Have you ever listened to a party from the next room?
Leo Tolstoy’s writing is sophistication itself, charm and veneer and glamour, somehow combined with oak-true integrity. He observes the surface machinations of the human animal, but can gently remove the veneer cast by humans when they are at their society best.
He begins his momentous Russian story, War and Peace, with a party. It is a reception, and despite the competition of other much grander occasions, Anna Pavlovna’s drawing room fills steadily because she has the social standing to pack it with celebrity. For she is the maid of honour and favourite of the Empress Marya Fedorovna.
The hostess works relentlessly.
“As the foreman of a spinning mill,” he writes, “when he has set the hands to work, goes round and notices here a spindle that has stopped or there one that creaks or makes more noise than it should, and hastens to check the machine and set it in motion, so Anna Pavlovna moved about her drawing room, approaching now a silent, now a too noisy group, and by a word or slight rearrangement kept the conversational machine in steady, proper and regular motion.”
The hum of conversation at a party like this is a thing to behold. The privilege of moving from group to group and hearing the topics change and shift, the quick wit fly, each character gently jostle to render themselves socially comfortable: it is one of the wonders of creation.
Which is why the blogosphere has proved such a delight.
It is not auditory, but I hear it anyway: a hubbub of voices speaking the zeitgeist of the day, saying it how they see it on a global scale. It is an imperial reception with a thousand Anna Pavlovnas, walking and spinning their wheels, adding just a word or making a slight rearrangement to create the perfect conversation for the day.
Over the past three months, the gracious and the good at this celebrated gathering have been according me awards, each of which I have appreciated: versatile bloggers, liebsters, a nomination for a competition on another site.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to be thought of in this way, and humbly thank the good members of the drawing room for their generosity in thinking of this site. These awards are significant because they link us with one another, rather like Anna Pavlovna did, once upon a time in a fictional drawing room in Imperial Russia.
I think you will agree that the most important aspect of such awards is the importance of passing on excellence: of wandering up to a tight-knit group of talents and murmuring: “I wonder, have you met….?”
Many of you will have met each other already, as befits an efficient reception. But I’ll do a short Pavlovna circulation of the room to make sure everyone is acquainted.
It is a long time since I last shared one of my favourite haunts, Kathy’s To Write is To Write Is To Write. Now there’s a lady with a quick Texan wit: a woman who can write in the manner of the vast American tradition. She has a book in the writing, did you know? Her characters are her secret passion.
Meli is a published poet but she doesn’t blog poetry. Mostly, she blogs her son: whose name is Felix. When I first stumbled on her site, quite some time ago now, Meli and her clever photographer husband were trying for a child. I visited them all the way through Felix’s pregnancy and now he’s a bouncing one year old. Serendipitous, unaffected joy radiates from her site. It is a site for a rainy day. Go check out some of Felix’s sunbeams.
From Northern Ireland, Fiona leads us through a lovely life which has its trials. She documents triumph and tribulations like no other blogger I know, with honesty, integrity and the most impish sense of humour.
Susan Nolen has just started blogging, and she’s launched with a fabulous set of posts. Her writing is self-possessed and rather beautiful, and speaks my kind of language. The woman has literary style.
Cameron: with a seductive. low writing voice no one can resist, she is a tireless networker for other writers and a superbly entertaining one in her own right.
Why did someone not tell me about Cecilia aeons ago? A New Zealander who has experienced the rat race and eschewed it, setting up a sustainable farm in the American midwest, she writes wonderful, funny, rambling life-food. A staple part of your blogging diet, ladies and gentlemen.
And here are the black-clad beatnik poets in the corner: or that’s how I see them. I’m sure in reality they have rainbow wardrobes and can pass for average, but not here in this room. For a feast of poetry and observation check out Ruth, Gabrielle and Beeblu.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and visit some of my other guests.
The picture – Larry Salk, Summer Cocktail Party with English Butler, 1961 , Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – is from the Norton-Simon Museum via MuseumView, which you can find here