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Happy 451st birthday, William Shakespeare! If you had lived in modern times you would no doubt have enjoyed yellow cake with chocolate icing. We’ll think of you as we savor each delicious bite.

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I had planned a diary with the title, “Shakespeare: Was He or Wasn’t He? And If He Was, Who Cares?” but decided it would be futile. I don’t really care whether or not Shakespeare was bisexual. Whether he was or wasn’t, the fact that Master Shakespeare left us a magnificent legacy in the form of the plays, the sonnets, and the long poems, is enough for me.

To give non-Shakespeare fans some idea as to why Shakespeare’s sexuality is in question, let’s consider two sonnets. (Just two—we don’t want to bore you by ranting on and on about it.) Please undo the ornate Elizabethan lock and follow me into the salon for the discussion.

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The dreaming spires of Oxford

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St. Catherine's Chapel, Abbotsbury, Dorset

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The neat green patchwork quilt of English fields

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Margaret Drabble (Dame Margaret Drabble, actually) was creating feminist heroines well before the second wave of the women’s liberation movement began in the late 1960s. Although in 2009  she declared she’d never write another novel because she feared repeating herself, she has completed several works of fiction since. (Writers cannot help writing, it’s as necessary to them as breathing.)

In my opinion Drabble’s early work is her best. Therefore I’d like to discuss several of her early novels: A Summer Bird Cage (1963), The Garrick Year (1964), The Millstone (1965), and The Waterfall (1973).

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As we avid readers and book lovers know, there are novels and novels—suspense, romance, adventure, spy thriller, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and numerous others. Each reader has particular tastes, one of which may include novels of manners. The works of Jane Austen are the shining light of this genre.

In the twentieth century one of the best known writers in this particular category was the late Barbara Pym. Today we’ll discuss what I consider the dominant peculiarity of Pym’s books, which is the extremely low sex drive of the characters.

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Fri Oct 31, 2014 at 11:00 AM PDT

The Quail Goddess

by Diana in NoVa

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Let's suppose it's a rainy Friday evening in October.  You've just had the Week from Hell at work, so the last thing you feel like doing is going out clubbing or yelling yourself hoarse at some sports event. After dealing with the idiots in Marketing, the even bigger fools in Corporate, and the whiners in HR, you feel more like a zombie than a human being.

As you maneuver Chinese takeout with your chopsticks you ask yourself gloomily how the evening is to be spent. Watching a movie on Netflix? Gag, no. You're not in the mood for car chases, gun battles, and naked bodies writhing sweatily through twisted sheets. Rinse. Repeat.

Nor does TV appeal as you throw another log on the fire and listen to the beat of rain  against the windowpanes. Most American sitcoms are either vulgar or boring, you're sick of talking heads, and on PBS your favorite Britcoms are nothing but reruns until January next year.

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Fri Oct 10, 2014 at 11:00 AM PDT

To Handfast at Twilight (long)

by Diana in NoVa

Last year the woman I loved was found murdered in the street where she lived. A week later on All Souls’ night I stood on the top step of a church and looked down at the people in the street holding candles for the “Take Back the Night” vigil. Wondering if her killer might be among them, I thought, “I’ll find you, whoever you are. However long it takes, I’ll find you.”

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Good morning, readers and book lovers, and welcome to our last open forum! I’ll enlarge on this point later. However, for now, the topic of today’s open forum is as follows: Which book introduced you to the viewpoint of other races?

It’s a bit difficult for me to pin this particular change down to a book: in my own case, there were several factors that introduced me to the viewpoint of other races. As a teenager I lived through the Little Rock school integration crisis of 1957, described in this diary; also during those years I read a novel called Mittee and encountered a photoessay in one of those old book-sized magazines, either Reader’s Digest or Coronet, can’t remember which, now; and finally, I was gobsmacked, as the British say, by a newspaper article I read when writing a diary about a book called The First Emancipator. Please follow me below the fold for more.

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Good morning, readers and book lovers, and welcome to another open forum! Puleeze, will someone among you make my day by saying you’ll do a diary for this series? Next week would be good.

Considering the topic of today’s discussion, I thought we might break our fast with passionfruit crepes and toasted hazelnuts. Those of you with libidinous imaginations will enjoy getting to work on that. And there is coffee, of course, for extra stimulation. When you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, follow me into the salon.

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Good morning, readers and book lovers! Unlike last week, when we enjoyed the great treat of an actual diary contributed by one of our members, this week no one has stepped up to contribute one. We will therefore have an open forum, and it's going to be short and sweet.

Short because I have a cold, and sweet because today we are having FloridaSNMOM's Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins for breakfast! She kindly provided the recipe a couple of weeks ago. Don't these look delicious? You may also munch these organic backyard apples and pears, picked by loving hands at home. Munch away, but mind you don't get crumbs on the carpet!

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