Archives for posts with tag: Howard’s End

​I should know by now that something amazing may be encountered at any time. Shopping is a particular activity that provides opportunities for random fascinating conversations. Once, among the treasures of a Macy’s purse sale, a woman noticed my subtle Phantom of the Opera T-shirt and struck up a conversation about the musical, different versions, Michael Crawford, Broadway in general, and eventually my obsession with all things Wicked. Best Buy was host to a chance conversation with a young army veteran who worked there. We both enjoyed exchanging tales of foreign travel and historical landmarks so much that he would subsequently spot me across the store and come over to resume our conversation, as if it hadn’t been weeks since our last encounter. And a handicapped man at Walmart once told me about his sad, courageous life, obviously a very rare occurrence, spurred into an unfamiliar need for a sympathetic ear after a car almost ran him down in the parking lot. A simple shopping trip can lead to memories that become woven into the fabric of daily life.

Yesterday, I stumbled into a conversation with a sales girl at Pier 1, while lamp shopping. As random discussion will, it started simply, with my love of art glass. Eventually it wound around to some of the cool glass I’m finding among my mother’s things, from Depression Glass, to antiques, to very old photographs. My century old badly faded image of my maternal grandmother, in Edwardian attire complete with a giant hat similar to the awesome ones I was dazzled by in the movie Howards End, tends to trump anything most people have in their family collections. Many modern families don’t even have more than a handful of old pictures, if that. The woman I met had what will probably be the greatest antique photograph story I’ll ever hear.

I mentioned that many people find my mom’s stories of her life fascinating, since she lived through so much history. When I said she was born just a few years after the Titanic sank, this articulate and intelligent young woman quietly stated that more than one of her ancestors were on the Titanic. One of them was a member of the orchestra that famously accompanied the doomed ship on her tragic swansong. A particularly poignant event that’s become a point of consternation among those deeply interested in the fated first and last voyage of the most famous ship in history was that the orchestra member’s wife was charged for his lost uniform. Imagine being informed that your beloved lost spouse’s company uniform must be paid for…as it was lost to the depths of the sea. These are parts of the story I’ve heard about in countless TV documentaries. It was breathtaking to talk about them as someone’s family memories.

People Who Died on the Titanic

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After not seeing many articles online that caught my interest for a while, there have been several suddenly. This one in particular set off my imagination.

It offers some quite funny speculation about what books might have been taken aboard the Titanic, and the likelihood that any one book’s weight would have made the literal difference between sink or swim. Life or death. Sheer survival.

Of course, that set me off into wondering how likely it was that even the staunchest booklover would go overboard clutching a tome they just couldn’t bear to leave behind. That’s taking the “I simply couldn’t put it down” thing a bit too far.

Though I have heard of traumatic shock making people do stranger things. Like the man on the bombed Arizona inordinately worried about the shoes he’d just polished and set down to dry.

I love books enough that I can’t be entirely certain I wouldn’t take one into the lifeboat (if I’d been one of the lucky passengers with a shot at a place in one). I doubt anyone would have the inclination to try to read by the light of a sinking ship, however.

The article includes a list of bestsellers from the early 1900s. Likely candidates to have been tucked into some dowager’s trunk. One of them, anyway.

We’ve all seen the cars being hoisted onboard by an elaborate contraption made of ropes and pulleys. Those well-traveled automobiles alone could have had a treasure trove of hardcover delight stowed away in every boot or glovebox. Excess spillover kicked out of the massive amounts of luggage reserved for enough luxurious wardrobe to make a movie…oh, wait, that’s the James Cameron extravaganza version.

I’m talking about the real life what if. The one where my favorite E. M. Forster novel, Howards End, was a bestseller of the time. The bit about the bastion of Anthony Hopkins’ forehead just might have enticed me to take it right over the rail, entrenched in a terror induced need to find out if that forehead would in time tempt Emma Thompson to marry the man who owned it.

Obviously, it doesn’t take one of the most horrific real life maritime disasters to stir up a blendered  ramble about history, fine literature, cinematic splendour, and a heavy dose of pop culture. It helps though when a single such incident captures the world’s imagination so that a century later it has gathered to its memory all of the above.

Another book on the list was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Considering my Wicked induced fascination with all things Oz, including L. Frank Baum, I probably would have tried to exit the sinking Titanic clutching more than one book.

If you think about it hard enough, and a bit sideways, being an extreme lover of books could be a dangerous way to live. And under  circumstances most irregular and unforeseen, quite possibly the second greatest potential hazard when traveling by unsinkable luxury liner.