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

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Vacation Begins

This is in reply to Katie's last comment, inquiring after Middlemarch. I take some time in getting there, so if you are only interested in bookish matters I advise skipping to the end.

Picture this:

A house, a garage, an orchard, and a woodshed on five acres of land, nested among ten acres of woods. From the house porch these five acres seem to be cradled in a dome of sky and tall evergreens. I can hear the wind in the trees, birds singing (especially in the evening), and echoing through the trees the bray of a donkey or the bark of a dog. The honeysuckle is blooming orange, the small laburnum is trailing its golden chains, the pink rhododendrons are wilting. The land echoes with my childhood thoughts and dreams, books read and stories planned, so that each blade of grass here seems to carry a mythology.

I'm at my parents' house for a week. I love to sit on the porch and eat breakfast, the blue heeler pup putting his paws in my lap, or do yoga, trying not to trip over the cat. In the morning my brother makes tea in the metallic elephant-trunk spouted teapot he made himself, and I check my email for word from my boyfriend in Indonesia (nothing yet). During the day I clean out my childhood bedroom, which has become sort of a storeroom since I left, sorting through puzzle pieces, notes from my middle-school best friend, and brightly colored fish lures, which had lured me as well as the fish.

In the evening I make dinner for my family, excited to have a proper audience for my culinary exploits. Fresh baked pitas with grilled artichoke, basil aioli, and an assortment of vegetables. Vegetable curry and coconut plantains. Spaghetti with tempeh, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, and onion. Pecan coconut carrot cake to celebrate my brother's graduation from high school.

After dinner I watch CSI or Bones with my dad, the murder mysteries creeping me out pretty easily, the commercials quite interesting since I spend most of the year without a TV. At the beginning of the week I felt like I should watch the commercials to get a taste of mainstream America, but it only took a couple days for me to be sick of them.

Before bed I read Middlemarch. Eliot is wonderfully articulate and each sentence is well crafted. When I first started reading it I wanted a pen and paper always at hand to write down beautiful quotations. But sometimes she seems simply to be stretching her writing muscles, enjoying listening to herself talk, and the content seems pointless. I've been wondering if the gems of sentences outweigh the long-winded parts, if the insightful character portraits outweigh the boring ones. Since this novel goes on for over 800 pages, perhaps I would be better off with a book where my personal gain from reading it was more obvious. 800 pages is a lot of time to devote to a book which feels tedious to read about half the time. But for now I'm sticking to it, and it is probably better not to be reading a book that draws all my attention like a magnet, because I have things to do before I leave for Holden Village next week. Then again, maybe I need a fast-paced novel to distract me from my empty Inbox.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, this sounds lovely. Except for the rain... has it been raining? It's all gross and damp back here in the Bham.

    Middlemarch... long-winded? What? I suppose it does drag on a little bit, but I think that the gems outweigh all the rest. When I read it, I tried to be forgiving. I wanted to imagine what it might have been like for a reader way-back-when, since it was serialized after all. Maybe readers back then liked their stuff to stretch out, since it'd have to occupy them until the next installment. But, then again, I don't know much about 19th century serialized novels.