Away From This Mad World

Moving house is almost always stressful. No matter how well you plan it (and we’ve moved a lot, so we know what to expect), there are always issues. Our biggest was it turned out the house had a heating problem that the sellers never fixed, but evidently just lived with; it is now finally repaired.

The unpacking and the decorating… is almost finished:

Nearly all the boxes are emptied and it feels at last like “home.” It’s finally time to start to relax some. What do you do to relax?:

[An 1805 scene from War And Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Photo by me, 2019.]

One way I do… is, uh, sitting back and reading the likes of that.

The time period from about 1750 until 1830 is – I believe – fascinating. I suppose, though, you have probably already guessed I think so. I know I have certainly displayed my bias in that direction in terms of my writing:

[Excerpt from a 1791 Paris scene in Conventions: The Garden At Paris, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

I know I’m not alone in that interest.

How many women in 2019 secretly yearn to be courted by the handsome officer or the landed gentleman? And how many men so want to win the heart of the pretty young lady of the manor? Hence Jane Austen’s books’ ongoing popularity two centuries after her death, as well as all of the “period” “costume” dramas produced for television and film: from Victoria, to (how many versions of?) War and Peace, to Versailles, to… well, the list seems endless.

[“War and Peace” miniseries, 2007. Photo by me, 2018.]

It’s not just books and television/film. One of the most popular radio stations here in Britain is Classic FM. It regularly plays centuries’ old Bach and Mozart:

[Screen capture earlier of ClassicFM live on Global Player.]

It has a surprisingly high listenership among those under age 35.

In our hyper-fast world, with everything happening around us so quickly – from super-fast travel, with the word “friend” watered down by Facebook and other social media from when it meant an actually special relationship (you didn’t write “my friend” lightly in a letter), to buzzing notifications, to iMessages and email overwhelming us, to possibly even “hooking up” via sites like Tinder – so many appear often to yearn to slow down their lives.

[Jane Austen collection. Photo by me, 2016.]

How many of us deep down desire to get away from all of the “noise” of this century in which we must live? How many of us wish to saunter on a secluded country lane by the side of our well-dressed handsome gentleman or bonnet-wearing lovely lady? How many of us wish we could be read to before a roaring fire by our husband or wife before we retire together by candlelight in a rural house?

Likely we find some of that “slow down” in “period” literature and films. Naturally, we don’t think too much about how difficult or harsh life then often truly was. What we crave from them is, I suspect, the color, the simplicity, the seriousness in – particularly romantic – relationships, and the sighs…

Above all, we want to escape for a time from our hectic modern lives… to some less hurried past. If we can’t truly escape our present, we may read about that earlier time. In doing so we may, I suppose, pause and catch our breath before returning to our busy and often chaotic present.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are… and in whatever century you wish to live. 🙂

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Postscript. Yesterday was a sad day in the more modern literary world:

One of my favorite novels. A book in my teens that piqued my curiosity, leading me to take it off my mother’s bookshelf and peruse it. It made a massive impression on me then… and as an author myself now, does still.

2 thoughts on “Away From This Mad World

  1. I often fantasize about faking my own death and sneaking off to live alone on some remote island. 😂 The closest I get to that is the occasional trip to Marathon Key. I guess that will have to suffice as I like to think I might be missed if I vanished altogether. 😁 So yes, getting away from the “noise” is extremely appealing.

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