Sunday, May 04, 2014


spring cleaning

A rainy quiet Sunday here in Maine - I'm listening to the laundry dry and ignoring the needful vacuuming, and thinking about all the books I've wanted to talk about over the past several months that I never got around to even mentioning.  So a bit of tidying and catching up today, in the spirit of spring cleaning.

First, I wanted to keep talking about Samuel Clemens, after I read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and particularly after I abandoned reading his Letters online.  I will say about the two novels - I loved their spirit, and thought that the word picaresque must have been invented just for these books (this happened, then this, and this and this and this, and on it goes, flowing as quickly as that big river he describes so well).  But the demon of political correctness haunted me - it was so hard to overcome my ingrained repugnance to the n-word long enough to lose myself in that amazing narrative flow, even though logically I know it is used throughout in the vernacular, not necessarily as a pejorative, and both novels are ultimately redemptive.  Still.  It kept stopping me in my tracks, and so I found it hard going.  And Mark Twain's Letters - you know, I wanted, so so wanted, to keep reading them after finishing the printed volumes one through six, but the online e-reader defeated me.  I read several months' worth of letters on it, then stopped because I just didn't like reading them on the computer, and having to scroll around, and not having them on real pages, actual papery pages, to be able to take to a comfortable reading place and settle in with.  The content, wonderful as it is, wasn't enough to keep me sitting at a plastic screen. So I stopped.  And I'm still feeling sad about that.

Then, what else.  I read a lot of books this spring that I haven't mentioned at all, including:

Elizabeth Gilbert's recent novel, The Signature of All Things (Viking 2013) - such a strange, sprawling book, with a strong heroine who I found both loveable and unloveable;

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard (Beacon Press 1994 reprint), which blew my mind and I think I took ten pages of notes from, on the themes of home and housework (...), metaphor and poetry, daydream and reverie;

Her Infinite Variety by Louis Auchincloss (Mariner 2002) - I keep trying his novels and keep hoping I will like them, but it hasn't happened yet, sad to say;

Ronald Blythe's first collection of Church Times columns Word from Wormingford (Viking 1997), a re-read for me because I love his discursive style so much;

Laurie Colwin's novels, all of them, when I was sick with a cold - more re-reading, and I felt like the heroine from Goodbye Without Leaving (Poseidon Press 1990):

"In the daytime I lay on my own bed and read books.  I kept a stack by my bed and read them off one by one till they dwindled like a pile of pancakes."  (p.42)

That particular Laurie Colwin novel deals with a young woman obsessed with music, which led in part to my recent reexamination of my own music book collection.  From that group of books, there are still many I want to mention.  But let's just look at pictures of them instead and call it good (this is an unusual occurrence for me - enjoy it since it may never happen again):



So much I could say about each one of these - about Pete Seeger and how I think everyone in my family shed tears when he died, about Sandy Ives and his delightful presence in my life during my early bookstore days, about the changing nature of folksong lyrics over time, about the pleasures of collecting antiquarian books on beloved themes, but there I go, getting wordy.  Just pictures for today.

The laundry is nearly dry and other home chores await.  I am not finding enough hours in the day lately to do everything I want and need to do.  But I still take time to admire the flowers - crocus time is fading and daffodil time is arriving, I took these photos yesterday afternoon, on the south side of the house:

Such a contrast from a few months ago, even with our late spring this year.  The grass is just greening and the forsythia needs one more warm sunny day to unfurl into bloom.  Soon.  Dear flowers, coming back to life just like the rest of us, after this impossible winter.

Finally, to return to my most recent theme, I've almost finished reading Robert Byron's book on Athos, The Station.  And oh, it gets better and better.  Although I think after this extended sojourn I've been on I'll have to return to some books closer to home (books with women in them, perhaps).  I'm a little perplexed since I have almost nothing to turn to next, which is most strange.  I mean nothing definitive waiting in the wings whispering, Read me! Read me next!  I'm sure this will not be the case for long.  Okay, enough for today - now I feel caught up and ready to start anew.  Off to fold laundry...    

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