Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Housekeeping Part II

It was evening. The sky glowed like a candled egg...
I toyed with the thought that we might capsize. It was the order of the world, after all, that water should pry through the seams of husks, which, pursed and tight as they might be, are only made for breaching. It was the order of the world that the shell should fall away and that I, the nub, the sleeping germ, should swell and expand. Say that the water lapped over the gunwales, and I swelled and swelled until I burst Sylvie's coat. Say that the water and I bore the rowboat down to the bottom, and I, miraculously, monstrously, drank water into all my pores until the last black cranny of my brain was a trickle, a spillet. And given that it is in the nature of water to fill and force to repletion and bursting, my skull would bulge preposterously and my back would hunch against the sky and my vastness would press my cheek hard and immovably against my knee. Then, presumably, would come parturition in some form, though my first birth had hardly deserved that name, and why should I hope for more from the second? The only true birth would be a final one, which would free us from watery darkness and the thought of watery darkness, but could such a birth be imagined? What is thought, after all, what is dreaming, but swim and flow, and the images they seem to animate?

Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, the story of a girl whose grandfather drowned when his train slipped into the depths of a lake, whose mother drowned by driving her car into the same lake, is beautiful, subtle yet haunting. Each word is delicate yet heavy. I read it slowly, over a period of months, and I want to continue reading it, picking it up while at a lake, at night, on a train, or whenever the wind tells me to.

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