Posted by: Sally Ingraham | October 1, 2009

Edith Wharton, Michael Sheen, and Queen Victoria

QueenVictoriaI’ve been pretty busy this week with work. I was covering shifts for a co-worker at the theater, and because of the cruise ships, there was too much to do at the Country Store to leave room for playing on the computer. Yesterday the entire town celebrated the maiden visit of the Queen Victoria, a rather large boat at 965′ in length and carrying over 2,000 passengers.

As a resident of a tourist town, I realize that visits from boats like these are helping to pay for my existence. However, my awe due to their size aside, I don’t get very excited, and I certainly wasn’t over eager to frost any of the (2,000?) cup cakes that had to be provided (a task shared by many town merchants, fortunately)!

MichaelSheenWhat I did get excited about this week was the appearance of Michael Sheen in BOTH of my places of work. He turned up at Reel Pizza Cinerama on Sunday night along with his girlfriend, Lorraine Stewart. I often see people who resemble actors among my daily encounters, but this time when I looked up and saw Mr. Sheen I knew in my gut that it was really him. He has a pretty distinctive face, (one that works equally well as that of the werewolf leader Lucian, in Underworld, and Tony Blair in The Queen, or David Frost in Frost/Nixon). I spent much of the rest of the evening trying to convince my co-workers, and after displaying some skill with Google I was able to come up with enough evidence that it was at least possible. In my shyness (consideration?) I had no desire to actually bother the man and ask…! However, today I was proved right – for he came to Our New England Country Store (is he, as a friend put it, magnetically drawn to me?) and bought funny/creepy Halloween dolls and signed a credit slip with a scribble that definitely (vaguely) says “Michael Sheen”.

::Begin Gushing::
My level of excitement over this is pretty high – it’s just so neat! I’ve never encountered a celebrity that I actually cared about (Martha Stewart just doesn’t do it for me). And Michael Sheen isn’t a glamorous celebrity – he’s something better than that. He’s a good actor who’s been in movies that I like, and I can now say that he’s also sweet and quiet and (due to my co-worker at the Country Store’s ability to actually converse with people) he likes canoeing and hiking and hanging out with his girl, and (more oddly) the things that are sold in the Country Store! I’m awfully glad that I “met” him, and I’m glad he liked the area, and I hope he really does come back for another visit someday.
::End Gushing::

Hey, I’ve also been reading lately, if you can believe I can cram anything else in between working and sleeping and Googling actors! I’m 200 pages into The Guermantes Way as of last night, and to my surprise I’m really enjoying Mark Treharne’s translation – but more about that later. I started my Jorge Amado book today – Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands – and so far it is highly entertaining. I am putting aside The Stories of Edith Wharton for the time being to make room for other things, like the first section of Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset – the readalong has begun!

WhartonA few notes on The Stories of Edith Wharton: I read The Pelican, The Other Two, The Mission of Jane, The Reckoning, The Last Asset, and The Letters. I have mixed feelings about all of them. Each one has something to say about the relationships between people – most often between men and women. Wharton recognizes the often amazing incompatibility that exists between the sexes, and her stories illustrate various efforts to accept gracefully, or deal with, or escape the results of relationships that are rarely easy. They are uncomfortable stories. What makes them work though is Wharton’s excellent writing style, which is consistently smooth, almost restrained, quite proper, but at the same time good-natured and often amusing. She has difficult things to point out, yet she does it in such a way that I finished stories with a thoughtful frown, and a feeling of quiet satisfaction. While I didn’t love any of the stories, I was definitely challenged and even entertained. I have no doubt that I will seek Wharton out again.

Meanwhile, September bows out (fabulous month) and October enters. I am quite excited about my reading plans for the month, as well as less work, a great looking schedule of movies at the theater, and time for more walks and photography. Happy First Day of October to everyone!


  1. Hope you dont mind me intruding… but I just wanted to say that you are so very lucky to have ‘met’ Michael and I am glad it was a good experience for you.
    You live in a beautiful area if the photos Mr Sheen has been posting on Twitter are anything to go by – an area I hope to visit one day too.
    If it is okay with you… I run a Michael Sheen fan site ( and would dearly love to put a link to this post in our forum as I am sure our girls would love to read about your experience.
    Madnad x

  2. I have no problem with you linking here – thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  3. Hope you don’t mind me intruding…but I run a Queen Victoria fan site and would dearly love to put a link to this post in our huge passenger boat forum (also, I just left you a note on that instant book machine thing you posted about a week or two ago). Happy reading and stargazing, Sarah!

  4. It is very cool that you saw Michael Sheen. I think he’s a terrific actor and love that he isn’t very “celebrityish”.
    I’m glad for you that you’re finding time to read despite how busy things are.
    I have always thought that living in a place that is a tourist town must be very aggravating at times.
    Edith Wharton is an interesting author I think and has a sense of humor. It’s been a while since I read anything by her but I always wondered how she would write if she wrote today when almost anything goes for women rather than back in her day.

    I wish I were up to joining you for the Kristin Lavransdatter read a-long – another time. Enjoy!

  5. Richard – Hehehe. Such silliness, I know. 😛

    Amy – Interesting thought about Wharton – although some of the stories I read would seem like they would challenge even today’s more flexible social morals.
    I hope you’re still planning to get in on the Woolf read-along in January – happy reading until then! 🙂

  6. When I first read the headline on this post I thought there was a themed sailing of the QV that included Wharton lectures that maybe featured dramtatic readings by Michael Sheen. It is a sailing I would consider signing up for. And not such a crazy idea, Cunard offers lots of cultural events on board.

    As for famous people, I generally try not to pay much attention to them, believing they prefer their privacy. But I think in some cases where they aren’t being mobbed by folks, it doesn’t hurt to tell them how much you appreciate their work. Especially if they are more actor than celebrity like Mr. Sheen.

  7. Thomas – What a great idea! I would sign on for that trip too. I do kind of wish I had had the nerve to say more to Mr. Sheen than the standard chatter that fills a sales interaction – oh well, next time I guess!

    Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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