Wednesday, April 08, 2009


country mouse

Back from a few days in Boston. Frankly, I don't know how you city-dwellers do it. All the rush and bustle and hard pavement, all the beautiful people concerned with their clothing and hair and makeup and cars. (Which is not intended to disparage, but rather merely to say I feel like a total and absolute bumpkin amidst all the pretty shine and purposeful hurry.)

Brief highlights of my trip: standing in a certain spot in the Museum of Fine Arts and when I look to the left I see, through a glass door into a long white hallway, a huge Fairfield Porter painting of his sister sitting on the porch in Maine, and when I look to the right I see, in a lighted niche, a massive chunk of limestone from Persepolis, a lion attacking a bull, on loan from Chicago. I was so happy I was humming like a cello string. Another high spot: people-watching at the museum cafe over lunch. The man at the table next to me was elderly, beautifully groomed, impeccably dressed, and resembled no one as much as Peter O'Toole. Eyes not as blue, but still. I tried not to stare, but he was right in front of me.

A third high point - walking into Commonwealth Books on Boylston Street, going directly to the English history section, and immediately putting my hand on a hardcover first edition of Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe (Pantheon 1969, $15). He is my latest reading obsession. A while back a reader of this blog suggested I take a look at his writing on rural living, Anglican church matters, and bookish bits of this and that - he publishes a column in the Church Times - and his first collection of these essays I got in the mail last week, finally, with the same title as his column, Word from Wormingford: A Parish Year (Viking 1997). So very excellent, such beautiful generous prose, in praise of nature, the holy, and the literate. I'm halfway through it already, and now his classic Akenfield is next on my reading list, to be followed by the umpteen other books of essays of his, and hopefully some of his short stories, if I can track them all down. Oh, and I must mention his new book, due out in June in the U.K.:

Need I say I am looking forward to this one... Did I mention that Blythe has been an editor for the Penguin Classics for ages? The pleasures of books are all through his essays. In fact, Word from Wormingford: A Parish Year begins with the sentence, "This is the calendar of a Reader who happens to be a writer." I don't know what's better than beginning to read an author one has never read before, knowing that said author has written around twenty other books. So today, I'm back from the city to the country, to watch spring arrive and READ.


Glad to hear you had a successful trip- sounds like you hit the high points.

Thanks for the information about Ronal Blythe, which explains a cryptic note I'd left myself: "Ronald Blythe, BC library". Apparently this isn't the first time you've mentioned him :-)

I was going to throw in my two cents worth in your last post, in which you mentioned Thunder on the Left; I decided not to, but will anyway. This and Where the Blue Begins are the two works by Morley that I don't like. I don't know why, but I have an adverse visceral reaction to them; I have them shelved behind the others. Strange.

Guess I'd better stop at the library on my way out today. Thanks for the tip.

Dan, I will take your two cents any old day. I really do like "Thunder on the Left" but, much as I hate to say anything negative about an author I dearly love, I also do emphatically *not* like "Where the Blue Begins" - Morley at his most fey, that side of himself I always wonder if he put on somewhat, to shield his poet-self, or simply to sell books perhaps? I don't know. "Thunder" I do genuinely enjoy - the suspense and supernatural oddness of the story set it apart for me from his other work. I get the feeling he was writing about the end of his own childhood, and the ability to see a certain way (which he still possessed, and other "adults" around him had lost after growing up). The whole thing could even be a Roman à Clef. Sheer conjecture.

Many of Ronald Blythe's columns are in the archives online at the "Church Times" if you don't find anything in the library. So few of his books are available in the U.S. I know I will have to resort to buying most of them from overseas. When I have some spare change (not at present, sadly).
One of the best blogs I follow. More, please...!

Well heigh ho, Larry, what a kind thing to say... I have been a lax blogger of late, and may continue to be for the near future, but this will not always be the status quo. It's just that I've been writing in my actual diaries and journals lately instead of writing online as much as I did when I had my shop...
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?