Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Dorothy Richardson's Honeycomb, and also her manifesto - where no plant grows and no mystery pours in from the unheeded stars

I’ve been cooking along with Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage novels, along with a few people on Twitter.  This month was the third book, Honeycomb (1917), in which our heroine Miriam, having made two attempts at teaching, becomes a governess, which also does not work out despite being a posh gig and the children not being so bad.  It’s the adults in the house who are unbearable, at least for a smart, restless, somewhat acid nineteen-year-old who really ought, at this point, to be a studying art history and English literature at a liberal arts college.  But that’s not an option in 1895.

The style of the novel is much like that of the earlier two novels, highly interior and Flaubert-like until it takes a curious turn at the two-thirds mark, only a hundred pages, since this is a short novel, when the family and children and philistine parents, all of the new characters in the novel, are abandoned, likely never to return.  Miriam goes to a family wedding for one long chapter, and spends the next and last caring for her deeply depressed mother.  After the radical break in the story, the narration itself becomes radically fragmented.  The withholding of information that I take as Richardson’s great innovation becomes more severe.   A shocking, life-changing event, for example, occurs in the white space just before the last paragraph in the novel.  I am not sure I would have caught it if I did not have some knowledge of what happens next in the series, and of Richardson’s biography.

What I am saying is that as much as I enjoy Richardson’s writing at the sentence level, I am no longer wondering why she is not read so much.  Most readers hate this sort of thing.  I like it all right.

The 1938 edition that collected Pilgrimage into four volumes begins with a remarkable four page – what is it – a defense, let’s say.  It is a remarkable text.  I have to keep in mind that it was written twenty years after the last novel that I have read, and that I have no idea what stylistic changes occur in that period as Richardson moves her Miriam up to the point where she (meaning, I guess, they) publish the first volume of their flowing novel.

Something must change in the style.  This is the first sentence, and paragraph, of the Foreword - the novels I have read so far are not written like this:

Although the translation of the impulse behind his youthful plan for a tremendous essay on Les Forces humaines makes for the population of his great cluster of novels with types rather than individuals, the power of a sympathetic imagination, uniting him with each character in turn, gives to every portrait the quality of a faithful self-portrait, and his treatment of backgrounds, contemplated with an equally passionate interest and themselves, indeed, individual and unique, would alone qualify Balzac to be called the father of realism.  (p. 9)

Ah, Balzac, she’s talking about Balzac.  And realism.  “Realism.”

Richardson pulls in Arnold Bennett as the “first English follower” of Balzac.  “Since all these novelists happened to be men” (9) Richardson deliberately searches for a feminine realism, which she believes she finds after much struggle.  The great conflict, as I understand her cryptic lines, is that if the goal is to allow “contemplated reality” to “hav[e] for the first time in her experience its own say,” then the subject of the fiction is completely arbitrary.  So Richardson writes about her own life by default.  It is a bit – a lot – like Gustave Flaubert’s friends arguing that given his aesthetic goals he should reign in his excesses by picking a boring local Normandy subject, like Balzac would pick.

Next Richardson invokes Proust, implicitly defending herself from charges of imitation, since she was writing her roman fleuve long before Du côté de chez Swann (1913) was published.   Fair enough, but was she aware of the Jean-Christophe books (1904-12, in English 1911-3) by Romain Rolland (Nobel Prize, 1915)?  And what is this: “the France of Balzac now appeared to have produced the earliest adventurer” (11) – in Proust!  Flaubert, a blatant influence on Richardson, is mentioned nowhere.  An example of the anxiety of influence.

Henry James suddenly appears.  Is this sentence (and again, paragraph) a parody?

And while, indeed, it is possible to claim for Henry James, keeping the reader incessantly watching the conflict of human forces through the eye of a single observer, rather than taking him, before the drama begins, upon a tour of the properties, or breaking in with descriptive introductions of the players as one by one they enter his enclosed resounding chamber where no plant grows and no mystery pours in from the unheeded stars, a far from inconsiderable technical influence, it was nevertheless not without a sense of relief that the present writer recently discovered, in ‘Wilhelm Meister,’ the following manifesto: [Goethe omitted].  (11)

The next page states that “feminine prose… should properly be unpunctuated” (12)  I love this Foreword.  It is filled with evasions, puzzles, and traps.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Richard Eberhart, American visionary poet of death - Praise to the cry that I cannot understand

I’ve been enjoying the poetry of Richard Eberhart recently.  “Once considered one of the most prominent American poets of the 20th century…” says his bio at the Poetry Foundation, the eventual, likely not so distant fate of almost all of the prominent American poets.  He was a great poet of death; his two famous anthology pieces, “The Groundhog” (1934) and “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment” (1945) are death poems, the latter large-scale moving to the personal, the former small but moving towards the cosmic:

I stood there in the whirling summer,

My hand capped a withered heart,

And thought of China and of Greece,

Of Alexander in his tent;

Of Montaigne in his tower,

Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.

I suppose people with an interest in American poetry still know these two.

And bones bleaching in the sunlight

Beautiful as architecture…

They are memorable poems.

I read, in this pass, Eberhart’s second, and third books – the first was mostly renounced – Reading the Spirit (1937, home of “The Groundhog”) and Burr Oaks (1947, home of “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment”), as well as a pair of tiny but career-spanning collections, New and Selected Poems: 1930-1990 (1990) and Maine Poems (1989).  Jay Parini, selecting the Selected, says Eberhart “printed too many poems that stand up badly to his best work,” and it is clear enough from those earlier books that Eberhart would often write multiple poems with similar conceits and rather than picking the best one just include them all.  These little, late books do not suffer from that problem.

Eberhart is essentially a nature poet, a Blakean visionary unafraid to begin from a naïve premise, as in “Gnat on My Paper,” about what the title says:

Small creature, gnat on my paper,

Too slight to be given a thought,


I salute you as the evanescent,

I play with you in my depth.

Small to big, big to small.  Eberhart looks into a nest, into the eye of a juvenile sea-hawk:

To make the mind exult

At the eye of a sea-hawk,

A blaze of grandeur, permanence of the impersonal.  (from “Sea-Hawk”)

Maybe that is why he is “once prominent.”  For a while, the general mood of poetry readers has leaned more towards the personal.  Let’s look at another bird, a loon – a lot of birds in these poems:

Perfect cry, ununderstandable essence

Of sound from aeons ago, a shriek,

Strange, palpable, ebullient, wavering,

A cry that I cannot understand.

Praise to the cry that I cannot understand.  (from “A Loon Call”)

There are plenty of people, too.  Leafing through The Maine Poems I see clam diggers, sailors, fishermen, farmers, a fence-builder – “Bad neighbors make good fencers” (from “Spite Fence”).  Oh no, here are the people who bury Leo, a beloved Pekingese, in two poems, the tragic “Summer Incident” and the pathetic “Dog Days,” another variation, one of many on “The Groundhog”:

They laid him in, blanket and all, placed a crude wooden marker,

Silence, not a dry eye among the group of homo sapiens.

They were witnesses to starkness, the cruelty of nature,

Aware of their own deaths, come as they may.  (from “Summer Incident”)

For all of his innocent, open-eyed, visionary feeling, Eberhart does have a sense of humor.  One of his poems should be the Maine state anthem:

But when you return to ancient New England

The first question asked on Main Street,

With breathless expectations, is,

Are you going to Maine?


Are you going to Maine, oh,

Are you going to Maine?

And I say, yes, we are going to Maine,

And they say, When?  (from “Going to Maine”)

I’m not sure when this poem was written, but it is till accurate.  Somebody set it to music.  The Mountain Goats song of that title is not the same song, although it shares a sensibility.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Alcestis by Euripides - that’s why we all gotta think human thoughts

Alcestis (438 BCE), this is more like it, this is an introduction to Euripides.

HERAKLES:  I mean, we all gotta die.  Right?

Well, that’s why we all gotta think human thoughts,

and live while we can.

Eat, drink, and be merry.

Take it from me,

the way those gloomy, bellyachin’ tragedians gripe,

life isn’t life at all, it’s just a goddam

funeral.  (tr. William Arrowsmith, pp. 74-5)

That’s from an extremely drunk Herakles, to be specific, with a number of Euripidean ideas crammed into one passage.

I have been puzzled by the satyr plays, the hundreds of lost satyr plays.  The strange fact is that every set of profound, moving, powerful tragedies was immediately followed by something quite different, perhaps thematically linked to the earlier plays, perhaps not, but typically, I am told, featuring a chorus of drunken, dancing, singing satyrs.  Perhaps it was meant as a palate cleanser, or a return to the Dionysian part of the Dionysian Festival, or a reminder, as Herakles say, not to take everything so seriously. 

Imagine the Oresteia followed by dancing drunk satyrs.  Imagine Aeschylus, pious Sophocles, each writing fifty or sixty of these things, a new one every year.  With the competitors, three new satyr plays every year.  Scholars disagree completely over whether the Cyclops of Euripides, the only real satyr play that by chance survived, is early or late in his career.  I put it late in our schedule, but I was tempted to put it early just to take a look at it, to remind myself that every tragedy we read was accompanied by something similar.

Unless they were not, because Alcestis was performed in the spot of the satyr play, and aside from Herakles getting drunk in place of the satyr chorus it is clearly some other kind of thing.  William Arrowsmith, in his 1974 translation, points to The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest as kindred plays.  Alcestis is a fairy tale play, a tragicomedy, dependent for its effect on radical changes in tone and rhetorical mode, the mix of high and low as we say with Jacobean tragicomedy.  By the end the effect is sublime, I find.

Young Alcestis has agreed to die in place of her callow husband Admetos – fairy tale stuff, Greek-myth version.  Admetos, scene by scene, humanizes, grows even, until by the end he is perhaps worthy, or at least ordinarily unworthy, of the gift of his wife.  Drunk Herakles, engaged in a hospitality competition, replaces the fairy godmother or talking bird as the demi-deus ex machina who retrieves Alcestis from Death.  There they are up above, in a late 18th / early 19th century print by John Flaxman owned by the British Museum.

Some scenes are melodramatic, full of pathos, like the maid reporting on the perfect behavior of dying Alcestis.  Some are comic, as with Herakles quoted above, or sharply ironic (Apollo arguing with Death).  Alcestis has a visionary moment:

He is pulling, pulling – don’t you see? – pulling me away

To the place where the dead gather.

I see his blue eyebrows, black wings beating – Death!

Let me go, Admetos, what are you doing?  Let go.

The dark road opens before me.  (tr. Anne Carson, 264, from Grief Lessons)

Then she snaps out of it, in a radical shift of tone, and gives clear instructions to her husband about her children and remarriage.

These shifts in register and mood do, much like in Shakespeare, remarkable things.

We do not have any other Euripides plays like Alcestis, but some will get close.  We have several more young people offered as human sacrifices but miraculously rescued (or not).  We have two more plays featuring Herakles. 

There will be some gloomy bellyaching, too, although I do not think that describes the extraordinary horrors of our next play, Medea (431 BCE).  Don’t miss this one.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Rhesus by Euripides - You must not go beyond what has been destined for you.

Well, that was not so bad, Rhesus, I mean. Curiously, it is the only surviving Greek play taken directly from the Iliad, and it feels a bit like an episode from a serial adaptation of Homer.  Like a television series.  It is efficient; it cooks along; it features a number of star characters, some in tiny roles.  It is also plainly written, lacking much imagery, original or otherwise, and as far as I am concerned lacking interesting lines.  It was probably entertaining enough to watch.  The stubborn Hector and blustery Rhesus are amusing to watch.  The Rhesus part is another tiny one, given that his name on the marquee.

The ethos of the play is summarized once Athene appears, accompanying her favorite heroes Odysseus and Diomedes in a midnight murder rampage.  Their enemy Hector can be caught unaware, too:

DIOMEDES:  Well, should he not be killed and his account settled?

ATHENE:  No.  You must not go beyond what has been destined for you.

There is no authority for you to kill this man.  (33)

Fate is taken to its logical end: that is not how the story goes.

I also enjoyed the way Athene openly lies to Paris when she bumps into him.  The gods simply cheat.  What can you do?

ATHENE:  Fear not.  Here is your faithful Aphrodite

watching over you.  (33)

And then Paris directly, accidentally, insults Athene as ironically as possible:

PARIS:  I think the best thing I ever did

in my life was to judge you first and win you to my city.  (34)

These quotations have all been from the Richmond Lattimore translation.  Up to this point, I have been reading two versions of each play, which has been rewarding, but with Rhesus I did not bother.

The authorship of Rhesus has been questioned since antiquity, mostly on the grounds that it is not especially good, as if the genius Euripides could not have written such a thing, which seems preposterous to me, although I do like the theory that the Rhesus we have is the mistaken substitution of 4th (BCE) century hackwork – by that television writer – for a lost Euripides play of the same title.

Still, there is a puzzle here.  Centuries later, Greek copyists of the 3rd (CE) century radically contracted the body of extant Greek plays, to the seven each by Aeschylus and Sophocles that we have, and ten by Euripides.  Perhaps the survivors were saved by being included in anthologies for students.  By pure chance, a Byzantine manuscript containing nine more Euripides plays survived long enough to be copied twice, the treasures going to the Laurentian in Florence and the Palatina in the Vatican.  The manuscript looks suspiciously like a section of the complete plays of Euripides in alphabetical order: Elektra, Helen, Herakleidae. Herakles, Hiketides / The Suppliant Women, Ion, Iphigenia in Aulis, Iphigenia in Tauris, Kyklōps / Cyclops (my Greek transcription is likely a hash).  This is why so many Euripides plays begin with “H” and “I,” alphabetical luck.

The alphabetical plays are comparable in quality to the anthologized batch, so as long as I have known about this distinction, I have wondered about the process that saved not just the ten Euripides plays but all of our Aeschylus and Sophocles.  What I mean is, they – whoever “they” were, however it all worked – deliberately saved Oedipus Rex and Agamemnon and Bacchae, which seems obvious, but also Rhesus.  Why?  What did they want with it?  What did they do with it?

The Getty has a 6th century amphora depicting the episode.  Up above I showed Diomedes killing Rhesus, but the amphora is worth seeing more for its extraordinary horses.

Our next four plays are by Euripides.  I remember three of them as masterpieces, including the next one, the peculiar Alcestis (438).  It is not a tragedy, not a comedy, not a satyr play.  What is it?  William Arrowsmith has a great version, and I will try Anne Carson’s translation, in Grief Lessons, as well.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Antigone by Sophocles - I know / that wild and futile action makes no sense.

 ISMENE:                                               I know

 that wild and futile action makes no sense. (p. 161)

Antigone’s sister is trying to undermine the very premise of Greek drama, of literature.

Long, long ago, I read Sophocles’s Antigone (c. 441 BCE) in a class naively titled “Western Civilization,” which was required of all liberal arts undergraduates at my university.  So everybody had to read one Greek play, this one, before exiting college.  Almost everybody – not the engineers, I guess, and too bad for them.  Although I knew the Greek stories pretty well, Antigone was thus the first Greek play I ever read.

Pretty good choice for if-you-only-read-one.  Antigone, even for Sophocles, feels classical, ethically serious and dramatically balanced, the kind of play from which a literary critic will derive rules.  When I describe Euripides as a “screwball,” it is in comparison to plays like Antigone, which invite later art like William Henry Rinehart’s 1870 sculpture “Antigone Pouring a Libation over the Corpse of Her Brother Polynices,” on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In Western Civ, we turned Antigone, and every other text assigned, into an ethical debate.  Duty to the state versus duty to – what, exactly, is Antigone serving?  Religion, higher law, family, the integrity of the self.  Jean Anouilh, in his 1944 existentialist adaptation, pushes strongly towards the self, while Seamus Heaney, partly inspired to adapt the play as a protest against the American war in Iraq, in The Burial at Thebes (2004 ) is more interested in the justness of the law, in human rights (p. 76).  Antigone at times, at her least sympathetic, comes across as a religious fanatic, guilty only of what she calls “the crime of piety” (161), although she is usually more sympathetic:

ANTIGONE:  I cannot share in hatred, but love.

CREON:  Then go down there, if you must love, and love

     the dead.  No woman rules me while I live.

Creon, as usual, has a point but goes too far.  His animus against women, specifically, is mentioned several times, as is his blinding materialism.  He seems more worried about bribery than anything else – that his guards or the prophet Teresias are against him because they have been bribed.  No wonder he has so little understanding of divine law. 

Now I am wandering.  I was surprised to see that the Guard is a legitimate clown role, much like in Shakespeare.  Jean Anouilh greatly expanded the part, but a lot of it is right there in Sophocles.  Here is the guard not clowning:

We saw the girl.  She cried the sharp and shrill

cry of a bitter bird which sees the nest

bare where the young birds lay.  (173)

I have trouble, in the Greek plays, sorting through the metaphorical language, distinguishing between the clichés and the original images.  The “ship of state,” right, that shows up constantly, including in Antigone; everyone drags in that one.  But this image of bereaved animal motherhood applied to Antigone seeing her brother’s desecrated corpse, that seemed original and interestingly ironic.  Antigone has a few of these. 

Antigone begins at dawn.  How many of the plays we have read so far begin at dawn?  Agamemnon, Ajax, etc.  I have not kept track.

All of the translations here are by Elizabeth Wyckoff.  I would likely prefer to see a performance using the Heaney translation because it is easier to understand, not necessarily a virtue while reading or looking for quotations.

As perfect as the Rinehart statue is, I was tempted by another Met-owned piece, an 1893 lithograph by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec of a performance of Antigone.  And why not include it, too.

Next week, we move to Rhesus by Euripides (probably), his earliest play (probably).  It is a good choice for if-you-only-skip-one.  I remember it as a dud.  How lucky we are to have so many Euripides plays that some of them are duds.  Well, I’ll take another look at it.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Terrible kindly ones, come to your rest - The Eumenides by Aeschylus – Come, Furies, dance!

Here we see, in a representation likely dated fairly close to The Eumenides (458 BCE), Apollo protecting Orestes from a Fury, from the British Museum:

I know, I know, the wings:

PRIESTESS: Black, like the rags of soot that hang in a chimney,

Like bats, yet wingless.

Each of their faces a mess of weeping ulcers –

The eyes, the mouth, ulcers.  (Hughes, 152-3)

Another great bit from a minor character.  Again, I will mostly use the Ted Hughes translation for quotations, and Robert Fagles for one exception.

Orestes is pursued by the Furies for the murder of his mother.  He is defended by Apollo, and judged by Athena and a juror of Athenian citizens, who successfully end the cycle of bloodshed means of a move to a new mythic stage of civilization.

There is the first extant courtroom drama, the beginning of a genre, with a remarkable number of the pros and cons of the genre present from the beginning, the big con being the opaqueness, the arbitrariness, of the jury’s decision, and in a fate-driven ethos like this, close to rigged.

I particularly enjoy the moment when the prosecuting and defense attorney begin screaming insults – “Filthy witches – rubbish of creation” (180) – at each other.  I suspect this is an example of Athenian realism.  Audience members were thinking “That’s like when I was on the jury.”  The defense attorney tries to bribe the jurors; the prosecutor threatens them.  The core of the genre is ready to go.

The big mythic story is the old gods versus the new, the earth gods versus the sky gods, big primal forces versus human civilization, with, implicitly, the humans absorbing both into a new humanistic third era.  The Furies are underground creatures, “Made of darkness, clothed in darkness” (168), and when they lose their case they lament that:

The earth is overthrown.

Our laws are obsolete.

You younger gods

Who argue us out of court,

And rob us of what is ours –

You violate creation!  (187)

But, in a compromise, they end up living in an Athenian cave, transformed into The Kindly Ones (“Terrible kindly ones, / Come to your rest,” 197), which for them is a happy ending.  They like caves.  Everyone, old, new, and newer, claims to be following the law; everyone is following some law.

I wonder, as usual, but more so this time, what the Athenian audience was thinking.  Aeschylus did not invent this story.  The cave, the cult site, in which the former Furies lived was real, on the opposite side of the Acropolis from the Dionysian Theater where the Athenians were watching the Furies howl, argue, and dance.  Seeing these protective but ancient powers out in the open, casting their spells, must have been pretty strange. I’m switching to Fagles:

FURIES:     Come, Furies, dance! –

link arms for the dancing hand-in-hand,

now we long to reveal our art,

our terror, now to declare our right

    to steer the lives of men,

we all conspire, we dance!  (Fagles, 245)

Ted Hughes, I am sad to say, omits this passage.  His Furies do not dance.

Next week’s play is Antigone by Sophocles, a great among the greats, and a good choice for the person who has never read a Greek play.  I’m going to see what Seamus Heaney’s adaptation is like.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

"It’s me, me; this is me being alive" - Dorothy Richardson's Backwater - words and phrases that fretted dismally at the beauty of the scene

The pointed roofs of Pointed Roofs (1915), the first volume of Pilgrimage, Dorothy Richardson’s roman fleuve, were in Hanover, abroad, and inherently rewarding for our teenage heroine Miriam, even if teaching English to German girls was not, in the end, for her.  But in the next volume Miriam is teaching again, this time in “a proper schooly school” north London suburb, a Backwater (1916), where everything is worse.

It would be cold English pianos and dreadful English children – and trams going up and down that grey road outside.  (Ch. 1, p. 198 in the collected edition)

Which is about right.  The children are not that bad.  The loss of serious German music is a disaster.

At this point, and in Backwater even more than in Pointed Roofs, Richardson’s novel is a Kunstlerroman, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman, with numerous curious resemblances to Joyce’s novel, also published in 1916.  Both novels are highly, entirely interior, with some passages moving to some kind of stream of consciousness, if that is a helpful term.  Chapter II, one long party scene, or Chapter V, where Miriam tries to fall asleep, especially impressed me as being as dense as the later chapters of Joyce’s novel.

Richardson should get some of Joyce’s credit for the “epiphany,” too (all Joycean parallels are coincidental, artists working on similar problems and coming to similar conclusions).  What else is this but an epiphany:

She tried once or twice deliberately to bring back the breathless moment standing still on a stair.  Each time something of it returned.  ‘It’s me, me; this is me being alive,’ she murmured with a feeling under her like the sudden drop of a lift.  (III, 245)

There we have, I suspect, the metaphysics of Pilgrimage in a few words.  Reality that is more real, or at least better written.

Here we see Miriam, an 18 year-old schoolteacher, becoming a writer, as she watches fog move across the lawn:

Several times she glanced at the rich green, feeling that neither ‘emerald,’ ‘emerald velvet,’ nor ‘velvety emerald’ quite expressed it.  (IV, 247)

There follow more shade-and-light effects, one source of Ford Madox Ford calling Richardson an “Impressionist.”  Then a bit so good I can’t resist:

The back door, just across the little basement hall, scrooped inwards across the oilcloth, jingling its little bell, and was banged to.  The flounter-crack of a raincloak smartly shaken out was followed by a gentle scrabbling in a shoe-box, - the earliest girl, peaceful and calm, a wonderful sort of girl, coming into the empty basement quietly getting off her things, with all the rabble of the school coming along the roads behind.  (IV, 247)

Richardson’s prose provides many rewards.  Miriam, in the novel, is training her taste in fictional prose:

Miriam returned to her book.  The story of Adèle had moved on through several unassimilated pages.  ‘My child,’ she read, ‘it is important to remember’ – she glanced on, gathering a picture of a woman walking with Adèle along the magic terrace, talking – words and phrases that fretted dismally at the beauty of the scene.  Examining later chapters she found conversations, discussions, situations, arguments, ‘fusses’ – all about nothing.  She turned back to the early passage of description and caught the glow once more.  But this time it was overshadowed by the promise of those talking women.  That was all there was.  She had finished the story of Adèle.  (II, 232)

Brutal, but a good critic, with admirable taste, taste like mine.  Mostly.  “Cheese – how could people eat cheese?” (II, 238).  Someone get Miriam to Neal’s Yard, quick.

The reading theme expands near the end of the book, when Miriam sabotages her teaching, binge-reading wholesome and then trashy novels rather than working on her teacher’s certification.  But she is no teacher, and in the next novel she moves to another of the four professions allowed to women of her class at the time (teacher, governess, nurse, supreme monarch of the British empire).  A comparison with George Gissing’s The Odd Women (1893), published at the time Backwater is set, would be fruitful.  The odd women in that novel learn typing and dictation so they are not trapped by draining jobs or worse husbands.  Of course, if I think of Stephen Dedalus again, I see what Miriam should be doing: going to college and reading better books.  Now I have to keep reading the Pilgrimage novels just to see what happens once she starts reading better books.