H & M

H & M

Despite efforts to the contrary, I, too, succumbed to the Meghan & Harry interview with Her Royal Highness Might-As-Well-Be Queen Oprah.

Like any other nosy reporter, I watched with the same morbid curiosity with which one unwittingly slows when passing a multi-car highway pileup, hoping there are no fatalities but wanting to see nonetheless.

And there it was: the probing questions, the near-tearful replies, when suddenly there came the big one. No, not whether or not a child would be sufficiently melanin-deficient, the one about how much Meghan knew about The Royals before that long walk down the aisle.

And Meghan’s answer? Not much.

How is that possible? Four decades ago, when I married and moved to England, my husband and I settled in the then-sleepy university town of Leicester.  He was in the social-sciences faculty, and I snagged a secretarial spot in the biochemistry department. I tried, but I was a lousy typist, and multisyllabic scientific jargon wasn’t my strong suit. 

By then husband Eric had schooled me about how best to adapt to British ways. Learning a new English language and unconventional spelling was hard. I lasted five years.

I also managed to get fired from my second job as a copywriter for an advertising agency. While reviewing a page proof with the owner, I felt a hand creeping up my thigh between my legs and before I could think about it, I smacked the snot out him, simultaneously shrieking a very un-British, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” 

My third job, at Leicester’s Little Theater, paid considerably less, but was a dream— answering phones, managing auditions, rehearsals, and performance schedules. Alas, that job ended when my father had a heart attack, and I returned home to St. Louis.

” . . . you’re either in, or you’re out.”

Fitting into a foreign culture is challenging at best. It can be done, but it isn’t easy; you’re either in, or you’re out. There really isn’t much middle ground even when going ostensibly from one English-speaking country to the next. The relocation becomes even more daunting when royal titles and protocols enter the mix. Still, it can be done.

And it can be problematic for anyone. For those who can remember, it was initially tough for Grace Kelly who married into royalty at 26 — and she was white!

Yes, she surrendered her autonomy, but it was the ‘50s, a very different time. She married Prince Ranier of Monaco and kept her counsel from then on. I repeat: it can be done. But as we also know, things can be quite different for someone who is not white.

Not everyone can play the game. But once a decision to subscribe to the historically anachronistic norms of British royalty, it should be honored, even in the 21st century. We must also remember, we’ve viewed Meghan’s distress through the prism of one long interview and a notoriously aggressive British press, and one not always enamored of the monarchy.

Truth is we don’t know what really goes on in the House of Windsor. 

All of this is to say I don’t want to hear any more of the Harry and Meaghan pity party. Being uprooted happens every day — admittedly not always from urban cool to a castle — but one thing is certain: it simply isn’t possible not to experience culture shock.

Enjoy life

M&H purportedly want to get off the grid and live simple, normal lives. So, what better way than to participate in a two-hour interview seen around the world with a woman so influential she can go by one name? 

(If Oprah really wants to snag by a hot interview, let’s pivot to another member of the royals: let her probe Prince Andrew about his dalliance with Nazi uniforms and perverse fun aboard Jeffrey Epstein’s yacht.) 

It’s absolutely understandable that M&H want out that nonsense, but if they want to live their lives in privacy, why come to Los Angeles where the whole point of LA is visibility?

 Why a multimillion-dollar mansion?

In 2021 does any sane person really care about who in the performative monarchy think of the melanin content of the new baby’s skin, when more than half of this nation’s states are trying to legislate Blacks and Browns out of their voting rights?

When Asians are being targeted by a vicious corps of nitwits?

When Mississippi and Michigan still don’t have decent drinking water?

When an idiot in Texas can’t manage a pandemic and an ice apocalypse because he’s wrapped in an ongoing flirtation with Trumptopia?

I’m periodically capable of being as shallow as the next person; after all, I did watch the Oprah interview from beginning to end. But the whole time I thought about that other cinematic beauty, and how she managed her marriage to a prince — all the while knowing that things that come hard for white people always come harder for nonwhites. It can drive a person to considering suicide.

All said, I wish Archie, Harry, Meghan, and baby Windsor the best of everything.
But please don’t make us watch if it turns out there’s no fairy-tale ending.
CHAUCER, The Torch Bearer of Literature

CHAUCER, The Torch Bearer of Literature

Books about Geoffrey Chaucer are on the rise, and Chaucer’s tales are enjoying a “global” renaissance.

Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury   

Chaucer’s People: Everyday Lives in Medieval England


Perhaps this is because as the world shrinks, the average person can feel overwhelmed by culture wars, international economics, the languages of science and math, rapid advances in technology, and too much mutually-contradictory information. There’s a comfort in pursuing the past, reflecting on the simplicity of a Royalty-Church dual-rule system; or, maybe we can see just how far we’ve come, distancing ourselves not just by centuries but by our sociological superiority. Equally, we could see a kind of immortality in heritage by looking back and recognizing ourselves in characters who may be chronologically removed, yet feel familiar in their desires, foibles, and humor.

In Chaucer’s day in England, some 400 years after the Norman Invasion, French had become the language of the aristocracy and elite landowners. Latin still dominated The Church, which had not yet splintered into Protestantism. English was the hybrid common tongue, sometimes seen as vulgar with its Anglo-Saxon and Celtic influences seeping through.

Chaucer himself, likely a courtier, wrote for royalty, but his  greatest work, The Canterbury Tales, shrugged off pretensions of class and portrayed common folks, talking among themselves, in English.

Written in the vernacular, which, in retrospect is now called “Middle English,” these stories could circulate orally as well as in manuscript form, still decades away from the educational revolution of the printing press. Aside from the vivid characters, strong voices, and dramatic literary presentation, the tales lent themselves to oral recital, which allowed them to be popular even among the illiterate; yet, the fact that they were written down kept them stable and immutable, even in retelling. 

Personally, wish I’d had these resources back In the late eighties. I was teaching “Major British Writers: Beowulf Through Chaucer for Non-Majors,” a course that most faculty avoided like the Bubonic Plague. Since I was only at the “Instructor level,” the honor fell on me, and I spent many a night wracking my brain, wondering how I might capture the imaginations of Math, Engineering, Physical Education, and Biology majors. In every case, I had to translate by way of analogy, using television shows to convey the relevance and appeal of various tales, characters, and interactions.

We discussed similarities between the “framing device” of the pilgrimage and the bar in Cheers, which permitted a steady flow of characters with vivid personalities, familiar backgrounds, and recognizable voices. The Bawdy “Wife of Bath” might favor, imperfectly, Carla. “The Miller’s’ Tale” might draw comparisons with many of Sam’s exploits. While Chaucer gave voice to nuns and monks, a knight, squire, miller, merchant, lawyer, and doctor, to name a few, Cheers featured baseball and hockey players, drunks, a postman, psychiatrist, coach, student, bartenders, waiters, and others. In both cases, the story-tellers and protagonists were not heroes, not famous leaders, not unobtainable figureheads. Above all else, both sets of characters resembled acquaintances, friends, and family: people who might know your name.

Here we are happy to present a reprinted excerpt from AmidstBooksa blog site for literature aficionados, ranked in Feedspot as one of the world’s top 100 literary blogs. They are self-described as “a unique blog here for you to explore the world of books.” Currently, the blog features explorations into Christopher Marlow, the Elizabethan Age, Moby Dick, Dystopian Novels, and more.  

–Thea Temple, Editor-in-Chief, RIFF

We hope that you will check out AmidstBooks and learn more about Chaucer, other literary figures, classics, and ideas of import.
The period from 1343 AD to 1450 AD approximately marked a significant development in the area of literature. The first star of literature was Geoffrey Chaucer after which an entire era or age is named “ Age of Chaucer.” This happened mainly because there was no earlier recorded works which could have been more significant. However, undoubtedly, he was one of the gems of English literature, or, rather in a way, a pioneer.

He impressed the then ruler of England, Charles III so much so that he supplied a gallon of wine daily to him due to his unbeatable work. Let’s get a view at the historical significance of this period as history is the aspect which always affects literature. They go hand-in-hand. So, there were basically three major events that took place.

100 Years War

There was a state of constant war between England and France which took place with changing France taking over always. However, finally England was able to gain its power using the long bow technique in the war. The war was basically from the period of 1337 AD to 1453 AD. Chaucer participated in the war.

Black Death

Black Death was a pandemic which took place from 1346 AD to 1353 AD and swiped away almost one-third population of Europe. It also laid a big stress economically.

Peasant’s Revolt

This can be said to be an outburst of the earlier two incidents. Due to great economic pressure and reduced population, the most effected class was of Peasants. They were almost over-stressed to pay the taxes anyhow. Hence, they revolted against the aristocrats led by Wat Tyler.

So, we see that all these events along with the extensive travel of Chaucer in Europe, affected his writing and gave an inspiration to write some commendable works. There are many significant works he wrote, but three most notable ones are as following:

Parliament of Fowls

It is a 700 lines poem which has a description of birds choosing their mates with nature as its theme.

Troilus and Criseyde

It is an epic poem about the love story of Troilus and Criseyde with the backdrop of a war. Shakespeare later wrote a retelling of this.

Canterbury Tales

This is the magnum opus of Chaucer telling the stories narrated by different pilgrims during their journey to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket. Chaucer was able to complete only 24 stories before he died. Chaucer influenced many literary writers who wrote after him and imitated him so much so that they were called “Chaucerians.” He was one of the first significant writers of literature. However, there are many more to be discussed later. So, stay tuned for the wonderful experience that takes you back in time and makes you adore literature.