasivna Okunevska-Morachevska (Софія Атанасівна Окуневська-Морачевська)
The Peresopnytskye Gospel (Пересопницьке Євангеліє)
The Ukrainian Quintet of Borys Lyatoshynskyy (Український квінтет Бориса Лятошинськия)
Rushnyk (Рушник)
Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko (Тарас Григорович Шевченко)
Olena and Mykhaylo Teliha (Олена і Михайло Теліга)
Lesya Ukrayinka (Леся Українка)
Vasyl Andriyovych Symonenko (Василь Андрійович Симоненко)
Weddings in Ukraine (Весіллі в Україні)
Xenocracy (Ксенократія)
Yalta, Ukraine (Ялта, Україна)
Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy (Володимир Олександрович Зеленський)

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