The Clever Quill – READ. LEARN. INSPIRE.

An Educated Mind ~ Come Along On My Quest to Finish 1350 Great Works

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    In my early 20s, I was diagnosed with a debilitating illness that forced me to forego a more traditional path to a classical education, leaving University shy of achieving a formal degree. But I won't give up! I believe in everyone's right to learn, no matter what health challenges they face. I'm determined to leave this life with a more cultured mind regardless of the time I have to make it happen, whether it be a year or five. Be my witness as I embark on this Epic, Gargantuan Adventure! My Quest to battle imposed limitations, slaying the fiery Dragons of Injustice, Intolerance, Disdain and Complacency... = 1350 GREAT WORKS = ~~ : ME versus TIME : ~~ Join TEAM AJ and cheer me on!!!
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Archive for May, 2015

Days 18-22: Are You There God? It’s Me, AJ.

Posted by Amanda Jane on May 6, 2015

Selected Readings Goal: 1350 | Started: 2 | Finished: 2 | Remaining: 1348

Currently Reading: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

Day 18-22 Reading: Chapters 1-25 | Pages: 1-149


My parents bought this book for me, on my insistence, as a little girl and I have kept it all these years!  My worn-out paperback copy is from the 80’s.  I think that was around the last time I read it, too–somewhere between my last Barbie and my first bra.  It made me sentimental to reminisce on those times from my childhood that most of us went through in some form or another.  Judy Blume captured the very heart of a preteen girl’s life, with all its accompanying turmoil and refreshing, youthful innocence.

I grew up with two older sisters, one 18 years older, the other 13 years older.  At times I almost felt like I was an only child like the protagonist, Margaret Ann Simon.  What I remember most from my childhood was how much I really wanted to be like my lovely, popular big sisters.  I was always into their things and business–any pesky little sister can relate!  I’m sure I bugged them to their wits’ end, but I was so in awe of them! I needed to be around them, to learn what they did and how they did it so I could be just like them when I was old enough.

When my preteen years came around, I was tall, awkward, and painfully shy.  Nothing like my sisters, much to my dismay.  They always seemed to know how to light up a room, how to make friends easily, how to fall into conversation with strangers–I didn’t.  They had beautiful, long silky hair with just the right amount of curl, I had a tangled, frizzy mop that defied gravity.  Needless to say, when I hit my preteen years, I was eager to grow up, thinking that perhaps aging was my last hope to be the swan instead of the gangly duckling.

In the book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret the main character, Margaret has moved to a new town where she doesn’t know anyone, is about to enter the sixth grade, and still has an underdeveloped prepubescent body.  She doesn’t even wear a bra yet!  She meets a few other girls from her neighborhood and together they form a club called the Pre Teen Sensations.  To make matters worse, she has just found out her teacher is new and has never had a class before–and he’s a MAN!

We follow Margaret through her becoming more aware of her body and her underdeveloped bustline, friendships, life lessons about believing gossip, the first stirrings of a crush, her first kiss, her first dance, her first bra, and getting her period for the first time.   The book is interspersed with Margaret’s quest to figure out which religion she should belong to.  She has a fully developed relationship with God, regardless of the fact that she has been brought up without any religion.  Her parents decided that Margaret should be allowed to choose her own belief system when she was older, as her father was Jewish and her mother was Christian, and there had been terrible family turmoil and estrangement for that very reason.

Margaret feels that she should figure out which church she should belong to and attends services in many different denominations, but doesn’t feel any closer to God there than when she speaks to him in her room at night.

I love the way Margaret speaks to God, as if she were speaking to a close friend and authority figure.  I forgot what that kind of child-like faith was like.

“Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.  I just did an exercise to help me grow.  Have you thought about it God?  About my growing, I mean.  I’ve got a bra now.  It would be nice if I had something to put in it.  Of course, if you don’t think I’m ready, I’ll understand.  I’m having a test in school tomorrow.  Please let me get a good grade on it God.  I want you to be proud of me.  Thank you” (50).

The passages where she speaks to God like that really touch my heart.  Regardless of whether you believe in a higher power or not, her small innocent conversations with God have a way of reminding all of one’s naivetë at that age.  The way she speaks what is in her heart remind me of a time when I had the world before me, and had that kind of trust and confidence–that faith–that someday all my dreams would come true if I was patient enough.

Gotta love the 90’s!

*     *     *     *     *

I waited and waited until it was my turn to blossom, and finally, I did, especially once high school came around.  I wish I could return to middle school and have a talk with myself, assuring that girl that the things she is wishing so hard for will happen, that all the necessary parts are on their way, to counsel her to enjoy her age and innocence, to not be in such a hurry to grow up, to assure her that one day she will be a woman who is confident, happy, and loves herself…that although she will not quite be like her sisters, she will be something beautiful in her own unique way.


Posted in Children's Classics, Personal Observations, Reading Commentary | Leave a Comment »

Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales

Posted by Amanda Jane on May 1, 2015

Geoffrey Chaucer

Today I finished The Canterbury Tales, and to celebrate I ordered from Netflix (my new love) the DVD “Chaucer & The Canterbury Tales” featuring Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, as the host.

It was a fascinating 120 minutes! Jones was Oxford educated and knows a lot about Chaucer and the history surrounding his life and writings.  In hilarious contrast from the buck-naked portrait in the background, the serious conversation with Terry Jones regarding the history of England during the reign of Edward III and Richard II seemed to bring forth the satirical spirit of The Canterbury Tales themselves.

Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the Father of English Literature, was born circa 1340 AD to a wealthy vintner, who was himself the son of a wealthy vintner, and as such was born into prosperity and had the privilege of an education.  His family resided in Cheapside at the heart of the mercantile thoroughfare.

Not too much is known about his youth other than he probably attended school at nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral School, like boys of his station did.  We know he lived through The Black Death and survived the terrible plague.  Around the age of 12, he was kidnapped by an aunt who tried to force him to marry her daughter, but she was arrested and fined for that.  By 17, he was working as a page for the Countess of Ulster, wife of the 1st Duke of Clarence, Lionel, who was the second son of the current king, Edward III.

Somewhere at the beginning of the 100 Years War, he went to the battle under the service of the Duke of Clarence.  He was captured by the French Army during the siege at Rheims and held for ransom.  Since England had captured King John of France during the Battle of Poitiers, they had the upper hand in getting back their prisoners of war.  King Edward paid the sum of £16 for Chaucer’s release. In 1366 or so, he married Philippa de Roet, a lady in waiting to Queen Philippa, Edward III’s wife.  He is believed to have fathered three or four children with her during their marriage.

During little Richard II’s turbulent reign, even when he was deemed a “royalist” and though he had gotten on the bad side of the Lords Apellant, Chaucer was at the peak of his writing abilities, cranking out The Canterbury Tales and many other great works, including his masterpiece Troilus and Cressida.  He served under King Richard II in many responsible positions, moved to Kent and was  appointed to parliament there.  Even though he was somewhat tied to people of the court who found trouble with the Lords Apellant, he did not.  When Richard II was overthrown and Henry IV was put in power, his annual pension from the King was discontinued, but later reinstated by Henry IV.

Toward the end of his life, he took quarters at Westminster Abbey.  It is not known whether he did this for sanctuary from Archbishop Thomas Arundel and his supporters, or just because he felt like it.  He died in 1400.  Terry Jones believes there might have even been foul play.  Chaucer is buried in Westminster Abbey.  He was the first writer to be buried in the Poet’s Corner section of the Abbey, wherein also rest other greats such as Tennyson, Kipling, Hardy and Dickens.  Even Laurence Olivier is buried there!

I feel I have formed a connection through the centuries to Mr. Chaucer.  It is a poignant reminder of the power of the pen.  The writer’s soul seems to be laid bare on the page.  The inner workings of one’s mind and thought process can touch people in distant places and throughout time to form a bond of unity and likemindedness.

I think I have a new friend.  What do you say, Geoff?  You game? 😀

Posted in Personal Observations, The Canterbury Tales | Leave a Comment »